He’s been declared THE horror discovery of the decade, a terrifying new star for the new millennia, and the best part of The Witch. Yes, Black Phillip is a minor cultural sensation, subject to countless fan-art tributes, the requisite parody Twitter accounts and his very own advertising campaign. Why, if goats could win Oscars, Black Phillip would be a shoo-in for next year’s show.
But just who IS this malevolent creature? Turns out his real name isn’t Phillip, it’s Charlie, and he’s since retired to a farm not far from where The Witch was shot in Northern Ontario. And how did he get the role of a lifetime? According to the Hollywood Reporter, he was chosen based solely on his looks…
A trainer showed us some pictures and we chose the goat who looked the Black Phillip-iest,” recalls director Robert Eggers, who tends to emit a faint sigh of exasperation whenever the subject of Charlie comes up.
That trainer, Anna Kilch, marvels at what an impressive physical specimen he was: “He had the biggest horns,” she says. “Goats just don’t grow bigger horns than that.”
It soon became apparent though, that Charlie was going to be a handful.
“If we wanted him to be doing something violent, he wanted to go to sleep. If he was supposed to be standing still, he was running around like a madman,” Eggers recalls. He credits Ford, the film’s editor, with piecing together whatever usable footage they had into the acclaimed performance.
No one in the cast had a rougher time with Charlie than Ralph Ineson. A veteran British actor with a bassy voice and large, aristocratic features, Ineson, 46, had to drop 30 pounds to play the family patriarch, a starving farmer. That left him at a distinct disadvantage when he was called upon to wrestle Black Phillip, as dictated by several scenes in the script.
“I didn’t have a lot of gas in the tank, really,” Ineson says of sparring with the beast, who weighed about 50 pounds more than him. “He was horrible. Really, really horrible. From the moment we set eyes on each other it was just kind of hate at first sight. He had two modes: chilling out and doing nothing, or attacking me.”
On the fourth day of filming, Charlie rammed his serrated horns into Ineson’s ribs, dislodging a tendon. “Everything hurt,” Inerson recalls. “I spent the rest of the five-week shoot on painkillers.”
Kilch was surprised to hear that Eggers and Ineson had such a negative experience with Charlie. “He was kind of the star of the show so we ended up using him a lot. Maybe that’s why [they found him difficult]. But no, he was fantastic,” Kilch says.
Ineson begs to differ. “It’s wonderful that his fantastic performance is bringing notoriety to the film,” he says, “but there’s a little part of me that’s like, ‘Seriously? That f—er?'”