LOS ANGELES, Oct 12 — As Karl Urban sits down with AFP in Beverly Hills to discuss his starring role in Marvel’s latest superhero juggernaut Thor: Ragnarok, there is a Harvey Weinstein-shaped elephant in the room.
Across Hollywood, filmmakers and their actors are being pressed for their reaction to the growing scandal engulfing the 65-year-old movie mogul, who has been accused of the harassment and sexual abuse of numerous women — many vulnerable young actresses — going back decades.
While some industry players have been conspicuous by their silence, Urban doesn’t have to be asked twice, describing the allegations as “repulsive.”
“My heart and support goes out to all of those women who were victims of this predator,” the 45-year-old New Zealand native tells AFP.
“It’s utterly shocking, devastating and disgusting, and I hope that this serves to send a strong clear signal to other would-be predators out there that that kind of behaviour is not tolerated.
“I sincerely hope that he gets everything that he deserves. And he will.”
Urban, a TV actor in New Zealand whose break in the movies came in the 2002 horror movie Ghost Ship, can speak with the confidence of a Hollywood veteran these days.
Since 2002 he has starred in two of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films, taken on iconic comic book character Judge Dredd and reimagined Star Trek medic Leonard “Bones” McCoy to critical acclaim.
But Marvel’s third Thor film — which hits US theatres on November 3 — sees his star ascend another level as part of a cinematic universe which has no fewer than four entries in the top 20 highest grossing movies of all time.
Thor: Ragnarok sees him in a star-studded cast that reads more like the acting categories at Oscars night — among them Anthony Hopkins, Cate Blanchett, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum and Mark Ruffalo.
Early reaction to preview screenings of Taiki Waititi’s first foray into Hollywood since earning almost universal applause for What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople has been effusive.
Critics have focused on the high count of genuinely funny jokes in a movie occupying a genre that is not always recognised for its sense of humour or self-awareness.
“I loved the tone of it. It didn’t take itself too seriously. For me personally, it was refreshing to see Chris Hemsworth able to spread his wings and let his natural charisma and humour come forward,” said Urban, who grew with Waititi in Wellington.
“I believe this is a wonderful new direction, not new for him, but for the franchise in general.”
Before Star Trek, Urban was probably best known for his starring role as another comic book character — 2000 AD’s iconic futuristic law enforcer Judge Dredd.
Despite rave reviews and a subsequent cult following, Dredd (2012) was a box office flop, with Urban criticising the movie’s marketing in an interview with AFP last year.
Speculation has been mounting over the possibility of Urban returning to the role, however, with British entertainment company and rights-holder Rebellion developing a limited-run TV series.
“I’ve had many meetings and discussions with them and I’ve been very frank,” Urban confirmed.
“My position is, if you write a character that has a function and a purpose and I get the ability to contribute to the overall story, then I would be very interested in reprising that role.”
He described the failure of Pete Travis’ Lionsgate movie as a “tragedy,” blaming “a fundamental lack of awareness that it was coming out.”
“It’s bittersweet for everybody to then realise after the fact. And it’s become this cult classic, much-loved and appreciated,” Urban said.
“Unfortunately, the way that it went down, it’s unlikely that we’re going to see a cinematic sequel to that particular version of it.”
Meanwhile, Urban’s performance in Star Trek Beyond (2016) — a more prominent role than in its two predecessors — could well be his last as Bones. Paramount hasn’t announced any plans for a fourth instalment in the reboot series.
In any case, says the actor, it would be difficult emotionally to return without Anton Yelchin — ship’s navigator Pavel Chekov in the franchise who died in a freak accident before Beyond came out after his car rolled in his driveway and pinned him to a pillar.
“If Star Trek Beyond is the last Star Trek I get to make, I’m happy to leave it there,” Urban told AFP.
“I actually had something to do in that film, and I had such a wonderful time.” — AFP