The great thing is that Karl Urban really understands Judge Dredd, which will feed through into his performance:
Question: Did you want to make sure to steer clear of the other movie even though Dredd 3D is not really related to it at all or not a continuation of that story?
Karl Urban: Well, here’s the thing- when I read the script, it became obvious to me that what we were endeavoring to do was completely different. Tonally, you couldn’t get more different. I think that our film is a lot more…well, I don’t really know how to describe it really, but I will say this- going into this movie, I watched the Stallone version to see what worked and what didn’t work.
The way I wanted to approach this character was not to have him be a posturing, bellowing character that was ground in ego; to me, that wasn’t the Dredd I knew. I thought it was far more interesting to have a character with this inner rage who was struggling to contain it rather than letting it all explode. That’s the direction I was going in. I decided that what I wanted to do was to find the humanity within Dredd because he is just a man; he’s not a superhero, he has no superhero power. He’s just a man, and it’s his heroism that makes him so iconic. It’s his heroism that defines him; he’s the guy always walking into the building when everyone else is running out. He does the things most people wouldn’t dare to do in real life, and that was the challenge for me.
It was a huge challenge especially for me to convey all of this without the use of my eyes; the character oscillates from being a protector to being incredibly violent to having this wry, sardonic humor to displaying compassion at times- there are a lot of aspects to this character. The challenge for me then was to make all of that happen from behind the helmet. There’s a weariness to him as well, which I thought was really important.
Question: Did you go back and look at the source material at all to help inform your performance as Dredd?
Karl Urban: Oh yes. That was certainly part of my whole process when I came on board this and entered this world. First of all, I spent like 13 weeks in the gym lifting heavy things and eating seven or eight times a day to train so I could be where I needed to be physically for this character. Then there was the part of the process that I enjoy the most, which is the investigative part, and that was getting my hands on every graphic novel I could.
The real wonderful thing was that I discovered a whole lot of new stories with Dredd that I wasn’t aware of initially when I used to read Dredd back when I was a teenager. Origin stories, the dead man’s walk into America, those sorts of things; and they were all really great stories to find. There’s also a wonderful maturity that happens with Wagner’s writing as the stories go on where this seed of doubt is implanted in the character, which I thought was just fascinating.
Dredd’s story starts off where he’s just this guy who is doing his job, but then after 20 years later, he begins to question things, and I thought that was a wonderful complexity to build into this character. That’s what I wanted to try and plant the seeds for in this movie, too, that weariness.
I am unsure we could have found a better man for the job.