Karl Urban Leaves His Mark on “Beyond”, A Film He Nearly Turned Down

The man who plays Leonard McCoy talks Beyond, the relationship between Spock and McCoy, and the reason he was initially hesitant to return.

Karl Urban, in an interview with StarTrek.com, felt that the version of McCoy depicted in Star Trek Beyond is the most complete version of the character he has had the benefit to play. Urban was thankful for the openness director Justin Lin and writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung had, noting “I collaborated with Simon and Doug and Justin to bring a well-defined version of the character to screen,” adding “there’s a lot of material in the film that’s a direct result of e-mails and conversations and opinions that I held about what I wanted the character to do in this movie.”

Urban continues, “for example, when Spock stitches McCoy up, and [Spock] volunteers him for a dangerous mission, the whole sequence boarding the transporter pad was filled with dialogue that I had submitted and was approved. There was the scene before we go into the cave where Spock says, “Fascinating,” and McCoy says, “Dark. Ominous. Dangerous.” I can’t remember the exact words. But, you know. And it’s the direct opposite to what Spock’s saying. There’s a lot of other little instances of the little beats, like when McCoy’s in the hive ship and asks Spock if that was classical music, in reference to the Beastie Boys.”

Urban was hesitant to return to the franchise because he was in agreement with fans and critics that McCoy had become marginalized in Star Trek Into Darkness. Urban was out of contract and in negotiations for another film, “but I got on the phone with Justin Lin, and I raised my concerns and issues with him. And he outlined the story and the vision that he had for the character. And I was immediately intrigued and also somewhat reassured that he was a long-term fan of Star Trek, that he understood the weight and value of the character, and how the character interacts with Spock and Kirk. So that gave me a great deal of security, which enabled me to make the decision.”

Urban explains, “[exploring McCoy’s relationship with Kirk] was really kind of what drew me back to reprise the role again. I felt that in Into Darkness, Kirk’s relationship with McCoy was, by and large, completely inferred. And especially when you put it in context of the historical relationship that they share in not only the original TV series, but also in Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. And then it was nice in this one to actually be able to see McCoy function not only as a friend, but also as a psychologist. And to help put Kirk in touch with his existential dilemma.”

For more from Urban on the film’s relationship between McCoy and Spock, filming action sequences, his admiration for Justin Lin, and his upcoming films, check out the entire interview at StarTrek.com.

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thanks for sticking to your guns karl and influencing the finished product in a positive way. you make the perfect nu-mccoy.

It’s a shame that the best of the Kelvin timeline movies is doing so badly at the box office. Although I was not a fan of the first two JJverse movies, I loved Beyond and would like to see their story continue with JJ’s George Kirk idea in a fourth film. Who knows if that will happen now?

As long as the film can remain on a steady course it should do fine.
Theaters have been in a bit of a slump this year so I don’t think w can blame it on being a poor motion picture.
In fact it ended up being a pleasant surprise.
It certainly not a Batman vs. Superman debacle.

Late July hasn’t been kind to any movies. I still think winter, spring or fall suit Trek better.

I actually thought that McCoy was a borderline caricature of the character, but it was Urban’s acting that kept it from actually getting that way. Mostly because he was constantly making his signature quips, and I never recall seeing Bones so over the top by doing that so often. Interesting to hear Urban was so involved in that. It’s a fine line, and I hope they dial it back a little bit on the next film, for no other reason than I can see it evolving into that very easily.

I agree with you. I wasn’t sure if I liked how imitative of Kelley’s performance after ST09, and attributed some of it to the fact the rest of the cast was so different than their Prime counterparts.

STID seemed to back off a bit, but in STB he seems to have taken it over the top in a way that called attention to it. I’d like to see them pull that back a bit as well.

Not sure if it’s Urban overcoming his NZ accent, or intentionally setting out to imitate Kelley’s character portrayal.whatever the case, I wish he’d make McCoy more his own. I may not like all the other actor’s portrayals, but they do make them their own. Scotty has always been my favorite, and I thought I would hate Pegg in the role until I saw him. It’s very different than Doohan, but I really like it. As the other actors get more secure with their characters, better developed, and come into their own, Urban’s more imitative quality stands out in contrast. It might be too late to change unfortunately.

I couldn’t disagree with you 2 more. Karl Urban’s depiction of McCoy is one of my favorite parts of the Kelvin movies. The verbal sparring between McCoy and Spock took me back to the likes of “Galileo Seven”, “Patterns of Force”, and “All of our Yesterdays”. I think it’d be too much if the whole cast mimicked their original counterparts, but with Urban the only one doing an original-cast impression, it works to great effect.

