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Karl Urban is the law

Dredd 3D
02 September 2012

DREDD 3D takes us to the wild streets of Mega City One, the lone oasis of quasi-civilization on Cursed Earth. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared of elite Street Judges, with the power to enforce the law, sentence offenders and execute them on the spot – if necessary. The endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland and the frenetic vision of director Peter Travis bring DREDD to life as a futuristic neo-noir action film that returns the celebrated character to the dark, visceral incarnation from John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra’s revered comic strip/

The Fan Carpet were lucky enough to sit down with Karl Urban lead actor in the upcoming action packed comic book movie Dredd 3D!

Urban stars as the titular Judge Dredd, who acts as Judge, Jury and Executioner in a post apocalyptic world that is slowly crumbling around him. On a routine homicide investigation, Dredd along with rookie cop Anderson find themselves on lock down in one of Mega Cities giant tower blocks and in order to survive will have to fight their way to the top!



Karl, I believe you didn’t have a script audition for this and it was a bit of a geek fest, can you talk about how you managed to impress them with your geekyness?

Yeah, so  I was actually on holiday with my family and I got an email from my agent saying they’re rebooting Judge Dredd, any interest? Having been an avid reader of comics until I was about 17 or when I was 17, I said yes that’s something id be interested in! I got send the script by Alex Garland and I thought that it was not only honourable to the source material, but it was a really action packed, character driven story. So based upon that and I sort have had some idea of the creative elements involved and I felt that there was a good degree of insurance about the fact it was going to be well executed. So it was on that basis that I signalled my interest. then hopped on a plane went to L.A, we met halfway round the world, the DNA boys and Alex and Pete came from London, I came from New Zealand and we met in L.A and just had a really frank open discussion about the script, about the character and I just had a sense they wanted to be assured that I wouldn’t get half way through the film and start demanding scenes without the helmet and I told them, and i think this is what sealed the deal. I told them that I wouldn’t even bother taking the movie if I’d read a script and found scenes where Dredd had removed his helmet. That’s not the Dredd that I grew up reading and admiring. I think that really sealed the deal, a couple of days later I got a call from London inviting me to join the party!


Obviously it’s a character where a lot of people have a certain idea of how it’s supposed to be. How much wiggle room is there to deliver a performance and unique but at the same time staying faithful?

Well, yeah it’s interesting. It represented a huge challenge , I was focused on doing my job and that is delivering the most specific interesting , multi dimensional character that I can. Other people’s expectations of what that’s going to be is outside my area of concern, I’m just focused on what my job is. Having been a fan of it as a teenager, put a lot of pressure upon myself to get it right and what I really I’d was used the script , Alex had written a very specific wonderful, action packed character driven script so I used that, and I read every single Dredd comic I could get my hands on. The cool thing about it was I went back and rediscovered a lot of the stories I fell in love with growing up. Then discovered this really amazing maturity that had developed in the work subsequent to my reading it. Stories like origins and dead man walking, I think as Wagner got older the character of Dredd attained more depth, instead of just blindly doing his job he actually starts to question the whole system , this totalitarian society and to me that’s really interesting.


Just relating to that, you’ve spoken about when you felt most like Dredd riding the law master and boot camp sessions, what’s the moment in the film that you’re most proud of that you think is really going to please the fans in terms of when you really nail Dredd?

In all my discussions with Alex, what was really important for me was that this was not going to be a bombastic character based in ego, we wanted the character to be like a tightly wound spring, to me it was more interesting to watch a character trying to contain, struggling to contain his rage at the injustice than letting that rage out. So that’s kind of what we were doing, as far as one specific scene I guess I’m really proud of the film as a whole because we could have taken a detour down so many wrong roads and just through the sheer collaborative effort of everyone involved it turned it into an instant cult classic.


It’s a film that could have very easily prey to the Hollywood machine, and become a PG 13 nuts and bolts action film but its the opposite, its a very hardcore, hyper violent adult movie, is that something appealed to you?

No I can’t say that was a appeal, and I have to say I pretty much underestimated a lot of the graphic elements involve in the final film. When you read something on the page, quite often it your imagination that does the work but its something else when you see it fully represented and realised, even while I was making the film I wasn’t quite aware of some of the more graphic elements. I sat down and watched it, it made me recoil! I think it was actually a really smart move on Alex’s behalf, because in the way that Stanley Kubrick really focused on subjects like violence in movies like Clockwork Orange,  the same thing occurs here. The violence here becomes a character and the violence really informs you as an audience member about the reality of what it’s like for these judges operating in this world where there’s  very little regard for human life. And I think that it would be so easy make the mistake, or let’s just say it would be easy to go down the road of a different version of the film where you become desensitised to the violence. You’ve seen a Hollywood movies where it’s Bam, Boof, Pow, there’s violence but you don’t actually understand what has just occurred because you just haven’t actually seen it. We have this narrative element called Slo Mo, you get to see everything from the perspective of the drug and you do get to explore it


The common denominator of the blockbusters of the last 5 years has been the superhero who takes justice into his own hands and doesn’t believe in the system of justice anymore and thinks he has to go a step further to make justice happen, why is there such a demand for movies for the ultimate super hero?

