How does a mere mortal become the fearsome Judge Dredd? And how does one do it so well? We sat down with Karl Urban and forced to to explain how one man becomes such an incredible law enforcer. Plus, can you turn corners in those giant Mega City One motorcycles? Urban reveals all.
Dredd's voice has such a a gravelly, rough tone. It is something that we've grown accustomed to for such tough characters? What was the genesis of the voice?
I'll tell you the origin behind that. It wasn't from trying to emulate anything that had come before, it is purely and simply from the comic book. In my research I discovered a description of Dredd's voice and it said his voice sounded like a saw cutting through bone, and what you hear is my interpretation of what that was. I didn't want to play this character as a bellowing posturing Dredd, shouting out lines. That was a choice I didn't want to make. To me it's far more interesting to have a character trying to contain the rage and violence. Without the use of my eyes, I had to try to figure out how that voice was going to sit and how I could maximize the opportunity to express as much as I could at any given moment and that's where the voice ended up.
What is the step by step process to transforming into Dredd?
Well I spent about 14 weeks in the gym lifting heavy things. I got into sick shape and I worked out twice a day, ate 6-7 meals and it was hell. I was not a nice person to live with. I was promoting RED while I was training for Dredd, flying around internationally meeting with you guys, then go with my trainer to find a gym and jump on a plane with a suitcase full of food.
Then I went through a huge process of reading every single comic of Dredd that I could and ended up compiling a book which would have source material that was relevant to the film, from descriptions to dry one-liners that I liked, or a strong image that should be incorporated into the film, and it was through that process where I found the description for the voice.
Then when I got on the ground in Cape Town on pre-production I began to don the full outfit all day, so I could learn how to move and what the limitations are — which wasn't fun since it was Cape Town in summer in a full leather biker suit and helmet. Then there was the combat stuff: We were trained by an ex-British military team that taught us how to move together and clear out a space and move together tactically. They gave us airsoft guns that was a replica of the Lawgiver that we would hide on set. They would shoot at us and we would shoot at them, and it was really cool as it made it feel like what the end game really was. It helped inform me of how to move in the film.
How was it riding the motorcycles? They looked like an awkward ride.
An awkward ride? No, no, it was fun. Going in a straight line — no problem, but getting [around] a corner... was a little bit tricky. It was the first time I got the major Geek giggles when I was on the bike, The Lawmaster, in full gear riding around in that opening sequence in Cape Town, that felt good.
Let's talk about the Lawgiver and the personality of this gun.
The Lawgiver that is a weapon that has multiple settings and different rounds within it. There's phosphorus, a hot shot round that can fire semiautomatic, armor piercing. It's an important piece of equipment. In terms of a superhero Dredd isn't a superhero, his heroism is defined by the fact that he is the kind of guy that walks into a building as everyone else is running out. Dredd doesn't have any powers and he's just a man under there. I didn't want to present a posturing Dredd stepped in ego, I wanted to find the humanity in him, that's what the real challenge was.
What other aspects of Mega City One would you would like to see down the line?
Wow, well I think we're at the point where we're releasing the first film and if it blows up I would like to come back and make more, I really would. But if it ends up being a one-off cult classic i'm genuinely happy with that and proud of what we made.