Karl Urban isn’t an actor restricted by type; he’s been in all manner of genre movies – from high-fantasy (The Lord of the Rings) to big-budget sci-fi (Star Trek) to throwback superhero (Thor: Ragnarok), and much, much more. His latest film, Bent, is a crime thriller that sees him take on the neo-noir. Urban plays Danny Gallagher, a former cop framed for as being dirty who, upon leaving prison years later, finds himself wrapped up in a tale of duplicity and dark pasts.
Screen Rant recently caught up with Urban to discuss Bent, where we talked about his and director Bobby Moresco’s shared love of noir film, how he made the character distinct from the grizzled Dredd, and the appeal of the film’s heightened sexuality. We’re also excited to share an exclusive clip from the film – the early boat-set shootout where everything goes wrong for Gallagher, which definitely shows those noir stylings off.
I wanted to start talking about just how this movie came about. It’s got an Oscar winning screenwriter/producer [Moresco won Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture for Crash], and an interesting story. How did the movie develop and how did you come to be involved in it?
I actually met Bobby a few years ago and we bonded over our mutual love for classic noir films. And then last… I guess January, he sent me the script for Bent and I immediately recognized many elements that were inspired by classic noir, and I just loved not only the character but the story. It was a classic good guy doing bad things scenario, and it was fast-paced dialog, a little bit of action, but also quite cerebral, intelligent character in the form of Danny Gallagher, and there was also a fun kind of sexuality about the piece which I really enjoyed as well. So, yeah, I basically said yes let’s do this. And that’s what happened.
You mention the noir influences, which really does come across. It’s got a real neo-noir feel. I got films like The Usual Suspects, which are likewise influenced by noir. In terms of preparing for the role, was there any specific movie you looked to get into the mindset of Gallagher?
Well, laying my cards on the table, it was anything Robert Mitchum, but I’ve got to mention classics like Out Of The Past [and] one his last noir films I really enjoyed, which was shot in the 70s called Farewell My Lovely. And he’s just so good at being this quintessential tough guy, super smart, and the delivery of the dialog is fast-paced, laconic, dry. For me that was probably one of the hugest influences on the role of Danny Gallagher.
I want to talk working with Andy Garcia. You’ve got a really interesting relationship with that character because, as you say in the film, he’s like a father to Gallagher but at the same time there’s this simmering secret. And you guys only have you know a handful of scenes together to get that relationship. How was it to work with him, and did you go about making sure everything was conveyed in those very few short scenes?
Well, you know, I guess we were both blessed with the fact that we had a great director in Bobby Moresco and he’s very specific – he knows what he wants, he knows what is within the world of Bent and what’s not. And he wanted it to be grounded in a kind of reality that wasn’t augmented by any special effects, any overly choreographed fight sequences, and so really all of the actors including Andy, myself and Sofia [Vergara] really took our cues from Bobby and tried to bring his vision to life. I had a fantastic time working with Andy. He came in for a week. Very professional. Turned up, did his thing, and left. He was a joy to work with and I loved not only working with him but also getting to know him a little bit and hearing about his experiences working on great films like The Untouchables and The Godfather. Yeah, so it was good all around.
In terms of actual production, there are very few scenes in this movie that you are not in. It’s your movie and there’s a lot of dialog and pretty much every scene you’re commanding it and you’re the one leading it. So I wonder, how long was the production and in terms of – because you were so integral and so much dialog – how did this make this production more intense or any heavier than another film?
We shot this over, I think, six or seven weeks – from memory – and it didn’t seem like… It went really smoothly and felt like we had an adequate amount of time to achieve what we wanted to achieve. And, you know, in terms of it being dialog-heavy, I think that is a classic element of noir films that these characters talk fast and loose, and that was all part of the deal.
With the noir comes the… you’re not a cop, but you’re a very grizzled detective on this given mission. And that sort of flirts with styles of characters you’ve plated in the past, obviously Dredd. You’ve played very hard-boiled character before, how do you go about when you get given a script where you’ve got a character who may share some traits – or an archetype – with something you’ve done before, and making sure that someone like Gallagher is unique from someone like Dredd?
Yeah, well, I mean, you know it really comes down to what’s on the page, and there are so many wonderful facets of the Gallagher character that makes him completely different than a character like Dredd. I think that his, you know, the fact that he has an empathy about him makes him imminently more relatable less stoic. I don’t particularly have characters that I play in mind when I approach a piece like this. I don’t think, “Oh this is going to be like XYZ” because there’s enough on the page to differentiate it and make it different, and you know I just enjoy doing different things, for me. Like, for example, there’s a wonderful sexuality about this movie that I haven’t had the opportunity to play in a long time and particularly those kind of more intimate scene with Sofia and getting see a softer side of the character of Gallagher was great new material for me.
Bent is out now in theaters and available on demand.
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