How Robert Eggers Built ‘The Lighthouse’ – The Contenders London

“I was in the third year of trying to finance The Witch and no one wanted to make a movie about Puritans,” said Lighthouse director and co-writer Robert Eggers about how he came to the ghost story about two lighthouse keepers on a remote New England island in the 1890s.

Actually, Eggers has his brother Max to thank. He was working on a ghost story set in a lighthouse, and Robert asked if he could take a crack. In doing so, he discovered a true story about a small lighthouse in Wales in the early 19th century about an older and younger man both named Tom. A storm comes, they can’t leave and things go sideways. It was a good inspirational jumping off point.

“With the two characters, I realized it could be a story about identity,” said Robert Eggers who appeared on stage today at Contenders London with Lighthouse thespian Willem Dafoe.

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The Witch wound up being made, and with the heat off that, Eggers figured it was best to get Lighthouse ready with this brother. Dafoe was a big fan of Witch, sought out Eggers, and a couple of years later, the filmmaker came to him with a script saying “It’s you and Robert Pattinson. Yes or No?”

“I’m an unreliable narrator, you don’t know what’s real or invented,” says Dafoe about his character. The Platoon actor was drawn to the script for its elevated, poetic language.

The Lighthouse would be like a studio movie, everything would be built. Eggers found the roughest point in Novia Scotia, Cape Forchu. “It was an incredibly punishing location and delivered. It was cold and miserable,” said the director.

Dafoe and Pattinson had two different approaches to their craft, with the former needing plenty of rehearsal. However, that was because Dafoe had a bulk of the lines while Pattinson is largely silent for a majority of the pic. We observe him doing tasks “and you don’t have to rehearse for that,” said Dafoe.

“Since I’m the engine and he’s the protagonist, I’m pushing him in different ways,” added the actor.

The Lighthouse made its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival back in May. The pic, from A24, opens on Oct. 18.

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