Dredd 3D with Karl Urban – Part 2

In part 2 of his Dredd 3D interview, Karl Urban chats about humour, Kenny Who?, and the London riots.

Dredd 3D is in UK cinemas on 7 September.

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

The tone of the movie is very gritty and dark, but there’s still some deadpan humour…
The humour was very important for me because it really helped define the character.

He’s not a robot. He’s a man, a highly trained man. He’s a man who’s been trained to keep his emotions in check, but one of the things that does humanise him is his humour and it was one of the elements I always responded to in the comic.

We looked for every opportunity we could to inject that into the movie. Just that dry, deadpan humour which Alex did an extraordinary job incorporating.

You mentioned working closely with Alex, what was it like working on the set in Capetown with the team?
It was fantastic, it really was. It was one of the most collaborative experiences I’ve ever had. The good thing about Pete is that he knew he had a good team working with him and he just let everybody do their jobs.

Alex had an extraordinary input to the extent you could rightly say he directed a fair amount of this film. And that’s not uncommon. On The Lord of the Rings we had five units with five different directors.

Pete Jackson was undoubtedly the driving creative force behind The Lord of the Rings, but by virtue of the fact of what we were trying to accomplish it meant there were other directors helping in the execution. Dredd was always pretty ambitious as well, so Alex’s input is huge.

Which are your favourite characters and storylines from the Dredd comics?
When I was a teenager, it was stories like Kenny Who? and Raider.

Raider was a really interesting cool little vignette about an ex-judge who took to the streets and became a vigilante. He was kinda like a mentor to Dredd, but Dredd found himself in the position of having to hunt him down. I thought that was really cool and interesting.

For me, the great bonus of playing Dredd was going back and not only rediscovering those stories I really enjoyed back then, but discovering a whole plethora of new stories written subsequently.

It was really interesting to see the evolution in how the character was written, the depth and the maturity in [co-creator] John Wagner‘s writing which really translated to the character of Dredd himself.

That’s evident in stories like Origins and The Dead Man’s Walk into Necropolis. America is a fantastic story as well and it’s one of the things I really like about the character too – he’s an anti-hero, to the point where in America Dredd’s the villain.

If you get to do any sequels who would most like to square off against from the back catalogue of villains?
Well, obviously Judge Death – him and his mates! I’d also love to explore the Mean Machine angle… there’s many.

At the beginning of Dredd, you have a voiceover which sets the scene for Mega-City One and says the “citizens are living in fear of the streets, and the gun and the gang”. Do you see Dredd as a sort of commentary on modern society?
I definitely think the parallels can be drawn. It’s best not to forget the character was created in the 70s during Thatcherism and the era of Punk and anarchy, and I think those threads are relevant.

But you only have to look back in history one year and you see London in riot and that’s the world that Dredd is set in. It’s set in a society that’s on the verge of chaos and collapse, and it’s not that big a leap.

We take our freedom pretty much for granted and I think it’s really interesting to look at a totalitarian society where all those freedoms have been taken away because it’s the only way that society can function. It’s horrific. It was interesting to explore those things, and it certainly makes me appreciate the fact I live in a democratic country that has good gun control and good a quality of life.

At the end of the day, this is escapist entertainment. But if you want to dig a bit deeper then there are messages there. I also the like the subtle little morality tales within this movie.

Dredd’s doing his job, he’s representative of the law and he’s bound by a code of ethics and an oath he’s taken, but what’s really interesting to me is the choice the citizens of Peach Trees have to make – whether to align themselves with the judges, whether or not to help them, and then based on those morality choices what happens to those people through the film.

In reading the original Dredd comics, quite often Dredd was a supporting character and those citizens of Mega-City One and their little stories were incredibly interesting and that was actually the focus of a lot of the stories.

You’ve got a number of very popular sci-fi/fantasy roles to your name. Are you worried about being typecast?
I think it’s very easy to try and categorise it, but the reality is I’ve also done films like The Bourne Supremacy, Out Of The Blue and Red which are quite different genres.

I just respond to the character and this was an instance, since I was a fan of Dredd growing up, that it would’ve taken a bigger man than me to turn it down.

You played Eomer in Lord Of The Rings and Bones in Star Trek. Are there any other genre heroes you’d like to play?
I feel it would be greedy to want anything more than what I’ve got! I could retire quite happily with my comic-book-inspired characters at this point in time! If I never played another character based on science fiction or fantasy or comic books then I’d be good – I’ve done some goodies!

Were you excited to return as Bones in the Star Trek sequel?
Oh yeah, definitely! They’re a great group and we have a lot of fun making those films. It was wonderful to get back together again and continue the journey.

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