Priest Set Visit Report – Karl Urban

Priest Set Visit Report – Karl Urban
Priest interview with Karl urban, who plays Black Hat in the film. Priest also stars Paul Bettany, Maggie Q, and Cam Gigandet.
Updated: 05-10-2011


The press’s visit to the set of Priest was so many cinematic light years ago, that (I remember) Kiwi cutie actor Karl Urban was busy signing Star Trek posters in his trailer when our recorders went on.
URBAN: Well, since the DVD came out Tuesday I’ve been inundated with people like, “Can you sign this? Can you sign this?”
Q: But is that the last promotional thing you have to do for Star Trek? And then you’re done?
URBAN: No, you know what, this is just the beginning. (Laughs) I have a feeling I am going to make some more of these puppies.
Q: Long live McCoy! OK, so let’s start by talking about Black Hat. You start off as Fearsome Priest, correct?
URBAN: Yep. The name is still up for debate a little bit. It could be Handsome Priest. (Laughs) If Paul Bettany had his way it would be Pansexual Priest. We’ll see. For the moment? Fearsome Priest. This character is a priest in this sort of special brand of warrior priests who are at the frontline of the war against vampires in our movie, which has been raging for hundreds and hundreds of years. This sequence that you saw tonight is near the end of the war where my character and Paul’s character fall basically into a trap on a mission to kill a vampire queen. We get ambushed. In our bid to get out of the hive to escape, I get trapped and caught by the queen and essentially transformed into a vampire. And then my character becomes known as Black Hat from that point forward. It’s his goal and mission to bring down the church who he has an utter resentment for against the years of personal sacrifice and war that he believes they are responsible for, and he’s really an agent of chaos bent upon the destruction of the clergy and humanity. So in our movie one of the first things that happens is that Black Hat abducts Priest’s niece, which brings him out of retirement to come try and find her and sets us on a collision course of a conflict.
Q: Let me ask the obligatory Star Trek question. [Staci note: That wasn’t me, asking that question! I know I write for … vampire questions will soon commence.] In the next installment, will we see more of the trinity between Kirk, Spock and McCoy explored? The first film was definitely more Kirk-Spock, and McCoy and Kirk were a separate thread.
URBAN: Yeah, I know what you’re saying. The structure wasn't really the traditional triumvirate that you've seen on the television show. It was really more a movie about establishing everybody. I certainly hope that Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman and J.J. continue to strengthen and evolve those characters into those directions. I would love to play scenes of being essentially Kirk's moral compass or, you know, point of conscience. The way McCoy was written he really sort of verbalized the war going on in Kirk's conscience, and I certainly would love to see more arguments of passion versus logic with Spock because they're always fun. So it's going to be really interesting to see what they come up with. I think the challenge is to come up with the most important mission, the mission that literally tears these people apart. The mission that is the definitive Trek mission. We have to come up with essentially something akin to a Dark Knight or Empire Strikes Back. Something like that.
Q: We’ve been talking about doing more Star Trek and people have been saying how Priest lends itself to sequel possibilities. Would you be up for that?
URBAN: Yeah, sure. If this movie is successful and there’s an audience for it and people appreciate it I’d love to make more.
Q: Which other aspects of Black Hat would you like to explore? Have you read the graphic novel?
URBAN: Yeah, you know, I don’t know. I think that’s more of a Scott Stewart question. There’s kind of infinite possibilities of where you could take the character. Obviously, at the moment he’s a fallen hero and he’s bent on a pretty dark and twisted objective. It’s always very interesting where you could take it. You could take it in an infinite number of directions. You could have him get to a point where he ends up turning around and going back onto the human side to be tragically lost for real, or it’s really whatever Scott’s imagination or the writers choose to come up with. I think the interesting thing about this is that he’s got a really strong bunch of really interesting characters, and I think audiences are going to really enjoy spending time with these characters and so it would certainly lend itself to other installments.
