Robert Eggers and Anya Taylor-Joy: a Duo We Can Sink Our Teeth Into

Will these two be the next formidable director/actress pairing?

Thewitch

Will they be the next formidable director/actress pairing?

John Ford and John Wayne. Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina. John Carpenter and Kurt Russell. Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson...

The list goes on forever. But those are just some  examples of directors and actors who produce their best work when they’re together. The history of cinema is a gold mine when it comes to mutually beneficial pairings, and we might just have discovered the next great one.

The Witch established director Robert Eggers and actress Anya Taylor-Joy as burgeoning stars. She has gone on to a noteworthy career in Hollywood, including a starring role in this year’s Split and a major part in the upcoming superhero spin-off X-Men: New Mutants. But none of that matters as much as the possibility that she might star in another Eggers movie.

Following the unexpected success of The Witch, he was immediately offered the reins to a remake of the 1922 silent horror classic NosferatuIf all goes according to plan, not only would this movie see the pair reunite, but it could mark the next step in a working relationship among the ranks of those great duos listed above.

Eggers doesn’t seem like a filmmaker too concerned with following current trends or making movies set in this era. He once told the A.V. Club that he prefers going into “the past to look at humans today.” All of his upcoming projects appear to be leading that way, as well. His plan is to follow Nosferatu with a movie dedicated to knights, after all.

The luxury of having an unexpected hit right off the bat has allowed Eggers to break onto the scene as an original talent worthy of any studio’s faith to just go out there and stick to his formula. With Taylor-Joy, he has an actress who’s blossoming into a bankable star. And she’s proven herself adept at portraying authentic characters from bygone eras and capable of dancing with his archaic dialogue. Meanwhile, he provides her with challenging roles that showcase her versatility as an actress.

In the past, we’ve seen directors stick with actors they broke out with. Sam Raimi started off making horror movies in the woods with his buddy Bruce Campbell, and they’ve continued to work together on numerous features. Martin Scorsese really started getting noticed with Mean Streets, his first movie featuring Robert De Niro. Now they’re heading to Netflix together. Will our duo reach similar stratospheric heights?

From what we know of Eggers’ objectives as a filmmaker so far and how Taylor-Joy complements his vision, there are a few other pairings they put me in mind of:

Kenji Mizoguchi & Kinuyo Tanaka

Kenji Mizoguchi is regarded as one of the most important directors to ever emerge from the Land of the Rising Sun. But that’s not the only reason why his work continues to be celebrated. In addition to putting the country’s cinema on the Western map, he’s also revered as a highly influential feminist filmmaker. His movies are scathing indictments of the nation’s patriarchal history, and they aren’t shy about highlighting the cruel and harsh inequalities faced by native women throughout time, either. Actress Kinuyo Tanaka was his most frequent collaborator, having appeared in no fewer than 15 of his films. Most of the time, she played downtrodden, resilient characters who deserved a better hand in life.

Similarly, The Witch examines America’s past subjugation of women. Anya Taylor-Joy’s character, Thomasin, is forced to contend with a male-dominated system within her household. This puts her on the receiving end of her nutty father’s religious hysteria; she is accused of witchcraft and demonic influence. However, she eventually talks to a goat, embraces her free will, and escapes her bleak situation. And it’s quite magical, to say the least.

Like the collaborations between Mizoguchi and Tanaka, The Witch is all about empowering women through a sympathetic but ultimately strong character while shining a light on how messed up history has been. With Nosferatu also being a period piece, it’ll be interesting to see if similar themes are integrated.

Ingmar Bergman & Bibi Andersson/Harriet Andersson/Liv Ullmann

Even though he made a pretty awesome horror movie for his feature-length debut, Eggers isn’t the biggest fan of scary movies. At least not in the traditional sense. However, he is interested in exploring the darker side of human nature, much like Swedish maestro Ingmar Bergman before him. In fact, Eggers even claimed that, “Bergman is the best horror director because he actually confronts darkness.” He’s also cited Cries and Whispers and other Bergman movies as major influences on his own first feature despite not necessarily sharing their theological views

It’s evident Bergman had a huge impact on Eggers, and it would seem that the student is following in the teacher’s footsteps through repetitive casting while exploring the topic of faith in his art. Bergman was no stranger to working with the same people throughout his career, and he was conflicted when it came to the man upstairs. His muses included Harriet Andersson, Bibi Andersson, and Liv Ullmann, and he made his actresses into bona fide stars, giving them material they could sink their teeth into. Ullmann said that he was the first director to let her “express emotions and thoughts that no one else had seen.”

Despite the supernatural material of both his debut and next feature, Eggers’s tastes are more grounded in reality than hocus pocus. And with Taylor-Joy at his disposal, he has an actress who can bring his vision to life with admirable conviction and emotional range. 

David Lynch & Laura Dern

David Lynch and Laura Dern have been working together for more than three decades, but you can count all of their collaborations on one hand. The pair traveled on their first fantastic voyage in 1986 with the bizarre mystery Blue Velvet. Lately, it’s been continuing on Showtime with the Twin Peaks revival (Dern is having an amazing year in general). Heck, if Lynch didn’t have one big mood swing because of how crappy the film industry is, they might even have collaborated more in the 16 years between 1990’s Industrial Symphony No.1 and 2006s Inland Empire

Similarities can be drawn between Thomasin and Dern’s Blue Velvet character, Sandy. For a start, both films mark the first collaboration between each director and their actresses. Additionally, both stories are twisted coming-of-age tales for their respective teenage characters. When we’re introduced to both girls, they’re naive, innocent, and sheltered to an extent. However, the events which eventually transpire expose them to the darker side of life, serving as their next step into adulthood. Like Dern in Blue Velvet, Taylor-Joy is the beacon of light in her director’s dark worldview. 

 

Kieran is a Daily Curator for the website you're currently reading. He also loves the movie Varsity Blues.