Robert Eggers (director of cult phenomenons The Witch and The Lighthouse) was one week away from production on his latest project before having to shut indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new project, titled The Northman, is a 10th century Viking epic starring Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Bill Skarsgard, Willem Dafoe and Anya Taylor-Joy. The film is centred around a Nordic prince who sets out on a mission of revenge after his father is murdered. In an interview with IndieWire, Eggers stated that production was imminent, as “Most of the actors were there, we were doing makeup and costume tests, and then we had to stop.”
Though stood down for production the film is still moving forward, Egger stated “There’s a very small crew that is continuing to work on things. Armor makers are working on armor for the characters. Prosthetics are being made. I’m doing my work with the DP (Jarin Blaschke) and the storyboard artist. There are things that need to be happening. Our location manager is constantly checking in on the locations, some which are just semi-built sets”
Known for his authentic-looking and feeling films, Eggers and his team have spent the last five months in pre-production, and The Northman is shaping up to be Eggers largest-scale project to date. On his previous films, Eggers was able to single-handedly create a look book that showcased with incredible detail his vision, but The Northman has required he enlist key collaborators to help him shape the look of the film. As Eggers said “The scale is so huge and there are so many more locations and things I couldn’t do everything or know every prop myself. That’s been a challenge with the new movie.”
Though different in scale and approach, The Northman will see Eggers face familiar challenges he has experienced with his previous films, from working with animals to shooting in “inhospitable locations”. Though the one difference is Eggers’ department heads were riding the wave of a relatively short turn around from The Lighthouse to The Northman – though unfortunately losing some of the wind in their sales due to the stand-down of all productions.
“There’s many locations in the film, so we were constantly going on scouts to find places or reassess places that we have found and we’re building sets there,” Eggers commented about film preparations “we’re designing all these worlds, building these villages we’re making thousands of costumes and props, training the horses the things they’ll need to do, designing the shots of the films. There’s a lot more storyboarding. Generally I only storyboard the scenes that have visual effects or animals and stunts, things where all the departments need to be on the same page for it to work out. But this movie there is rarely a scene that isn’t on a boat or doesn’t have a lot of extras. We’re storyboarding most of the film, which is taking a lot of time and we’re continuing to do that now on this hiatus.”
Eggers has prove himself as a director to be reckoned with, and following the success of The Lighthouse and the support of a more audacious project, we cannot see what scope Eggers delivers with The Northman.