(Please note, there is a plot spoiler in this interview at 7:50.)
Director Robert Eggers made quite the first impression with his feature debut, The Witch, back in 2015 and now he continues to make an indelible impression on movie-goers with his sophomore effort, The Lighthouse. It stars Robert Pattinson as Ephraim Winslow, a man who takes a job tending to a lighthouse for a four-week stint. His only company during the term? Willem Dafoe‘s Thomas Wake, a veteran lighthouse keeper who holds tight to his seniority and assigns Winslow all the menial chores on the island.
I’ll just leave it at that because no description of where The Lighthouse goes from there can do the experience justice. It’s a highly atmospheric black and white stunner that sends you out the door completely staggered by what you just witnessed. That being said, it’s probably no surprise that I had an endless list of questions for Eggers when he visited the Collider Lounge at TIFF 2019, ranging from the challenges he faced getting such a unique project off the ground to working with Dafoe and Pattinson, questions about minor character details, the lenses he used, and so much more. You can catch it all in the video interview at the top of this article and if that’s not enough, we also banked a short spoiler conversation that we’ll share closer to the film’s October 18th release. And in case you missed it, click here to read Gregory Ellwood’s review of the film out of Cannes.
We also need to send a big thank you to our presenting sponsor Nordstrom Canada and supporting partners Marriott Bonvoy and Ciroc Vodka for supporting the Collider Lounge at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival and helping to make these interviews happen.
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You can find a full breakdown of the interview and the official TIFF synopsis for The Lighthouse below:
- 00:25 – Back when The Witch first hit theaters, Eggers was planning on making a Nosferatu movie. How did the transition from that to The Lighthouse happen?
- 01:20 – Is there an elevator pitch for The Lighthouse?
- 01:53 – What supplemental material did Eggers need to provide for such a unique project like this?
- 02:23 – Building all of the sets; designing the locations to suit the black and white visuals.
- 03:44 – Was it always Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson for the lead roles; what were their burning questions after reading the script?
- 05:35 – While in the editing room, how does Eggers pinpoint the perfect balance between ambiguity and a satisfying experience for viewers?
- 07:12 – How many takes can Eggers get when working with such intense material?
- 08:22 – What was the most challenging scene to shoot?
- 09:38 – The meaning behind the tattoo on Dafoe’s chest.
- 10:03 – What inspired The Lighthouse?
- 10:42 – Eggers’ approach when directing actors with different approaches to their craft.
- 12:30 – Times when Dafoe and Pattinson exceeded his expectations.
Charged with tending to a lighthouse for a four-week term, the taciturn Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) spends his days toiling away with backbreaking upkeep, while during the nights it is only his elder cohort Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe, also at the Festival in Motherless Brooklyn) who is allowed to keep the beacon in operation. Growing weary of menial tasks, Ephraim’s curiosity regarding Thomas’ hours alone with the big light burgeons. But is it just fatigue and envy that cause Ephraim to become increasingly paranoid about the loitering seagulls, to the point where he’s visited by strange apparitions?