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: