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Karl Urban on a blockbuster run from 'Star Trek' to 'RED' R

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 15, 2010 10:05 pm    Post subject: Karl Urban on a blockbuster run from 'Star Trek' to 'RED' R Reply with quote

Karl Urban on a blockbuster run from 'Star Trek' to 'RED'
Friday, October 15, 2010
By Sharon Eberson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Which of these names from the cast of "RED" does not belong in the pantheon of blockbusters: Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Richard Dreyfuss, Brian Cox or Karl Urban?

If you chose Karl Urban, you'd be wrong.

From "The Lord of the Rings" films to "The Bourne Conspiracy" to Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the rebooted "Star Trek," the New Zealander's career has the stamp of successful franchises.

He's keenly aware that he's among Hollywood royalty in "RED," an adaptation from the graphic novel by Warren Ellis. The movie has a much lighter tone than the source material, and that was part of the attraction for Mr. Urban.

"Oh, the humor, absolutely. I thought, when I read the script, it was a group of eclectic, interesting funny characters. At the time I signed on, Bruce was attached to it. Then came Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman ... it just exploded into this phenomenal cast.

"The film's a romp. I think it's like 'Ocean's Eleven' if that had been a spy movie. It's fun, a great date film."

In CIA terms, "RED" stands for "Retired, Extremely Dangerous." Mr. Urban portrays an agent with a license to kill and a family tucked away in suburbia. At 38, he's the whipper-snapper in the all-star cast.

One-liners about aging zing amid the bullets and explosions, but a brutal fight scene with Urban and the 55-year-old Mr. Willis showed the older action star hasn't lost much of that "Die Hard" mojo.

"We trained for about three weeks for that fight and shot it over a period of 10 days," said Mr. Urban by telephone last week.

"Bruce and I had a lot of discussion about the tone of the fight, because it's such a funny film, a hilarious film, but that fight really represents the reality of what's going on. We wanted to put something out there that would really make people just go, 'Ouch.' It was grueling to shoot."

It was put to him that his character took the worst of the fight, but he wasn't having any of it.

"I thought it was a pretty even exchange. ... He doesn't get away completely unscathed," Mr. Urban said. "I'm pretty proud of the fight. I think it stands up as one of the best I've seen [onscreen] in a long time."

Aside from grappling with Mr. Willis, Mr. Urban is often on his own, in pursuit of the RED team. He said that didn't spill over into the off hours, when members of the cast took full advantage of opportunities to socialize in Toronto, where much of the movie was shot.

"We were able to socialize and have drinks, go to the great restaurants. It was always a very ambitious project; we had a limited amount of time and a lot to shoot. We worked hard and played hard, and I think that shows on the screen."

Among the list of Oscar winners in the cast, he was obviously taken with Ms. Mirren, who won her statue for "The Queen" and here plays a trigger-happy ex-CIA operative.

"She's amazing, and she's stunningly gorgeous," Mr. Urban gushed. "I would go to see the film alone just to see 'The Queen' in a ballgown rattling away on a 50-caliber machine gun."

Mr. Urban and Mr. Willis handled the brunt of the physical scenes, including one where Mr. Urban jumps on the roofs of moving cars. The scene was shot on the streets of Toronto.

"We had the benefit of working with great stunt coordination ... everything was done with the utmost safety. There's one scene that Bruce and I didn't do that was deemed too dangerous, but for the most part that's us that you see up there. I give full credit to Bruce for being willing to get in there and fight with a guy much younger."

Not to give too much away, but Mr. Urban's character evolves over the course of the film, so that action isn't his only contribution. When we first meet him, he's carrying out a brutal assignment while on the phone with his wife, discussing their kids.

"The wonderful thing about the way the story is written is that I have a fantastic arc, starting this movie at one point and ending someplace completely different. As an actor, you're constantly looking for material that does that."

In May 2011, Mr. Urban will be seen in "Priest," where he's in full-out nasty vampire mode, vs. Paul Bettany's title character.

Breaking out of the supporting cast mold, he'll star as the title character in "Dredd." Unlike the Sylvester Stallone "Judge Dredd" of 1997, the Peter Travis film is more along the lines of John Wagner's original character, an enforcer of the law in a violent future.

Mr. Urban said he read the comic books as a teenager, and Mr. Wagner's endorsement sealed the deal.

"Dredd" and another upcoming film had the Comic-Con crowd atwitter in July: He expects to be in his Starfleet uniform and on the set of the sequel to J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" by mid-2011.

If he can squeeze in a little independent film in his native New Zealand, that would be nice, too, he said.

On this day, he was city-hopping to promote "RED." He spoke by phone as he was stepping aboard a plane to Dallas, followed by stops in Phoenix and Los Angeles -- not a schedule for the old, or old at heart.

Did Mr. Willis take it in good fun when he was referred to as "grandpa" by his younger co-star?

Mr. Urban laughed. "I enjoyed it," he said.


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