/Film Interview: Karl Urban, The Star Of 'Dredd 3D'

Earlier this summer, Lionsgate exhibited extreme confident in Pete Travis' comic book film Dredd 3D when they screened it for fans at San Diego Comic-Con. The gamble paid off. Buzz was solid for the film, which is an incredibly tight, focused, hard R-rated, violent throwback to the simple, bad ass action movies of the Eighties. Watch our review here.

Karl Urban plays Dredd, a no-nonsense Judge in a futuristic city called Mega City One. He and other Judges serve as judge, jury and executioner when dealing with the criminal element. Dredd is asked to help break in a new recruit (Olivia Thirlby) and the pair get stuck in a massive apartment complex run by a drug czar named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). She decides to shut the entire building down and tell everyone to bring her the two Judges dead or alive. And that's where the fun begins.

Yes, Dredd 3D sounds like the plot of The Raid: Redemption and Karl Urban is well aware of that fact. We spoke to the star while at Comic-Con and he discussed the similarities between the two films, acting without ever showing your face, the seemingly simple scope of the film and the mind games he was then playing with fans when being asked about Star Trek 2. Read our interview after the jump then see Dredd 3D on September 21.

/Film: Dredd was not what I expected; it was a lot more focused. I really liked it. But before I talk about that, how small is your ego that you can star in a whole movie and not show your face once?

Karl Urban: Well you know what? For the main part I didn't even think about that, it was just "That's Dredd." That's the way he has always been written and drawn in the comics. So for me it wouldn't work for them to approach it any other way and most importantly I felt like it was a wonderful challenge. I knew that if I could pull this off that it was going to be something special, because I don't believe anything like this has been done before.

I don't think so.

Has it? No, I think even ROBOCOP you got to see his face.

I'm sure there's something, but not for a movie like this, a comic book movie. So what were some of the challenges? Was it easier in any aspects? Was it more difficult to not use your face?

There was nothing easy about this film. Nothing. It was a challenge at every single turn. Everything was a battle and certainly for me as an actor I had to figure it out pretty quickly with what the tools were that I had to operate with, so you know things like the voice became very important and it was described in the comics as a "saw cutting through bone." So that's kind of what I went for and then of course it's very important how you do what you do and your body language. I used that to tell the story and you know Dredd is a really rich character. He is a protector. He has complete control over his emotions and he has this wonderful dry sardonic humor and also there is a humanity and a compassion about him and you can see that in the choices he makes and when he does become slightly unhinged after a whole bunch of people get killed it's because he cares about people and there's also a weariness about the character which I loved too.

You are absolutely right, all of that is in the movie, but I felt like because the narrative is so focused it almost gave you less room to play with the character, because usually in a movie like STAR TREK you start and you meet him before he's even this and he's got this full arc. Was that a challenge or did you just sort of embrace being this almost "one day" movie?

No, I fully embraced it and I think that's one of the great strengths about it. Dredd is seemingly unchanged. He is seemingly like just a tower of strength and everybody else is bending and buckling and changing and oscillating where Dredd is a constant. To me that's a huge attraction and a huge plus, but an actual fact if you really study the film there is an arc for Dredd. There is a change. Dredd does something at the end of this film that he never would have done before meeting Anderson and that's really the beginning of the cracks and the questioning I think for him. I don't want to get too much into spoilers...

Sure. Was the movie always, from the first time you read the script, this focused? When I first heard that you guys were doing another Judge Dredd movie you expect it to be he's flying around Mega City One the whole time and not being in this one building. Was it always that, just taking place in ne building?

Yeah, it always was. I mean that's the cool thing about it, and you get to see Mega City One, but this was really a character study. This was taking these characters and throwing them literally into the deep end and that's not only a character study for Dredd and Anderson, but also Mega City One for the people in Mega City One. You can actually see the choices that they make in this situation, whether to help the judges or not help them, whether to go against them, whether to fight them, you know. That all says a lot about these people and this culture of Mega City One.

Also I wanted to touch on what you were saying as without your face you had to use a lot of body language. What specifically did you keep in mind or do? Was it anything with the arms, with the legs? Was it a posture thing? What body language characterizes Dredd?

It's the difference between acting with your whole body and I think that's a mistake that a lot of cinema actors can make, or TV actors. They forget about acting with their whole body and that's where theater becomes really into its own. So for me it was just being acutely aware of "Okay..." I had to know very specifically where I was at in time and space, what had come before, and how I was going to continue to tell as much about the character as I could given the fact that there was a very kind of narrow bandwidth. It's a big painting, but there's a lot of fine brush strokes.

A lot of movie sites like ours saw the second trailer and then the movie and it really reminded us of this film, THE RAID. Have you seen THE RAID?

No I haven't, but it was interesting, I heard that Gareth Evans was very complimentary about DREDD and basically said that... I think they started shooting THE RAID like about halfway through or around the same time that we were actually shooting DREDD, so neither film is ripping each other off, but just by virtue of the fact that we have an incredibly visually complex film, we were in post production for a year and that's why THE RAID came out first.

Right. They are different enough, but comparisons can be made. Last thing, and you can't say anything about Star Trek, but are you like messing with us with all of these quotes we've been seeing in the press the last two days or are you just tired, like you said?

I'm not messing with you. I'm not one to do that, but you know I'm aware that there's an acute interest in it and I'm also having to be part of a franchise that's incredibly guarded and incredibly secretive, and rightly so. I mean it would be a shame to spend so much time, energy, and money and then have the audience get to the cinema and have that be kind of destroyed for them. We want them to discover it at the cinema, but then again I'm only human. Literally to come off a 22 hour flight... I mean look at me. (Laughs) I'm very fried, but I will say this for all of the STAR TREK fans out there, there is going to be some very special footage coming out this weekend for Comic Con that's a STAR TREK exclusive. I think it's going to be coming to YouTube as a "STAR TREK Comic Con Sneak Peak." [Note: Here's the result of that ruse by Urban.]

Okay, cool. That's great. Thank you so much.Dredd 3D hits theaters September 21. Check it out.