The just-released film Lords of Chaos details the tragic and brutal activities of the Norwegian black metal scene, which culminated with the 1993 murder of Mayhem founder Øystein “Euronymous” Aarseth by fellow musician Varg Vikernes. Directed by Jonas Åkerlund (Polar), the film stars Rory Culkin as Euronymous and Emory Cohen as Vikernes. Cohen depicts Vikernes as a sullen and obsessive character, seemingly very distant from the amiable actor who calls EW to discuss this latest entry in a filmography which includes the 2015 romantic drama Brooklyn and the Netflix science fiction show, The OA. Indeed, Cohen reveals that he is not the kind of thespian given to getting overly caught up in his role.
“Look, on some days, for more emotional [scenes], you may be a little bit quieter,” says Cohen. “But all in all, I like to kind of goof off a bit, and I don’t really stay in it. You’re in it once you’re just there, that’s my belief. I do a lot of preparation before, I do a lot of work to forget about it.”
Cohen was assisted in his portrayal of Vikernes by two physical additions: the wigs he wears in the film and a fake facial scar.
“I’ve never really had long hair,” he says. “Eating on camera proved difficult a couple of times. I remember getting wig-in-you-mouth. But it was all good, I figured it out. The thing with the scar was, in every picture we saw of Varg, he has this huge scar. Jonas had all the pictures on his iPad, and we would be constantly looking at pictures, and then looking in the mirror, and then looking at the pictures again. And it wasn’t so much to catch the exact things. I wanted the scar because there’s something about it that speaks to the character too, I felt.”
Lords of Chaos was mostly filmed in Budapest, Hungary, but Åkerlund did transport his cast to the Norwegian capital of Oslo — where many of the real-life events took place — for some of the shoot.
“It was fun, but I remember watching these clouds, and just taking it in, and thinking, Holy sh–,” says Cohen. “This stuff happened here and we are walking around in its past, and present, and all that.”
Vikernes was released from prison in 2009, after serving 16 of a 21-year sentence for Euronymous’ murder. But Cohen did not meet his subject.
“The thing about Varg, I’ve watched a lot of videos on him, tried to work on some mannerisms” says the actor. “There’s a walk that I feel like he kind of has. There’s a way that he holds his arms that I looked at. But Varg has this story where he claims [the killing] was in self-defense and he says he’s innocent. And, look, he can have whatever story he has. But in the movie I’m making, I stab the guy twenty-five times, you know what I mean? For me, I really just wanted to be an actor playing a part and not get locked into the controversies of it all.”
Lords of Chaos is now screening in New York and select locations. The film will debut in Los Angeles and additional markets, Feb. 15.
Watch the trailer for Lords of Chaos, above.
WARNING: Lords of Chaos features a portrayal of death by suicide.