How I Met Actor Willem Dafoe at a Maine Grocery Store 35 Years Ago
With over 100 films to his credit and four Academy Award Nominations, actor Willem Defoe has had a long and very successful career in Hollywood. But did you know that he also has spent time in Maine for decades? I know, because I had an encounter with him more than 35 years ago.
Back in the late 80s, I worked at Smith's Shop 'n Save in Oxford which was in the current location of Flagship Cinema in the Oxford Plaza. I worked there as a bagger and cashier in high school and when home on break from college. Shop 'n Save was the only grocery store within about a 30 mile radius, so people from a good chunk of Oxford County would shop there.
A man came through my line who looked very familiar but I couldn't place him. He wasn't buying a lot. Maybe just enough for the weekend, but he paid with a $100 bill. This was the 80s and it was rare that anyone came through a grocery line with a $100 bill or even had $100 worth of groceries. $100 then is the equivalent of almost $250 today, so it got my attention.
Then it hit me.
In 1986, the Academy Award winning Oliver Stone film Platoon was released and I had just seen it recently on home video. Willem Defoe plays Sgt. Elias in the film and was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor. This was him! In my line paying for a few groceries with a $100 bill!
I could have said something. I didn't. I just smiled at said "Thank you," as I handed him his change. My thinking was he didn't want to make a scene. He said thank you as well, and when he spoke, I recognized that distinctive, gravelly voice of his. He grabbed his bag and walked out the door.
Come to find out, Dafoe has a home on Thompson Lake just a short drive away from that old grocery store. He enjoys ice fishing on the lake, which we actually did on the very same lake this past winter. Sadly, I didn't bump into him again while out there to say hi after 35 years. He probably remembers, right?
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