Why Robert Pattinson Almost Punched Director Robert Eggers on Set

On the set of the 2019 film, The Lighthouse, star Robert Pattinson says he almost came to blows with the film’s director, Robert Eggers. Things got intense during filming of the dark, brooding movie, to the point that the Twilight star was almost driven to violence.

Robert Pattinson
Robert Pattinson | George Pimentel/Getty Images

Perhaps it was filming on a secluded island on such a disturbing film that ultimately got to the actor.

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What ‘The Lighthouse’ is about

Based originally on one of American writer Edgar Allan Poe’s final, unfinished stories, The Lighthouse is set on a distant New England island at the end of the nineteenth century. Two lighthouse keepers, the younger, in-training one played by Pattinson and the irritable, older one portrayed by veteran actor Willem Dafoe, live on the island.

Filmed in black and white in a small Nova Scotia fishing village, The Lighthouse chronicles the keepers’ slow descent into insanity.

Robert Pattinson (left) and Willem Dafoe (right) in ‘The Lighthouse’

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Dafoe spoke with Time in 2019 about the film, what it’s about on the surface, and at a deeper level.

“On one level,” Dafoe says, “it’s a very simple story: two guys, trapped in a lighthouse, they run out of food, they start to drink, they go crazy, they get aggressive with each other. The end. But it’s also about identity, it’s about belief. So I think it has deep roots. They’re articulated in the images and in the actions, which are very specific. I just find it really beautiful.”

The director and his brother wrote the script

Based, as mentioned, on one of Poe’s unfinished stories, which in turn was based on a “true-ish” event, as the director told Rolling Stone, the script for The Lighthouse was started by Robert Eggers’ brother, screenwriter Max Eggers. The brothers picked up on it together, collaborating on the script for the film.

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“[T]he younger man had a sordid past,” Robert explained, “and was known for being violent, and the men got into a lot of rows in the lighthouse. So I used that as well. But the ending of that true story — I just don’t know how true it is, because the end of it is like a folk tale, or something out of Edgar Allan Poe.”

“The old guy dies of a heart attack, and the young guy’s afraid he’s going to be accused of murdering him. So he ties the body to the side of the lighthouse to somehow tell people that there’s a problem. . . And then the corpse of the old man keeps tapping on the window.”

Robert Pattinson almost punched director Robert Eggers

Given the creepy nature of the film, its intensity, and Pattinson’s bent for immersing himself in his roles, it’s actually understandable to see how the actor may have become overly immersed in the role of a lighthouse keeper about to lose his mind.

Eggers told The Verge in 2019 that he expects a lot from his actors and sometimes things can get heated.

“They’re very talented actors, and I cast them because I knew they could do this. But I need certain things. . . they knew they’d have to relinquish some of themselves to my approach for the film to possibly succeed.”

Pattinson, chatting with his costar Dafoe for Interview, explained that conditions on the remote island, coupled with the director’s approaches at times, drove him nearly to punching the man at the helm of the movie.

“That’s the closest I’ve come to punching a director. However much I love Robert [Eggers], there was a point where I did five takes walking across the beach, and after a while I was like, ‘What the f*** is going on? I feel like you’re just spraying a fire hose in my face.’ And he was like, ‘I am spraying a fire hose in your face.’ It was like some kind of torture. It definitely creates an interesting energy.”

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