Last weekend at SDCC 2012, Campus Circle got to sit down with Karl Urban, the star of the upcoming Dredd 3D, for a Q&A to talk about the latest incarnation of the man that is “THE LAW!”

Q: This is a new adaptation of iconic comic-book hero Judge Dredd, 20 years after the Sylvester Stallone take on the story. How does this Dredd steer clear of the last film?

Karl Urban: When I read the script, it became obvious to me what we were endeavoring to do was completely different. Tonally, you couldn’t get more different. Going into this movie I watched the Stallone version to see what worked and what didn’t work. The way that I wanted to approach the character was not to have the character be a posturing, bellowing character that was kind of ground in ego –to me that wasn’t the Dredd that I knew. To me, it was far more interesting to have a character with this inner rage and struggling to contain it, rather than letting it all explode. I decided what I wanted to do is find the humanity within Dredd –he is just a man, a cloned man; he doesn’t have super hero powers.  His heroism is defined by…he’s walking into a building while everybody else is running out, and he does the things that most people wouldn’t dare to do in real life. That was the challenge: to convey all this without the use of eyes. The character oscillates from being a protector to being incredibly violent to having this wry humor to displaying compassion, protecting citizens [or] just unleashing the violence. 

Q: This is your second time taking over a role previously made known by another. Do you take into account the other portrayals of the roles?
KU: I think it’s a mistake. There are so many things in this world that are beyond your control. All you can do when you’re in a situation like that – despite the fan pressure, despite the expectations – the best thing you could do is concentrate on the character and the story you’re trying to tell.

Q: Was the source material a part of the research you did for the character?
KU: Oh yeah, that was part of the whole process of my entering into this. First of all, I spent 13 weeks in the gym lifting heavy things, eating seven times a day just to get physically where I needed to be with the character –to feel like the character. Then there’s the part of the process that I love: the investigative part –that was getting my hands on every graphic novel that I could, and the real wonderful thing was that I discovered a whole lot of new Dredd stories that I wasn’t aware of, that had come out subsequent to my reading “Dredd” when I was a teenager.  There’s a wonderful maturity that had developed in [creator John] Wagner’s storytelling, where [there’s a] seed of doubt implanted in the character. Then suddenly there’s this switch; there’s this change in the way the character was written, and he becomes a lot more complex and interesting, and that was one of the things I wanted to see in this movie: the beginning of that weariness.

Q: In the comics, Dredd has a helmet, and in the Stallone film, he doesn’t. Was wearing the helmet a very important factor in your involvement in the film?
KU: It was hugely important. My agent called me up and said, “Would you be interested in Judge Dredd?,” and I was like, “Hell yeah! Send me the script.” I read it, and then I was immediately relieved to discover that the character kept the helmet on. At one point, Alex [Garland, who wrote the screenplay] turned to me and said, “Just so we’re clear, you’re aware that Dredd keeps the helmet on in this movie. It’s not coming off at any point.” And I looked at him and said, “I would not be taking this meeting if he did.”

Dredd 3D releases September 21.