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Welcome to Las Vegas, Willem Dafoe

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Willem Defoe poses for pictures Sunday during the CineVegas 2009 Honorees reception red carpet at Rain nightclub at The Palms Hotel and Casino.
Photo: Justin M. Bowen

Willem Dafoe has had plenty of opportunities to come to Las Vegas over the years, but nothing ever convinced the actor to visit our city - until last night.

It wasn’t a luxurious nightclub, extravagant pool party or opulent dinner on a casino’s dime that got the actor to come to town. It was CineVegas.

Dafoe arrived in Las Vegas yesterday, just in time to catch the tail end of the 11th annual film festival. The trip was the 53-year-old star’s first visit to our fair city.

Dafoe explained his half-century-long Vegas stand-off while walking the red carpet outside last night’s CineVegas Awards Reception at the Palms.

“I never had a good enough reason to come,” he said just moments before accepting the CineVegas Vanguard Actor Award, which honored his retrospective of brave performances.

2009 CineVegas Awards @ Rain

“This was a good reason,” Dafoe said of the award. “And I’m happy I came.”

The two-time Academy Award-nominated actor said his first visit to Las Vegas probably won’t be his last one.

“I’ll probably be back,” he smiled.

Dafoe spent Sunday afternoon at the 11th Annual CineVegas Film Festival held at Brenden Theatres, which kicked off June 10 and concludes today.

He answered fans’ questions following a screening his 1982 film, The Loveless, before walking the red carpet outside the evening’s reception.

While Dafoe admitted yesterday that he had yet to see much of the city aside from the interior of the Palms, the actor said he liked his first, tiny taste of the city.

“Oh, man, my head is buzzing,” he said. “It’s interesting. I’m digesting a lot.”

The Wooster Group co-founder noted his inaugural visit to Vegas would be a relatively low-key one.

“I’m just going to do some things today and see a couple of films tomorrow,” he said.

In addition to picking up some prestigious hardware at last night’s reception and checking out some films, Dafoe said his itinerary will also involve some father-son bonding.

“I brought my (27-year-old) son, so maybe we’ll do some things around the films tomorrow,” he said.

The 11th Annual CineVegas Film Festival continues now through Monday, June 15. A complete guide to the festival, its events and corresponding parties can be found here.

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Melissa Arseniuk

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