SDCC ’10 Interview: Priest’s Karl Urban

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The baddest motherf’er in the wasteland

The man in the black hat won’t just be something we look to Johnny Cash for after Priest comes out if Karl Urban has his way.

The actor is the main antagonist in the film and he appears to have loved playing a character that lets him express himself in ways he hasn’t been able to do in many films and have a lot of fun along the way. At the recent press event at San Diego Comic-Con ’10 for Priest, Urban took some time to chat to Shock about his character, doing his own stunts (and the perils for the other actors) and vampire movies in general.

Shock: Can you tell me a bit about how the Black Hat turns to the dark side?

Karl Urban: Black Hat is a fallen warrior priest that gets captured by vampires and gets turned into what’s in our world is the first human vampire. Because the vampires in this world are creatures. He’s goes around creating death, mayhem and general havoc, and has a general fun time doing it.

Shock: And I bet you did as well.

Urban: I did. The bad guys are always fun to play because they can do and say everything we can in real life. They are standing on that precipitous, on the edge, and they are unblinking, unwavering. And that’s fun.

Shock: You’ve played the good guy and the bad guy numerous times in your career, but do you specifically angle for the bad guy or whatever happens, happens?

Urban: In the case of [Priest], I read the script, I thought it was a very strong piece of material. I met with Scott Stewart and he had a very clear vision of the Black Hat, but also the film as a whole. That is always a very clear indication that if a director is this dedicated and this committed, this is something that would be good to be a part of.

Shock: And what was this vision?

Urban: Centuries of war has essentially annihilated the planet. It is a wasteland apart from these hubs that are run by this authoritarian church. My character suddenly finds himself on the flip side of the coin and through the process he comes to realize there are mass inconsistencies in what he thought and what he has been taught. And the necessary course for him is to take the action he does.

Shock: Now the church itself, is that just a prop as a backdrop to the overall story or does it actually play an important role in Priest?

Urban: It is in the movie as much as it is a generic church. There is not a reference to any particular type of religion. There is an ideology that is specifically related to the world in which the film takes place.

Shock: When you were going about the movie did you do some of your own stunts and get your hands dirty?

Urban: Yeah, actually Paul Bettany and I have a kick ass fight in this film. We trained for a couple of weeks. There were a couple of points where I hurt him accidentally, I still feel badly about it but it was not too bad.

Shock: Oh, do tell.

Urban: There was a point where I had to stomp on his hand and I put my foot down and I completely missed his hand with the ball of my foot but my heel of boot went right down on it. And he went ‘Arrrrrrggg.’ And I’m thinking ‘Wow, my God, he is such an incredible actor, he so sold that moment.’ And he took his hand away and he is shaking it about and the set just stopped and I felt like a complete idiot. Because I am tethered to the top of a train and he’s just walking off and I’m just watching it. Not a fun day for Mr. Urban.

Shock: Vampire everything are rage these days. But maybe there is a bit of a backlash to the genre. Did you have any hesitation to doing a “vampire film?”

Urban: None whatsoever. Because this film is not a vampire movie. It is a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi wasteland movie. That’s the heart of the film. The vampire element for the most part that are creatures. My character is the first human vampire.

Shock: So, if they were mutants or whatever, it wouldn’t make a difference because it is the creature aspect rather than just vampires.

Urban: We have mutants. And monsters. There is a fight sequence between Priest, Priestess and a vampire monster that was so reminiscent of the best stuff that I saw in Lord of the Rings. When you see it you will say ‘Oh my God.’ And it is done very well. Not to oversell it but I’m going to.

Source: Peter Brown