Even though we had the opportunity to chat with Dredd (review) star Karl Urban during the 2012 SDCC, we didn’t get to cover everything we wanted to with the actor behind the iconic helmet so we jumped at the chance to get on the phone with Urban during a recent press day for the film.
During our interview we spoke with Urban about whether or not being a fan of the original comic series ever made him reconsider taking on the titular hero of Dredd 3D, why he kept cutting his own dialogue and where he’d like to see the character go if this film is successful enough to warrant another installment down the road.
Check out the highlights from our exclusive chat with Urban, and look for more on Dredd 3D later this week right here!
Dread Central: Thanks for speaking with me again; I remember during the interviews at Comic-Con that you mentioned you had always been a huge fan of the “Dredd” comics. I know that influenced your decision to take this role, but did it ever cause you to second-guess your decision at all?
Karl Urban: At first, maybe it did a little; I think I was really just skeptical more than anything, but as soon as I heard [screenwriter] Alex [Garland] was on board, I knew this project was in good hands. Then, once I read the script, I knew that he really understood the character of Dredd and that this was going to be the movie Dredd fans have been waiting for. Adaptations like this one are very rare these days; Alex was very faithful to the original world of the comic series, but he found a way to reinvigorate it- it’s hard to describe, but very few writers can do what Alex managed to do with this material.
Dread Central: How did you approach the challenges of playing a character that not only has minimal dialogue to work with but also is hiding behind a helmet the entire movie as well? That has to limit the tools you have to work with in order to make that connection with audiences.
Karl Urban: It did, but I saw those challenges as nothing but opportunities. Because I had a connection with Dredd for so long, I feel like I really understood the character so that made me aware of the challenges and the limitations that come with playing him. Dredd’s a character that always has his emotions squarely in check so that only allowed me to operate within a very narrow bandwidth, which was challenging. But once you get the helmet on, it’s like I would transform into him, and it was easier then to tune into what makes Dredd, well, Dredd.
What’s sort of funny about working on Dredd is that I did the opposite thing actors usually do- I cut my own lines out of this movie wherever I could. Most actors want more lines (laughs). Alex’s script was great, but I have always thought that with a character like Dredd, the ‘less is more’ approach was fitting. If Alex wrote ten words in a line, I’d try to make it seven- it was kind of a game. Surprisingly, Alex was really great about that because he realized all I was doing was trying to serve this character the best that I could, and he really let me take his script and make it into something great. Or at least I hope it’s great (laughs).
And of course I knew coming onto this that the costume would come with its own set of limitations, too – and not just the helmet either – so I made sure that they got my suit ready early on so I could wear it as much as possible. It was so important to me that I felt and looked comfortable in it, too, because this is a guy who has been in this world for so long. He wouldn’t look clunky running down halls or pulling for his gun so I wore that thing anytime I could, even while we were doing military training before we began shooting.
Dread Central: Can you talk about the relationship between Dredd and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby)? I really dug it because it’s very rare to get male/female partners where the writer isn’t trying to play up the sexual tension just because they think that’s the only way men and women can relate to each other. It was really refreshing to me to see something a bit different between you two in this movie.
Karl Urban: It feels weird to say this about a movie this gritty, but the heart of Dredd is the relationship between Dredd and Anderson. That relationship is so central to the arc of my character throughout this story. It’s really about two people coming together who don’t like each other, and even by the end it’s not really about them liking each other either; it’s about that bond they forge while going through all of this that makes Dredd see things a bit differently than he did at the beginning of the story.
By his rules Anderson fails Dredd’s assessment, but in reality she really passes it because she survives the ordeal by using her abilities and he respects her for that. And I think in a way that Anderson respects him for walking the line he must walk as Judge – having to draw those lines and take emotions out of the job – so they end up with an unspoken respect and admiration between them despite their differences. I think their relationship is so interesting and would love to see where that could go.
Dread Central: Well, speaking of that- I know it’s too early to say since the movie hasn’t opened yet, but if you did get to revisit this character, where would you like to see Dredd go in the future?
Karl Urban: You know, that’s a good question and I don’t think I’ve really been able to think about it just because all of our energies have been focused on getting this movie made and released. But I do think there are more stories to tell in this world- maybe even explore the idea of the ‘big lie’ (a popular storyline from the 2000 A.D. comic series) would be interesting to do, but for now I’m just focused on how fans respond to Dredd. And you know, if we never made another one, I would be okay with that, too. It’s a great movie that I think has enough legs to it to stand alone.
Karl Urban stars in the Dredd 3D title role along with Lena Headey, Olivia Thirlby, and Domhnall Gleeson. The flick is directed by Pete Travis and based on the acclaimed comic series by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. Look for it in theatres on September 21st.
The future America is an irradiated wasteland. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington, DC, lies Mega City One- a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury, and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighborhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture: a 200-story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival.
The endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland and director Pete Travis bring Dredd to life as a futuristic neo-noir action film. Filmed in 3D with stunning slow-motion photography sequences, the film returns the celebrated character to the dark, visceral incarnation from John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s revered comic strip.
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