Karl Urban talks to TFR about playing comic book hero Judge Dredd

Karl Urban is an actor who has proven his versatility with many different roles. From playing Doctor Bones in the 2009 Star Trek film, to Eomer, leader of the Riders of Rohan in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King. He has now donned the helmet and deadpan attitude of the title character in Dredd 3D, the newest adaptation of the comic book story from the British sci fi comic 2000 AD.

 

This adaptation is set in a futuristic city where violence reigns and the police have ultimate power. A drug known as ‘SLO-MO’ is being distributed throughout the city and Judge Dredd must team up with a trainee to stop the gang responsible. We talked to Karl Urban about playing this action-packed role and how he coped with wearing a mask for the entire film.

Did you enjoy playing Dredd?

Yes, I had a really good time on this shoot. It really was a wonderful collaborative experience. Alex Garland [who wrote the screenplay] was amazing to work with and I thoroughly enjoyed working with Olivia Thirlby who plays Anderson. We had a great partnership going and were a good team.

Are you a fan of the comics yourself? 

Yes I was, I read Judge Dredd comics as a teenager and the great thing for me was reconnecting with those comics that I responded to back then and also finding a whole lot of stories that had been written in the interim that were really wonderful. I could see a great depth that has evolved in the writing.

Sylvester Stallone has previously played the role of Judge Dredd. Are there a lot of differences between that 1995 version and this one?

Yeah I mean tonally you couldn’t get more different. Our film is a lot more realistic. It’s harder, it’s grittier and it’s a different beast.

Do you think the fans of 2000AD will prefer this one? 

I certainly hope that they go along and see the film and I hope they have as much fun watching it as we had making it.

The scenes with the drug SLO-MO look pretty intense, were they difficult for the cast to film?

No, they weren’t difficult to shoot. Visually they’re amazing because we had Oscar-winner Anthony Dod Mantle who was doing the cinematography.

Is there a particular part of the film that you’re excited for the audience to see? 

One of the elements that I’m most excited for the audience to see is the performances of Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey. This film has two strong women characters and they do such astonishing work. I think people will be blown away by this film and in particular that contribution.

You’re wearing a mask for the whole film, did you find you had to use body language and tone of voice more in your performance? 

Yes, definitely. That was a huge challenge and it forced me to focus on all the tools that I had available to me in order to communicate with the audience.

When you were preparing for your role in The Lord of the Rings [Eomer, the leader of the riders of Rohan]  you had to spend a lot of time learning to ride horses. How did you prepare for Dredd? 

I spent a lot of time brushing up on my motorbike riding skills, which was fun. I also spent quite a lot of time at the gym, to get in to the physical condition that the character needs to be in. We also took part in a two-week boot camp run by some ex-British military guys in Cape Town. So there was a lot that went into this role.

Did you enjoy filming action sequences and is that your favourite type of role to play? 

It’s not my favourite role to play. I enjoy the physical aspect of the work, but I don’t really have a preference over one style of dramatic content over the other. One of the fun things about doing Star Trek for example was that I got the opportunity to play a character that was squarely grounded in comedy. He [Doctor Bones] is not an action-oriented hero and I really like that.

Were you a fan of Star Trek before you appeared in that film and do you have a favourite Star Trek captain? 

Yes I certainly was. I don’t have one which I prefer over the others, but my favourites would be Kirk, Picard and Janeway.

Back to Dredd, how did you come to play the role? 

It was a process of first reading the scripts and I thought Alex Garland had delivered a really strong, character-driven narrative, an action-packed suspenseful script, and that’s what really drew me to the role. From there I met with the the producers and Alex in Los Angeles and it was pretty clear that we were all on the same page. Shortly after that meeting I received a call from them inviting me to join them.

Thank you very much for talking to us.

Read our review of Dredd here.
See the trailer below:

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