EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Karl Urban

Karl Urban is one of the better known actors in the new Star Trek, especially to genre fans who know him as Eomer from two of the Lord of the Rings films, but it is spot on take on McCoy that is getting him a lot of buzz now. In our interview with the new Bones, we talk about what it was like for a fan to take on the iconic role, how he chose to honor the original, where he wants to take Bones, and more. [interview contains minor spoiler].

 

Interview with Karl Urban
 

TrekMovie: As a fan did was it an issue for you to sign on to do this film before you read the full script?

Urban: I had enough faith in JJ Abrams and I had worked with Bob Orci and Alex Kurtzman in the past. So I kind of knew that if these guys were involved, they were not going to sell the Star Trek legacy short.

TrekMovie: In my review, and other reviews, it has been you are kind of channeling DeForest Kelly in your portrayal. More than any of the other actors, you seem to be kind of ‘doing’ the original actor, but without it being mimicry. Did you and JJ sit down and decide to go that route with Bones –to make him the one that would be the closest to the original?

Urban: No, actually. We never really had that conversation. As a long-term fan I felt it was important to see some semblance of continuity to the wonderful work Mr. Kelley had done. And really, to me, it is about the character’s attitudes. And there is a certain specific way that the character of McCoy reacts in certain situations and I really could only do my version of what that could be. There were certain character traits that were keys for me. Finding a voice was important. I remember JJ coming up to me one day and he says "what you are doing is wonderful, it is not DeForest Kelley, but it is something that is Bones, but it’s different, and keep on doing what you are doing." I had a lot of fun working on this character. I got to do and say some fun things. I am just very grateful that the character has gone down well thus far. I look forward, if I get the opportunity, to continue to develop it in further installments..



Clip showing Urban’s classic take on Bones

TrekMovie: So let’s assume there is a trilogy, as is common these days, what would you like to see for the arc of Bones?

Urban: That is a very expansive question and we have forty years of Star Trek history to cherry-pick from. If this movie finds an audience and if it is appreciated, it would be wonderful to come back. We had so much fun making this movie. I would like to see the character’s relationships continue to evolve towards that classic Bones/Spock/Kirk triumvirate. Bones was originally conceived to be Kirk’s conscience by the original writers and I would like to see that representation – that moral touchstone and be that moral compass for Kirk. And to continue to develop the battle of logic vs. emotion with Spock. To me that was one of the more enjoyable scenes in the movie when I got to spar with Quinto. There are a ton of other things, but I think it is presumptuous.

TrekMovie: As a fan. what was your biggest fanboyish moment in making this movie?

Urban: I think it was meeting Leonard Nimoy and being on set the very first day that he became Spock again, the first time in seventeen years. to be this close, as I am to you, to an actor and character of such iconic status who you have enjoyed and has been part of your childhood — to be that close to him was such surreal moment. To hear him deliver those lines in that Spock cadence — I’ll never forget it. I feel very privileged to be part of it and blessed that he was part of our film.

TrekMovie: There is something about McCoy that is both lovable and as you have called him, irascible. But sometimes he kind of steps onto or even towards racism, with regards to Vulcans. He seems to have a wide range of things to call Vulcans and you throw out a few in the film, such as ‘green-blooded hobgoblin’. Is it difficult to deliver that and have it not feel a bit racist…or species-ist?

Urban: No, not at all, because that potentially xenophobic perspective, if you chose to interpret it like that, is well-grounded in a point of view of a man who is so passionate and emotionally in touch with himself and his feelings and not afraid to express it. He is not afraid to tell people what he thinks, no matter what the consequences. His moral opinion is very very sound. So for him to express how he feels is found in a reality. In our film, that beat where he calls him a ‘pointy-eared bastard’ is founded in the fact that Spock has done what he has done to his best friend and he is not happy about it. I certainly hope we get to continue — to me watching the original show, that was always one of the more entertaining aspects, to see how those characters clashed. I loved it. I loved the conflict. There was one particular episode when Kirk is stuck in a space suit in some sort of transporter malfunction and he keeps appearing and reappearing on the bridge, "The Tholian
Web", and Spock and McCoy have that great seen where they have to learn to work together.


Urban loves playing conflict with Spock

TrekMovie: Did you find yourself reviewing old episodes or were they fresh enough?

