Karl Urban is no stranger to the sci-fi and fantasy genres. He first became well known for his role of Julius Caesar in Xena: Warrior Princess. From that role, he completely immersed himself into the fantasy realm when he took the role of Eomer in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. In recent years, he has shifted towards the sci-fi genre, becoming most known for playing Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the recent Star Trek films. Karl Urban will be taking a further step into the space galaxy as we know it by taking on the role of Skurge in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.
Screen Rant got a chance to chat with Karl Urban on press day, where we discussed how he grounded Skurge, how beneficial the improvising on Thor: Ragnarok was, and whether or not Star Trek 4 is happening.
SR: You are no stranger to the sci-fi genre. However, Thor Ragnarok is a world all of its own with its bombastic production design and colors. How did you manage to ground Skurge despite all this?
Karl Urban: [Laughs] It was really simple. I turned up. The director shaved my head and we went to play. I guess what attracted me to this role was fundamentally the script I saw. A character that was put in a position. He had a choice to make. He either aligns himself with the evil darkness or he dies, and the survivalist in him kicked in and I found that a pretty compelling journey. He does have a wonderful journey. He falls from grace and has an opportunity to redeem himself so there was a lot to work with.
SR: You said something very interesting actually. You read the script and that’s how you were attached to the character and really locked on to him. Now, I heard that roughly 60% of this film was improvised, was that true?
Karl Urban: Yeah, look. I think there was a lot of that actually and that was I guess, full credit to not only Taika, our director, but also Marvel for allowing him to do his thing. For allowing him and giving him the confidence in his ability to explore all of the options, and in my opinion, you know, the one who benefited the most from is Chris Hemsworth. His work in this film is exemplary and I sort of feel like we finally get to see the full potential not only of him as an actor, but also the character of Thor. There’s so much more dynamism about that character. The humor… so yeah. We were blessed on this.
SR: Yeah. It was like another dimension of the character you get to see.
Karl Urban: Yeah!
SR: And to me that was amazing. It really does showcase all of your abilities as actors which I found perfect. One thing I love about Skruge, is that I really felt for him. Mainly because he’s not a villain, he’s a survivalist and you portrayed that perfectly. He had a sense of sadness and a wonderful story arc. Can you talk to me about getting into the zone of that character? How much research did you do on Skurge or was everything you felt on the page of the script is what dictated your performance?
Karl Urban: 99% of the end result of what’s on the screen for that character was what was on the page in terms of the journey. I did a little bit of research. I looked at a couple of comics, but it was actually pretty clear to me after reading the script that, in many ways this was it’s own thing. And that’s all I need really. I guess, there were 3 driving reasons for my decision to take this part. That was one, obviously, working with Taika. Two, working with Cate Blanchett. Most of my scenes were with her, and three, was the script, which had a very complete journey.
SR: Working with Cate.. She’s awesome. Is there anything you kind of learned from her or took from her in terms of your performance?
Karl Urban: No, look. We’ve both been doing this for a long time. What was, I guess, really wonderful to see was her approach to the work and she really cares about what she’s doing and really cares about the character that she’s playing, and being part of the conversation around how, not only her character would manifest itself, but also the both of our characters and what they mean to each other. It was a rewarding process to be apart of.
SR: Taking it out of the superhero realm, this is an amazing movie and Taika’s creativity completely shines through. Can you talk to me a little bit about the vibe he brought to set?
Karl Urban: It’s a loose vibe. He often plays music in between shots. There is no, I guess, pretentious, sacrilegio
us ground between when the take starts and when the take ends. It’s all very seamless. He will give you direction in the middle of a take. He’ll stop it in the middle of the take. Restart it. So really, he takes the pressure right off the actors in a way that its quite liberating and unlike anything else that I’ve experienced before.
SR: As soon as we get introduced to your character, it cracks me up the two guns that Scourge got from Tex-As.
Karl Urban: [Laughs] Oh yeah!
SR: It’s great! Towards the end of the film you utilize those guns. Seeing you with both of those guns immediately made me think, “I need Karl back as Dredd.”
Karl Urban: [LAUGHS]
SR: Is there any movement on Judge Dredd?
Karl Urban: Well, Rebellion, who owns the rights to Judge Dredd are currently developing a television series called Mega City One, and I’ve had many discussions with them about my involvement of which I am interested, and I said to them, Listen, if you write a character that has a function and a purpose and contributes to the overall story, then I might be very interested in reprising that role. I certainly wouldn’t want to step into it and just pay lip service to the movie. There has to be some material there that warrants further exploration of that character. So the balls in their court.
SR: Earlier, you said a lot of Thor: Ragnarok was improvised. Is there anything that didn’t make the final cut that you really wanted to see?
Karl Urban: You know what, I can’t wait to see the extras on this. There must be at least one or two films just of improvised material. [Laughs] And it’s so hilarious, you know, obviously, due to running time it didn’t make the cut, and I can’t wait to see that. I’ll just give you an example. When my character is introduced he’s trying to woo these two girls and he shows them all his sort of stolen items from across the galaxy, and we just rolled on that for about an hour of just Skurge showing all of these ridiculous things like fishing rods, musical instruments, [laughs] and you just saw a little bit of that. We had so much fun it was hilarious and I’m sure there’s a wealth of material there. I can’t wait to see the extras on this.
SR: Seems like you could cut a whole other film with this stuff.
Karl Urban: Oh you could, you totally could. You literally could make 3 movies.
SR: Last question I have is obviously Star Trek Discovery has been a big hit. You’re a big, huge part of that rebooted franchise. Is there any chance or any movement on a Star Trek 4 film? Chris Hemsworth is also rumored to be attached to it.
Karl Urban: Yeah, look, I don’t know. I haven’t heard anything. Obviously, I would love the opportunity to make another Star Trek film. We always have so much fun when we get together. That cast is… they’re like family. That being said, if Star Trek Beyond was the last one we got to make, then I’m proud of the film and I’m happy to end it there.
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