Interview: Karl Urban and Alex Garland talk ‘Dredd 3D’

Native Kiwi Karl Urban has been lucky enough to be a part of many popular movie franchises during his 20-year career, including The Lord of the Rings and, more recently, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. Next year, Urban will return to the Enterprise for the eagerly-anticipated sequel, but this month audiences will get to see him – sans the upper part of his face – in gritty comic book adaptation Dredd 3D, in which he plays the titular Judge. CineVue were invited to a session of interviews with the star and screenwriter Alex Garland, where there was talk of preparations, narrative decisions, and sequel possibilities.

When speaking with Urban and Garland, it immediately becomes apparent that both went into the project with great passion for the character. From the physical – Urban “worked out twice a day for 13 weeks” – to the research and multiple scripts, you get the feeling that no stone was left unturned in trying to bring Dredd from the comic pages to the big screen as faithfully as possible.

It therefore comes as no surprise when Urban speaks of “extremely collaborative experiences” with Garland, director Pete Travis and fellow actor Olivia Thirlby, who stars alongside him as psychic judge-in-training Cassandra Anderson; “Everyday we would meet up before we would start shooting and discuss what it was that we were going to do that day, and we were on the same page.” Another key part of Dredd’s persona is his deadpan humour, and Garland’s smart script makes it one of the film’s many strengths. Urban weighs in, “Dredd is not a robot, he’s a highly trained man who’s been trained to keep his emotions in check, but one of the things that does humanise him is his humour.”

Fans of the Judge Dredd comic books will know just how many excellent stories there are to choose from. When asked how he arrived at Dredd’s story, Garland replies that the key was simplicity; “After two completely separate scripts, this was the third of three and it was the most reductive and it felt like the right one to do because it allowed us to zone-in on Dredd.” Still, with over 35 years of rich comic book history, there are endless possibilities for sequels. Garland revealed that he would love to delve into Dredd’s past – which is interestingly tied to the origins of Mega City One – and Urban also divulged that he’d love to mix it up with Judge Death.

And where does the helmet currently reside? “I tried to steal it three times, but they gave it to me”, the actor says with a chuckle. CineVue has half a mind to sentence Urban before deciding against it – you don’t mess with Judge Dredd.

Dredd 3D hits UK cinemas on 7 September, 2012. Read our review here.

Amon Warmann