FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS | BOOTH'S BLOG Interview With Robert Eggers, Director Of The Witch
By James Whittington, Monday 7th March 2016
Released into UK cinemas on March 11th, The Witch promises to be an unnerving piece of cinema which is already creeping under the skin of audiences across America. Its director, Robert Eggers took some time out of his busy schedule to chat to Horror about this much anticipated movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the movie industry?
RE: Yeah, I mean there were times when things changed, times I wanted to be a painter or a musician but generally it would come back to being a film maker.
HC: The Witch is your debut feature, where did the idea come from?
RE: I grew up in New England and New England’s past is always very much part of my consciousness, I’d do a small New England town full of dilapidated Colonial farm houses and graveyards in the middle of the woods and I wanted to make an archetypal New England horror story, something that would feel like a nightmare from the past, like an inherited Puritan nightmare.
HC: Was there a particular feeling you wanted to set?
RE: I really wanted to take audiences back to the 17th century and if we are to believe in the witch in a given reality in the way the witch was in the early modern period, I had to do my best to recreate the 17th century as authentically as possible, in both in the design and the mind-set of the people. So the family farm is constructed using the same materials that would have been used during that period and sometimes that meant using period tools and techniques to make that stuff. Believe me if we’d had the chance to use a chainsaw or screw gun I would have but we needed it to look a certain way to camera doing it the old fashioned way was the only way and that’s what we did.
HC: The films taps into primal, superstitious fears, something most horror trends avoid in favour of shock horror and jump-shocks. Was that an important factor in the storytelling of this movie?
RE: There are a few jump-scares in the film and I’m not against jump-scares or anything but it’s not the kind of storytelling that I’m not interested in, I’m just trying to tell this story of this family in a way that made sense to me and that’s how it came out.
HC: The film has a very British cast, as an American director how did you go about casting, what was your process?
RE: This film takes place at the very beginning of New England, the very beginning of the great migration, so this family has come only recently come from England to the New World and because I wanted it to be very naturalistic I wanted a UK cast so that for the most part people can be using their own accents for it to be at least familiar enough with these kind of accents to do it properly. So, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie were people that I was aware of beforehand and they are fantastic and then Carmel Cochrane who was our UK casting director that helped me find Anya (Taylor-Joy) and all the children.
HC: What sort of budget did you have to work with and did it have an impact on your vision?
RE: The budget that we were trying to obtain was $3.2 million and the film ended up being about $3.5 million and it took a very long time to get that budget. People didn’t want to spend the money building the farm building, clothing realistically, on getting the UK cast over to North America and the money that would take to cast the children etc. etc. so it took quite some time to get that. Once I had worked very hard to understand what the budget was going to be so that we could live within there. Once we had found the right investors, we have very supportive investors and very, very supportive creative producers, a great team of Department Heads so we were able to do it right and there was very little compromise aside from obstacles that come with things like weather or a goat (laughs).
HC: Has winning the Best Director Award at Sundance changed your approach to other projects?
RE: No. No. But it certainly has opened a lot of doors, that’s for sure.
HC: Is it true that Stephen King has been quoted as being terrified by your movie?
RE: That is true. It’s a huge honour, like being blessed by the Horror Pope!
HC: You’re currently working on a couple of horror projects, what is it about the genre that excites you?
RE: I‘m interested in the dark side of humanity and exploring that I think that it’s important. I think it’s interesting. I don’t know exactly why I’m so drawn to it, you can ask my psychologist!
HC: What scares you more than anything else?
RE: Humanity! It’s pretty scary what we’re capable of man!
HC: Robert Eggers, thank you very much.
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