Willem Dafoe reveals how his ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ return was kept secret

Willem Dafoe has opened up about how Marvel and Sony managed to keep his grand return as the Green Goblin in Spider-Man: No Way Home a secret during production. Dafoe is one of five legacy villains who returned for the blockbuster threequel, but his turn as Norman Osborn is arguably the most significant to the story as Tobey Maguire’s one-time nemesis serves as the movie’s main villain and creates a whole new rivalry with Tom Holland’s webhead.

Despite how integral he is to the film, Dafoe’s involvement wasn’t confirmed for a long while until after shooting wrapped, with Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx’s comebacks as Doc Ock and Electro leaking out much sooner. Chatting to host Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, the Raimi trilogy star opened up about the extreme methods that were taken to reduce the chances of fans finding out he was back as the Goblin.

“They did it beautifully. These Marvel movies have such a strong fan base. People are so curious about them. Even when they’re being made, people are trying to figure out what’s going on,” Dafoe began. “They decided they were going to keep some of the elements a secret.” 

Dafoe explained that he covered from head to toe when arriving on set. He was also encouraged not to go out and about during his time in Atlanta, Georgia, where No Way Home shot, so there would be no evidence that he was in the area – which is often all folks on the internet need to put the pieces together.

“When I’d go to set, they put me in a black cloak and always had me in a car with dark windows. And they didn’t want me hanging out anyplace because they didn’t want anyone to know I was in town making a movie. And I didn’t think it would work, but actually, it did,” Dafoe said. “Only just before the movie was released they started kind of hinting things in the trailers. So it was cool.”

While there were rumors that Osborn was back for NWH, the lack of concrete evidence ensured that fans were never 100% sure this was a fact. Until, as Dafoe reminds us, his return was confirmed in the first trailer for the conclusion to Jon Watts’ trilogy, which included some shots of pumpkin bombs and a soundbite of Dafoe’s unmistakable cackle. Even so, the marketing misled us as to how important he would prove to be, instead putting the focus on Molina’s Otto Octavius.

All the secret-keeping ended up paying off dividends as Spider-Man: No Way Home stands as the highest-grossing movie of the pandemic era, completely dwarfing the other Willem Dafoe flick that came out this December in the process.