Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job
Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job

Is Robert Eggers an endangered species?

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job, The 38-year-old director is getting his start with stylized art house movies like “The Witch,” which won Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival, and “The Lighthouse,” a black-and-white movie starring Robert Pattinson and William Dafoe. This is usually the point when a private filmmaker either loses their mind and makes a superhero movie or switches to a streaming service to get more money and more creative control.

Instead, Eggers put in “Northman,” a Viking-themed movie that cost $70 million and opened in theaters on Friday. Alexander Skarsgard plays Amelith, a swordsman prince who wants to get even with his uncle, who killed his father (Ethan Hawke) and took his mother (Nicole Kidman) to a small village in Iceland. Even though the story is more straightforward than in Eggers’s other films, the quality of the filmmaking is not lower.

Eggers told me over coffee in Los Angeles, “If you want to be a director, you have to be cocky.” “It’s a crazy job because you have to ignore reality and make your own.”

The making of “The Northman” was not easy, from setting up big battles outside to the director’s fights with the production company New Regency over creative control. Even though the movie was ready to start filming in March 2020, the pandemic put the filming back for a few months.

But this latest setback did have some small benefits. The outdoor groups had time to weather realistically, and the Vikings’ beards had time to grow longer, though Eggers didn’t let his carefully trimmed facial hair get out of hand. The most facial hair. “I learned this while filming The Lighthouse: You must have an alpha beard.”

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job

Here are parts of our conversation that have been changed.

I saw two ads for your movie on the way to this interview. I’m sure you have never done this before.

It does seem strange. I hadn’t thought I’d make a movie with a billboard like that in the last ten or fifteen years.

How come?

I didn’t think I’d make a movie for a broad audience because I’ve been interested in less common things since about ten years ago. I chose to do this because I’m excited about it.

Were you shocked by how many people saw your first two movies?

I thought “the witch” [2016] was creepy. It will be shown in some places, and if the reviews are good, maybe someone will let me make another movie. I didn’t think a boring horror movie about pilgrims would do well, that’s for sure.

Don’t you like your movie?

I dislike “the witch,” but that’s a different story. But in general, I don’t think this kind of movie is boring. I love to watch movies that are much less interesting than mine.

But you seem self-aware enough to be able to say, “This is how the general public might see my work.”

A scary movie called “The Witch” got a lot of false advertising. I think it’s a horror movie, but I can see why some people didn’t like it because it didn’t fit their expectations. But with The Northman, I try to do both, which makes it hard.

So how do you get that needle to work? Where do your feelings go against what most people think?

You want something familiar enough for people to want it but different enough to be something new. I think that’s what everyone in this movie was going for. And for me, it’s been great that the source texts are easy to read and easy to find. I know that kids don’t go to Barnes & Noble to buy Icelandic epics, but a lot of medieval literature is weird and mysterious, and that stuff isn’t.

It’s getting harder and harder for a director like you to move up to a big-budget movie without taking on a franchise.

I knew I wouldn’t make it to the end because the film was so long. I was willing to take that risk, but post-production was complicated because the studio gave me pressure and a sound I hadn’t had before. About “The Witch,” I heard both good and bad things from investors. The same was true for “beacon,” but there was a lot of pressure here. Prisons: “We must interpret studio notes in a way we’re proud of,” said co-writer Lee. We’re not working hard enough if we can’t do that.”

Still on Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job

I also think I couldn’t have made “the most entertaining Robert Eggers movie” without pressure from the studio because making people laugh isn’t always my first thought. The essential thing in my first two movies was the fifth or fifteenth one. Here, it was the first one. In the end, even though it hurt and I got a lot of gray hair, I’m glad the studio pushed me to make this movie the way it is. On Blu-ray, there won’t be any more director’s cuts. I wanted to make this movie.

What did you learn by making this?

Everything. After making this movie, I feel like a real director for the first time.

Didn’t you feel the same way when you were done with your other movies?

No. I was trying to convince people that I was a movie director. I’m not saying I’m not, because I’m very proud of “The Lighthouse,” but now I feel like I could make a movie on the spot, which might not be that bad. This movie showed me the whole process in a way that I had never seen before.

Tell me about how hard it was for you to do The Northman.

We’ve done so much, from a massive raid into the village with hundreds of extra people, horses, and cows, to a storm at sea on a Viking ship at night, to a scene in such a remote place that the actors’ helicopter had to be when we rolled, Ethan Hawke put his arms around the director of photography, Blaschke and me, and said, “Congratulations.” You’ve done everything there is to do in a movie so that you can do anything now.” After he left, Garen and I said, “Yes, we’re ready to do it now.” This movie is excellent.”

He showed the attack on the village in a long, complicated shot. How do you feel when you’ve finally made it when there’s so much chaos, and the actors have to hit all their marks to the letter?

Still on Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job

It feels the best, and I just got hooked on the white screen to get the shot. There were a lot of scenes that were supposed to have three or four parts, but I combined them into one. If that’s not the best way to describe the scene, you shouldn’t do it that way, but when it was possible, we did it because it makes sense.

I’m sure it’s harder to get these shots when you’re shooting outside in bad weather than using the soundbar.

See, making movies isn’t easy. In my movies, I try to find the cruelest and most punishing places to shoot because that’s what the story calls for. Everyone’s lives are more complicated because of this, but it’s worth it. I love challenging tasks. I wouldn’t want to do it if it were easy.

She worked in theater before she became a movie director. Does that have anything to do with how you now work with actors?

I should be an actor and director, but I can be a brat sometimes. For the first few weeks, Alexander Skarsgard thought he was being treated like a robot, but then he figured out why he was being treated that way.

Still on Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job

Was he angry that he had to hit so many different marks?

Yeah. Also, I don’t get too caught up in a lot of backgammon work. I’m talking about your personality, how they grew up, and all that other stuff. I’d instead do things than talk about them in terms of acting.

This is interesting because you do a lot of research when you design your world. I think you’d understand if an actor wanted to do the same research for his role.

Yes, but I think that’s what they’re supposed to do. Pattinson would sometimes say in “The Lighthouse,” “Is it This is amazing or is who – which? “You know what?” I said. Choose what works for you, but this scene needs to be done 25% faster.”

So, tell me about your work with Alexander Skarsgard. This is an extreme level I’ve never seen before on screen. I find it surprisingly cute—I might even say it’s dorky.

It is sweeter and more strange. Alex had been interested in Vikings since he was a kid, so he was very passionate about it and expected perfection from himself. For the first couple of weeks, he was frustrated trying to figure out how Garen and I worked, but once we did the scene where he does a shamanic war dance, things got better. I think something opened up because he had to show his anger, madness, and weakness. The rest of the shoot went well, and every shot was good.

How much did you put into the money this movie made at the box office?

Very. People will probably think that this movie won’t do what everyone wants because of Covid, but that Who made it and that my team and I were able to make a big movie that wasn’t about superheroes is a success in and of itself.

Even if you hate this movie, I think it’s essential for the community to support it because other filmmakers should get a chance to make movies like this. People should be able to watch things other than superhero movies. I’m not making fun of superhero movies, but there should also be room for something else.

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