Q: We were talking a little bit about this on the walk over [to the set from his trailer] about how when you’re making a movie like this and doing press for it, you never really know how it’s going to come together.
URBAN: That’s absolutely right. You know, I know about my input into the film and some of the limited material that I have seen of other people’s work. Really, it’s a director’s medium, an editor’s medium. More commonly these days special effects and all that stuff. So it’s always a surprise when you see a film and they’re never ever how you envisaged them.
Q: But having said that, you’ve done a number of films now. When you’re on set and crafting your performance, can you usually tell when you’re on set, “I’m making something good here”? Are you at that point or is it still a crap shoot?
URBAN: Sometimes you know. Sometimes you definitively know. I’ve been working on productions like Lord of the Rings and Bourne Supremacy and, say, Star Trek for example where you just know. That you have an innate feeling that they are going to be absolutely awesome, and whether that’s to do with the people involved or the quality of your time within the project, the studio behind it and their willing to back it. You know. And other times there’s a bit more of a leap of faith. But I have a lot of confidence in Priest. I have a lot of confidence in Scott Stewart, not only from working with him for the last six weeks but also by seeing some of the material that he’s shot. He has a really, really strong visual style and I think he has a really strong command of characters and character relationships because without that it would be some sort of special effects canvas. I’ve had a fantastic time working with Paul. He’s a great guy and he’s a professional. We were rehearsing this fight sequence and we were doing it on gravel. And there was one point where I slipped and I was supposed to elbow him in the chest. I slipped on the gravel and he took it right in the mouth, and I heard his jaw go [makes cracking sound] and I go, “Oh, no, I’ve broken his jaw.” And he goes down on his knees and blood starts pouring out of his mouth and I just feel absolutely terrible at this point. So he goes and I tink I’ve probably just cost the production a day or two. He goes back to his trailer and iced it and comes back on set and doing that exact thing that we were rehearsing not even a half an hour later. So he just had a cut lip and his jaw was a bit out but he just continued and went straight back to work.
Q: I wanted to ask you about what sorts of weapons training you had to do because you some unusual and interesting weapons.
URBAN: Yeah. Well, I knew this would be a very physically challenging role unlike the role of McCoy in Star Trek where it was a character who was more sort of comedy-based and not so action-orientated. This has been heavily action-orientated, so we went through a pretty strict regime of getting myself into really great shape. Gym work, lots of cardio everyday, and then when I got here to L.A. it was a matter of training with the stunt team for a matter of a couple of weeks, three weeks when we could get a space on set. There’s about three big set-pieces that we had to learn and weapons work, martial arts training, all that sort of stuff. They teach you the basics, They show you how to do it for real and then they show you how to do it for the camera, which is slightly different.
Q: You’ve done a lot of training for Lord of the Rings and Bourne, Riddick and even Pathfinder – a lot of blade work. Do you ever get a little cocky like, “Do I really need another refresher course?”
URBAN: No. No, not at all. I really kind of feel going into it every time the best thing to do is to go in with the attitude of “I know nothing. Please teach me.” And that way you’re actually open to learning stuff that you didn’t know. And it’s always different. Working on this is a different set of skills than, say, Lord of the Rings or Bourne Supremacy, so that’s what I love about my job. I’m constantly learning skills that I can never utilize in real life. (Laughs)
Q: But you guys always learn them from the best masters in the world.
URBAN: Bob Anderson. You learn from Bob Anderson, exactly. I mean in Bourne Supremacy they taught me how to do a reverse 180 in Mercedes G-Wagen and then let me execute it. It was nuts.
Q: I was curious if you ever attempted to go out with what you’re wearing, with the cross [makeup] and go to the Starbucks and get your coffee. To just go out, especially around Halloween.
URBAN: Yeah, that’s right. I did actually. I was sick as a dog on Halloween, but I did have my fangs and I was going to wear my fangs but I ended up getting the flu and didn’t have a Halloween. But that would be kind of hilarious. You’d get a few looks.
