Pattinson broke his silence about playing Bruce Wayne/Batman in an interview with Variety last month. “It's maybe the craziest thing I've ever done in terms of movie stuff,” the actor said about trying on the Batman suit. “I put it on. I remember saying to Matt, 'It does feel quite transformative!' He was like, 'I would hope it does! You're literally in the Batsuit.'”
Pattinson continued, “You do feel very powerful immediately. And it's pretty astonishing, something that is incredibly difficult to get into, so the ritual of getting into it is pretty humiliating. You've got five people trying to shove you into something. Once you've got it on, it's like, 'Yeah, I feel strong, I feel tough, even though I had to have someone squeezing my butt cheeks into the legs.'”
The Lighthouse is a darkly atmospheric descent into utter madness. Director/co-writer Robert Eggers skillfully crafts a unique theater experience. A period psychological thriller shot in grainy black and white, The Lighthouse immerses you in its disturbing environment and enthralling performances of its two-man cast. Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe push the acting craft to the brink. They feed off each other like vultures snapping at carrion. Their intensity building to a bizarre, somewhat predictable climax. The end result is thought provoking, but unrewarding. The outcome feels assured once the characters become unstable.
The Lighthouse never defines a specific date, but the setting depicts a late 19th century time frame. Ephraim Winslow Robert Pattinson arrives at a remote lighthouse with the older Thomas Wake Willem Dafoe. The men are "wickies", lighthouse keepers on a four week assignment. The tiny island is cold and desolate with roaring waves crashing against jagged rocks. Their only company, persistent seagulls constantly pecking at the isolated workers.
The quiet and reserved Ephraim is put through the paces by the irascible Thomas, whose drinking and flatulence never ceases. The labor is backbreaking and disgusting. Ephraim carries lamp oil, coal; cleans constantly and dumps their filthy chamber pots in raging inclement weather. Ephraim finds a tiny mermaid figurine inside his hair-filled mattress. She's the only beautiful thing in his world.
Related: The Lighthouse Trailer #2 Dives Into Madness with Robert Pattinson & Willem Dafoe
As the men reach closer to the end of the job, Ephraim wonders why he cannot tend to the radiant lamp. Thomas again shuts him down. That's his work, do what you're told or be written up for insubordination. Ephraim becomes angry at the annoying seagulls and his intractable, farting master. When an unexpected storm cancels their ferry to leave, the wickies are forced to depend on each other as the island is battered. Secrets are laid bare as the crushing isolation peels away their sanity.
Robert Eggers The Witch uses the lighthouse and forsaken island to constantly grind the characters. The foghorn blares loudly throughout the entire run time. The wind, cold, and rain never ceases, locking the men together in their tight confines. Ephraim works like a dog as Thomas bathes in the glow of the light. The respite from darkness becomes a jealous knife that cuts into Ephraim. He begins to hallucinate horrible visions from his past. The terror growing alongside his sexual abstinence, Ephraim lusts after his prized mermaid. Reality slips away as time becomes seemingly endless.
Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe deserve universal acclaim for their astonishing performances. Everything from their accents to mannerisms is learned. These are period characters with a ton of dialogue and interaction between them. Their downward trajectory takes many incarnations along the way. The men hate each other, begrudgingly become friendly, and then reach a level of personal intimacy that is near appalling to see. The second act of the film begins a tour de force plunge into depravity. Pattinson and Dafoe will contend for every acting award.
The Lighthouse is raw, powerful, and brilliantly cinematic. While I had problems with the ending, I appreciate the mastery of the journey. Robert Eggers gives his superb lead actors a platform to show their incredible talent. Willem Dafoe has been great for decades, but Robert Pattinson proves himself equally formidable. The Lighthouse is produced by Regency Enterprises and distributed by A24.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Movieweb.
Before Todd Phillips’ Joker was released into theaters, which was only earlier this month even though it feels like it’s been out for years, a video of the Clown Prince of Crime’s laughs from over the years went viral. There’s Cesar Romero’s full-bodied howl in Batman and Heath Ledger’s creaky cackle in The Dark Knight and, if we must, whatever the heck Jared Leto was doing in Suicide Squad. An actor playing the Joker is only as good as his laugh Joaquin Phoenix wanted to get his just right, just as an actor playing Batman is only as good as his Batman voice. It’s a reflection of the project, where the voice must match the tone: Christian Bale, for instance, sounds like his vocal cords were pelleted with gravel to pair with the intense grittiness of Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
Robert Pattinson, who was picked to play the Caped Crusader in Matt Reeves’ The Batman, was recently asked about his Batman voice. He sadly didn’t bust it out, like Ben Wyatt on Parks and Recreation, but the High Life star did reveal where he found his inspiration: Willem Dafoe in The Lighthouse, the new A24 horror movie from director Robert Eggers where Pattinson and Dafoe play increasingly mad lighthouse keepers. “Willem’s voice in this is quite inspiring for it, to be honest,” he said. “It is pretty similar to the voice I’m gonna do… I think Batman has a sort of pirate-y kind of voice.”
