The type of movie you like will probably determine how you know Karl Urban. Big fan of the 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy? He played Eomer. Like the 'Star Trek' reboot? He was "Bones" McCoy. Fond of culty syndicated TV shows like 'Hercules' and' Xena'? He was both Julius Caesar and Cupid (not at the same time). Or perhaps you've caught the New Zealand actor in 'The Bourne Supremacy,' indie film 'Out of the Blue' or even, if you care to admit to watching it, 'Doom.'
Urban returns to the big screen this weekend in 'Red,' a heist comedy so chock-full of big-name stars like Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and John Malkovich that Urban isn't even in the trailer, which is practically a crime. In this adaptation of a D.C. Comics graphic novel, he plays William Cooper, a CIA agent who is hired to take care of certain retired agents who possess dangerous secrets.
Cinematical sat down with Karl Urban at Fantastic Fest, where 'Red' had a special screening, to discuss not only his role in 'Red' but a few upcoming roles, such as another comic-book adaptation, 'Dredd,' in which he will portray the title character. He also talks about a couple of New Zealand films he's been in that you might check out if you want to see him in some slightly different types of movies.
The Fantastic Fest screening was your first time seeing 'Red' as a finished film. How was the experience?
Karl Urban: Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was great to see it with an audience and hear them rolling with laughter. There seemed to be a consistently bubbling fun reaction to the movie, and that's great. I mean, quite often you do theater and you get an instant response, but it's not until later -- in this case, 8 months later -- that we get to see how people like a movie.
What attracted you to the role of William Cooper?
I thought he was a pretty interesting character on the page. He was a CIA officer-slash-hit man. And he also has a family -- he has a wife and kids, and trying to balance these two lives out, I thought was pretty interesting. Also, my character, William, starts in one place and ends somewhere different; he's got a great arc. It gave me a lot to play with.
Do you have a goal or pattern with the roles you're picking right now?
I don't. I don't really plan what I'm going to do out to any great degree. To me, the destination isn't important -- the journey is the key. The journey is everything for me -- it's who I get to work with, and at the moment, I feel pretty blessed, I'm working with some amazing people.
Yes, the cast in 'Red' is pretty amazing.
Working with Ernest Borgnine was a trip. I've been watching his films since I can remember. And just to be on set with him -- he's still got that twinkle in the eye. To hear him talk about 'From Here to Eternity' and Monty Clift and Sinatra and Mitchum and Lee Marvin -- and all those other people he's worked with -- it was pretty amazing. He's one of the last of the old-timers, that's for sure. He would have been around Hollywood in its heyday, through the Forties, the Fifties.
Many of the recent roles you've taken have been serious: strong silent types, the straight man. McCoy is probably the closest we've seen to you doing comedy lately... do you have any interest in lighter roles?
Well, I have had them. The role that got me 'Lord of the Rings' was an independent New Zealand film, a little comedy called 'The Price of Milk.' It was off the back of that film that Peter [Jackson] offered me the role of Eomer in Lord of the Rings. Certainly it was a lot of fun to do that sort of material again, and the comedic material in Star Trek, but as I said before, it's a question of -- I'll read a piece of material, and if I like it, if there's good people involved, then I'll do it.
I'm sorry I haven't seen 'The Price of Milk,' I'll have to go track it down.
Yes, it's kind of quirky. It predates 'The Flight of the Conchords' without breaking out into spontaneous song and dance, but it really is that kind of slightly offbeat humor.
Are you interested in making more films in New Zealand?
Definitely. I am interested in continuing to contribute to the New Zealand film industry. I think that you become a global citizen when you start working internationally, and I think it's very easy for you to be deceived, to have lost your cultural identity, especially I think in your home country. So it's important to me.
A couple of years ago I did a film called 'Out of the Blue,' which is the last film I shot in New Zealand, and I'm always on the lookout for some good material, and films that are grounded in the New Zealand culture -- films that are uniquely New Zealand and not genre ripoffs. I think the Americans do a fantastic job of making genre films, so I'm kind of interested to look for diversity in picking my roles out of New Zealand.
'Dredd.' It's probably a requirement that everyone who interviews you asks about it. How is the work on that going right now?
We haven't started shooting, we're about 6 to 8 weeks away. We're pretty blessed with a great script by Alex Garland, and Pete Travis is directing it. They've got some really brilliant ideas, and the support of the creator, John Wagner. And I'm pretty excited about it. It's going to be pretty hardcore, action-packed. I think it'll be a film for fans of flim, but also for the Dredd fans, it'll be the film they've long been waiting for.
So you're working to make it different -- and better -- than the previous adaptation ['Judge Dredd' in 1985].
It's going to have very little resemblance to that movie. It's not a sequel, it's in no way related to that film. And you know, I read online an interview that Sylvester Stallone gave not long ago where, by his own admission, he felt that his version of 'Dredd' was a missed opportunity. So we're going to make sure that this one hits the mark.
Any news on the next 'Star Trek' movie?
I believe we start shooting it around August next year, I think. I'm looking forward to that.