Greetings from not very sunny San Diego! Day one of Comic-Con is well on its way, and I'm stoked that I got to sit down this afternoon with the star of the ridiculously fun and bloody Dredd (which I reviewed here).
I had a few minutes to chat with Karl Urban, and we covered a lot of ground. One of the coolest aspects of Dredd is that he doesn't remove his helmet even once for the duration of the film, which Urban said was his idea. In fact, as a huge fan of the comic book since he was a teenager, he actually said that he wouldn't do the film if the character ever removed the helmet. When I asked him how he connects to an audience without being able to express with his eyes, he admitted, "It's really hard. I tried to focus on body language, how I enter a room. And the voice is really important."
John Wagner's 2000 AD, from which the movie is adapted, was Urban's favorite comic growing up. He said that what draws him to the character is that "He's a constant. Everyone else changes around him, but he remains. He has a lot of humanity, but it's buried deep. On the surface, he's a rock. And I love his humor. He has this wonderfully dry, laconic sense of humor. I'm glad that translated last night - the audience seemed to love it." Wagner has seen the film and loves it, and Urban says "If there was one person whose opinion I cared about, one person I wanted to impress, it was him."
Dredd's an intense, extraordinarily action-packed film, and it seems like the shoot was grueling. A stuntman fell from a height of twelve to fifteen feet, breaking a bone that splintered through his leg. And that was the "soft story." The "hard story" is that one day while shooting in Cape Town, Urban heard a "high-pitched scream, this raspy noise" like nothing he'd ever heard before. A man, fully engulfed in flames, fled onto the set because he saw the on-set ambulance. He didn't work on the film, but he was working on a generator nearby when there was an accident. All of the crew stopped what they were doing and put out the flames and administered to the man, but he died that day at the shoot.
Despite the horror stories, Urban's rightfully very proud of the film that he made. When I mentioned that there's plenty of room for a franchise for this character, Urban replied, "Look, I love the character. I had a great time making this movie. If it takes off the way it should, the way I think it will, I'd love to do a sequel and revisit the character. But if it becomes nothing but a one-off cult hit, I'll be thrilled with that too. I'm proud of what we did."
Finally, I asked Urban, in light of recent events, if someone working for the notoriously secretive JJ Abrams gets in trouble for spilling the beans, and he said, "All I can say is that JJ told me if anyone else asks me about Star Trek 2, I'm supposed to do this:" and he placed a piece of tape over his mouth that simply reads "DREDD."