Again, Urban’s ability to pull it off made it work for the film. I think the script was over reliant with inserting the ‘signature McCoy Southern Analogy/Quip’ here every time they were in a jam. They didn’t write the original that way.

Then perhaps you should pull out your Original Series DVDs and watch Spock and McCoy again. They absolutely wrote the original series that way. The banter between those two was the humor element in the show and McCoy was often provoked into excitement with a raised voice and much waving of his hands. And his Southern accent was more pronounced when his was angry/excited/disgusted with Spoke–or when he was drunk.

I really think it’s the script. Every time you turn around, he was spilling a southern style analogy. You might have seen McCoy do that twice in a film or episode. But it seems like every time he had a chance to make one, they gave him one. Agreed, STID was really the right amount, but I also agree the character could have had more to do.

I agree, heyberto. He is my favorite but I thought his performance in Beyond was all over the place. He ranged from beautifully sensitive to cringeworthy, sometimes both in the same scene, like the drink scene with Kirk where his line readings are absolutely awful to start out, and then turn great when he and Kirk really get talking and he dials it back. It is the parts where he and the script are obviously “doing” DeForest that are getting too over the top. The rest of the cast have moved on to truly shape the characters on their own, but 3 movies in he is the last holdout, and unfortunately the scripts always support that because everyone loves classic Bones & it’s so easy to rely on him for a familiar laugh. I know Karl Urban loves and respects TOS but I wish he (and the writers) would homage less and actually act and feel the moment more, because he’s so good when he does.

I hesitate to say cringeworthy, because I think Urban pulls it off. I just don’t think they’re really giving us classic Bones. Urban has made the role his own in many ways, but I think Scotty was better at natural, organic humor than Bones is in this movie. In the TOS and TOS movies, Bones was just inherently funny… but I still think Urban plays it as well as anyone could. He no longer sounds like a little country doctor from Georgia, but he’s close enough.

JJ once said McCoy is a country doctor from Kentucky. That would be a less heavy southern accent which Karl appears to be using. Doesn’t matter really as long he doesn’t sound like Green Acres’ Mr. Haney.

Egad, and Orci seemed to think McCoy was from Mississippi.
Kelley’s McCoy was from Georgia.

I have to agree, it bordered on becoming parody. It’s poor writing. You shouldn’t have to hit every signature quip of a character in 2 hours, and you really shouldn’t do it just to magnify familiariity and nostalgia.

My favorite line after McCoy got transported aboard Franklin was not so much “I feel like my insides have been to a barn dance” but the line that preceded it.
Scotty: “Nice to see you here in one piece, Doctor.”
McCoy: [feeling his own torso] “AM I?”

Beyond was the best of the JJVerse movies. Why? Because it was about the relationships of the characters…not the baddie of the week revenge bent nut job. It did suffer however with the back to back action scenes breaking the character interplay. The cast has definitely fleshed out their roles and I like them as they are. Only complaint is the usual bad guy theme, rehash. Look toward Voyage Home and Undiscovered Country for inspiration for the next film. Loved the old photos insert of Spock Prime and the original cast group shot. Really drove home what we are missing.

Agreed completely. ST Beyond is by far the best of the JJ-timeline. I felt everyone, especially McCoy, Kirk and Spock were the closest we have seen yet where it felt like classic TOS.

Agreed, Brian … and MC1 Doug. Best so far. Although I could have done without the motorcycle jump.

My wife is not a fan, but she enjoyed the movie. And her favorite part was McCoy and Spock. That was followed closely by Jaylah, Montgomery Scotty, and Kirk. I still don’t know if she just went since my daughter and I were going, or if it was to see Chris Pine. Probably more of the latter.

He always said that he’d participate to trek as long as he could and frankly, he isn’t that big of a name in hollywood where he has the luxury to say no to big projects like this ergo, I find it really hard to believe he wouldn’t come back to play McCoy regardless. Sorry Karl I like you but that’s horses**t. As for his complains: I understand but I will not endorse him. This trek has two lead male characters already: Kirk and Spock. If Karl complains what should John, Zoe and Anton (rip) say? He lacks perspective for someone who is a trek fan. But then, I sometimes really wonder what some people like in trek and if perhaps under that facade of progressiveness they preach so much about, they really like the tv-show because it was made in the 60s under those conservative rules and cultural mindset.. and they don’t want that to ever change. The fact that Beyond gave more screentime to Mccoy and Scotty at Uhura (and Sulu) expense made this trek go backwards and it is an ironic problem for a franchise that preaches so much about progressiveness and equality and yet, ends up still coming across as the most conservative EVEN compared to current star wars (star wars, that had always been a white dudes fest since day one!).

