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Article updated: 9/23/2012 5:52 PM

Urban shoots for authenticity in 'Dredd' role

Karl Urban plays Judge Dredd, who goes about his job as judge, jury and executioner in the science fiction thriller “Dredd 3-D.”

Karl Urban plays Judge Dredd, who goes about his job as judge, jury and executioner in the science fiction thriller "Dredd 3-D."

Olivia Thirlby and Karl Urban, stars of the new move “Dredd 3-D,” attend the New York premiere earlier this week.

Olivia Thirlby and Karl Urban, stars of the new move "Dredd 3-D," attend the New York premiere earlier this week.

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Karl Urban is probably best known for his role as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the reboot of the "Star Trek" movie series. This weekend, he takes on a futuristic crime fighter in "Dredd 3-D," based on the British comic book Judge Dredd, about a hero who functions as a judge-jury-and-executioner combo to keep lawlessness at bay.

Urban, a New Zealand native, came to Chicago recently to promote "Dredd."


Q. How did it feel to be reunited with your "Star Trek" cast mates for the sequel to the series reboot?

A. We completed principal photography in May. We all had a fantastic time getting back together. It was wonderful to continue the journey of these characters. It felt like a family coming back together.

Q. I read when original "Star Trek" Vulcan Leonard Nimoy saw your performance as Dr. McCoy, he cried. True story?

A. What actually happened was that Mr. Nimoy, as least what his wife said to me, was reminded so much of his dear friend DeForest Kelly that it was the memory of his friend that moved him. That was incredibly touching for me.

Q. Your costume covers everything but your chin, so Dredd's voice becomes his character. How did you create it?

A. In my research, I read every Judge Dredd comic book I could get my hands on. In one of those comics, I found a single panel that described how his voice sounded: like a saw cutting through bone. That was my starting point. I wanted there to be a certain resonance and authority in the voice.

I was also cognizant of the fact that in script, that Dredd uses his voice as a weapon at times. It was also important that it be a real voice, not a computer-enhanced or generated voice. That's just the way Dredd sounds.

Q. You did a lot of training to portray Dredd, and so did your co-star Olivia Thirlby. What was that like?

A. I certainly did a tremendous amount of training for the film. Anyone who has read a Dredd comic book knows the character has an incredible physique. So I spent three months working out with a trainer, trying to get into the correct shape. That was physically the most challenging thing I've ever attempted before.

Olivia and I underwent a 2˝-week military boot camp in which we performed in full uniform, motorbike suits and full body armor during the height of the South African summer. Every day we're out there learning maneuvers. The challenge became to keep the weight on.

Q. Dredd was created during the Margaret Thatcher years in Great Britain. Do you consider the politics of a character when you audition?

A. Absolutely, I consider the politics. But only in reference to defining the character. Obviously, the character of Dredd is a representation of a totalitarian infrastructure. But, they are desperate measures for a desperate time.

Q. What's the kick you get out of playing a character such as Judge Dredd?

A. People are having fun with this movie. They enjoy spending time with these characters. That's the greatest reward for me, for all the hard work, time and energy. We had a great time making this movie, and if people have a great time watching it, for me, it doesn't get better than that.

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