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Robert Eggers ‘Can’t Stand’ Watching ‘The Witch’: ‘I Was Not Skilled Enough as a Filmmaker’

Though he said the performances are great, Eggers said he just couldn't "get what was in my brain onto the screen."

"The Witch"

“The Witch”

A24

Robert Eggers is three-for-three with the critically acclaimed films “The Witch,” “The Lighthouse,” and “The Northman,” but there’s one he just can’t rewatch

“Honestly, I can’t stand watching ‘The Witch’ now,” Eggers told The Guardian. Eggers made his feature debut with the folk-horror period piece, launching at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015 — where it was acquired by A24 — and introducing Anya Taylor-Joy to the world. It also became one of A24’s most successful films, grossing more than $40 million worldwide off a $4 million budget.

“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 said.

But it was Eggers’ follow-up film that, according to the director, achieved the level of grit he desired — to an extent.

“In ‘The Lighthouse,’ I was able to do that,” Eggers continued. “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 said that “The Northman” also marked his first time doing audience test screenings for a studio film.

“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.”

The intense “Northman” production, which reunited Eggers with “The Witch” alum Taylor-Joy as well as “The Lighthouse” star Willem Dafoe, shot in Ireland in often treacherous conditions, including in ice-cold water and mud, which tested the limits of its stars, including Alexander Skarsgård.

“Alex said to me at one point, ‘You’re doing this on purpose to drive me insane,'” Eggers remembered. “But I don’t choose these environments to be sadistic. I choose them because these are the environments that my films take place in.”

Next up, Eggers is hoping to return to his roots of doing small genre stories.

“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?”

“The Northman” opens April 22 stateside.

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