Interview | Karl Urban
Karl Urban talks motorcycles, acting, cheeseburgers
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 07:09
Fielding questions for his latest action flick, “Dredd 3D,” Karl Urban dished on playing the titular character, Judge Dredd.
Question: How did wearing the helmet affect you?
Karl Urban: It took a bit to figure it out. It really did. And that was a challenge, how to communicate with an audience. Not only because my eyes weren’t visible, but because the character of Dredd operates within a very narrow bandwidth. He is a man who has been trained to keep his emotions in check. So, consequently, it was very important for me to identify how I could humanize the character as much as possible.
The sense of humor became very important — that dry, laconic sense of humor. Finding out where is this character compassionate, where does his empathy lie. And you can see that in the way he chooses to not kill those kids.
Then [there’s] the whole relationship with Anderson, because there’s an evolution there. He [Dredd] doesn’t like her very much at the beginning — he doesn’t think that she’s got what it takes to be a judge. Through the course of the film, that relationship evolves and changes, as they learn to trust each other and work with each other.And to me, that’s one of the most intriguing aspects about the whole film — [that at the] beginning [of] this movie, you have a character that sees the world in terms of black or white, right or wrong.
At the end of the film, he’s just suddenly discovered this whole grey area, and that represents the sort of fracture in his perspective. It’s a paradigm shift, and once you see something in life you can’t un-see it.
Q: So I read that you actually rode the bike in this movie. It would have been easy to get a double for that because the helmet covers so much of your face. Why did you decide to do those stunts?
KU: I didn’t want to let anyone else have the fun. That would be a fun day at work, and it was. I mean, there are certain points in your career where you can’t believe that they’re actually letting you do what you’re doing. For me, one of those moments was shooting “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) in Moscow — they actually let me execute a reverse-180 in a Mercedes G-Wagen in the streets of Moscow. The other was riding the Law Master [Dredd’s motorcycle] at high speeds, filming this bike chase through the streets of Cape Town. It was cool.
Q: The whole movie, I was waiting for this moment where they reveal the past of Dredd — why he is the way he is. And when I got to the end and I realized they hadn’t done that, I was extremely grateful. It was very refreshing. And the whole time I was thinking, “this is the Man with No Name” [Clint Eastwood’s character in the “Dollars Trilogy” (1964-1966)].
KU: True. You got it.
Q: And then I read a quote by you where you [said that] you get to the end of a [Sergio] Leone movie without finding out the main character’s name, but it doesn’t matter. So, two questions: One, was that something that attracted you to the role? And two, did you look at Eastwood’s character for inspiration?
KU: No, I didn’t. I was aware of the fact that obviously Clint Eastwood was an influence for the character. Dredd was written between ’75 and ’77 as a response to Thatcherism, and “Dirty Harry” (1971) was an influence. But here’s what I recognized when I read the script, with regard to the lack of backstory. I recognized [it] instantly.
Let me ask you, what did you know about Indiana Jones before “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981)? Nothing. You were just introduced to a character. He’s fully formed, and you just go on a ride. He’s not a superhero. We don’t have to show the scene where he got bit by the spider, or injected himself with Kryptonite or whatever. He is who he is.
You give the audience the bare minimum that they need to know, and then here’s the ride, and I liked that. And the cool thing about this movie is, you don’t have to be a big fan of “Judge Dredd” — the comic — going into this movie to have a good time. It’s a film for fans of films.
Q: What was the hardest part about filming?
KU: Three months without burgers and beer. It was not enjoyable.