Karl Urban: From "Cupid" to World-slayer


Cute New Zealander Karl Urban is an up-and-comer to watch. He actually played Cupid (complete with wings!)   in the "Xena" TV series and was Rohan warrior Eomer in the LOTR trilogy. Now the Kiwi actor plays Vaako, an evil but conflicted commander of the dark Necromonger race in the sci-fi action/epic The Chronicles of Riddick. With dark hair, the actor looks different than his blonder Rohan character and will next play a baddie chasing Matt Damon in the thriller The Bourne Supremacy.

Karl was thrilled to work with hot actress Thandie Newton as his sexy wife in "Chronicles" and admits that his character has one weird-looking haircut. Karl, told us about his "Riddick" odyssey and about his role in the upcoming The Bourne Supremacy.

TeenHollywood: So, how would you describe your hairstyle in "Riddick"?

Karl: I think it's an homage to the best days of the 80's. It's a New Wave mullet. Really, the inspiration for it came from a conceptual drawing by this young artist called Anthony Francesco. We were looking for a look for Vaako, and he did this drawing that was quite like a Mohican warrior. We wanted to add a tinge of that, and it comes across.

TeenHollywood: How did you become involved in this project?

Karl: Well, after 'The Lord of the Rings,' I was looking around for something to do, and I heard that David Twohy (director) and Vin Diesel were gearing up to make a sequel to Pitch Black. I was a fan of Pitch Black. I thought it was a pretty slick science fiction film. They really got the art direction right and they particularly paid attention to the characters. I managed to get hold of an early copy of the script, and monitored it. And then, when I heard that they were actively casting, I went in for it.

TeenHollywood: Did being in LOTR help you get the part?

Karl: David Twohy was initially resistant towards hiring anyone from 'The Lord of the Rings,' purely because he's trying to create his own mythology and trilogy. So, I managed to get a meeting and said, "Look, I know you don't want to hire anyone from 'Lord of the Rings,' but I just wanted to meet you for giggles." Yeah, right. We sort of hit it off, and so he gave me a shot, and here we are.

TeenHollywood: How did you prove yourself to him?

Karl: Right off the bat, he just said, "Well, you know, I really meant the other guys, not you." He had a problem with everyone else, but not me. I was looking radically different than when I had appeared in 'The Lord of the Rings,' which helped my cause, and I also wasn't someone who was over-exposed from it. My screen time in 'The Two Towers' was pretty compact in comparison to some of those other guys, so that may have been on my side.

TeenHollywood: Your character is pretty dark and brooding. Did Twohy give you a background for him?

Karl: Very little, actually. He sort of left it up to us to come up with some sort of back story, and that was a lot of fun. That was, inherently, a lot more challenging than doing something like 'The Lord of the Rings,' where you have this massive, mammoth book as your reference, and anything you want to know is in the book. We were inventing it. He really gave us free reign to come up with stuff and he was really supportive, in saying, "Yeah, I like that," or "That doesn't quite fit, but it's quite interesting."

TeenHollywood: How was working with Thandie Newton? Did you develop a back story for your relationship together?

Karl: Oh, yeah, definitely. We met heaps off set and had endless discussions about it. Earlier on, we both keyed into the fact that, essentially, what we were doing was playing Macbeth archetype characters, and so we looked at that and we looked at Kurosawa's Throne of Blood, and just took it from there. Working with Thandie was just a great experience. When you meet someone in your professional life who's at the top of their game it's just effortless. That's how it was working with Thandie. We just had a great time. It was just slick and easy.

TeenHollywood: Your costume looks like heavy armor and leather. Did you have any problems with it?

Karl: No, not really, apart from the fact that you got so hot. All that rubber was like wrapping yourself in cellophane. But, no, it was pretty good. The costumes were easier to work in than 'The Lord of the Rings.'

TeenHollywood: Did you guys train for the physical stuff you had to do?

Karl: I just got together with a stunt choreographer. One of the things that I like about my job is that I'm constantly learning new skills. For 'Bourne,' it was mastering weapons. For 'The Lord of the Rings,' it was horse riding. For The Chronicles of Riddick, it was Chinese wirework choreography and rudimentary stunt training.

TeenHollywood: How different was your character in the finished film compared to what you read in the earliest versions of the script?

Karl: When you're working in film, it's a constant process of evolution, and this was no different. For me, the challenge of this character was just to strike a balance. Here, you have what is, potentially, a fierce warrior and an ardent member of this faith, and he has this weakness, his Achilles heel. It was really important to define exactly what it was, so that the character would be there in the right proportions.