Urban: They were fresh enough. I had watched the entire DVD box set with my son a couple of years ago so I felt I didn’t need to go back. If anything, I felt I would be doing myself a disservice to go back over as I felt I had an understanding of the character and the relationship dynamics of the significance of Bones in the Star Trek world. For me it was just about working with the script and the actors to be in the moment and try and do justices for such an iconic character.

TrekMovie: In the decade you were in some of the biggest epic movies, with the Lord of the Rings. How would you contrast the styles of JJ [Abrams] and Peter [Jackson]?

Urban: Good question! JJ reminds me a lot of Peter Jackson. They are both directors who are at the peak of their power. Not only do they have supreme command of the technical aspects of filmmaking, but they are both incredibly gifted when it comes to the emotional beats – the human beats. They both have this ability to reduce the epic scale of everything down to a single, identifiable human beat that we can all relate to. I will give you examples from both of them. Peter Jackson in The Two Towers has two armies facing off against each other at Helm’s Deep and it all comes down to this one archer with his bow drawn and he is shaking in fear, so much that he ‘ah’ lets the arrow fly and it kills someone in the other army and the war is on. He reduces it down to that identifiable of fear, of the individual. JJ does the same kind of thing in our movie where you show this epic space battle, and you zero in on this woman walking through a corridor and you don’t know and
you’ve never met, and suddenly there is an explosion and she gets sucked out into the vacuum of space and it goes silent. And for a beat you feel for that woman who has just lost her life and again it is reducing it down to the human beat. Very, very clever man.


Urban (pictured left with Pine as Kirk) – impressed with Abrams’ ability to humanize an epic

 

Up Next – Bruce Greenwood
The next exclusive interview is with the Captain of the Enterprise, Bruce Greenwood, who has received raves for his job as Pike. We talk about how his Pike is different than Jeffry Hunter’s, what other leader’s he sees in Pike and what it was like filming a particularly uncomfortable scene.

Other final pre-movie exclusive interviews at TrekMovie:

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
JACathcart
May 6, 2009 2:50 pm

Karl is a class act, and it’s such a pleasure to see him in this role.

May 6, 2009 2:53 pm

Just saw the Movie, Karl is hilarious! Its amazing how sensitive he copies DeForrest. More of him in the future!

Damn it, Jim!

CharlieX
May 6, 2009 2:53 pm

I think you put Quinto where it should say Urban

CharlieX
May 6, 2009 2:58 pm

Fixed. Cool interview. Urban is a class act.

Driver
May 6, 2009 2:58 pm

Please let there be at least a trilogy of films.

SuperScuba
May 6, 2009 2:59 pm

I think McCoy is going to be my favorite character in this film.

Janeways Knickers
May 6, 2009 2:59 pm

god damn it jim, i’m an urban, not a quinto

Megg
May 6, 2009 3:00 pm

I think he might be my favorite.

ClassicTrek
May 6, 2009 3:10 pm

i think Mr Urban will be the dark horse in this movie. im pleased hes playiing Bones McCoy

Greg
uk

I am not Herbert
May 6, 2009 3:10 pm

Karl is GREAT!! ..loved him ever since Xena! =D

Can’t wait to see him as McCoy! (Are you out of your VULCAN mind?!)

mike
May 6, 2009 3:16 pm

25 hrs and 45 min. Tomorrow needs to hurry up.

freezejeans
May 6, 2009 3:18 pm

Karl’s awesome, and what a body of work he’s building up…LOTR and Trek, pretty good. Sounds like a cool guy to just hang out with, too.

May 6, 2009 3:18 pm

Urban rocks. Well thought out answers. He’s a classy guy.

Trekker chick
May 6, 2009 3:23 pm

28 hours!

/Happy feet!

DavidJ
May 6, 2009 3:24 pm

Only a trilogy? Are you kidding??

If they’re going to go all the way back to the beginning of TOS and start fresh, they CAN’T just stop at Episode 3, for christ’s sake!! They need to make 78 more of these things. ; D

TrekYou
May 6, 2009 3:27 pm

im a little surprised there is no spoiler warning for this interview. in terms of what we’ve seen/heard previously, there were a lot of tidbits in here that i would have liked to have been surprised by. sure, small tidbits.. anyway, just my two cents.

also, does nobody proofread these things?

Derf
May 6, 2009 3:28 pm

Two things struck me reading that.

First, that was a great interview, and I think I rather like this Karl Urban chap.

Second, I ‘really’ hate beets :\

Penhall99
May 6, 2009 3:33 pm

I think Urban will end up being the best new cast member.

