Metal Lords

Metal Lords first look: Game of Thrones creator throws it back to high school rock

Get an exclusive inside look at D.B. Weiss' first movie for Netflix after striking a massive deal with his Thrones cohort David Benioff.

For D.B. Weiss, the co-creator of HBO's Game of Thrones, telling stories rooted in reality is a scarier experience than tales of dragons and dire wolves. He points to The Chair, starring Sandra Oh, the first project he and his Thrones creative partner David Benioff produced for Netflix as part of a massive new deal to develop a wide breadth of stories.

"If you're dealing with reality, it's so much easier to get things wrong," he mentions of the university-set series. "Nobody can really say, 'No one would ever have those shoes in Westeros,' because there is no Westeros. If something's not working, you can't say a giant visual-effects extravaganza is gonna come along in five minutes to wipe their memory of that scene. Those giant, horrible, wonderful artificial creations aren't there to save you."

The same pressures were there for Metal Lords, the first movie from Weiss and Benioff's Netflix agreement that's now coming to the streamer this April 8. EW has an exclusive sneak peek at the film, set at a modern-day high school where two kids — the only kids obsessed with heavy metal — hope to form a band to win the forthcoming Battle of the Bands.

Weiss credits his trio of leads: Jaeden Martell (It, Knives Out), newcomer Adrian Greensmith, and Isis Hainsworth (Emma, Wanderlust). "The more grounded something is, the more it is just about the human beings at the center of it," Weiss tells EW. "They really held down that part of the movie in a way that was insanely impressive to me."

Metal Lords
Jaeden Martell stars as Kevin, who forms a heavy metal band with his pal Hunter (Adrian Greensmith), in the movie 'Metal Lords.'
| Credit: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix

In Metal Lords, Greensmith's Hunter doesn't fit in with the other kids at Glenwood Lake High. He worships bands of a forgotten era like Anthrax, Megadeth, Slipknot, and Black Sabbath, while the popular kids are performing covers of Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" and Imagine Dragons' "Believer." Metal is Hunter's outlet through which he can release his rage towards his disinterested father (Brett Gelman) and the bullies at school. "It's almost like an armor that he wears to keep people away," Weiss remarks.

Kevin (Martell) is Hunter's closest friend, a quiet, loner percussionist in the school marching band who's learning to adapt his musical skills as the drummer of the duo's newly formed ensemble, SkullF---er. As Weiss describes, it's the dynamic of one kid who never stops talking and the other who doesn't talk enough. He says of Martell, "You needed somebody who would sink their emotional hooks into you without having lots of obvious dialogue."

The guys just need a bassist to complete their band, especially if they're going to play the Battle of the Bands and show the school just how cool metal can be. In comes Emily (Hainsworth), who doesn't fit the metal mold as a classical cellist, but she has a lot of rage bubbling inside her that makes her intriguing to Kevin.

Weiss says Hainsworth changed his perception of the character. He heard her Scottish Burr and decided to tweak Emily's backstory, but it was more than that. "There's just something so mesmerizing about her," he remarks. "She's so much more expressive naturally as a person and an actor than I had pictured the character."

Metal Lords
Isis Hainsworth as Emily in 'Metal Lords.'
| Credit: Scott Patrick Green / Netflix

Weiss was originally planning to make Metal Lords years earlier with producer Greg Shapiro, who would go on to win an Oscar for The Hurt Locker in 2010. But then HBO hired him and Benioff to make Game of Thrones, and the rest is history. It was only through the duo's deal with Netflix after Thrones ended in 2019 that Weiss had the opportunity to revisit this concept at the urging of Shapiro, and he says the ideas have only become more meaningful with age.

"The thing you had to believe that didn't totally make sense at the time was the kids who were heavily invested in rock music would be outliers to the extent that the kids are in this movie," he explains. "What happened unintentionally in the intervening years was that part of the story started to make more and more sense and this kind of music drifted further and further from the mainstream." Hunter now feels like "a weird outlier dinosaur" to Weiss, but it speaks to his own long-held love for metal.

With Peter Sollett (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist) directing Metal Lords and Rage Against the Machine veteran Tom Morello serving as executive music producer, Weiss was eager to tackle this film after the grand-scale of Game of Thrones. Still, there's an element of fantasy that's inherent to metal he couldn't shake.

"There's a heavy wish fulfillment," he says. "When you're 15 years old, you feel confused and not all that powerful. You feel you can't make your life the way you want it. Fantasy is about the power. It's re-conceiving yourself as a larger-than-life heroic figure. It's probably what drew a lot of kids to the music."

Metal Lords hits Netflix on Friday, April 8.

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