Robert Eggers, known for running brutal sets, has drawn a line in the sand as to just how much he's willing to take, and it's a goat named Charlie.
Though Black Phillip, the menacing breakout star of Robbert Eggers' The Witch (stylized The VVitch), was the devil himself in disguise, the real goat who played him wasn't too far off. Eggers is a director known for running a brutally realistic and harsh set, but the lack of safety and control posed by one particularly ill-tempered goat appears to be the greatest of his challenges.
The Witch was Eggers' first feature and starred Anya Taylor-Joy in her breakout role, along with Ralph Ineson as the patriarch of a banished puritan family living on the outskirts of the ominous woods that hide a witch. Though it received critical acclaim for its commitment to period accuracy, slow-burn paranoid horror, and exceptional acting, audience reception was a mixed bag. The inaccessibility of its period-accurate dialogue and how it was marketed like a mainstream horror entry were some of the biggest hurdles it faced. The most successful part of the film was Black Phillip, the lurking family goat who turns out to be the devil himself, attempting to recruit Taylor-Joy's character as a witch. Black Phillip was played by a goat named Charlie, who was selected because of his surprisingly deep black coat. He quickly became a cultural icon; unfortunately, for everyone who worked on The Witch, Charlie was just the worst.
FilmFacts recently tweeted out Robert Eggers' first and foremost tip for screenwriters: don't put a goat in your movie. Infamously, Charlie, the goat was horrible to work with, a fact Eggers will occasionally bring up tiredly, exasperated just by the memory of the troubles they dealt with on the set.
It's been said that one should never work with children or animals, and The Witch had both, but nothing compares to the living nightmare that was Charlie the goat. Eggers has recalled how difficult it was to keep Charlie still and how aggressive he could be, at one point even hospitalizing Ralph Ineson. Eggers is known for riling his actors, which can cause conflicts, but the cast seems to agree that Charlie was an unusually large and vicious goat, which is the absolute last thing you want on a movie set.
Charlie helped solidify the cult status of Robert Eggers and his unique brand of horror, so perhaps his challenging behavior was a worthy trade-off. The Lighthouse saw Eggers further rise to the top of the modern horror landscape, pulling in a rare horror Oscar nomination with its gorgeous black and white cinematography. Next up is the ambitious and mysterious project The Northman, and Eggers seems up to similar antics despite this one being a Viking revenge story as opposed to straight horror. Anya Taylor-Joy has even rejoined him for another go-around. Tragically, however, Charlie was not offered a part.
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