I love how he’s actually channeling De Kelley, instead of simply “doing his own thing” with the role like everyone else.

And its so clear that he’s actually a fan of the original. Sure, they all say they are fans, but Urban actually IS a fan, as opposed to someone who watched it a few times or saw bits and pieces of the show.

And Anthony, Bones is NOT a racist…not even close.

May 6, 2009 3:36 pm

I know this isn’t the right place, but I’m so exited.
A few moments ago I left my local Cinema in Germany after two fantastic hours of movie magic! This new film is absolutly great.
Go watch it….

Trekker chick
May 6, 2009 3:40 pm

@17

I know that the issue of the female crew member had been previously ‘outed’ here at TM.com. Was that what you’re referencing?

/enjoying the iPod download of the soundtrack right now

I am not Herbert
May 6, 2009 3:41 pm

Hey Anthony! GREAT job on the interviews!!! =D

Did you get a chance to talk with Simon Pegg? (PLEASE say yes!)

TREKKIE369
May 6, 2009 3:43 pm

I think Karl will be a great Bones.

#15–Why only 78?!

#17–I agree about Bones and Beets.

Had my tickets last week. Wanted opening night…bought for Friday. Then they released Thursday open for purchasing tickets…ARRRRRGH!

*holding both ears* lalalalalalalalala I’m not listening….!

I am not Herbert
May 6, 2009 3:49 pm

OK, thanks Anthony

Trekker chick
May 6, 2009 3:58 pm

@23

I’d already bought my ticket for Thursday night, and a day later, tickets at an IMAX theater even closer became available.

Solved THAT! Going to see it in IMAX on Sat., a second time, with friends!

EM
May 6, 2009 4:04 pm

Great interview. He is well versed and well spoken. Can’t wait to see this movie!

Mark
May 6, 2009 4:05 pm

Thanks Ant

He was super in LOTR’s………And seemd spot on as Bones

Sci-Fi Bri
May 6, 2009 4:06 pm

23, 26:

most movie theatres are have very liberal exchange policies. i would just go to the theatre and exchange them.

i purchased my midnight showing tickets 3 weeks early, then an 8pm show opened up 5 days ago, so i went to exchange them. it took 4 minutes, no questions asked.

Shat Hands
May 6, 2009 4:09 pm

Of all the characters, I am really looking forward to Karl Urban’s performance.
The scene in the shuttle is fantastic. I particularly liked the score from the Delta Vega monster chase as well.

All these snippets have not only washed any fears away but also made me so excited I think I may pee myself!

The whole movie has me like a kid at Christmas!

Not that I peed myself at Christmas mind you!

Trekker chick
May 6, 2009 4:16 pm

@29

Gives me a chance to see both versions

Besides, it is showing at a completely different theater complex: the one I’m going to on Thurs is a mile or so away from work – which is 30 miles from home – so, I’m making it a ‘treat myself to dinner and a movie’, then head home on my motorcycle (Goldwing touring bike), and then see it with friends at an IMAX theater closer to home on Saturday.

Bugs Nixon
May 6, 2009 4:21 pm

I just wanted to say that I’m sitting here in the uk in the cinema waiting for the show to begin. Just wanted to say thanks Trekmovie for getting from there to here! See you on the other side!

Daoud
May 6, 2009 4:27 pm

#10 Well, you know him as Caesar from Xena… did you ever see his blooper reel/outtake where he invents the Caesar Salad? Anthony, you should find and add that clip to show what a natural Karl is. I can’t find it ’round Youtube though.

#Everyone. I don’t think he’s copying Kelley, as much as he’s copying McCoy. And he should! See, this way things in this alternate history are identical to the original…. and I like that aspect.

For as many characterizations as possible to be the same ties in with the idea that the universe is “fixing” itself back in the aftermath of Nero.

Wish that Karl could get a “Best Supporting Actor” nod for this effort.

Jtrekker
May 6, 2009 4:38 pm

Anyone seen Rotten Tomatoes recently? Looks like a couple of the negative reviews are starting to come in. Specifically, Roger Ebert. I was actually a little surprised by that one. Ebert has never struck me as a Trekkie, but the arguements he makes sounds almost like he read half the negative comments on this site made before the movie came out and combined them into a review. From the other reviews I’ve read, I’m really wondering if he just wanted to be one of the first major critics to make Star Trek (09) look bad.

