Robert Eggers believes he needs to “re-strategy” after The Northman

The Northman is one of the best films of the year: a grueling, bloody Viking action-adventure that roars with maddened ferocity and enchants with hallucinatory intrigue. Conceived and executed on an epic scale, steeped in timeless themes of revenge, honor and destiny, and saturated with its author’s idiosyncratic folk-horror persona, it’s exactly the kind of one-of-a-kind, large-scale original that everyone claims Hollywood is all about no longer interested in producing. But despite these exemplary qualities, plus a star-studded cast (led by Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe) and widespread critical acclaim, this is Robert Egger’s third feature film – after The Haunted The witch and batshit mad The lighthouse— has underperformed in the United States with a current multiplex run of $33 million (vs. a reported budget of $70 million to $90 million). In a theatrical environment now mostly dominated by superhero tentpoles and IP-centric blockbusters, Eggers’ old revenge saga resembles another depressing reminder that the old ways might be fading fast.

Nonetheless, such troubling larger concerns do not reflect the excellence of Egger’s latest, a rampaging beast about an orphaned Viking prince named Amleth (Skarsgård) who seeks revenge on the uncle (Claes Bang) who murdered his father (Hawke) and married his mother has (kidman). Based on the legend that inspired none other than William Shakespeare hamletand imbued with the fantastic fury of his kindred cinematic spirit Conan the Barbarianthe 38-year-old author’s vicious genre film, is a jewel of idiosyncratic fury and unbridled menace, spearheaded by a commanding turn of Skarsgård as a betrayed and abandoned warrior hellbent on reclaiming his birthright.

Packed with magic, malevolence and devastating combat than any 2022 release to date, it’s not to be missed, and audiences now have another chance to experience it – and embrace it – thanks to its recent release on VOD. To celebrate this debut, we spoke to Eggers about it The Northman‘s fate at the box office, the modern cinematic landscape, the reports that the film was wrongly embraced by white nationalists, and its future plans for screens large and small.

Now that The Northman has more or less completed its theatrical release, are you disappointed with its performance at the box office?

I think it lived up to the expectations of a bad marketplace [laughs]. Am I disappointed that we’re on VOD after three to four weeks because that’s the way things are done in the post-COVID world? Yes. But it’s doing great on VOD, so here we go. When I see people taking a picture of themselves on social media and watching The Northman on her laptop and the excitement brings tears to my eyes. But it is what it is.

Much has been written about what the underperformance of the film “means”. Do you think this indicates poor prospects for large-scale original films that are not based on pre-existing intellectual property?

Yes, it’s the decline of western civilization, what can I say? look around Yes, it’s terrible. [laughs]

Does it make you reconsider your own strategy in relation to the types of projects you want to tackle?

I need to reschedule what I’m proposing to a studio. How do I stay myself and survive in this environment? Because even though they wouldn’t have me anyway, I wouldn’t want to do a Marvel movie, and I’m not going to try and get the rights to it either Spawn or something like that. I will continue to do what I will do. But I know everyone’s nervous right now, you know? Everyone is nervous. And it’s justifiable.


Alexander Skarsgård plays Amleth and Anya Taylor-Joy as Olga in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic The Northman

Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features

is for you The Northman‘s theatrical fate offset at least in part by the enthusiastic critical response to the film, as well as the devoted fanbase that inspired it?

It feels good when people like and understand the film and it’s well done critically and seems to be finding an audience. This is of course satisfying. I’m proud of the film. Nothing is perfect, but I’m proud of the film.

before The Northman‘s release, you spoke of wanting to reclaim Viking lore from white nationalists who had appropriated it. Still, the film seems to have been embraced by some of them online. Are you discouraged by this turn of events? Do you think they misunderstood the film and your intentions?

I guess if you’re someone who’s looking with a hammer then everything is a nail. And I can’t resist that attitude. [laughs]

Does it bother you that some extremists seemed to react that way?

How could it not? But like I said, I said what I said.

They used to do witches and sea creatures – why Vikings now?

I was uninterested in Vikings and the macho stereotype, and the Nazi right-wing misappropriation of Viking culture cemented my disinterest as an adult. But when I went to Iceland, the landscapes were incredibly inspiring and I wanted to know about the people who lived in the 10th centuryth century and did not die. [laughs] Also, I really liked the sagas. I developed a great passion for the sagas and I liked the idea of ​​a Viking film. Then a few years later I had lunch with Alexander Skarsgård and he had been trying to make a Viking film for a while. The idea of ​​doing it with Alex became a reality and he is the perfect person to do it.