No, I’m not harsh with Karl. Men in hollywood are entitled to complain about what they want but many others don’t even have this luxury. If Zoe Saldana, or any other female human being, had made the same exact interview certain fans here would insult her and call her ungrateful egocentric b**ch from here to the eternity. I saw it happening for much less, including sexist comments about how she was sleeping with the director to get more screentime.
Karl will survive.

I respectfully disagree that McCoy shouldn’t be considered as one of the leads.
The way that the character of Kirk is constructed is basically that of a trinity, where Kirk serves as the reasoned voice of moderation between two diametrically opposed extremes. Spock provides the logical perspective, McCoy the purely emotional humanist one. They are intended to play out Kirk’s internal struggle for the audience. Yes, they both have a ton of personality that goes along with it. But it’s all ultimately derived from them being representatives of those extremes. As much as I’d like the female characters to get more screen time (and I do sincerely hope that they bring Jaylah back as the new Navigator for the Enterprise) doing so by turning them into a character whose narrative purpose is to serve as a reflection of the male lead’s ego still seems somewhat reductionist.
Honestly, I don’t think there’s really any fixing that can be done to fully rectify the gender imbalance in the original series cast at this point, as much as I wish there were. The cast is already large enough that it verges on being cumbersome, and using established characters like this just doesn’t allow for easy replacement. I think the best bet is to keep looking forward – the new show, in particular, promises to have a woman of color in the command chair. Forming a new cast around her lets them do much more than they could ever accomplish by trying to tweak a formula which, as you correctly pointed out, is still fundamentally rooted in the time of its conception.
Which isn’t to say they need to stop trying to show better representation in the movies. But we do have to acknowledge that the foundation we’re building on can only take so much weight before it buckles.

Tos McCoy was never a lead at the level of Kirk abd Spock either. And I’m sick of people using the fanon Id ego superego stuff for the reboot when these characters never had those roles here.

“They are intended to play out Kirk’s internal struggle for the audience”
No, they are not. Especially not in the reboot where they made Spock equal protagonist with Kirk and not merely a toll for his character to say things about his psyche. The moment you change Kirk and Spock the way they did in the first movie, the so called original trio the way some fans intend it stops to exist.
Years later and people still don’t get that this Kirk replaced the role tos McCoy had. Kirk is the heart (Uhura is more that balance between logic and emotion than him). But Spock himself is not one dimensional and he is OBVIOUSTLY as much the heart as Kirk and Bones are, maybe even more.

I won’t ignore the canon of this trek and the integrity of these characters just because of tos nostalgia. Not even if Urban himself seems to never get this is another reality and he insists making an IMPERSONATION of Deforest in spite of Quinto and Pine and the others not doing that. It makes no sense, why even watch these movies if we are going to pretend everything is exactly the same even when it isn’t.
Urban maybe should ask himself who his McCoy can be in this reboot instead of complaining because the whole thing is not a carbon copy of tos.

Urban as McCoy has continued to be a highlight of these films. Beyond sealed the deal for me.

No one could play McCoy like you. You gave to stay. Perfection Karl Urban.

one of my fav characters now in star trek, thank you

In the Pilot and a bit of Bones dialog he was to study the effects of long term deep space travel on the crew so him being a psychologist is completely inline with the history of the character.

Karl Urban gives these movies much needed humanity. Without his brilliant McCoy portrayal they simply would not work. He needs the same pay or play contract as Pine/Quinto. You just cannot make these movies without the 3 main leads.

See for me I felt that Urban was spot on in this outing and I actually felt for me if anyone was off a bit it was Quinto as Spock. Something about much of his portrayal this time was off for me, almost too stoic and stiff, not as comfortable in the role and his hair seemed wrong to me …haha of all things. Was that a wig cap this time out I wonder? If Urban was not on board for this it would not have worked IMO, at least for me. I did thoroughly enjoy the film.

His acting not his Vulcan traits silly rabbit. I felt he was off in his acting, where as in the first two I felt he was much more believable in the role.

Thanks Karl, and thanks everyone involved for making this the best of the “kelvin” treks. I hope the next utilizes the exact same creative team.

Can’t blame him for almost wanting to leave. Into Darkness was a joke, but, Beyond was redeeming for these films. JJ out of the director’s chair was a good start.

Karl is a shining star and a great Doctor McCoy.
Future films absolutely need to focus on him and bring us the true Trio of the Star Trek universe back into to the lime light.
No disrespect or play down for Zoe Saldana as Lieutenant Uhura, it’s just McCoy should always be highly involved.

Saldana can play an important role as can Urban. I don’t think either needs to “sacrifice” for the other to shine. That’s divisive fan nonsense. The “trinity” can become a “quartet” with no loss. McCoy as Kirk’s sounding board and advisor, and Uhura as Spock’s.



