Karl Urban may not be the most recognisable name to households, but he’s still one of the leading men working today. Born in New Zealand, the actor became known to audiences through his work as Eomer in the latter ‘Lord of the Rings’ sequels, a role that lead him to appear in such projects as ‘The Bourne Supremacy’, ‘The Chronicles of Riddick’, ‘Doom’, and the eventual 2009 reboot of ‘Star Trek’. Perhaps now best known in cult circles as the iconic Dredd, a role he owned in last year’s film of the same name, Urban visited the sunny shores of Sydney to promote the hotly anticipated ‘Star Trek Into Darkness’.
Whilst down under Hush Hush Biz entertainment writer Peter Gray had a chance to chat with the star to talk about the film, how he feels about playing the comedic role, and whether or not we’ll get a ‘Dredd’ sequel.
So I believe you’re in Sydney at the moment?
And will tonight be the first time you’re seeing the film?
It will be yeah, so it should be exciting.
Well I was fortunate enough to see the film today, and I loved it, you should be very proud of it.
Wicked, that’s great to hear.
So how did the sequel come about for you? Was it something discussed around the original film?
When we signed on to the first, we signed on for three. So obviously if the first one didn’t do as well we wouldn’t be here, but we’re here and ready to go again.
In your past films you’ve worked with special effects quite a bit, is it becoming easier to work with them?
I think people don’t realise how big a part special effects play in modern filmmaking. But here what was wonderful is that more of the enterprise was built than before which is a huge advantage so you don’t have to use your imagination as much.
In this film your character is more the comic relief, it’s different to what you’ve done in the past. How did you find that?
It’s great, you know JJ (Abrams, the director) throws the ball wide and you just got to run with it and I found it refreshing to play a character who isn’t defined by his physicality but more his humour and his actions and his deeds. I relished it.
So how did the part of Bones come about for you? Did you audition or was it offered to you?
I met with a lot of people at Paramount and based off of that got an audition with JJ and I remember I did one take, and heard JJ laughing and just saying we got our Bones, and that was it.
And do you know about a third film yet?
I don’t know, it’s up to JJ. At this point judging by the phenomenal reaction we’re getting…people are excited to see it.
Your character is very funny, is it all scripted? Is it some of it you improvising?
Working with JJ you got to be nimble on your feet, on your game. He throws the ball at you and keeps things exciting, he infuses his film with a lot of energy so you know it’s not uncommon for him to come up between takes and change the lines and see how things work.
The opening sequence which your character is heavily involved in, was that a hard shoot? Was it an actual set?
It was an actual set, in Culver City. We built this red forest world…shot it for a week. It was dangerous though cause you could take a wrong step and fall through the set.
And you’re based out of New Zealand, was that a conscious decision to stay away from the Hollywood lifestyle?
In a way yes, I love New Zealand, it’s where I raise my family and I believe that nowadays it’s easier not to be so shackled by location. You can take meetings with directors over Skype, you can still do what you want to. Obviously it’d be easier to take meetings if I lived in L.A. but I love New Zealand and will continue to stay here.
You’re affiliated with the organisation KIDS CAN, how did you get involved with them?
I was aware of the organisation and became an ambassador for them a few years ago, and whenever I can I take the opportunity to work with them. They provide support for children living in poverty in New Zealand, kids going to school with no lunch, no shoes…we need to look after them. Sometimes I think we forget the problems on our own doorstep.
Do you get to come to Australia much?
I do yeah, I love Sydney. I was here for ‘Dredd’ last year, and I enjoy working here and being from New Zealand…you know I like the friendly rivalry the Aussies and Kiwis have.
On the subject of ‘Dredd’, that was a great film, and one many would like to see revisited. Do you see yourself going back to that character?
That’s not a decision for me to make unfortunately, you know we envisioned it as a one off film…a day in the life of his character. If we get to do it again – great! But if not that’s ok too. It has been one of those films though that has really found its audience seen being on DVD though, and like ‘Blade Runner’, and I am by no means comparing ‘Dredd’ to ‘Blade Runner’, it initially didn’t have an audience in cinemas and found its audience over time through other formats and we’ve seen that with ‘Dredd’.
You started your career in local New Zealand productions, was it your intention to eventually make it on a global level or you were just happy to work?
Yes I guess it was my intention to work internationally, you know the New Zealand film industry is so small.
Do you see yourself working in local productions?
Most definitely, there has been a couple of projects, both New Zealand and Australian based, that I have been interested in…but for one reason or another they couldn’t get it together which is sometimes the way it is with independent films. But going forward I see myself working in Australasian productions.
Getting back to ‘Star Trek’, what it’s like working with everyone on set?
Working on it is so much fun, I know it sounds so cliché to have actors say how well they get along when they’re doing these press tours but it’s true, there’s not a bad egg amongst us. We work hard, we play hard, we laugh a lot…I think that’s a testament to JJ.
When you see the film, you’ll be in the audience with all the fans?
Absolutely, I think it’s the best way to watch a film. I’d rather see it that way.
Well I don’t think you have anything to worry about, the film was amazing. It eclipsed the first one in my opinion.
Oh wow, amazing. Thank you yeah, it’s great to hear as the first one is so highly regarded. And it’s a challenge to be better, to do better, so thank you.
And you have Benedict Cumberbatch in the film. What was it like to work with him?
He’s extraordinary. So incredibly talented, I see him winning Oscars…I really do. He does a remarkable job at playing a character that’s not just a two dimensional villain. You’re able to empathise with him even though you don’t necessarily agree with his methods, and it’s really what makes him interesting. And the fact that his character is just better than (Captain) Kirk (laughs).
At the moment your name is linked with the action genre mostly, is there any particular genre you want to explore more than others?
I never know what I want to do really. I read the script, the story, the situation…all those components. See where it’s made and who’s making it, that’s what helps.
Following ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness’, what can we expect to see you in?
I just shot a pilot for JJ called ‘Human’. Its set 46 years in the future and basically explores what life is like where there’s nothing more we can do. The genie is out of the bottle as it were…
So potentially set to see you in prime time?
Yeah, looks like it.
Well thank you so much for chatting, you should be really proud of the film.
Thank you very much, cheers.
‘Star Trek Into Darkness’ is playing in cinemas from May 9th 2013 in RealD 3D and 2D. Check local guides for session information.
Peter Gray and Hush Hush Biz would like to thank Karl Urban and the lovely team at Paramount for their time.