‘The Northman’ Director Denies He Relinquished Authorship of the Film: ‘This Is My Director’s Cut’

Robert Eggers raised eyebrows when he described editing the Vikings epic as the most painful experience of his life

Focus Features

Director Robert Eggers set the record straight after his comments raised questions about the amount of creative control he had over his upcoming film “The Northman.”

In a recent profile published in the New Yorker, Eggers detailed the process of making the multi-million dollar Viking epic, whose star-studded cast included Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ethan Hawke, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe and Björk in her first film role in 17 years.

He described editing his first studio film as the most painful experience of his life, saying, “Frankly, I don’t think I will do it again. Even if it means, like, not making a film this big ever again.”

“And, by the way, I’d like to make a film this big,” he added. “I’d like to make one even bigger. But, without control, I don’t know. It’s too hard on my person.”

Produced by New Regency, the film’s budget and distribution are massive in comparison to his previous two films, “The Witch” and the “The Lighthouse,” both of which were made by the indie outfit A24.

In an interview with The Guardian published a few weeks, Eggers clarified his position.

“A recent New Yorker profile of Eggers detailed what appeared to be a tough post-production process, with some resistant feedback from the money men and test audiences,” Guy Lodge of The Guardian wrote. “He admits now to being ‘frustrated’ by the narrative that emerged from that interview; the reality, he says, involved a fair degree of give and take.”

Eggers said that the studio was mostly accommodating of his highly idiosyncratic filmmaking style, including long takes and shooting with only one camera unit.

He then elaborated on what made the editing process so challenging. “I hadn’t had to do test screenings before,” he said. “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.”

However, he emphasized that by no means did he relinquish authorship of the film. “But more than that, this is the film I wanted to make. This is my director’s cut,” he said. “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 Northman,” which debuts in theaters April 22, tells the story of a Medieval prince named Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) who as a young boy witnessed his uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murder his father (Ethan Hawke) and kidnap his mother (Nicole Kidman). After narrowly escaping, he grows up to become a Viking who spends his time raiding Slavic villages until he meets a divinely gifted woman (Anya Taylor-Joy), who spurs him to return home and avenge his family.