Dredd 3D with Alex Garland – Part 2

In part 2 of his Dredd 3D interview, writer Alex Garland chats about Dredd sequels and  TV shows, getting angry over ratings, and why he’d like to adapt Button Man…

Dredd 3D is in UK cinemas on 7 September.

  • For part 1 of this interview with Alex Garland, click here.
  • For part 1 of Karl Urban‘s Dredd interview, click here.
  • For part 2 of Karl Urban‘s Dredd interview, click here.

Did you always have Karl Urban in mind to play Judge Dredd?
When I was a boy of 10 or 11, I would have said Clint Eastwood. Dredd was substantially influenced by Dirty Harry, quite clearly in that terse, no bullshit mode he exists in.

We met a few people for Dredd and Karl was just right in lots of ways. He looked right – I was very keen to avoid Dredd being a big steroid machine. I didn’t want him to look like he spent a lot of time in the gym. I wanted him to look like he was a fighter.

Dredd generally, especially in the early drawings which is when I came across the comic, is lean. He looks like a boxer, he’s a fighter, and Karl had the perfect physique for that.

But also, he understood the character long before ever meeting us or reading the script. When he turned up to the meeting he had his comics with him and he got it all. He said everything right, and we left that meeting feeling very certain about him.

In sequels, where would you like to see Dredd’s character go?
I want to be clear: this is an 18-rated film and an R-rated film in America… the level of money it has to generate to justify a sequel is really quite unlikely. Just look historically at box office figures, it’s an extremely tall order.

But, in the fantasy, sitting on a sofa staring at the ceiling, the next story would be about going into Dredd’s past in the terms laid out by the comic, which is exactly what I’d adhere to, so it’s also related to the origins of the City.

The City and Dredd are completely bound up in each other. It’s an interesting story about how you get into this fascist state with this guy as your hero.

There are these terrorists in the comic, these pro-democracy terrorists, which takes this anti-hero thing to a brilliant level. If the pro-democracy terrorists are like Hamas and blowing up pizza restaurants and doing things that you shouldn’t sympathise with, but they’re the democrats, so they are kind of the good guys, it creates an interesting tension.

There are some brilliant subversive figures in the comic like Chopper. So, it would be that world, that strange position Dredd finds himself in for a sequel.

And in the third one, I think you’d go really off the wall. If we ever got that far you can go nuts and then you bring in these guys, the Dark Judges and maybe this other guy who’s like Caligula, psycho, schizophrenic, and you could then move up through the ranks to this really intense ending. But it’s such a fantasy, I really ought to underscore that.

People are kind of superstitious about talking about things in advance. I’m not. I’ve got a story in mind that starts and ends with Chopper – he’s a catalyst and a coda.

But the caveat is that this is basically a fantasy by some middle-aged Dredd fan who happened to be part of a team who made a movie. Seriously, look at the box office for 18/R-rated sci-fi – it’s like a car wreck… who knows?

Could you see Dredd on TV because there’s lots of big-budget high-quality TV at the moment?
Something is happening, particularly in American TV over the last 10 years, that I think is absolutely electrifying. The dramas that are played out, the freedom within those dramas, and the way people watch them.

All sorts of rules that have existed in cinema for a long time, they’re absolutely shattering that. They’re putting it on there, the people are responding, and the quality of everything is very high.

When I watch Game of Thrones, I think about Dredd. It’s not just Game of Thrones… Game of Thrones is fantastic, I cannot stop watching it. But also, you could say The Wire… by the way, we ripped off The Wire in some respects, but there’s all sorts of TV shows that show what you can do.

But just to be clear: I’ve thought about that a lot but I haven’t discussed it with a distributor or financier. It’s total fantasy stuff. But do I think it would work? I think it would be amazing, incredible.

There are these big stories in Dredd that you cannot tell over two hours, you need 12 hours to do it properly. That glacier thing of a character slowly changing, imagine that played out over 24 hours. It’d be fantastic.

Did Dredd’s 18 certificate bring a certain amount of freedom as a writer?
I never ever think about the certification [when writing]. I will think about it later if we have a fight over cuts and stuff like that; I’ll resist them very strongly.

In the case of Dredd, I didn’t have to resist cuts because it was so far into the realm of an 18 that you were never going to bring it back to a PG13 – it would have been impossible. The drugs and the violence preclude it. That made it simple.

At times I get very angry about ratings. We got a rating for Never Let Me Go, which is a very adult, quiet film, basically because there’s a sex scene and it’s a cliché and a truism about how you can behead people, you can cut their fucking heads off, right, and it’s a 12. And you show two people having sex in quite a chaste way and it’s an R.

And I find that wrong on so many levels, I hardly know where to begin. It’s self-evident how fucking stupid it is. I have had issues with censors in the past, but not with Dredd… it is what it is.

If you were to adapt another superhero for the cinema, which would you choose?
The character I did think about a lot was Button Man. I think Button Man is one of the most natural adaptations to film I’ve ever seen in a comic.

John Wagner wrote Button Man as well and we spoke about it in a kind of round the houses way, but it’s set up somewhere else and they’re in a serious state of wanting to get that made. So that’s cool, that’s great, actually I’d want to see it.

What’s next for you?
I’ve got a story I’m just about to try to start writing. I only got out of Dredd quite recently – we locked the film not that long ago. I’ve got something else I’d like to try and do. It won’t be like Dredd. It’s absolute down-the-line sci-fi.

I do a pattern, which is I do a propulsive, slightly crazy movie or story that really moves forwards, and then one which is a bit quieter, more introspective.

I would categorise Dredd in the more crazy end of those things, and so the next one would be more like Sunshine or Never Let Me Go, which are quieter, more reflective.

I’ve kind of had enough of standing in corridors with squibs and then it all having to be reset and saying maybe it has to be a CG bullet hit now.

  • For part 1 of this interview with Alex Garland, click here.
  • For part 1 of Karl Urban‘s Dredd interview, click here.
  • For part 2 of Karl Urban‘s Dredd interview, click here.