Willem Dafoe is named artistic director of Venice Biennale's theater department

ROME (AP) — Actor Willem Dafoe, a frequent red-carpet visitor to the Venice Film Festival, was named artistic director Monday of the Venice Biennale’s theater department.

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

In a statement released by the Biennale, he said the program of his two-year 2025-2026 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 is expected on the Lido this summer with the cast of Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice,” which is opening the film festival.

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