Leaving the “pirate-y” thing aside, I’m tickled that Robert Pattinson, who turned into an international star for playing a sparkly vampire, discovered his Batman voice from Willem Dafoe in a movie where he, the ex-sparkly vampire, ferociously masturbates. Movies: they’re good!
[Editor's note: This post discusses the plots of “The Lighthouse” and “JoJo Rabbit.”]
In the golden age of Hollywood, queer desire had no choice but to hide in plain sight. There are countless examples of classic films with obvious queer themes, even if they were not explicitly stated — “Ben-Hur,” “Rope,” and “Spartacus” — to name a few. Gore Vidal’s original script for “Ben-Hur” was quite overtly queer, pretty clearly implying that Ben-Hur and his enemy Messala were once lovers, but it was toned down in the editing process. But there was a reason for it then. So when movies include sheepish allusions to queer desire 60 years later, they come up short.
In “The Lighthouse” and “JoJo Rabbit,” two movies that couldn’t possibly be more different, men who battle demons together form unusual bonds. Both movies come from wildly inventive filmmakers with styles so specific their films can feel like their own mini-genres, but they share half-baked gay subtexts that fall short of their ambitious visions.
A simmering two-hander set on a remote island in Nova Scotia, “The Lighthouse” borrows in part from historical diaries containing the mad rantings of real-life lighthouse keepers. Shot in black-and-white and starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson, the film follows a veteran sea dog and his new apprentice throughout a harrowing tenure in soggy isolation. As time passes, both men spiral towards madness as they become each other’s undoing. While technically a horror movie, Eggers is more focused on the terrors of the mind than anything otherworldly though there’s some of that, too.
For most of the film, the seasoned Thomas Dafoe is in charge, barking orders at Ephraim Pattinson and disparaging his work. At night, Thomas devolves into a drunken stupor, singing shanty songs and waxing poetic. Each man is suspicious of the other. Ephraim doesn’t drink, much to the chagrin of Thomas, who won’t allow his peer into the upper deck of the lighthouse, which emanates a mysterious and alluring light.
With the men removed from the outside world, sex — or the desire for it — permeates everything. Ephraim has repeated visions of a beautiful mermaid, whose siren song is both arousing and eerie. Thomas pleasures himself at the altar of his precious lighthouse. Though the men sleep in shifts, their creaky twin beds are only three feet apart. Neither man can escape the other’s sweating, snoring, farting bodies, as they slowly become unraveled. When they finally come face to face, you can practically smell the pheromones passing with each breath, bracing for a kiss that never comes. So why doesn’t it?
That’s a frustrating and gutless turn in a movie that’s audacious in almost every other way. In a story about two men on a deserted island, the homoeroticism is practically baked into the log-line. To ignore it would have been disappointing, but taking it right to the edge and then pulling back is only marginally better.
In the film’s conclusion, when both men have fully descended into insanity and Ephraim is walking Thomas on a leash and calling him a “good boy,” the queer context is undeniable, and yet “The Lighthouse” never fully goes there. It feels like a missed opportunity at best — and a spineless maneuver at worst — to invoke themes of dominance and submission, borrowing from queer fetish culture, without even so much as a genuine erotic exchange.
In interviews, Pattinson has acknowledged the film’s BDSM themes. “There’s very much a kind of sub-dom thing happening,” he recently told Thrillist. “It’s not that far from the surface. We were really trying to push it as well. The bit when we fight each other — there’s definitely a take where we were literally trying to pull each other’s pants down. It literally almost looked like foreplay.” When asked directly about why there was no kiss, he demurred, calling the film a grotesque version of “Fifty Shades of Grey.” At least in “Fifty Shades of Grey” the characters actually get it on.
While “The Lighthouse” should have gone further with its queerness, “Jojo Rabbit” would have been better off avoiding the topic altogether. The film follows a Hitler Youth child who invents an imaginary friend as Hitler, played by Waititi himself in a grating and silly performance. Waititi’s Hitler is a bit of a buffoon; all funny faces and sing-song affect. He’s also flamboyant in a cartoonish way, much like how Mel Brooks wrote his far funnier Hitler caricature in “The Producers.” But a foppish Hitler is the least of Waititi’s troubles — the real homoeroticism comes into play with Sam Rockwell’s character.
Cementing his status as Hollywood’s go-to for sympathetic bigots, Rockwell plays the leader of Jojo’s troop, Captain Klenzendorf. He is followed around by his loyal subordinate, a twink named Finkel, played by “Game of Thrones” star Alfie Allen. Klenzendorf and Finkel also share a charged face-to-face, will-they-or-won’t-they moment.
