Robert Eggers on the Northman: ‘Directing is an Insane Job’

Directing is never an easy job. Any aspiring director, who can range from his or her film class short films to filming a small-scale school play, will tell you that managing the full vision of a project is tiresome and stressful. Robert Eggers on the Northman: ‘Directing is an Insane Job. Even projects that might seem creatively simple like a Progressive commercial or a TBS sitcom featuring your latest washed-out comedian involves a lot of work. This becomes exponentially more apparent once you move on to films.

It is easy to dismiss directors with notably bad track records but in actuality, directing involves so many factors. Directing doesn’t just involve camera shots. It involves managing your talent, the set, the schedule, and the editing. Their scope of work can also include overseeing the processes of casting, stunt coordination, VFX, and marketing. With so many characteristics that go into making a film, there more sympathy should be shown for such a massive undertaking.

It would be remiss to exclude one of the most prolific directors working today. Director Robert Eggers was responsible for The Witch (2015), The Lighthouse (2019), and most recently The Northman (2022). Even with his success–The Lighthouse was critically acclaimed and even Oscar-nominated for Best Achievement in Cinematography–he has faced numerous challenges in his rising career. If you’d ask director Robert Eggers on the Northman, directing is an insane job.

Robert Eggers on the Northman: ‘Directing is an Insane Job.’
But Why?

Bert Eggers on the Northman Directing is an Insane Job
Why would Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job? Don’t you just tell people how to act, press play on the camera, and let the magic happen? That’s a gross exaggeration of an extreme opinion but there’s a chance that plenty of people think that. The reason why Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job is that there’s plenty to do and everything has to come into place just right.

Managing your star-studded cast is a grand task by itself. Professional veterans that have done every gig under the sun can feel entitled, causing miscommunication and discomfort for everyone involved. You hear stories of actors having an outburst on set: Christian Bale, Chevy Chase, Wesley Snipes, etc. Imagine that happening with hundreds of employees in attendance who likely pay attention to the smallest details. Now imagine trying to recreate a controlled environment the next day (or even the next outtake).

You can also encounter the opposite side of that, with less experienced actors. They don’t follow the right cues, come unprepared, or don’t know how to bounce off more established talent. At any point, even established actors can fail to rise to the occasion. Working on a movie set can cause overstimulation and put amateurs under immense pressure. It happens more often than you think, but most don’t consider it because directors can juggle those responsibilities quite well.

Working with child actors can open its own can of worms. Although Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job, he doesn’t have to work with a Nickolodeon or Disney Channel-amount of child actors.

Notably, he worked with Harvey Scrimshaw on The Witch and Oscar Novak on The Northman. In Scrimshaw’s case, he had one of the most pivotal scenes in the movie. It’s a scene that took a lot of veteran guidance but Egger’s directing style and understanding paired well with Scrimshaw’s dedication and talent. Novak plays a younger version of Amleth, Alexander Skarsgard’s character. Although Eggers is known to be a detailed perfectionist, Novak had high praises for the director.

“He really is a perfectionist. There have been multiple occasions where we’ve done like 30 plus takes just to get the perfect scene. But he’s really sweet. He’s really nice in the way he does it,” says Novak. “He can tell if someone needs a break. It’s very nice.”

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job, but he has seemed to manage everyone well, from Oscar-winning veterans to debuting actors with their whole careers ahead of them.

The Northman Director Has It’s Challenges

Another reason why the director Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job is that his work started much before he stepped behind the camera. His attention to detail starts even before the script is written. The Northman’s Icelandic setting is ripe with Viking lore, beliefs, and traditions that require immense research.

The Northman Director
“We [worked] with archaeologists and historians, trying to recreate the minutiae of the physical world, while also attempting to capture, without judgment, the inner world of the Viking mind: their beliefs, mythology, and ritual life,” says Eggers. Even more, the story of The Northman is based on Prince Amleth. A prince who has to avenge his father’s murder at the hands of his uncle and rescue his mother and queen from a treasonous king. If the story beat and letters sound familiar, it is the story that inspires William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The Prince’s story is a key part of Scandinavian folklore but Eggers also has to research two legendary stories. A director/writer’s job requires careful attention, possibly why Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job.
Northman Director

Northman Director: Working with Anya Taylor-Joy

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job would be even more troublesome without the right cast.  Having such a dense and esoteric subject matter is difficult for many to sign up with. Every movie requires some type of prior knowledge: working on superhero movies requires some research on the hero’s characterization: movies about a certain profession need some intel on the internal processes of the job, and so on. Vikings and witches might be pushing the subject matter even more.
Eggers and Anya Taylor-Joy have worked together on two of his three major feature films. She was the protagonist in The Witch and shares top billing in an all-star cast of The Northman. Their cultivated a working relationship over the years that would make Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job a little bit easier, we could imagine.  Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job could also be managing those that want to work with you as often as Taylor-Joy does. She takes a break during The Lighthouse but offered herself in a bit role anyways.

“There’s a mermaid…” I was like, ‘I can be the mermaid!’ He was like, ‘You really should not be this particular mermaid, Anya.’ I was like, ‘I can be the seagull, I can just be in the background.’”

Eggers Director In Charge

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job, mainly because he makes it out to be. Referencing child-actor Oscar Novak earlier, he said there are instances where “ [the cast and crew did] like 30 plus takes just to get the perfect scene.” It was most likely not an isolated incident. 

Eggers is not one to half-ass his projects. He is a full-fledged director with a vision. No other director employs his style, making Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job a self-inflicted description. His career only spans three movies but they’ve all been met with some strong reactions.  

In The Northman’s case, reviews were a little bit polarizing. Many love it but many feel as though it was lackluster. However, one can expect it to be Oscar-nominated except possibly Best Picture. Director Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job should pay off in the end–maybe not in a commercial aspect–but his one-of-a-kind vision will surely be revered. 

Robert Eggers Interview Conveys His Dedication

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job because of the way your directorial vision transforms through the work. Film Independent had an interview with the director. He said he initially was apprehensive about making a Viking movie because the modern association with the historical people was too “macho” and off-putting as subject matter. 

Once he went on location and talked to Skarsgard about his interest in Vikings, Eggers was more into it. Despite his initial rumblings, he couldn’t shake the connotation that he was straying away from. Eggers shared the anecdote about his conversation with Skarsgard and told him that he’s currently working on the script. In actuality, he only thought of an awesome final fight featuring two naked Vikings fighting atop a volcano.

Robert Eggers Interview

It is a grand scene that everyone expects but it turns out to work as an antithesis of the initial macho concept. The battle was entertaining, but was the outcome worth the spectacle? For Eggers and viewers alike, it came out all right.

Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job, but in the end, it has ultimately paid off as being an artistic director. 

He committed to his vision, to the work, to the processes of filmmaking. Robert Eggers on the Northman directing is an insane job because you need an insane dedication to the craft that pulls so much out of the director. If it’s not making you insane, then maybe you aren’t doing enough. Eggers does, and will always continue to drive himself crazy to push the medium forward.