Karl Urban discusses 'RED,' career

Karl Urban’s resume includes films such as “The Lord of the Rings,” “Star Trek” and “The Bourne Supremacy.” If you haven’t heard of him yet, that is about to change.

In his latest film, “RED,” he shares the screen with acting legends Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman, yet his charismatic-with-a-dash-of-cool performance makes it seem like they share the screen with him.

Urban’s character in “RED” represents the new breed of CIA agents, replacing the old school agents that Bruce Willis’ character symbolizes, quite possibly representing Urban’s future in the business — not that he wasn’t excited to work with the ensemble cast of “RED.”

Urban recently sat down with The State Press to discuss “RED,” which he said had a surprising casting process.

“When I signed up for this film, Bruce was attached, and I think Morgan was as well, but every week I opened the paper it seemed ‘Oh my gosh!’ Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Ernest Borgnine,” Urban said. “It just kind of evolved into an incredible cast.”

In the film, Urban’s character, William Cooper, gets into a bit of fisticuffs and then some with Willis’ character Frank Moses. It’s a short scene, but took a bit of time to prepare for.

“It was a three-week training, and then we shot it for 10 days,” Urban said. “It was grueling. We wanted the fight not to be over stylized to the point of distraction, but we really wanted it to be kind of raw and gritty. We wanted the audience to be sitting there going ‘Ooh, ouch!’ I’m proud of it. I think it’s a stand up fight.”

Like Willis’ famed character John McClane of the “Die Hard” franchise, William Cooper has a home to go back to when his crazy day is over. Unlike McClane, he’s calm, collected and even-tempered, taking his job in stride.

“That was a byproduct of the writing, that’s the way the character was constructed. He was this hit man and to balance that out, he’s got a family, which to me was really quite unique,” Urban said. “It’s a job for him. It’s like a plumber going to fix a toilet. It’s just another day at the office. It’s just my office happens to be eliminating people on the behest of the government.”

For the fight scene with Willis, and for the numerous other scenes of action, there was a bit of training to do. For Urban, the skills he was taught were ones he could never use away from a movie set.

“That is one of the insane things about my job is I get taught all these deadly skills that I can never use in real life,” Urban said.

For many of the films Urban works on, almost everything he does could never even take place off of a movie set. “RED” is based on a DC comic, “The Lord of the Rings” is fantasy and “Star Trek” just about defines science fiction. His films attract an audience some might label as being geeky, but for Urban, it’s an audience he can relate to.

“I’m a product of the ‘Star Wars’ generation, and I grew up loving all sorts of genre films, so I feel in many ways I’m no different,” Urban said. “They’re fun films to make.”

The films he does make often seem to fit in to a specific genre: action. Urban said he feels that it’s good to shake things up a bit.

“It’s really important as much as you possibly can to search for diversity. I think it leads to longevity in a career. It’s very typical of Hollywood, once they see you do something and do it well, they tend to offer you more of the same,” Urban said. “That’s why, for me, doing a movie like ‘Star Trek’ was a great counterbalance, because while the character of [Dr. Leonard] ‘Bones’ [McCoy] is a hero, he’s not an action hero.”

“Star Trek,” along with “The Lord of the Rings” and just about every other one of the films Urban has worked on, has not only been successful, but, like the ensemble cast of “RED,” has featured some of the brightest talent in Hollywood. It’s a formula for success Urban stands by.

“There's no guarantee about how any film is going to turn out, but in my experience, you can hedge your bets when you work with talented people, and I’ve been very blessed, very fortunate to have worked with a few goodies.”

Reach the reporter at pmelbour@asu.edu


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