Robert Eggers has established himself as an exciting filmmaker to watch with stylish low-budget horror films like The Witch and The Lighthouse, but he may just outdo himself with his upcoming film, The Northman. The director has been forced to change his prepping process for The Northman production, not just because of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has shuttered productions across the world, but because Eggers anticipates that the 10th century Viking epic will be his biggest movie yet.
In an interview with IndieWire, The Lighthouse director described how he and his crew are working through the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought Hollywood to a standstill. As if prepping a production through a pandemic couldn’t be difficult enough, Eggers is dealing with the fact that the Northman will likely be his biggest project to date.
“The scale is so huge and there are so many more locations and things that I couldn’t do everything or know every prop myself,” Eggers said. “That’s been a challenge with the new movie.”
Eggers started his career as a production designer, graduating to become a buzzy indie filmmaker whose meticulously stylized, tonally deranged films which were clearly a product of his experience in his first career. Every detail was thought out, and every set piece completely immersive.
But Eggers is having difficulty keeping that level of precision with The Northman, a Viking epic described as “a grounded story set in Iceland at the turn of the 10th century that centers on a Nordic prince who seeks revenge for the death of his father.” It’s certainly his most star-studded yet, featuring a cast that includes Alexander Skarsgard, with Nicole Kidman, Anya Taylor-Joy, Bill Skarsgard, and Willem Dafoe. And while Eggers is maintaining “a very small crew” that is continuing to build armor, make prosthetics, and draw up storyboards, the director is expecting “many locations” with “a lot of extras” that will require a grander scale than he’s worked with before:
“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. 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 is writing The Northman with Icelandic poet and novelist Sjón, based on an idea pitched to him by Skarsgard. The film is set up with New Regency and has no set release date yet. It’s not certain when Eggers can begin production for this massive film.
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