Comic Con 2012: Interview with Dredd Star Olivia Thirlby
The big surprise for me this year at Comic Con was the opening night screening of DREDD. Brutal and intense Ė yet still a lot of fun Ė Karl Urban really brought this iconic character to life. He also had one hell of a costar with Olivia Thirlby. I had the chance to talk with the actress about the role and about kicking ass and taking names. She is lovely, charming which really started the day off right. Classy, cute and talented, DREDD fans will dig her performance for sure!
First off, I saw the movie with you last night. Holy shit!
Did you like it?
I loved it! It was really great! How are you feeling in regards to the fans reaction last night?
Iím so happy to hear that. Thank you. I really like the film and Iím excited about it. It really makes me happy that the fans love it. I mean, thatís the biggest thing. Itís really exciting. I like the film, myself. I think itís really good and I enjoy watching it. Itís wonderful to see that the fans are liking it too, because theyíre the most important group of people that we have to cater to. I mean, there are so many fans of the comic and the world of Dredd and Mega-City One is already so alive within them. Itís so special to be able to present the fans with something that fulfills whatever ideas they have or aligns with what they will hope the movie will be. Itís just thrilling that itís being received so well.
I like this character of yours. She doesnít feel like a typical action heroine. Usually they scream all the time or they are a little too tough to believe.
Or maybe that you donít buy it.
Well, thatís what I loved so much about the script and what drew me to want to do this film so much. [Director] Alex Garland really wrote this extraordinary woman for me to play. Moreover, he wrote her so that she has this full arc. She starts off with everything to prove and everything to lose and itís not until she does lose everything that she finally finds herself and kind of assumes this stature of a woman who can be a Judge and really come back to complete her journey. I loved playing her and I am so enamored and in love with her. Sheís so badass. Sheís so strong. Sheís so layered. It was amazing to have that contrast of playing somebody whoís unusually sensitive and putting her into this world of such harsh darkness and how she reacts to that darkness and that gruesomeness.
Yeah. Well, I loved that scene where you share that connection with the prisoner, Kay [Wood Harris]. Not to give away too many spoilers, but was it fun for you to work off him in the sequence where youíre having those psychic visions? Where did you go with that as an actor?
Well, it was really fun and part of what was clear throughout the script is that Ma-Ma is the villain of the story. She is Dreddís adversary. When it comes to Anderson though, her adversary is really Kay, this prisoner, this dark guy who can really mess with her and is twice her size. [Laughs.] Both Carl and Wood are vastly taller than me, so they had to put lifts in my shoes, but thatís a whole Ďnother story. [Laughs.] There are certain things that Anderson is very good at and there are things that are in her comfort zone and one of them is using her abilities to read people and see into them, and I think that she is really comfortable in her own skin when sheís doing that. Itís her own territory. So, even when she goes inside somebody elseís head, she has the confidence of knowing that sheís actually on her own turf.
It just seems like a great chance as an actress to go places where you donít normally get to go, especially with the last half of the movie where she does make that change. She found, not only her inner self, where sheís in peopleís heads, but she can also say: ďDonít f*ck with me.Ē
[Laughs.] Yeah. Exactly. Her and Dreddís partnership starts to gel and thatís something that me and Karl talked about a lot. It was very important for us to make that the heart of the movie, this fluctuating relationship between these two people and this partnership that forms between them. There are times where sheís failing her assessment and she knows it, but then, there are times where she does something right. The special thing between Dredd and Anderson and why their bond is unique and meaningful is that she may be the only person who knows the real Dredd. She can read him and feel him and know what heís thinking. He definitely isnít the one for communicating. [Laughs.] He knows that he has this weakness around her. She can see through his exterior. His helmet, so to speak. She even knows what his eyes look like, even though the rest of us donít and thatís something that makes them strangely suited to each other and I think that the relationship that they form is really the heart of the movie.
How did you prepare for this role? Mentally, as well as physically. I mean, this is a very challenging movie. You donít look like the character who could take on all these guys, but while watching the movie? Absolutely!
Thank you! Iím glad it sells. It was very important for me to do my own fights and stunts. Learning how to do a roundhouse kick was one of the hardest things Iíve ever done in my life. [Laughs.] And, of course, I learned how to do it and I got pretty good at it, but once I put on the suit, it was a whole other ball of wax. Itís almost impossible just to lift your arms with a weapon when you have this leather suit on. It doesnít move at all. The mental preparation was just as big because I wanted to make her psychic abilities into something real. I didnít want to be a psychic who, like, rubbed her temples and scratched her chin and then say: ďEureka! I had a vision!Ē I wanted it to be something that, for her, was very intuitive and make it apart of her experience with the world and I concocted this whole idea with her being able to see color and aura and being able to read not just people, but situations by the kind of colors and frequencies that are being projected. I also payed attention to the comics. She has a number of personas in the comics. Sometimes, sheís very sassy and sexy. Sometimes, sheís very vulnerable and sad. So, in that sense, I was lucky to make my own decisions about her attitude, but the physical preparation was really, really fun. I had to learn fight sequences and stunts and the tactical training was really fun. I got to learn how to handle weapons, fire guns, take it apart, put it together, change magazines without looking. All that fun stuff that makes you feel really bad ass.
So, if I gave you a gun right now, what would be one youíd like to mess with? Or, are you one of those people who hates guns and you donít even want to deal with one in general?
Oh, no. Working on this film was the first time Iíve ever handled and fired a weapon, but since then, Iíve been to the firing range a couple times and I actually think itís really fun.
I wish that I was a connoisseur of guns and I could tell you what make and model I really like, but...I like glocks. I like handguns. Thereís something kind of sexy about them and theyíre easier to use. [Laughs.]
See, Iíve also dealt with guns before and when I have, they terrified me, but at the same time, when you have them in your hand -
You feel pretty badass. For the last quarter of the film, Iím toting around this M5 submachine gun, which is the length of my arm and then some. It was very fun to learn how to handle that weapon cause when youíre in that whole kind of stance, you canít help but feel cool. Itís just apart of it.
When was the first time you really felt your character gel? When did you feel you had this character down?
You know, thereís probably a lot of ways for me to answer that, and in truth, I didnít really feel Anderson until the first time I saw the final film. Youíre shooting these things on the day and they can feel a little larger than life. I was in this crazy suit thatís very heavy and uncomfortable and tight and my hair wasnít what I was used to and I was definitely worried about how it would look and come off. I had an idea of how I hoped it would turn out, but it was really seeing the final product that has allowed me to breathe easy and take confidence in the character that I created because I got to see the whole world of Mega-City One and how Anderson fits in.
Well, now I feel like a lot of fans, me included, want to see a part two and see where youíre going with that.
Well, I would be over the moon to be able to play Anderson again. I love this character. Sheís so much more than just an action film character. She seems like a real person to me and it was a character that I could easily get into. So, I would just love to play her again, especially now that sheís a Judge. So, maybe her badass factor can go up and I can do all sorts of cool things.