03/31/1998 AT 12:00 AM EST
Last seen as a bloodsucker in "Shadow of the Vampire," Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe returned to human form in New York Tuesday night, where he celebrated the premiere of his latest film, "Pavilion of Women," based on a Pearl S. Buck novel about forbidden love in 1930s Imperial China. When asked about his role as a priest who goes through a sexual awakening, Dafoe, 45, told PEOPLE: "It was a different role, and I suppose that was one of the attractions." Luo Yan plays Madam Wu who, after 24 years of marriage decides, she wants to find a young second wife for her husband and excuse herself from the physical duties of their marriage. Among those who attended the opening were Fox News anchor Paula Zahn, 45, who was wearing a brace because she blew out her knee skiing, she said. She also explained that she was there for a very obvious reason. Said Zahn, "I've been a big Willem Dafoe fan for years."