Pop Culture

Willem Dafoe had brush with 'overeager German cops'

Master of baddies Willem Dafoe once again plays a less-than-good guy in director Wes Anderson's new feature, "The Grand Budapest Hotel." And as Dafoe explained on TODAY Monday morning, even police officers near the filming location were sold on his nefarious performance — when he was off-camera and out of character.

"(The cast) all lived in the same hotel, and had a formal dinner every night," Dafoe recalled. "We were right on the Polish border and sometimes we'd go in to Poland for dinner, and it was cool."

Until it wasn't.

"Walking over the bridge some night, some overeager German cops tried to grab me," the two-time Academy Award nominee confessed.

His crime? Evidently just looking like Willem Dafoe.

"They recognized me from something," Dafoe said with a smile.

That recognizable face is good for more than just getting temporarily detained. It's that look, and his accompanying talent for dastardly, dramatic behavior, that makes him so well-suited for a role like the one he takes on in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" — not that Dafoe really sees the bad in his bad guys.

"You know, I don't make the distinction so much," he confessed. "This character, (Jopling), he's so … he's just bad because that's his job. I don't think about him being bad."

Dafoe has another character on the way, but audiences will have to wait a while to see that character, good or bad.

"That's probably going to come out in the fall," he said of "A Most Wanted Man," which is based on the John le Carre novel of the same name.

The film marks Dafoe's only on-screen work alongside late actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died from a mix of heroin, cocaine and other drugs in February.

"It is one of his last performances," Dafoe explained, adding, "What has happened (to Hoffman) is so tragic."

"The Grand Budapest Hotel" opens in theaters Friday.