Pop Culture

Willem Dafoe inspired by 'Fault' co-star Shailene Woodley's 'optimism and fresh energy'

By the time Shailene Woodley was born in 1991, her "Fault in Our Stars" co-star Willem Dafoe had racked up 15 years in the acting biz — and an Academy Award nomination to boot. But during a visit to TODAY Thursday, Dafoe said he doesn’t mind the generation gap one bit.

“The truth is, it’s wonderful,” the actor said of sharing the screen with Woodley, 20-year-old Ansel Elgort and 19-year-old Nat Wolff in the new film.

Laughing, he added, “There’s an optimism and a fresh energy that sometimes you can’t find with people of my age.”

“The hardened cynic,” TODAY's Willie Geist joked.

That’s certainly true of Dafoe’s character in the film. He plays Peter Van Houten, a bitterly reclusive author hiding out in Amsterdam.

Make no mistake, though: Dafoe can do silly material, too. Later this month he’ll take to the New York stage with actor-choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov in the absurdist dark comedy “The Old Woman.” And he confirmed to TODAY that he’ll have a role in “Finding Dory,” the much-awaited sequel to “Finding Nemo.”

“It’s in the works,” he said. “We’ve started already.”

Willem Dafoe with Mikhail Baryshnikov in "The Old Woman," a vaudevillian drama hitting the New York stage this month.

“The Fault in Our Stars” opens in theaters June 6. “The Old Woman” runs from June 22 to 29 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.