Karl Urban is a New Zealand born actor who has achieved international superstar status through roles in a number of high-profile films, including Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Bourne Supremacy,” “Star Trek” and “Dredd.” His involvement in these huge cult franchises has not stopped him from achieving critical acclaim in less blockbuster-oriented fare such as New Zealand film “The Price of Milk.”
Reportedly having an interest in cinema from a very young age, Urban took a small TV role at the age of 8, and then later left the Victoria University of Wellington in order to pursue an acting career. The young Urban could be seen in a few commercials and theater roles in Wellington in the early 1990s, before moving to Auckland where he started to pick up guest roles on TV. He first came to the attention of cult audiences when he took on the recurring dual roles of Julius Caesar and Cupid in the flamboyant US series “Hercules and Xena: Warrior Princess” between 1996 and 2001.
Following a Hollywood debut with a supporting role in “Ghost Ship” in 2002, Urban ensured himself a sliver of cinematic immortality with his performance as Eomer in two Lord of the Rings films,”The Two Towers” and “Return of the King.” His earnest portrayal of the gruff horseman was a strong performance in a trilogy of films stuffed with great acting, and his contribution to the ensemble was solid. He could have lost some of this credibility, however, when he spent a few years in supporting roles in poorly-received films including “The Chronicles of Riddick” and “Doom” (the 2005 adaptation of the hit 90s PC game, which probably seemed like a good idea when Arnie was slated to star, but which slid to straight-to-DVD status when it eventually entered production starring The Rock).
Urban continued to lend solid support to cult films throughout the decade, including as an assassin opposite Matt Damon in “The Bourne Supremacy.” Perhaps his biggest breakthrough, however, came in 2009 when he appeared as Doctor “Bones” McCoy in the eleventh “Star Trek” film. His interpretation of the role made famous by DeForest Kelley was generally well received by fans, and gave Urban a prominent role in which he wasn’t hidden under an enormous beard and wig, as with “Lord of the Rings.”
Urban signed on to reprise McCoy in the twelfth “Star Trek” film, but at the height of his fame he has gone back to being almost unrecognisable by taking on the coveted lead role of Judge Dredd in 2012’s 3D graphic novel adaptation, “Dredd.” Never once removing Dredd’s trademark helmet or scowl, Urban single-handedly reclaimed the street Judge’s reputation from the ashes of the little-loved Sylvester Stallone vehicle.
With a “Dredd” sequel surely a strong likelihood at the time of writing, and the 12th “Star Trek” film in post-production, the future looks bright for Karl Urban as a great supporting actor who has risen through the ranks through sheer hard work and tenacity to the point where he can now carry a film. It is to be hoped that he will not forget the smaller films and the theatre work on which he cut his teeth.