With his third film on the way, director Robert Eggers is revealing a his true feelings about his 2015 debut The Witch. “Honestly, I can’t stand watching The Witch now,” Eggers tells The Guardian in an interview.
“It’s not that it’s bad, and the performances are great, but I was not skilled enough as a filmmaker to get what was in my brain onto the screen,” he continues.
The Witch earned strong reviews, and it marked a stellar debut for Eggers as well as Anya Taylor-Joy, who would move on to become a household name with Netflix sensation The Queen’s Gambit. The feature helped launch both of them—as well as distributor A24—into the big time. Eggers would follow up The Witch with the surrealist sailor feature The Lighthouse, starring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.
“In The Lighthouse, I was able to do that,” Eggers continues. “And The Northman, I’m proud of the movie, but not everything is quite what I hoped it would be. So I would like to do something with the scope and scale that I can actually get what’s in my imagination onto the screen.”
Eggers and Taylor-Joy have linked up once more for The Northman, a Scandinavian-set Viking revenge tale also starring Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Ethan Hawke, Dafoe, and Björk. It’s Eggers’ biggest production yet, which meant that for the first time he faced the hassle of dealing with test screenings and pressure from big production companies.
“My first two films were all tested for marketing, but I didn’t have to change anything. So this was new, and as much as I didn’t like that process, I did learn something from it,” Eggers said. “But more than that, this is the film I wanted to make. This is my director’s cut. The studio pressure made the film what I originally pitched to them, which was the most entertaining Robert Eggers movie I could make. Honestly, without their pressure, I couldn’t have done that. It’s hard for me to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end, for goodness’s sake.”
Next, Eggers wants to go back to his indie roots and create something on a much smaller scale than the expansive The Northman.
“I certainly want to do something smaller, and not just because of the pressure and the pain, which is super real,” Eggers added, “but also because I learned so much on ‘The Northman,’ which was really a film that was way too big for my britches. And I finally feel like I actually know how to make a movie now, you know?”