The terrifying and impeccably crafted The Witch opened in theaters this past weekend, finally revealing the general audiences the tremendous talent of first-time filmmaker Robert Eggers, and in the wake of the film’s glowing reviews and solid box office, Hollywood has unsurprisingly come a-knockin’. Per Deadline, Eggers has been tapped to write and direct a miniseries about legendary Russian Tsar Grigori Rasputin for Media Rights Capital and producers Jay Van Hoy and Lars Knudsen. Eggers will craft six to eight episodes that will cover the “mad monk’s” origins in Siberia to his rise to power and eventual demise.
Rasputin’s life is one that Hollywood has been trying to mine for years now, and for good reason. He was a Russian mystic and adviser to the Russian Imperial family the Romanovs in the early 20th century. Rasputin was called upon as a healer to Tsar Nicholas II and Alexandra’s only son Tsarevich Alexei, who suffered from hemophilia. While Rasputin had a heavy amount of influence on the Romanov family, he also had his fair share of detractors who saw him as “a debauched religious charlatan.” His enemies tried to kill him several times by shooting him, strangling him, and stabbing him. He was finally assassinated in 1918 when he was drowned in the icy Neva River after having been shot in the back earlier that night.
After the phenomenal craftsmanship that Eggers displayed in The Witch (which netted him Sundance’s Best Director award from a jury that included Cary Fukunaga and Edgar Wright), I’m pretty much game to see him direct anything. The guy’s handle on atmosphere and mood, not to mention character, is masterful, and it’s no surprise that he’s separately developing a remake of the horror classic Nosferatu.
It’s unclear if this will be Eggers’ next project. In addition to Nosferatu—which he told us won’t be his next film—Eggers is also developing a medieval epic called The Knight. But as far as Rasputin is concerned, MRC’s miniseries could find itself in a race with a feature film chronicle of the mystic’s life, which Leonardo DiCaprio is producing with an eye to possibly star. Warner Bros. acquired the pitch from American Sniper scribe Jason Hall back in 2013 to develop for DiCaprio, but Hall is currently shooting his directorial debut Thank You For Your Service, so it’s unclear how far the Rasputin feature is in development.
Eggers’ unique take on The Witch surprised some audiences, with the film landing a C- CinemaScore as those looking for a jump scare-heavy or gore-filled horror pic were no doubt disappointed. But what Eggers offered instead was something that truly gets under your skin—an unnerving, unflinching look at the nature of evil. That ambition, and the skill to pull it off, is why he seems poised to do some very big things in the near future, and why this Rasputin miniseries just became a highly anticipated project.