January 25, 2020
His unorthodox methods saw his leading man nearly punch him in the face. But the end result is one of the past year’s most acclaimed films
The Lighthouse director Robert Eggers on storms, seagulls and spraying Robert Pattinson with a hose
This is getting very granular for me,” says Robert Eggers, half-jokingly, half-uncomfortably. We were talking about Eggers’s obsession with history, but somehow we have drifted on to his childhood habit of dressing up in costumes. “My mom would take me to [US clothing chain] Joann Fabrics and buy some Lycra for me, and I would hand-sew a Wolverine costume that would look quite lumpy but serviceable.” He would often go to school as a superhero or Captain Hook or Abraham Lincoln. The teachers were supportive. But when he was 11 or 12, some of the other kids beat him up for his unconventional dress sense. “Then I decided to get very invested in dressing cool, which is something, unfortunately, now I’m still conscious of. So that became sort of my thing that helped me not be an outsider.”
A couple of decades on, he still looks pretty dapper: dressed in black from head to toe, swept-back black hair and a neatly trimmed but resplendently full beard. You would not class him as an outsider, exactly, but Eggers seems to be defiantly doing things his own way. His 2015 feature The Witch was as singular a debut as we have seen for some time: a strange, solemn folk horror whose exacting recreation of 17th-century New England was rapturously received. Within 10 minutes of The Witch winning the directing prize at Sundance, Eggers was being offered the chance to direct franchise movies, he says, “which made me realise how fickle and crazy and strange and silly this industry was, because no one had seen my film. They had just heard that I was, like, the new thing.”
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