ORBzine - 2001.08 Celebrity Articles & Interviews

Karl Urban

[Chariots of War III]

Karl Urban spent 12 hours on a plane from Aukland to get to the Con. He was unshaven and bedraggled as a result, but chirpy and alert as any kiwi. This was his first UK Con.

What is your favourite role - Cupid or Caesar?
Karl doesn't care. He likes things about both. Caesar is evil, and dares to do things nobody else dares. Cupid is lots of fun, though he had to spend a month in the gymn to get in shape.

Why did they change the actor who does Brutus?
There were three, at least. Karl lost count. TPTB weren't satisfied. The first guy was unavailable, and they didn't like the second guy.

The film Gladiator - how would you have played it differently?
Joachim Phoenix did a really incredible job. Karl declined to comment further.

Is your portrayal of Caesar based on history?
When Karl did Cupid, he learned about positive energy. The wings are glued on for ten hours at a time, and he can't complain because nothing can be done. Positive energy comes back at you tenfold. He was in the make-up trailer and Rob Tapert [who he didn't know] came in and asked if he wanted another acting role. Karl agreed, and Tapert left. The make-up girl was shocked, and told Karl That's the big cheese. He's never done that before. Karl bumped into Tapert the next day, who told him You got the job.

Karl read the Catherine McCullough history books, and recounted the tale of how Julius Caesar got his revenge on the pirates who kidnapped him. He counted the bays.

The character of Caesar in Xena owes more to Nero and others. In RL he was a great man and a brilliant tactician.

In one scene as Caesar, Karl held a knife to Gabby's throat. Xena bursts in and gives him an Eastwood-type gaze.

In the episode Destiny there is a bedroom scene with Lucy Lawless in a red dress. He desperately tried not to blink as Lucy crawled across the bed. His contact lens fell out ...

Lucy Lawless made up lines. Instead of using Karl's name she called him Dickhead!

Once when Karl was walking with Lucy Lawless in town, she chatted to an immigrant guy. She's very altruistic.

What are your favourite Caesar episodes?
The early ones. They were written by Steven Sears, who now does Sheena, Queen of the Jungle The new writers didn't do Caesar as articulate. Karl looked forward to Season Six, as a chance to do the character. Working with Clare Stansfield is fun, she's really naughty. He was on camera, and tried to keep a straight face as she grabbed his ass.

You're wearing a Lord Of The Rings baseball cap - explain!
Karl is the star of 2 of the films - the second and third. He plays the chief rider of the Riders of Rohan. LA Casting Dept guys are intimidated by his knowledge of the character.

Caesar's army is only ten men. In Lord Of The Rings he commands five hundred men! His costars include Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler . His work on Xena helped him to take the next step. It'll give Star Wars a run for its money.

The Death of Caesar - did it do the RL event justice?
Probably not. The best version Karl's scene was by Timothy Dalton in the recent Cleopatra. Dalton's Caesar was like a vicious animal, but implied How dare you?, but also accepted it and wanted to die with honour. Overall it was a pretty good job.

What kind of character would you like to play in the future?
When he's reading a script, Karl looks for something that moves him. The role's screen time isn't important, it's the impact. Christopher Walken does the opposite of whatever the stage directions tell him to. For example, if the character's sad he laughs.

Tell us about the Practical Jokes played on set.
Karl walks into the audience to the woman who asked him the question.

When they filmed the first meeting of Xena and Caesar:
Lucy - What's your name?
Karl - Bond, James Bond.
Lucy - Take Mr Bond down to the hold.

Do you put yourself into the characters?
Cupid and Caesar have very different body language.

Karl did a recent film with Danielle Cormack called The Price of Milk. He only got the script on the day, but became a proficient dairy farmer.

How did you get into acting?
Karl did his first job aged 8 or 10. When he left college he decided he wanted to be an actor. He got a job as a dishwasher in a cafe. You get to a point in life where you decide to invest in your craft. Being on the set every day helps you get comfortable with the environment. Acting is instinctive, but you need technical skills [light, sound, etc]. Something Karl learned from Lucy Lawless was not to re-take scenes after you make a flub: keep rolling, re-do the flubbed line, go on with the scene.

Is it difficult to do the fake accent?
In the first couple of years he worked on dialogue. He watched lots of bad TV such as Star Trek. Spock? Are you out of your Vulcan mind?

At the Pasedena Con you avoided the question, boxers or briefs?
Boxers? No. What are briefs? A thong? Speedos? No! Jockey things. Not too tight ...

What's the scariest thing you've ever seen?

  • The tiger in Gladiator
  • Alien [Ridley Scott conveys the loneliness of space]
  • Charley & The Chocolate Factory [you WANT to be good!]

    What are your favourite Caesar lines?
    Divide a woman's emotions from he sensibilities, and you have her.

    Break their legs!

    When's The Price of Milk coming here?
    The UK has few independant films. It recouped its costs in the States.

    What's it like working with Alexandra Tidings ?
    Karl told himself - Never forget she's your mother! Just look at her EYES!

    They were given the script for the episode For Him The Bell Tolls, and both realised that the Xena writers didn't get the Hercules characters right. They re-wrote the scene.

    If you could do Caesar again, would you do it the same?
    That depends on how it's written. The bad-guy stereotype is cliched. Karl wished he'd protected the character in Season 3.

    It's a Good Day To Die A Pompey episode Karl turned up, and got told You've got to learn a 28-point sword move. Pompey was played as cocky and arrogant, which Karl feels worked well.

    Who's the most like Caesar today?
    Karl - Dubyah! I don't know how he got elected.
    Slobodan Milsovich. And Saddam, let's not forget him.

    What is your funniest memory on Xena?
    Watching Kevin Smith try to chat up Hudson Leick. She said something, and he said That would be an oxymoron. She said There's a lot going on up there.

    Who have you kept in touch with from the rest of the cast?
    Lucy, Alex, and the guys he meets at the Cons. Danielle.

    The show was the backbone of the local TV industry, and gave stable work to lots of people.

    Did you pinch much from the set?
    Danielle and Karl had a competition to steal underwear. Kids, if you've got to steal, steal underwear. Nobody will want it back after you've worn it. Unless you're really famous.

    Are you growing your beard and moustache for a specific role?
    Karl - For Pacific Rose? I don't remember her. No, it's pure apathy.

    Did you take the Caesar costume?
    Karl - I loved the costume - This is me! I can use the line "Break her legs!" ... in a nightclub!

    Karl didn't steal that, only underwear. He didn't steal boxers, only thermals. Not Aphrodite's bra. Some people!

    You had a theatre role - "4 Skins" - where you did full frontal nudity. How would you feel if someone here had seen it?
    Karl - What Row?

    Karl - What night?

    Premiere and First.

    What's Michael Hurst like?
    He's a fine actor, I'd like to work with him again.

    Would you like to be in a "Xena" spin-off?
    If I could play Xena!

    Have you ambitions to play a character?
    Argo! No, don't go there. Iago in Othello Willy Wonka with the Jim Carey remake.

    Was there a difference between the end and the start of the series?
    They only used a 16mm camera in the episode Altered States. There was a sense of sadness in the Sixth Season, with people moving on. Lucy had a son, and Renee got married.

    What happened to the costume?
    Auctioned. Kevin Smith's leather pants - the boys in Soho would LOVE to get their hands on them.

    Karl didn't like doing Caesar on Hercules. It didn't work with how the character was set up.

    Did you prefer Cupid?
    Blondes have more fun! Destiny - Caesar on the docks, beaten with a salami. Karl shut his eyes, opened them and he was there ...

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