TeenHollywood: Are you signed to reprise the role?

Karl: Yeah, I am. If this one flies, and I hope and I think it will, then we'll be back.

TeenHollywood: Can you talk about your character in The Bourne Supremacy?

Karl: I'm an assassin. What Clive Owen was in the first film, I am in this film. I play a character called --- well, his name is never really established, but he is Jason Bourne's nemesis in the film. Without trying to give too much away, he's one of these guys who's hunting down Jason Bourne. It's going to be a lot darker and it's going to shock people, right off the bat. Within the first 10 minutes, people are going to go, "Wow, I didn't see that coming!"

TeenHollywood: As an actor, what are the challenges of being a solitary figure out there alone?

Karl: That's exactly why I took the piece. It's a character that, in my opinion, was written in the tradition of The Last Samurai. I really liked the fact that there's long echoes of silence. It was a lot of fun to immerse myself in that world.

TeenHollywood: Do you do stunts in it?

Karl: The cool thing about it was that they actually let me do a lot of my own stuff, as far as driving. We were driving through the streets of Moscow at obscene speeds. 'Bourne' was probably the most dangerous project I've ever worked on, in that regard. They taught me how to do a reverse 180, in a car, which is when you've got a vehicle driving 70 or 80 miles an hour, and then, what you do is you just flick it around and then, simultaneously, go in the other direction.

TeenHollywood: Do you have a lot of scenes with Matt Damon, or is it more of a pursuit thing?

Karl: It's more of a pursuit thing. I'm trying to kill him, so it doesn't really work if I succeed too early.

TeenHollywood: Did you have gun training?

Karl: Yeah, I did. I went to the Berlin Police Firearms Range. I know more about guns now than I ever wanted to know. It was a lot of fun, but you feel guilty because these are dangerous weapons that are made for one purpose.

TeenHollywood: Where was The Bourne Supremacy shot?

Karl: Russia, Berlin, India, Georgia (Russia) and Naples. I went everywhere but Naples.

TeenHollywood: Are you living in L.A. now?

Karl: I'm not based anywhere, really. I've been traveling, non-stop, since 'The Lord of the Rings,' especially for the last year. I spend a lot of time on airplanes and in hotels. Home, now, is really wherever I lay my head at the end of the day. The prep that I had to do for The Bourne Supremacy was crazy. Pretty much straight from The Chronicles of Riddick, I flew from Prague and then flew to London and then flew to Berlin and then flew to Moscow, and that was all in the space of five days.

TeenHollywood: If you get labeled as an action hunk, will that bother you?

Karl: To tell you the truth, I haven't really thought that far ahead. But, I guess, media labels are kind of inevitable and people are going to look at me and go, "Oh, he's an action guy," or "He's a bad guy."   The smart thing to do would be to counter-balance what I've done and pick something that's different, but I don't really know that until the next project comes along. I know another action project might come along that's got great characters and a good story, and I'll be compelled to take it. I'm just looking out for something that really grabs my attention. When I read a script and I start making decisions about the character or start imagining a situation that he's in, then that's a pretty good indication that that's something that I'd like to do.

TeenHollywood: How do you feel about having an action figure for your "Riddick" character?

Karl: Well, I'm used to it. It's kind of weird, "Oh, another action figure." But, I went through all of that with 'The Lord of the Rings.' To me, the marketing aspect of the film is just part of modern filmmaking. They plaster your face over lunch boxes. We do get approval over photographs or images or action figures.

TeenHollywood: At some point, would you like to go back home?

Karl: I'd love to. I love traveling around the world and working, but it would be nice, at some point, to take a little bit of a breather. New Zealand is, ultimately, my home and it's the place where I want to raise my family. But, I realize that I will be working internationally for God knows how long.

TeenHollywood: Any ideal co-stars?

Karl: Oh, I've got many. I'd love to work with Viggo again. I'd love to work with Matt and Vin again. I would love to work with Michael Caine. I'm a big fan of his. I'd love to work with Thandie again. I had such a great experience with her this time, and I think that, if we had some more material, we could just chew it up.

TeenHollywood: What do you do really, really well and what do you do badly?

Karl: I do afternoons and evenings really, really well. Mornings, not too well. [Laughs] I do barbecues really, really well, but dishes, not too well. [Laughs]

***

Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.




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