After reading Robert Eggers‘s “crazy, brilliant script” for “The Lighthouse,” production designer Craig Lathrop realized he would have to build that title set as opposed to finding one on location. This, of course, would be a “challenge,” since it required “a very small base” for “a very tall structure that could tip over.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Lathrop above.
This A24 release centers on two lighthouse keepers — the young Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and the grizzled Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe) — who slowly drive each other mad as they spend more time together in isolation. Set in the early 1890s, the film required “a period lighthouse, really on a spit of land” as opposed to “an island,” with a light keeper’s house on the side. It also needed to be “a bit dilapidated,” and most lighthouses from that period “are in museums” where they are “beautifully maintained,” and that’s “not really what we needed.” So he built the whole thing, which turned out to be “a lot more fun” anyway.
SEE Willem Dafoe Interview: ‘The Lighthouse’
But even if they hadn’t built the exteriors themselves, they “would’ve had to build the interior anyway. Lighthouses are very tight,” which makes shooting in them difficult. Also, it’s “a very claustrophobic story,” shot within a tight 1.19:1 frame, “and all the sets had to be designed with that aspect ratio in mind.” Lathrop also needed to keep in mind the black-and-white cinematography, for which DP Jarin Blaschke used a blue filter to make the faces look “weathered,” as opposed to a red one that gives people a “beautiful complexion.” But this was “counterintuitive” to Lathrop since “regular wooden tones that had some red in them looked like charcoal.” So he took pictures of his sets with a custom camera “to see what that shift was.”
Lathrop previously worked with Eggers on his feature directing debut, the period horror flick “The Witch” (2015), which brought him Best Production Design nominations from Chicago, San Francisco and Washington DC film critics as well as a Production Design bid from the Directors Guild of Canada.
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