Spider-Man: No Way Home has easily become the biggest MCU project since Avengers: Endgame. Not only is its insane box office success proof of this, but also because the third MCU wall-crawler flick brought about the return of many fan-favorite characters from past Spider-Man franchises, including Willem Dafoe as Green Goblin and Alfred Molina as Doc Ock.
The film’s scale is on an entirely different level compared to recent competition. Tom Holland’s adventure has brought along notable names including Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange and both Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire’s respective Spider-Men.
But one of the most significant returns this time around is Willem Dafoe’s Norman Osborn. Last seen in Sam Raimi’s original Spider-Man, the billionaire turned Jekyll-and-Hyde villain is one the webhead's biggest baddies.
Thanks to the Multiversal madness No Way Home has wrought on the MCU, the Goblin got another chance to shine two decades after his theatrical debut. Even more, it's far more than a cameo; Dafoe's villain plays a substantial part in Peter’s journey.
According to the actor, this is part of why he agreed to reprise his role.
Willem Dafoe Wants Green Goblin to Shine
In an interview with The New York Times, Spider-Man: No Way Home actor Willem Dafoe spoke on why he returned to the franchise as the infamous Green Goblin.
Dafoe was quick to mention that at one point and time, “[he] didn’t have the imagination of continuing on" with the villainous role at all:
"Even in the second and third installments [of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films], having me do little cameos, it was a pleasure to just see everyone again and stick my toe in the pool. But I didn’t have the imagination of continuing on.”
The actor made it clear that “[he] didn’t want to do a cameo,” but instead offer “something substantial.” Anything less, and he said that the character “just becomes a series of memes:"
"When Amy Pascal [a Spider-Man: No Way Home producer] and Jon Watts [the director of No Way Home] called me up and said we’d like to pitch you this idea, I thought, 'this is crazy. But let’s see what they have to say.' I really didn’t want to do a cameo. I wanted to make sure there was something substantial enough to do that wasn’t just a tip of the hat.
And the other thing was, I said I really want there to be action — I want to take part in action scenes. Because that’s really fun for me. It’s the only way to root the character. Otherwise it just becomes a series of memes.”
Dafoe's Green Goblin Steals the Show
It’s safe to say that Willem Dafoe got his wish. Norman Osborn’s emergence in Peter’s life had far-reaching ramifications in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Goblin is the one responsible for everything going south, including Aunt May's death and all five Multiversal villains escaping and creating a situation in which Spider-Man had to agree to his entire existence being forgotten in order to fix it.
So, Green Goblin is certainly much more than a meme now. However, it is a little ironic that the actor said this given the particular callback in the film to the very popular meme throughout the last few years, where he utters his infamous line: “I’m something of a scientist myself.”
With everything the character did in No Way Home, it feels like it's only a matter of time until the MCU gets its own Norman Osborn. The character is so prominent in Spidey’s mythos that the longer one avoids him, the harder it becomes.
Fans can see Willem Dafoe steal the show in Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters now.