Jonas Åkerlund is a Swedish-born filmmaker, famed for music videos for such iconic artists as U2, Metallica, The Rolling Stones and Madonna. With past feature films including Spun and Small Apartments, he now returns with Lords of Chaos. A true story about the Norwegian Black Metal scene, it tells of the violent fallout around the band Mayhem and their co-founder Euronymous (Rory Culkin).
ASFF: It says in the film, this is based on “truth and lies”. What’s the truth?
JA: To be honest, it should be “Based on truth, lies and what actually happened.” Everybody’s story, everybody’s perspective, that’s the truth. The lies… it’s me making a movie out of it, fabricating a few things where I didn’t know, making sure the movie is entertaining. But the third one, which is what actually happened, is that four people actually died. Fifty-something churches burned down. And it left a lot of people sad, losing loved ones.
ASFF: Do you remember these actual events happening?
JA: I was in a metal band [Bathory] a few years before Mayhem and we played Black Metal Music. I knew about the scene, we knew about the bands… back then it was a small scene and everybody knew each other. I discovered filmmaking early on and left the drumming for it. But I always kept my eyes on the scene and always thought the story was something that could translate into a movie. I’ve wanted to make this movie since the late Nineties.
ASFF: How did Rory Culkin get involved?
JA: He was an early adopter. I met him, pitched him, he grew his hair and I got him a guitar to practice. It’s hard to cast these movies. If you cast a 17 year-old boy, then two years later [when you make the film], he looks like a full-grown man. Rory has that baby face, and will probably have it for life, but he gets away with 18-19, but he’s actually 28. He was very loyal to the project early on, he went deep into the character. He fell in love with this character.
ASFF: Was there some resistance to this film being made?
JA: The truth is that I think that a lot of people that are close to the story would hope this movie would never happen. But my hope is they’ll see it a little bit differently. There’s so much documentation about this and there’s so much online – documentaries, books, pictures, stories. The one thing about this movie that’s different from all the other stuff is that we humanize these boys. We make it more about being young and relationships. They make stupid choices, but we see they’re young.
ASFF: You’re well known for shooting music videos. Is that something you still like to do?
JA: We actually shot a Metallica video on set of this movie, ManUNkind. Lars [Ulrich] called me and said he wanted to make a video for the new album. I said I couldn’t do it, I’m shooting a movie in Budapest, and I hung up. Then I said, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve got actors, wigs, instruments.’ So I gave the song to the actors who had to learn it. So it’s my actors from the movie – dressed as Mayhem – playing a Metallica song! It’s really confusing for the fans!
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