Willem Dafoe named artistic director at Venice Biennale

Willem Dafoe has been named artistic director of the Venice Biennale's theatre department.

Dafoe, who lives near Rome with his Italian wife, said the appointment came as a surprise but that he was "born in the theatre" and trained initially as a stage actor.

In a statement released by the Biennale, Dafoe said the program of his two-year term would follow his own development, "a sort of exploration of the essence of the body".

Dafoe co-founded The Wooster Group theatre company in 1977 in New York and performed with it for some 20 years.

He is more widely known for his film career, including as the scientist opposite Emma Stone's Bella in Yorgos Lanthimos' Poor Things, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year.

He has also played Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

The Biennale Teatro is an independent department of La Biennale, founded in 1934.

Its previous directors include Renato Simoni, Luca Ronconi, Franco Quadri, Carmelo Bene and Lluís Pasqual.

It is programmed yearly alongside major cultural events such as the Venice Film Festival.

Dafoe will be at the Venice Film Festival this year with the cast of Tim Burton's Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, which is opening the festival.