Indeed, even the classic Three Musketeers grew to accomodate a fourth.

Darned good point, Marja.

Actors ALWAYS say they weren’t interested in the role at first…but then! Of course he’s not going to walk away from all that $$$.

Completely agree with Urban on STID. It seemed they were attempting to create a new triad with Kirk-Spock-Uhura. One thing Beyond did a great job of was returning McCoy to his rightful place. I’m fine with Uhura having good screen time but not at McCoy’s expense. And Urban did a great job as McCoy. Glad to see him have meaningful time with Kirk and Spock and to actually get to see him doctor.

I’m glad he spoke up about his concerns.

What I think is a shame is that, in this new KT timeline, Dr McCoy’s backstory could not have changed from the TOS original. Sure, he could/would have been born where DeForest’s McCoy was, in the southern area of the US, but then have him and family emigrate to say NZ where this new McCoy would likely pick up some of the cultural/speech patterns of his new home, NZ. The accent would not seem a problem and Karl Urban could still play the curmudgeonly doctor with slightly different influences and more easily make Bones/McCoy his own character. He can still be the Enterprise’s CMO and become a great friend to Kirk and Spock.

This is how legitimate variations within this new timeline can occur, without impacting on overall outcomes.

I’m pretty sure in this timeline New Zealand had already been destroyed by the Xindi! I keed, I keed! ;D

That’s a great suggestion, Rose. Dee Kelley used his own Georgia home as a background for McCoy, why not Karl Urban? Too late now, though.

The new trio that includes a woman was praised by critics and considered one of the unique fresh aspects of the reboot.
Star trek beyond maybe went backwards andand pandered a bit to people like you but it doesn’t seem to me that it’s the most successful movie of the 3 so far. Karl Urban is not a big name and when you already have Quinto and Pine as the leads, any other dude becomes redundant.

Btw, for those who actually watched the movies and pay attention to how THIS version of the characters was developed, it was Kirk who replaced original Mccoy’s role. In the second movie it was Scotty who sidelined him and git the more juicy role as the third more prominent male character. But keep blaming the female lead character.

Please, Damian, not this old canard I’m fine with Uhura having good screen time but not at McCoy’s expense.

How about they both have good screen time at the expense of a few minutes’ action/destruction/fighting?

People continue to cast the McCoy / Uhura screentime as an either/or. It need not be.

What I took issue with is it seemed esp. in STID they were trying to create a new triad with Uhura replacing McCoy. McCoy was basically made the outsider and was more or less there for his metaphors. I’ve always believed in any universe, Kirk, Spock and McCoy would be a family of brothers. They always complemented one another. Beyond was the first of the Abramsverse movies that really seemed to put that back together and for me it worked well.

Also, Urban does a great job as McCoy, frankly I thought of all the cast he did the best job of balancing imitating Kelley’s portrayal without mocking Kelley. I felt he was underused in Star Trek (2009) and STID. In Beyond he served as a sounding board for Kirk (almost a psychologist) and for Spock, as an opposite to Spock’s logic, and even as a doctor.

I didn’t feel Beyond minimized Uhura’s role. I believe her she had an important role here, and I’m actually glad they sort of put the romance with Spock in the background. For me it made her role a more serious role.

For me, the problem was actually the reverse. I think STID minimized McCoy’s character unnecessarily, wasting an important character, and a great actor in Karl Urban.

The triad was invented by fans.

Have you watched the original series? I think it’s pretty clear Kirk, Spock, and McCoy are the main characters.

dream on. In the original series there was only one main character for the writers and Roddenberry: Kirk. THEN they made Spock more prominent by making him interact with Kirk the most because he was the most popular character and they hoped to make fans love Kirk more thank to his friendship with Spock TOO.
Spock and McCoy were only the friends of hero. Later the so called ‘trinity’ became a ‘duo’ and now in you have that in pop culture Spock is considered a lead character like Kirk (and the reboot acknowledged it). McCoy was NEVER at Spock level, LET ALONE Kirk. If this is what Urban expected he’s dead wrong.

In either case, there is no reason why a REBOOT set in another reality should have the same exact dynamics you had in tos especially when they changed Kirk and Spock (especially the latter) in such a way that the old ‘trinity’ makes no sense here since it was mainly based as everything having to revolve around Kirk, but in the reboot Spock is considered an equal protagonist and not just ‘Kirk’s logic’. I’d say that respecting the dynamics of THIS TREK is more logical and more a priority than forcing tos dynamics at any cost. We’re having this argument since 2009 and star trek beyond pandered to fans like you and see the results: least successful movie of this trilogy. They alienated the new trek fans that loved the dynamics of THIS trek.