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Willem Dafoe, a Man With the Face of a Demon in Real Life, Will Voice a Demon in Netflix's Death Note

Image: Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man
Image: Willem Dafoe in Spider-Man

On one hand, casting Willem Dafoe as the voice of Ryuk the shinigami (probably best translated as “death spirit”) in Death Note is great. On the other hand, Netflix’s live-action U.S. adaptation of the hit manga and anime ismissing out on big savings by not just using Dafoe’s actual, terrifying face in the film.


Dafoe’s been cast as Ryuk, the supernatural being who drops the titular Death Note into the mortal realm out of boredom. The notebook, which kills anyone whose name is written in it, is found by a high school student. The student in the original manga and anime is Light Yagami; in the Netflix version, it’s Light Turner who uses the notebook to “cleanse” the world, while a detective named L investigates him.

Here’s Ryuk from the manga next to Dafoe’s angular, angular face:

Images: Ryuk as drawn by Takeshi Obata in the maga, Dafoe photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP
Images: Ryuk as drawn by Takeshi Obata in the maga, Dafoe photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP

See? Eerily similar. This adaptation of the manga is being made by Adam Wingard and stars Nat Wolff as Turner and Keith Stanfield as L the detective, and will be released next year.


Katharine is the former managing editor of io9.

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I consider myself an upright citizen of the world. It is my goal to pass through doing as much good and to bring as many smiles to others as I can. However; if Willem Dafoe dropped a deathnote in my lap and told me to write-click kill people with his silky smooth, arsenic laced voice, I’d have to seriously consider it.