Eggers chose to shoot exteriors in the "punishing" locale of Nova Scotia's Cape Forchu, where grips would sink into thigh-high mud and the actors were sprayed with cold rain. "We enjoyed suffering because that's what the script requires," Eggers says. "You weren't thinking, 'This is so crazy,' because that's what's on the page, so what else were we supposed to do?"
Aside from dealing with inhospitable conditions, Dafoe and Pattinson were tasked with mastering Eggers' ye olde dialogue, co-written with his brother Max. While Herman Melville is an obvious influence -- one who gets a shout out in the credits -- the Eggers brothers specifically pulled from the writings of Sarah Orne Jewett, who wrote stories using Maine dialects during the 19th Century, the period in which The Lighthouse takes place.
"[The language] is musical," Dafoe says. "It has a strong rhythm." It takes a minute to adjust your ears to the sonic landscape of The Lighthouse, and the screenplay mixes the poetry of grunts and flatulence with lyrical monologues and repetitive catchphrases like, "Why'd you spill your beans?"
"There's something about those vowels and the accent and the way it's written that you really have to contort yourself to say it," Pattinson says. "It makes you contort your body, and your face is contorted, and then you realize, oh shit, the reason why that is -- that's his psychological state." But Pattinson says he couldn't understand his drunken slurring some of the time when watching the final cut. "There are some scenes where I know what the lines are I literally cannot understand what I'm saying at all," he adds. "I really loved that Robert allowed me to do that. I loved watching it at Cannes subtitled."
In Dafoe's case, he was also working with fake bottom teeth. "Physically, we wanted some funky teeth," Dafoe says. "I've got pretty funky teeth. It's not like I had braces when I was a kid. But we wanted some missing teeth appropriate to the period, appropriate to someone that had this kind of life." Pattinson remembers Eggers' attention to detail, down to the fastenings on the underwear. For as grody and sea-worn as their clothing looks on screen, Pattinson's first impression was how fashionable it seemed. "The waterproof stuff, the oilskins, I put that on I was like, 'Wow, this literally looks like '90s Yohji Yamamoto,'" he says, dropping the Japanese designer's name. "It was really cool. The rain hat thing? I was like, 'This looks sick.'" He assumed he was going to be runway ready in the final product. "Then you look at it in the film -- nah, definitely wrong about that," he says. "I look like shit."