Compared to your first two films The Northman is big-budget epic. Were there concerns about preserving your personality while working on a larger canvas and with more archetypal characters and dramatic dynamics?

Mainly the answer is no. [laughs] Part of making a saga is that it’s a more normal story than, say, The lighthouse, which probably doesn’t even have a story. Sagas are entertaining, and so by writing an entertaining story that anyone can understand, I’m writing something for a wider audience than ever before. But because this is the stuff of source material I use, I still remain authentic to my method, which is to try to dig into the past and articulate it that way. So in that sense no. And Regency was really great at allowing me to reinstate all my department heads, shoot with a single camera, and make a larger scale film like I’ve done in the past.

That was handled to a degree that I’m frustrated with, but it was different in post-production because the film was this size and I didn’t have a final cut. That said, me and my staff stuck together, and we just said we just wouldn’t go with something we’re not proud of. So we did it. But certainly there were times when that was difficult in post-production.

“That was handled to a degree that I’m frustrated with, but it was different in post-production because the film was this size and I didn’t have a final cut.”

Does that mean there is a longer “Director’s Cut” that you prefer? Or are post-production fights like this just a natural facet of the process?

Calling it a fight is almost pointless because it’s just a part of making a film. Those conversations happened on my other two films that I had final cut on. But less because of that. And also because, look, The lighthouse is The lighthouseand nobody does The lighthouse Become rich.

Or streamline it to make it more mainstream.

Right. Exactly.

The Northman is a revenge saga that, I would say, uncharacteristically avoids moralizing revenge. Did you think about that while writing?

He [Skarsgård’s Amleth] is not a modern person and I do not share his world view. The Valkyries can scream and sing and roar and the trumpets can play and he can cry a tear of joy, but personally I see it as a waste of a lifetime. To be the moralistic finger in the revenge cycle, who wins? It seems to me nobody. But Amleth would tell you something very different, and that’s what we’ve illustrated.

Was that the key – sticking with Amleth’s perspective rather than seeing his story through modern eyes, as so many contemporary plays do?

I just think that’s a shame because you don’t really gain anything by overlaying contemporary morals and attitudes on a historical story. I think we can learn more about who we are by actually examining where we come from. This film is not 100% accurate – that is impossible at any time and especially about 1,000 years ago. And I can’t be 100% impartial. But I try my best to portray both the physical and material world as it could have been and to articulate the Viking mindset without judgement. I’m definitely trying.


Björk plays the seer in director Robert Eggers’ Viking epic The Northman

Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features

How much did you have to rely on CGI? It doesn’t appear to be an effects-heavy film, but I suspect it required more than that The witch and The lighthouse.

I think people would be surprised to find out the amount of CG in the first two films, but it’s all very invisible and insignificant stuff. With that, about 85% of shots have an effect, and they could be as simple as deleting a safety wire. I think the intention is always to try and make it as real as possible. But surely it’s impossible to make everything genuine on a film of this scale these days, just for health and safety reasons. I mentioned the security cords – in the past you didn’t always have to use a cord and you still do today.

Also the labor costs are very different and the material costs are very different so the gigantic sets… I was just watching Anna of a thousand days A few months ago this Henry VIII film with Richard Burton, and it’s basically a chamber drama, but they build the biggest sets – even exterior sets like London streets and palace gates – for people to speak in rooms of that film. You can’t do that anymore. We only built one long ship, but we photographed that one long ship multiple times to get it in the same shot. For example, there is a full CG ship in the storm sequence, but we scanned a replica of a historical ship just to ground it.

Is your Nosferatu Anya Taylor-Joy (and eventually Harry Styles) remake still in the works? And if so, what excites you about reinterpreting that particular classic?

Well, it’s an IP, isn’t it? [laughs]

Good point! Does that make it more or less a challenge?

I don’t know if it will happen; It seems as if [F.W.] Murnau doesn’t want me to do that because it always goes wrong. But Dracula, it is said, is the only new modern fairy tale that is actually anything else, and Murnau’s narration of it is its essential simple form in that it is a silent film. Basically, it’s been an important film for me since I was a kid. That doesn’t necessarily mean I should remake it, but it’s certainly something I’ve been obsessed with and spent a lot of time thinking about. Let’s see. Robert Eggers believes he needs to “re-strategy” after The Northman


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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