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Willem Dafoe Is Hyped to Play the Villain Opposite Daisy Ridley in ‘Twelve Minutes’

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A new thriller video game from indie studio Annapurna Interactive called “Twelve Minutes” comes out Aug. 19 and has a stacked cast — including “Spider-Man” fan favorite Willem Dafoe, who said he’s excited to see how the innovative game turns out.

“Twelve Minutes” is about a man (voiced by James McAvoy) who’s sitting down for a nice dinner at home with his wife (played by Daisy Ridley) when an intruder (Dafoe) bursts in, accuses the wife of murdering someone, then beats the man to death. Taking a page from Harold Ramis’ “Groundhog Day,” the game’s director Luis Antonio structured “Twelve Minutes” around a time loop that repeats in — you guessed it — 12-minute intervals. The player’s job is to run through the scenario enough times to break out of the loop and solve the crime.

“I enjoy doing voice work. I liked how Luis pitched it. It seemed like it was a thoughtful, interesting approach just how it was structured,” Dafoe told TheWrap in a video call, adding, “The mind of the game was interesting to me.”

Willem Dafoe said he agreed to sign on in part because of the game’s stellar cast — he was eager to work with “Star Wars” starlet Daisy Ridley, in particular.

“I know Daisy Ridley and James McAvoy were already committed to it and they’re both very good actors, and I enjoy working with them,” Dafoe said. “I had worked with Daisy before on ‘Murder on the Orient Express.’ I thought she was wildly, really talented; and she’s real sweet and smart and fun. And James, I didn’t know personally, but I know his work. These are very good actors and I enjoyed working with them.”

Despite the insanely talented cast of actors, Dafoe admitted the game is kind of an experimental project and said, “Basically, I’m going in blind, but I got a good feeling.”

“Twelve Minutes” didn’t have the lead actors do motion-capture work. Unlike most games, the voiceover work happened in isolation because Annapurna Interactive was following strict coronavirus guidelines and Dafoe said he didn’t interact with Ridley and McAvoy as much as he’d have liked to under normal circumstances.

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“We’re all kind of in the same boat, and we bounce off each other (but) we weren’t in the same room. But we’re listening to each other, and we’re on Zoom,” Willem Dafoe said. He pointed out that in the game, the husband and wife have no idea who his character the intruder even is, so the isolation the actors experienced while making “Twelve Minutes” was oddly in keeping with the theme.

“In the game, we’re all strangers, and we’re dealing with the situation, so that’s what we were doing as actors,” Dafoe said.

Dafoe noted that unlike movies (and some video games that rely heavily on facial motion capture for cutscenes), “Twelve Minutes” didn’t need to sync voice-overs, which gave him, Ridley and McAvoy more room to play with the script.

“We’re not syncing to picture, so it’s quite freeing and quite flexible,” Dafoe said. “You just try to be present for the situation in each of the variations and that’s quite a trick to do. But because you’re not presenting anything but your voice, you can do anything. So you can work psychologically, you can work rhythmically, you can work sonically, you can do all three at the same time.”

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Designer Luis Antonio told TheWrap the game is heavily inspired by horror movies from David Fincher and Alfred Hitchcock. Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” is also a huge influence (the infamous hexagonal pattern design from the rugs at the Overlook Hotel makes an appearance in the game’s background) and Christopher Nolan’s “Memento.”

Willem Dafoe isn’t new to voiceover work in games. He told TheWrap he’s been working on them since the release of “James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing,” when he gave voice to gangster Nikolai Diavolo. In addition to the Bond title, Dafoe’s contributed voice work to Quantic Dream’s “Beyond Two Souls,” starring Elliot Page and reprised his role as the beloved villain Norman Osborn/Green Goblin in the 2002 “Spider-Man” video game based on the Sam Raimi films.

“I’ve enjoyed all the games that I’ve done. Working with David Cage, and ‘Beyond Two Souls’ with Elliott Page was really fun because we were also doing (motion capture) work,” Dafoe said. “You’re creating all these elements that then are concretized by the designers in the computer visualization of it — it’s interesting because when you’re a performer, you are the reality. But here, you’re contributing to a reality, you’re creating a thread that they’re going to weave into something else and while you don’t always have control, there’s a great freedom in what you create.”

“It’s fun, it’s, it’s fast, it’s fluid and it can be emotional,” Dafoe added.

Check out the gameplay trailer for “Twelve Minutes” here and a behind-the-scenes look at the game development here.

“Twelve Minutes” releases on Xbox and PC Thursday, Aug. 19.

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