Q: How does Black Hat’s look change once you go from being a priest to Black Hat? Are you going to be CG-augmented at all?
URBAN: Black Hat is really sort of the first step in the evolutionary process for the vampire. He’s the first humanoid vampire. Most of the vampires in our film are like creatures, but Fearsome Priest drinks the blood of the queen and gets basically transformed into a human vampire. So his eyes are different and obviously fangs, and then from there he really sort of reinvents himself as this sort of renegade, think Western gunfighter kind of look, which is sort of like the look of the Priest character in the comic book is more kind of like how my character looks. Duster jacket. I’ve got a hat with a notch in it where you can play and you can look up and just one eye is exposed to the camera. But that’s what I thinking is the challenge, especially in an environment where the vampire genre has become so popular and I think in many ways humanized with Twilight and True Blood. Vampires have become more accessible these days. They’re not just the antihero or the antagonist. They have their own sets of issues and emotional journeys and so the challenge was really to identify what exactly Black Hat’s journey is and how to inject some sort of originality into that.
Q: I was curious about working with CGI. We saw you fighting with the people in the white suits.
URBAN: We call them Devo. (Laughs)
Q: Can you talk about the challenges as an actor trying to perform these action moves against nothing.
URBAN: Yeah, it is a challenge in terms of where you’re looking and what you’re looking at and what you’re reacting to. And sometimes that becomes particularly difficult when you’re a few takes in and fatigue sets in and not only do you have to keep yourself coordinated but then you have to act on top of that or hit certain eyelines and stuff. So it’s certainly very challenging, but you know reacting to elements that don’t actually exist is part of modern filmmaking, part of filmmaking for a long time, so I don’t think I’ve ever made a film where I haven’t had to react to something – whether it was a baby that wasn’t there – where you learn to do that.
Q: Ironically, wouldn’t Star Trek have had the least amount of that? That would seem to have been much more of a tactile environment wven though you’d think with Star Trek you think you’d be looking at green screens or green stuff all the time. That one had people with prosthetics.
URBAN: Yeah, yeah. Well, that was the cool thing for me. There was a couple of points where I was reacting to stuff that wasn’t there, like in the shuttle hanger bay. J.J. had me walking along with Chris and had me sort of talking to him. That scene where he didn’t make it. There were a couple of points where I look up at a shuttle, and you just hope that doesn’t look dumb. And it’s great when they actually paint something in.
Q: You’ve done a lot of genre stuff. Are there any big ticket genre stuff that you haven’t done that you’d like to have a chance at?
URBAN: Well, I’m really actually itching to do sort of smaller independent type of films. I have a great time working on all these and working with all the toys and effects and stuff are fun, but I’m really looking forward to doing kind of material that inspires me. Whether I’m watching Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men, you know, or Viggo. His career is a great example. Eastern Promises or Appaloosa or History of Violence. Movies like that that are maybe not so mainstream studio fares, but have a little bit more niche just to mix it up.
Q: I’m curious if some of the key people from Lord of the Rings would try to be sort of extras in The Hobbit.
URBAN: (laughs) Yeah, you know like dwarves.
Q: I gotta come down for a few days just to work with Guillermo.
URBAN: Yeah, well I’m really looking forward to what they cook up. I was thoroughly impressed with District 9, and I know that they will do a phenomenal job of The Hobbit and I’m sure there will be a few people from Lord of the Rings involved. And if I get the call, it would take a bigger man than me to turn them down that’s for sure.
Q: Wire work. I guess you’re about to do some?
URBAN: Yeah, I’ve got to practice a gag getting out of here. So it’s like they pull me up this cliff and I’ve got to try to look coordinated getting out. That’s my end of the bargain.
That was the final day of Urban’s shoot, and we caught up with him again at Comic-Con San Diego in July of 2010, and again just last week at the Priest press junket – keep an eye out 9well, not literally) for that video interview to be posted very soon here at Priest 3D opens nationwide on Friday, May 13, 2011.
Latest User Comments: