The only main cast member from the Kelvin movies at Star Trek Las Vegas this year is Karl Urban, which makes sense as he may be the biggest fan of the cast (although Simon Pegg could possibly challenge him on that). Karl’s time on the stage covered his time with Star Trek and other projects including his upcoming role in Thor: Ragnarok and possibly a new Judge Dredd TV series. In regards to playing Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy he had a lot to say about last summer’s Star Trek Beyond, working with Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin and of course the latest on the possible next feature film.
Waiting on Paramount – OK if Beyond was his final Trek
On the subject of the next Star Trek feature film, the actor echoed recent statements from co-stars Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine saying he would be “the last to know” what is going on. However, Urban also noted that all of the cast “would love” to return for a fourth Star Trek film. He put the onus on the studio saying:
The ball is in Paramount’s court. There is a new head of Paramount Studios [Jim Gianopulos] – a great guy – and they are just in the process of looking at their slate at what is coming up. So fingers crossed we get to make another one.
But Urban also noted he is ready to let go:
That being said…if [Star Trek] Beyond is the note that we end it on – as sad as that is – I am actually happy with that film.
The actor stated that of the three Star Trek films he has been in, Star Trek Beyond is his favorite. He specifically noted how his character of McCoy was “most developed” in the script for Beyond and he especially liked how the film showed the respect between the characters of McCoy and Spock.
Almost didn’t return after Into Darkness
Even though Beyond is his favorite, it apparently almost didn’t include him. Karl was asked by a fan about reports that he almost didn’t return for the follow up to Star Trek Into Darkness, which he confirmed:
There is some truth to the story. Firstly, I was a little disappointed with the lack of development with McCoy in [Star Trek Into Darkness]. So it was that. Even though I had an amazing experience working with J.J. [Abrams] and the cast, at the end of the day I didn’t have much to do. So when they came to me with the offer for [Star Trek Beyond] I was literally in the final stages of negotiating another film.
Of course the development of the follow up film to Into Darkness was tumultuous with Roberto Orci’s original script and deal to direct the being scrapped by Paramount shortly before pre-production was set to start. Director Justin Lin was brought in and a new script to be written by Simon Pegg and Doug Jung was commissioned. Urban noted the process was “kind of rushed and kind of late” and without a script it was difficult for him to agree to sign on. In the end it was Lin who was able to convince him to do the movie.
They were basically asking me to take a leap of faith with them and I was unsure. I knew that if I didn’t do it I would regret it. As I said before, it’s like family with those guys and it’s so much fun. It was really Justin Lin. We got on the phone and even though I couldn’t read a script he told me the story and when he explained the situation of Bones and Spock being shot out of the turbolift into space and crash landing on a planet and being marooned together I was like “In! I am in in a big way!”
It was sort of me letting them know I expected a somewhat higher caliber of contribution for the character of McCoy. And it prompted them to develop it more and I certainly had a great ally in [co-star and Beyond co-screenwriter] Simon Pegg.
Sees Kirk/Spock/McCoy relationship at heart of Star Trek
Urban then talked about how he saw the character of McCoy:
I grew up watching [Star Trek] The Original Series, and I always loved how that triumvirate worked together and essentially what [Star Trek creator Gene] Roddenberry did was split Kirk’s personality into three. He would have the two aspects of his brain argue out the dilemma of the week. Obviously with Spock having the cold, hard, rational, scientific, logical perspective. And with McCoy being passionate, altruistic, and human. And Kirk takes the best of both arguments and making a decision and proceeding with that. That was really the core of the show.
He then drew a comparison to how that triumvirate worked in the new films:
For the reboot, Spock became a lot more contemporary where he was a little bit more in touch with his emotions and a little bit more emotional. So it made that argument somewhat more difficult to play. That is sort of why I was appreciative of Star Trek Beyond and how we actually got to explore that together and some great interactions.
Making Leonard Nimoy cry
Prompted by a fan question about not being able to meet the original Dr. McCoy, Urban noted that it was something that he did feel he missed out on, but he has received good feedback from many who did know the late DeForest Kelley. He retold a specific story about the late Leonard Nimoy, conveyed by his wife Susan:
After we shot [Star Trek (2009)] and as it was being released, William Shatner had a charity event and a whole bunch of us went along and Leonard and his wife Susan went too. And I was walking ahead and I hear “Hey Karl,” and I turn around and it was Susan and she pulls me back and says “Karl, I just wanted you to know that when Leonard watched the movie the other night when you came on screen he cried.” What it was is that the work that I had done reminded him of his dear friend and to me that was the greatest nod of appreciation that I have ever had to know that I was on the right track.
Promoting Beyond after Yelchin’s death was ‘toughest thing’
Another fan question was about working with the Anton Yelchin who played Chekov in three movies before being killed in a tragic accident last year. Urban started off seemingly echoing the sentiments of producer J.J. Abrams that they will not recast the role saying:
Anton was such a beautiful man. He is irreplaceable – irreplaceable.
The actor then recalled what it was like watching Yelchin grow up working on the Star Trek films:
When I met Anton he was literally just a kid. He had his mom on set on the first movie and I remember them arguing with each other in Russian with lots of hand gestures. And then through the course of the films he got older but he was still fundamentally a kid at heart. He was the smartest guy in the room but you wouldn’t know it.
He also said it was difficult for the cast to go on a promotional tour so soon after Yelchin’s death:
We were obviously devastated at his loss, absolutely devastated. It was brutal. And to literally four weeks after we lost him to gout out there and promote Beyond was the toughest thing we ever had to do.
Talks Thor: Ragnarok + ready for Judge Dredd TV
Urban also talked about his other projects past and future. With regards to the next big Marvel movie Thor: Ragnarok (coming in November) he said he didn’t have any idea what the movie was going to be like except it is “going to be good.” He was especially impressed with director Taika Waititi. Urban did give a description of his role as Scourge:
My character is operating the Bifrost device and suddenly Cate Blanchett walks through the Bifrost and I very astutely realized I either joined her or die. So my character is a survivalist. The journey of Scourge is really “OK, now you made a pact with the devil and it comes with a price.” That price is constantly upped through the movie and that is his journey.
The actor also was asked about his role in the 2012 film Judge Dredd. As a fan of the comics Urban told the crowd one of his stipulations for taking the part was sticking to the character’s roots and never having Dredd take of his helmet. He also noted that he is possibly going to return to the role for the television series currently in development:
I am in discussions with them about that. I told them that if they write the material and give Dredd something to do and give him a function, I will be there. I would love to.
More Star Trek Las Vegas Coverage
Stay tuned for additional coverage coming all week long.