Robert Eggers, auteur-director of The Witch and now the incredible, critically-acclaimed The Lighthouse, spoke to Outtake at the film’s London premiere. Starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson in a career-best performance, this inky black and white film follows two lighthouse keepers stranded on a weather-battered island, charting their mental decay as the isolation and oppressive landscape whittle away at their sanity.
This being his second collaboration with indie production company A24, it’s fair to assume the two have a good working relationship. Eggers jokes that their partnership works because “they leave me alone.”
In that same spirit, Eggers’ ideas and creativity flow best when he is left to his own devices, he says. “I’m inspired by the past and I do a ton of research,” his inspirations for The Lighthouse’s screenplay ranging from old seamen’s legends to historical records. “And by trying to stay locked away in my study, with my head in the past, then sometimes people find what I’m doing to be unique because my influences are long dead,” he shrugs.
It’s difficult to imagine this film starring anyone but Dafoe and Pattinson – it makes sense then, that there was never any question as to who would be cast. “They wanted to work with me,” the director reveals, “so the casting process was very fast!”
“It wasn’t easy, but we knew that when we signed up for this,” says Eggers when describing the atmosphere on set. “It was very challenging; the scenes were really demanding and the weather was terrible, so there wasn’t a lot of chumming around. But we liked and respected, and cared for each other, and supported each other and saw each other through it.
“Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson are just incredible, and they just bring so much to every day. If I said to the guys, ‘You have to cut your hands off for this scene,’ Willem would have complained a little, but they both would have done it.”
The Lighthouse is out in cinemas now.