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As his profile grows with the release of Dredd, Kiwi Karl Urban is determined to stay as grounded as possible

He has travelled on the Starship Enterprise, fought alongside Gandalf and taken potshots at Jason Bourne. Yet, for all his franchise hopping, Kiwi actor Karl Urban has remained well below the celebrity radar – which is just the way he likes it.

“I try to keep a pretty low profile and I don’t put myself out in the media or try to become a celebrity,” explains the actor, who lives in Auckland with wife Natalie and teenage sons Hunter and Indiana.

“Part of that is about protecting my children. I want to ensure that they have as normal a childhood as possible.”

It is becoming increasingly tougher for Urban and his family to dodge the spotlight, though.

Having been part of large ensemble casts in the last two The Lord Of The Rings films, Star Trek and The Bourne Supremacy, the actor this month takes centre stage as UK comic book icon Judge Dredd in Dredd 3D, one of the year’s most anticipated action movies.

With fanboys’ fingers hovering above their keyboards, ready to lash out if Urban’s portrayal of the futuristic cop does not do justice to the revered source material, the pressure is on like never before. But if the 40-year-old is feeling the heat, he’s not showing it.

“To be honest, the pressure I felt was from myself. When I’m making a film, I am just concentrating on making the best choices I can,” he points out.

“I don’t take too much time to think about peripheral elements, such as other people’s reactions. I just wanted to make sure that I got things right.”

Dredd-heads can rest assured that Urban has done everything in his power to make his version of the Judge very memorable, starting with a gut-busting fitness regime.

“Dredd cuts a very imposing figure in the comic books so I worked intensively with a trainer for 12–15 weeks and got into fantastic shape, the best shape of my life in fact,” he says.

“Half of getting into shape is eating the right food, so every two hours you have to feed your body the right nutrients in order for it to respond and for the muscles to repair and grow. Staying in shape is a full-time job and one that I don’t particularly enjoy.”

Another challenge was the fact that, unlike the derided 1995 Judge Dredd film starring Sylvester Stallone, Dredd does not remove his helmet at all in the new movie.

“As an actor, your eyes are one of the most valuable tools,” Urban says. “So it was certainly tough working on a project where I was denied the use of them. Working on Dredd 3D was very intense, but I thrive in that environment.”

Making the film was a particularly satisfying experience for Urban because of where it was shot. To give the movie a distinctive look, the team behind Dredd 3D opted for Cape Town as a location, a choice that suited the actor down to the ground as a rugby-mad New Zealander.

“As a Kiwi, there is this instant connection culturally with South Africans because of rugby,” he says. “It’s a wonderful bonding agent. I went to a rugby game at Newlands while we were filming and it was fantastic.

“I have a lot of people in South Africa who owe me vast amounts of cash from bets we made during the World Cup.

I made some wonderful friendships out there. Discovering new countries and cultures and meeting new people while working in interesting locations are aspects of my job that I enjoy. Being an actor is a great ticket to see the world.”


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Interview: NZ actor Karl Urban on playing a UK comic book icon in Dredd 3D
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