Filming “The Lighthouse” was an arduous affair for director Robert Eggers, his crew, and his leading actors Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe (the shoot was so physically demanding that Pattinson almost punched Dafoe), but apparently no one went as mad as Pattinson. A new Esquire profile of Pattinson and Dafoe written by editor-in-chief Alex Bilmes reveals the extreme lengths Pattinson went to embody his lighthouse keeper character. Pattinson did not go fully method during the entire production, but when it came time to film he fully threw himself into his character’s shoes. The decision meant that as Pattinson’s character went mad in the script so did the actor on set.
“Because you’re playing a mad person, it means you can sort of be mad the whole time,” Pattinson said. “Well, not the whole time, but for like an hour before the scene. You can literally just be sitting on the floor growling and licking up puddles of mud.”
Esquire notes that while the “sitting on the floor growling and licking up puddles of mud” line may sound figurative, it’s actually what Pattinson did on the set to get into character. Pattinson also embraced his character’s drinking habit. In the film, the two characters are often seen getting drunk on kerosene. Pattinson told Esquire that he got so drunk to play these scenes that he essentially blacked out.
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“[I was] basically unconscious the whole time. It was crazy,” Pattinson said. “I spent so much time making myself throw up. Pissing my pants. It’s the most revolting thing. I don’t know, maybe it’s really annoying.”
Pattinson revealed one scene where things got taken a bit too far for Dafoe’s comfort. “There’s a scene where Willem’s kind of sleeping on me and we’re really, really drunk,” the actor said. “I felt like we’re completely lost in the scene and I’m sitting there trying to make myself gag and Robert [Eggers] told me off because Willem’s looking at him going: ‘If he throws up on me, I’m leaving the set.’ I had absolutely no idea this whole drama was unfolding.”
For Pattinson, throwing himself into the character on set was the only way to embrace the role. The actor openly dislikes rehearsing and told Esquire it was “very, very frustrating” to endure Eggers’ script read-throughs.
“I just couldn’t achieve what they wanted me to achieve in that room,” Pattinson said. “Robert [Eggers] was getting furious with me because I was just sitting there, completely monotone the whole time. He could not stand it. I just don’t know how to perform it until we’re performing it. By the end of the week, I’m thinking, ‘I’m going to get fired before we’ve even started’. I definitely feel like, with the rehearsal period, we were quite angry with each other by the end of it. Literally, we’d finish for the day, I’d fucking slam out the door and go home.”
Fortunately for Eggers, Pattinson’s commitment to the role came alive and then some while filming on set. A24 is releasing “The Lighthouse” in theaters October 18. Head over to Esquire to read the profile in its entirety.