As a veteran of the modern Star Trek franchise as the iconic Dr. McCoy and a previous big screen comic book hero himself in the form of Judge Dredd in 2012's Dredd, Karl Urban is more than passingly familiar with enthusiastic responses to footage teases at Comic-Con International in San Diego. But when attending this past Saturday evening as part of his first Marvel film, the highly anticipated Thor: Ragnarok, even the genre veteran was impressed by the resulting fan frenzy.
Playing the antagonistic Asgardian Skurge in the film (long known as The Executioner in the comics pages and created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1964), Urban -- with a shaved, tattooed head -- shares considerable screen time opposite Cate Blanchett’s goddess of death Hela. As the actor told CBR this past weekend at the convention, that pairing was a perk that made the sometimes grueling physical aspect of his role all the more worthwhile.
CBR: How was getting the big blast of fan love for this particular movie?
Karl Urban: It was phenomenal. Nothing really prepares you for a Hall H Marvel panel -- that was incredible! And to be able to premiere some new footage for them and have it go down like that, it was awesome.
This character’s been around for a long time, created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. What did that mean to you, to see the legacy of that character and figure out what you wanted to take from that and do what this movie needed you to do?
Yeah, it was really about trying to, I guess, honor the genesis, and then also, make sure that as a piece of the puzzle that he fit into the world that [Thor: Ragnarok director] Taika [Waititi] was creating. I think that there’s going to be elements within the character of Skurge that are going to surprise fans. He really, truly has a wonderful journey in this film.
What did you love -- just plain flat-out love -- about playing this guy, and what was the challenging part?
What I loved about playing Skurge was getting to work with Cate Blanchett every day, and that relationship that he has with Hela. And I guess the most challenging aspect was probably the physicality of the role, particularly when you’re trying to work with that uniform, is pretty physically exhausting, and I certainly have a newfound respect for all those actors in the Marvel films who do that on a day-to-day basis.
Did the new look get you halfway into the character?
Oh yeah. Once I’ve shaved my head, put the tats on, wear the armor, it dictates the tone. Yeah, it does a wonderful job!
Directed by Taiki Waititi and starring Chris Hemsworth in the title role, Thor: Ragnarok is scheduled for release on Nov. 3.