In the movie’s inane final battle scene, which arrives with so little fanfare as to land zero emotional impact, the two men are seen charging into the fray adorned with colorful fringe epaulets, a bright red cape accenting the Captain’s SS uniform. They never kiss, embrace, or acknowledge their romance; instead, Waititi leaves the audience to piece things together from a few winks and some sequined uniforms. Waititi doesn’t even begin to address that the Nazis were sending gay people to concentration camps.
The movie’s “exclusively gay moment” may be louder than the one in “The Lighthouse,” but it’s far more problematic, as Waititi plays it for comedic affect to generate sympathy for his characters — queerness as shorthand for humanity. Maybe that would have felt radical or bold 25 years ago, but in 2019, it’s just plain lazy.
Of course, neither Waititi or Eggers are gay, which is not to say straight filmmakers can’t or shouldn’t use queer elements in their work. They can, and they should. If straight filmmakers want to comment on themes of repressed sexuality, intolerance, and power exchange, their work can only be enriched by a queer aesthetic. But they need to say it loud and proud, with more than just a wink and some fringe.
BBC Studios drama supremo Hilary Salmon, who has overseen series including Luther and Richard Gere's MotherFatherSon, is leaving the production arm of the British public broadcaster.
Deadline understands that Salmon, who has been with the BBC for over twenty years, is setting up a drama production company with her former BBC Studios colleagues Nick Betts and Radford Neville
Salmon, Betts, who was previously Director of Scripted at BBC Studios, having joined the BBC in 2007 from NBC Universal, and Neville, who joined the BBC in 2017 from The Crown producer Left Bank, have established The Lighthouse. It is understood that the trio, who are equal partners in the independent venture, will produce scripted series for UK and international broadcasters and streaming platforms. Salmon and Neville will leave BBC Studios at the end of the year.
Salmon below, second from right, who most recently was boss of BBC Studios' London drama division, has been responsible for iconic BBC shows including Criminal Justice, which was remade for HBO as The Night Of, and long-running legal drama Silk with Maxine Peake.
She has worked with top British talent on series such as Benedict Cumberbatch's To The Ends of The Earth and Johnny Lee Miller's The Long Firm, and co-produced series with U.S. networks including Five Days and House of Saddam with HBO.
Known best for producing Idris Elba's cop drama Luther, she has also worked with writers including Peter Moffat, on series including Sophie Okonedo and Adrian Lester drama Undercover and upcoming Moffat-penned AMC series 61st Street, which is exec produced by Michael B. Jordan.
Her departure comes after BBC Studios hired Bodyguard producer Priscilla Parish as head of drama. Parish, who joined in September from World Productions, where she worked on series including the Richard Madden BBC/Netflix blockbuster Bodyguard and Line of Duty. She now oversees the creative strategy and development for the company's slate of drama series and serials, daytime drama and factual drama including titles such as Doctor Who and BBC America's upcoming Terry Pratchett adaptation The Watch.
Ralph Lee, Director Content, BBC Studios told Deadline, “Hilary is an exceptional creative, much loved by talent and all the teams she works with. Whilst at BBC Studios she has produced a plethora of award-winning dramas and we are really proud to have been on that journey with her. Likewise Rad has made a great impact, delivering some of our most ambitious shows with utter calm and professionalism. I've really enjoyed working with them both and I want to thank them for all their efforts and wish them every success with their new venture.”
In early September, The Batman actor Robert Pattinson made a fairly ambiguous remark about Joaquin Phoenix’s upcoming film Joker that set the Internet on fire with speculation. “Will these new incarnations of Batman and the Joker meet up in a movie?” fans began asking themselves, and pretty much everyone else, on social media. Thankfully, Joker director Todd Phillips quickly tried to quell the flames by saying - in no uncertain terms - that Phoenix’s Joker and Pattinson’s Batman would not share the same screen.
Over a month later, Pattinson’s retraction and Phillips’ explanation have done little to calm the rumor mills of incessant fandom. So, while promoting his latest drama The Lighthouse, the actor was asked again about whether or not his Bruce Wayne would ever cross paths with Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck. In response to the question from Yahoo! News, Pattinson effectively tried to hammer the final nail in the coffin. “It’s kind of a different world,” he said of the Phillips film, which takes a wildly different approach to the character than Suicide Squad actor Jared Leto did in 2016.
What’s more, the actor admitted that he hadn’t even seen Joker yet. “I might watch it tonight!” he said. “Joaquin is the best - he’s awesome in everything.” Matt Reeves’ The Batman, which also stars Paul Dano, Zoe Kravitz, and Jeffrey Wright, is scheduled to debut in theaters on June 25th, 2021.