Russ Sheath here and I was lucky enough to sit down with Judge Dredd himself, Karl Urban, to talk about his incarnation of the cult comic character in the upcoming movie Dredd.
Released in the US on September 21st and in the UK on September 7th, Dredd is set in the world of MegaCity One, a vast metropolis laying in the irradiated wasteland that was once the east coast of the United States.
Karl Urban stars as Judge Dredd, a lawman with the ability to act as judge, jury and executioner in the vast, violent world of the Mega City.
The epitome of all of the Judges, Dredd is tasked with evaluating a rookie Judge, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) but when a routine homicide in one of the vast 200 story mega-blocks turns into a fight for survival against the viscous crime boss Ma-Ma (Lena Heady) and her gang, the gloves are off.
Karl Urban flew into London last week to begin press duties for Dredd, arguably his first starring role where the weight of the entire movie rests on his shoulders.
The actor, who had his big break in the middle part of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, has an impressive resume including The Chronicles of Riddick, Doom, RED, The Bourne Supremacy and what was for me, the stand out performance in JJ Abrams’s reboot of the Star Trek franchise, as Doctor Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy.
HERE's my review of Dredd, and an exciting competition to win a signed Dredd poster and comic book as well as a special message for AICN readers from the man himself, Judge Dredd.
Talking to Karl, what becomes apparent is his passion and commitment to the character and to bringing the 'right' Dredd to the screen. After days of press and still suffering jet lag Karl's enthusiasm for the character and the project shone through, acknowledging Alex Garland's role in crafting the film and ensuring the integrity of the project.
So, here’s my chat with Karl Urban about Dredd, his career and stepping into some of popular cultures most iconic roles.
Russ Sheath (RS): Karl, I saw the movie last week and really, really enjoyed the film. How’s the feedback been?
Karl Urban (KU): The feedbacks been really brilliant!
I think that the San Diego Comic-Con was the real turning point where the response that we got was phenomenal. I loved what Quint said about the film on Ain't It Cool, it was bang on. I'm happy for the likes of Alex Garland, who spent so much time and energy crafting and honing this film, that it’s gone down so well.
RS: You’ve not been shy about carving a niche for yourself as the ‘go to’ actor for ‘genre’ movies, which I guess is a broad statement...
KU: Very broad, when you consider everything is a kind of genre, but I know what you mean.
RS: Was that niche that you have carved yourself a conscious career choice or is it how your career has progresses?
KU: I generally choose my projects by the characters and the story. Certainly, I think it’s very easy for the media to try to define you as one thing over another but if you have a good look at my CV you will find quite a variation of genre, from the Bourne Supremacy to a little indi drama called Out of the Blue, romantic comedy called the Price of Milk, RED and then obviously the Lord of the Rings, the Star Treks and Dredd’s, which are the kind of genre you are talking about.
RS: Would you like to do more of the small New Zealand movies or rom-coms and things like that?
KU: Yeh, I’d love to. I’m always on the look out for a good New Zealand film. My first point of inspiration was New Zealand cinema and I’m always on the look out for more of those to do.
RS: What were your own favourite movies? What inspired you to do what you do?
KU: New Zealand films like Smash Palace, Utu and then more Hollywood fair. I remember watching Jack Nicholson in Cuckoo’s Nest, Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke, Michael Caine in Get Carter, Steve McQueen in Bullet.
RS: Lets talk about Dredd, you’ve said in numerous interviews that you read Dredd and 2000AD as a kid. What was your first encounter with Dredd?
KU: It was a friend of mine who I was working with at the time. He was a big Dredd fan and I remember he switched me onto the character. I was always interested in science fiction and science fiction films like Alien and Blade Runner so I immediately responded to the world of Dredd and obviously the character himself as this tough, take no bullshit lawman with a wicked, dry sense of humour.
The interesting thing about doing this movie was going back and reconnecting with those stories that I liked so much and then discovering a whole plethora of stories that have been written since that introduction. The depth and the maturity in the writing and the development in the character of Dredd, he’s a much more interesting character in his older years and much more questioning of the system that he’s representing and that to me is really interesting.
RS: Do you ever still drop into a comic book store and check out whats news?
KU: Sure, I did that today.
RS: Forbidden Planet?
KU: Yeah, Forbidden Planet. I was down that way and I love going in there. Its not just about the comics there's all sorts of cool toys and things from pop culture that are fun to look at.
RS: Do you get recognised a lot? I can image that seeing Karl Urban in Forbidden Planet is a draw dropping moment for fans browsing for comics!
KU: Yeh, that definitely does happen, but I guess its a good sign that your careers going well.
RS: What were your favorite aspects of playing Dredd and taking on that role? What did you look forward to the most?
KU: I guess what I was looking forward to the most was getting into the uniform and riding the Lawmaster. That didn’t disappoint and was an awesome couple of days.
When I got there what I found I enjoyed the most was working with Olivia, she was just a great team player and we formed a wonderful partnership.
Most of the time we were in the movie were scenes with each other and every day we would have a meeting before we would go on set and discuss what it was we were about to shoot and we were just on the same page. You can see that in the film and the chemistry between those two characters is really the foundation of the film.
RS: The world of Mega City, in the movie, is much closer to our own world than is portrayed in the comic....
KU: Definitely. It’s a lot more science fiction where as we are taking a much more futuristic angle on it. But I would say that in our movie you see one aspect of Mega City One or one sector of Mega City One, that isn’t to say that those elements that people love about the comic and the more science fiction elements don’t exist in another aspect that we could perhaps explore in another film.
RS: Speaking of sequels, it must be quite frustrating that people are talking sequel when the movie isn’t even out yet?
KU: It’s not frustrating, it's encouraging that people are thinking about it in those terms but obviously a lot of boxes have to be ticked for that to occur. As I’ve been saying repeatedly and forgive me if you’ve already heard this elsewhere, if we get to make more of these I’d be happy to continue the journey, however if this is a one off cult film, I’m happy too because I’m proud of it.
RS: As an actor, which is a bigger challenge, stepping into an established character such as McCoy in Star Trek and echoing that legacy of what has gone before or taking on a less established or new character?
KU: well, I guess that at the end of the day the fundamentals are exactly the same. You have to create the character or service the script as best you can and you have to make the choices to execute it. In playing a character that has already been portrayed or is already known those are just aspects that you have to take into consideration. For example in playing Bones, it was important to me that the character of McCoy be identifiably, obviously synonymous with the wonderful Deforest Kelly. You just have to make a choice about what you are going to incorporate.
RS: Karl, thanks for your time and good luck with the movie.
KU: Thank you.
Dredd releases in the UK on September 7th and in the US on September 21st.