It can't be a big surprise that there was some hesitation on the part of film fans when it was announced a new Judge Dredd film was being made. After all, the British comic book's 1995 adaptation, which starred Sylvester Stallone, didn't exactly strike a chord with the public and was a box office bomb.
The new feature, Dredd, bombed as well when it was released in September 2012, but the critical response has been quite positive and this new film has the makings of a cult classic. Now that this version, which is much more faithful to the graphic novel, has made its way to DVD, I suspect the film will get the devoted fan base it was denied during its theatrical run.
One of the things that makes this adaptation different is that it features Karl Urban of Lord of the Rings and Star Trek fame. Over the course of his career, Urban has turned in to a solid leading man, primarily in action and genre films. Also, the screenplay for Dredd was written by Alex Garland, who previously penned 28 Days Later, Sunshine and Never Let Me Go, earning a reputation for writing genre films possessing a sense of depth.
In this new take, Urban stars as Judge Dredd and Olivia Thirlby plays Judge Cassandra Anderson, a judge in training who also has special psychic abilities. We got to sit down with Urban and Thirlby in a roundtable interview on the opening night of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival to talk about Dredd, which premiered that night.
Where you a fan of the Judge Dredd comics?
Olivia Thirlby: I wasn't a huge fan before getting the part, but in researching the role it was really important to get into the comics. I had to see who this woman was I was going to get to play.
Karl Urban: I didn't read many comics at all growing up but Dredd was one of them. It was introduced to me by a friend by the fact that you could buy it in the local shops. I responded to the character. A tough lawman with a dry sense of humor. I responded to the world of Mega City One and the character, the people who actually live in the world. Quite often, the stories weren't about Dredd but the inhabitants that made up Mega City One and their lives, so I just found that interesting.
Looking at your biography, Karl, you've been in many genre/sci-fi films.
KU: Look, I haven't planned my career this way. I've just been in a few genre-orientated films, but I have also been in films like Red, The Bourne Supremacy and my Australian films like Out of the Blue that wouldn't be classified as genre at all. To me, it's all about the character, the story and who I am working with. If I read a piece of material and I respond to it, I start making decisions about how I'd play the character or how I'd feel in that situation.
It must have been a challenge to you as an actor to play a character in a mask that is never removed throughout the film.
KU: Not just visually as well. As a character, he is a highly trained individual that has learned to control his emotions. He's learned not to express, so you are working within a very narrow bandwidth. What I did find interesting was that what became important was the action of what Dredd did, what he did and the choices he made. Those actions and those choices informed the audience of the type of guy he is. For example, there is a massacre of men, women and children and suddenly we see a Dredd that we hadn't seen before [up to that point]. He's a tightly wound-up coil and then he lets loose. Similarly, how he chooses to treat that group of kids threating to kill him, pointing weapons at him. He makes a choice. He could choose to kill them or to not to kill them, and that is a choice. Also, the funeral is really important. It was important in the comics and in this.
I read the script and met with [producers] Alex [Garland] and Andrew [MacDonald] and [director] Pete [Travis] in LA. They said, "Look let's be clear that the helmet says on. Halfway through, you are not going to ask to remove it and have scenes without the helmet." I assured them that I wouldn't be here if they had him remove the helmet in the script. I think that reassured them and that made them go, "All right, you are our guy; you got the job."
In terms of physicality, was there a lot of training? Was that difficult?
OT: It was. It was a good amount of training. We had about three weeks of military, combat and tactical training. Karl was also hitting the gym like a madman. It is challenging to do that physical kind of stuff, especially in the costume, which was very restrictive [and] made of leather, very tight and not prone to easy movement. It was a challenge I happily took on though. This was a new territory for me and really exciting to be able to do physical acting work. It was very important to take it on properly because the world of Mega City One is a very real and very gritty place. You have to believe someone like me can drop a big guy with right hook and make it look real.
Is the genre stuff something you can see yourself doing in the future?
OT: Well, I certainly feel that I hit the jackpot with this character of Anderson. So, as far as genre stuff goes, I'm not closed or sealed off to any possibilities.
If Dredd is successful, where do you see it going in the future?
KU: Well, it's interesting. I don't think any of us making the film are really contemplating a sequel because all of our energies have been focused on getting this movie made and released. And, you know, if we never made another one, I would be okay with that too. It's a great movie that I think has enough legs to it to stand alone.