Robert Eggers’ Career Evolution!

At just 40-years-old, Robert Eggers has directed three critically-acclaimed feature films and is set to release another later this year. But how, exactly, did Eggers get to this point?

You might know Eggers for his work directing in the horror and thriller genres, but he’s taken on a number of other roles in film throughout his career. Here’s how Eggers began his career and got his big break on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s most respected directors!

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Theatre Work and Early Production Design

Eggers got his professional start as a production designer in New York City, working on what he called “experimental theatre, street theatre.” The job was a natural fit for Eggers, who said he always enjoyed wearing different outfits to school and often asked for costumes, not toys, during the holidays. While operating as a production designer on everything from dance-centered plays to non-union commercials, one of Eggers’ theatre props was noticed by a director, which led to the next stage of his career.

“A director downtown saw one of my street theatre pieces and asked me to design for her,” Eggers said. “I realized that I could make a living as a designer while I was trying to get my directing career going.”

Balancing Directing, Writing, and Production Design

Eggers’ first two short films, reimaginings of the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, foreshadowed his later projects, as each were dark in nature and contained historically-accurate set designs. Eggers wrote, directed, and acted as production designer on both of these efforts, leading to Brothers, another short, which was shot at an atmospheric location near his childhood home in New Hampshire. Brothers, according to Eggers, “had scary woods, starred children, and had naturalistic performances,” pointing towards the realistic nature of his upcoming works.

Brothers was made at a time when Eggers was trying to get funding for a full-length film, The Witch. In essence, it was a prototype for his future breakout horror flick, as Eggers himself said “making this film proved to me and my closest collaborators that we could indeed pull off The Witch.”

Breakthrough with Feature Films

At long last, Eggers made his feature directorial debut (and was also the writer) on 2015’s The Witch. Starring Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Ineson, the movie revolves around a seventeenth century New England family who runs into an unknown evil and tries to maintain a strong religious standing through their troubles. The Witch is incredibly faithful to the time period and utilized just natural light and candles to give the film a more authentic look, which “kept everything together,” according to Eggers. A score of 84 on Metacritic indicates “universal acclaim,” while Rotten Tomatoes called it “a deeply unsettling exercise in slow-building horror that suggests great things for debuting writer-director Robert Eggers.”

In the midst of trying to finance The Witch, Eggers and his brother, Max, first got the idea for The Lighthouse, another period piece which told the story of two lighthouse keepers who slowly lose their sanity while being stationed at a New England outpost. Willem Dafoe, who stars alongside Robert Pattinson, admired The Witch and quickly joined the cast.

Drawing from both Edgar Allan Poe’s unfinished story of the same name and a nineteenth century tall tale involving a lighthouse, Eggers’ 2019 film received positive reviews, with critics often pointing towards the use of symbolism and both Dafoe and Pattinson’s performances. To date, The Lighthouse owns a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes’ “Tomatometer” and 7.4 stars out of 10 on IMDb.


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Recent and Upcoming Projects

Moving into the 2020s, Eggers hit the big screen again as he directed, wrote, and produced the 2022 historical epic, The Northman. Alexander Skarsgård plays a Viking warrior prince named Amleth who wants to avenge the death of his parents and the loss of his kingdom. Leaning more towards action and fantasy rather than horror, and operating on a $70-90 million budget, The Northman is arguably Eggers’ most “accessible” film to the public. Peter Bradshaw, a critic from The Guardian, gave it five stars out of five, calling it “entirely outrageous, with some epic visions of the flaring cosmos.” It didn’t light up the box office, but, like Eggers’ other movies, is lauded amongst critics for its dynamic storyline and keen attention to detail.

As far back as 2015, it was reported that Eggers would take on the challenge of remaking the 1922 silent film, Nosferatu, which is a classic in its own right. After nine years, Eggers’ version of Nosferatu, starring horror movie regular Bill Skarsgård and bringing back Dafoe, is set to hit theaters this December. The movie is more of a passion project for Eggers, who once directed a version of Nosferatu as a play in high school and listed F.W. Murnau’s eternal version as one of his ten favorite movies of all time.

Speaking on the importance of fear in his upcoming remake, Eggers said “there hasn’t been an old-school gothic movie that’s actually scary in a while,” but believes audiences will find the 2024 film to be quite the fright fest. Needless to say, we can’t wait for the release of Nosferatu this winter and any future projects from Eggers!

About the Author

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Robert Hughes

Robert Hughes is a Junior at Iona University, majoring in media and strategic communications, and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. In his free time, Robert loves to spend hours practicing the bass guitar and hunting for his favorite artists at vinyl record shops.