It’s a good question, and I think that one of the things that sets Dredd apart is that he’s not a super hero, he’s just a man. He is a man working within a justice system that is struggling to contain a society that is on the brink of collapse. All he’s got is an extraordinary skill set, a versatile gun and a really cool bike. The thing that appealed to me about it is that , his brand of heroism was kind of like those fire fighters in 9/11 and I was very cognoscente of that going into the movie. He is the type of guy whose going into the building when everyone else is coming out and to me that’s the definition of real heroism. It’s not like I’ve got this magic ring or whatever, he’s just a man doing a job.


He’s the jury the judge and the executioner, it’s a bit of a frightening idea so how are dealing with that?

Personally I find that idea completely frightening, even the concept of living in a totalitarian society where people’s rights are completely quashed, just makes me feel so blessed that I don’t live in that society. I feel in the terms of Dredd, he is a necessary means to a end, because that world is post apocalyptic and a society that is struggling, it’s in the state of chaos and these guys are a direct result of that. They get shot everyday riding their bike down the street and I guess in terms of the Dredd, they’re a necessary means to an end
There’s a huge amount of fight scenes and action scenes, what was that like doing that? Were you given free reign as it were or was there a very set out choreographed way of working?
It was sort of hand it over to the stunt department kind of thin, it’s always best to hand those things over to the people who are expert at them because things can go wrong and they certainly did go wrong in our film! There was one particular sequence where our stunt doubles had jumped out of the building into a skate park, it was deemed to be too dangerous for Olivia and myself to do, I looked at it and went ‘c’mon I can do that!’. Our doubles did it and on the very first take, the stunt double who was doubling for Wood, landed incorrectly and he compound fractured his leg! That means his bone came through his skin and he completely dislocated his hip! So it’s best to hand those things to the professionals! I’m also very aware it’s a huge responsibility to be the lead of the film and you have to know when to make that call and say you know what I think you should do this! Because if something happened to me, there’s 300 people whose livelihood is depending on me being up to work every day. The film is like a missile and there’s a whole chain of events if that missile wasn’t kept on target.



Were there any physical skills that you had to acquire or improve for the move?

Yeah I went through quite an extensive boot camp and military training and I’ve done a bit of that in other movies, but I always like to approach that like i doing it or the same time, I approach it like I know nothing! When you’re dealing with weapons and safety issues it’s best to just start from scratch. There was the physical aspect for me, I worked out extensively for about 13 weeks to get into the physical condition I needed to be in, and there was the military training and riding the bikes as well which took a lot of time and energy.


How difficult was it to have chemistry with your onscreen partner Olivia when you can’t use your eyes?

It wasn’t difficult at all actually, Olivia is an extraordinary actress and she does an amazing job in the movie. We formed a real partnership , we both realised that we needed each other because it’s a character driven film and that relationship is really the core of this film, it’s the glue, seeing the evolution of their relationship. Dredd doesn’t think much of her at the beginning but that changes throughout the film and you enjoy spending time with these characters. Everyday Olivia and I would get together before we started shooting and would discuss the days work to make sure we were on exactly the same page and really find the beats we wanted and we just formed a real solid partnership, I think the movie really benefits from it?


How did you go about going into the mindset of Dredd?

I got to Cape Town, well first of it Id read everything Dredd that I could get my hands on, worked out, and that physical transformation was huge and then when I got to Cape Town I donned the uniform and before we even start rolling the cameras, the two weeks I was wearing the uniform in the midst of a hot South African summer that can put you in a mood! It was all the elements kind of mixed together.


And the voice as well, where did that come from?

The voice I found described in the panel of one particular comic as like a saw cutting through bone, so I went to a butcher and..I’m just kidding! What you see in the film is my interpretation of what that is, I was also very ware of the fact that Dredd uses his voice as a weapon. It had to have a resonance to it and It had to have an authority to it, but at the same time we didn’t want it to go to an extreme that was so artificially enhanced or anything which we didn’t do . The voice you hear in the movie was what was done on set?


Had you seen the Sylvester Stallone version, did you take anything from that or did you want to move away from that?

Here’s the thing, I remember seeing that when it came out in 1994, I have to be careful what I say out of respect for Mr Stallone and I certainly don’t want to publicise my film by putting down another but I always just felt like these were completely different entities. Tonally you couldn’t get more difference, his film was a product of superhero films in the 90’s and ours is a completely different take on it, there’s much more graphic elements, it’s much more realistic and I think in many ways it’s also much more authentic to the character that Wagner created?


Can I ask you about the pre shooting and post shooting, the before and after. Alex Garland talked about early drafts involving Judge Death and possible straight from the comic book drafts. I wonder if you’d had a chance to see those drafts, and if you spoke about how it could work stylistically with the judge you’d created?I have not read those drafts, I’d be interested to!

The truth is that I guess we’ve just spent so much time and energy on this film and now we’re at the point we’re releasing it. I would love to come back and make more of these, I had such a great time working with Alex and the whole team. And if we get to make more that’d be fantastic, but if this is a one of cult classic and I’ve said this before but I’m genuinely happy with this as a one off.


Before you go can you tell us anything about Star Trek 2 or The Chronicles Of Riddick?

I shot a day on Riddick , my character basically comes in and essentially helps transition out of the chronicle story into Riddick’s new story. It was good fun working with Vin again , he’s a great guy and David Twohy. And Star Trek 2 I can’t tell you anything about except it’s going to be awesome!



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