If you are interested, here is the link:

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090506/REVIEWS/905069997

But, for the record, the Tomatometer is still at 94% right nwo, so I can live with that…

Dunsel Report
May 6, 2009 4:42 pm

While I am sure I will disagree with Ebert’s review after seeing the movie, it rings true to Ebert’s own principles and pet peeves. His annoyance with the lack of awe in the time travel plot twist reminds me of his review that I loved of “Jack Frost.” He was exasperated that a kid wouldn’t have better questions to ask a snowman who has returned from the dead.

Lucas
May 6, 2009 4:45 pm

its now 7.44am in Malaysia 7th May.. Gonna watch in gold class in 12.20pm… 5 more freaking hrs to go.. darn

cdp
May 6, 2009 4:46 pm

#33

I found this clip of Karl Urban as Caesar on Youtube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E00Ikj2B0xg

Jefferies Tuber
May 6, 2009 4:48 pm

Ladies’ man. Can’t wait for him to have a tragic romance.

Paulaner
May 6, 2009 4:58 pm

OT: listening to the soundtrack. It’s really awesome, original and different from the previous ones. Everything in this movie is new and fresh :)

eknirb
May 6, 2009 5:07 pm

The clip where he goes, “Thick tongue??? ….I can FIX that.” and then zaps Kirk with the hypo-spray over and over, with a final STOP THAT from Kirk- priceless. I have watched that clip a dozen times, easy.

DAMMIT JIM!

Dr. X
May 6, 2009 5:25 pm

INTERVIEW with Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto from May 3rd (can’t get the “send it in” link to work, apologies)

http://suicidegirls.com/interviews/Leonard+Nimoy+and+Zachary+Quinto%3A+The+Two+Faces+of+Spock/

Magic_Al
May 6, 2009 5:58 pm

Urban must have Spock’s intellect. Very comprehensive answers.

yvaine
May 6, 2009 6:02 pm

@ #34 – I read that and thought, of all the things he could’ve latched on to in the movie and didn’t like, it was the SCIENCE FICTION?! What the…?! I read the other negative reviews, and they were valid personal opinions. But Ebert’s was just… weird.

Anthony – I hope you have an interview with Chris. I’m really waiting for that one. :D

Jorg Sacul
May 6, 2009 6:24 pm

Who gives a flying tribble what the reviewers say… go see and judge for yourselves.

I Am Morg Not Eymorg
May 6, 2009 6:39 pm

Ebert is worse, he’s a Science Fiction snob.

JMN

CarlG
May 6, 2009 7:34 pm

Yeah, Ebert seems to have a very odd relationship with SF in general, and Trek in particular.

Bugs Nixon
May 6, 2009 8:06 pm

Seen it !

its 4 am and i cant sleep – it was sensational. It was superb. It was loads of fun. Great fun. Will go back at the weekend.

John Sullivan
May 6, 2009 8:19 pm

#1 – I agree. A really classy guy. He seems to have a real respect for the Franchise, and it’s not his fault if the CGI wasn’t even started before he left the greenscreen for the last time this time around.

#45 – I’m a Sci-Fi snob myself. But for Star Trek, I really can’t stand anything of the sort. Shouts the Litany “get a life!” every time I think of Shatner saying it, and remembers a line from the very first episode … as soon as dreams become more important than reality, you’re living a wasted life.”

Ebert is even older than I am, which is probably why he can’t fathom a movie designed to save a Studio or two, made for the 17-25 demographic, under the presumption that the core audience has never seen Star Trek.

But I can’t wait to see this movie. I really can’t. I do love Star Trek and know that a lot of people have been working very hard to give us what Les Moonves promised we would have once CBS / Viacom cancelled Star Trek: Enterprise – a bigger and better Star Trek.

So, I hope he’s right. There are actually three things I’m looking forward to even more than this movie this weekend … 3) Church on Sunday, 2) Date on Saturday, and 1) Science Friday!

John Sullivan
May 6, 2009 8:26 pm

I just read the Ebert review and I agree one doesn’t even have to see the movie to realize that this isn’t exactly “where no man has gone before,” and that as I said yesterday in response to one of the webmaster’s posts, Kirk as we love and know him is the high-strung idealistic maverick statesman effective because he’s not only sure of himself, but right even when Vulcan logic dictates otherwise … and to see him as a hot-headed short-sighted punk stumbling around in life just to get by … that’s not our Kirk.

Kirk's Girdle
May 6, 2009 8:31 pm

I actually think he sounds more like Sawyer, but his attitude is great.

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