Pete Travis Talks Dredd 3D, on Blu-ray and DVD today!
Dredd 3D was ignored during its September release by the general public, but those who saw it praised it as one of last year's best action movies. A visually stunning adaptation of the popular UK comic book series, star Karl Urban captured the character in a way that Sylvester Stallone failed to do in the 1995 original. And the fans loved it. If you missed it in theaters, now is your chance to finally see Dredd 3D, as it comes home on Blu-ray and DVD this week.
We recently caught up with the film's director, Pete Travis (Endgame; Vantage Point) to talk about this under-seen classic in the modern action genre.
Will there be a Dredd 2? Here is our conversation.
The Dredd comic books are quite a bit more popular in the UK than they are here in the States. Was it hard to find your audience in this country?
Pete Travis: The truth is, in the UK, people are more familiar with the original source material, as opposed to the 1990s version of the film. Here in the states, the opposite of that is the case. Probably. More people here are familiar with that film than they are the comic books. That is always a challenge. We wanted to go back to the source material. I think the appetite and the audience for kick-ass action movies doesn't change much at the end of the day. That idea is universal. So, I think this has the ability to appeal to people, even if they aren't familiar with the comic book.
People that see the film love it, but it wasn't widely seen in theaters. Are you glad that Dredd is finally coming home on Blu-ray and DVD, where more fans will get a chance to experience its awesome action and 3D?
Pete Travis: When you make a film, you are always hoping that as many people as possible see it. And those people who do see it, they really have a great experience with it. It has been a joy, really. I have watched the film with a couple of different audiences, and it's a real ride of an experience. Its like nothing I have seen before. It is wild. Like you said, those that see it seem to love it. So it is exciting that it will find another audience past the cinema. It will be really exciting if it can do that.
The people I know who've seen it wanted a sequel the minute it was over. Are you hoping that the Blu-ray and DVD sales make it possible to move forward on a sequel?
Pete Travis: I don't know how the sequel thing works, really. I hope they get another chance to make a second film. I think [writer] Alex Garland has more stories that he wants to tell. I think Karl Urban...He is Dredd. It would be really exciting for them to make another, and go further with that character. I sincerely hope so...
In talking about some of the challenges the film posed for you, in the original film, Sylvester Stallone is taking his helmet off nearly every other scene. Here, Karl never takes it off, which is truer to the source material. What kind of challenges did that create, and what did staying true to that idea do for the movie?
Pete Travis: Dredd is about faceless justice. That's what its about. With faceless justice, you can't see his face. That is a no brainer. It wasn't so much a challenge as it was an obvious thing to do. One of the first things Karl said when we met about the film was, "I'm not going to do it if I have to take the helmet off." (Laughs) People that know the character, that know the source material, know that it's like having a Superman that doesn't fly. This helmet is a central part of who he is. His mystique, and his unknowingness is what makes him attractive. Obviously, it's a challenge for the actor. Because you are having to hide the thing that is your most potent weapon. Which is your eyes. We were all wondering what that would be like. It was extraordinary when we went to watch the dailies. We would find ourselves totally gripped by what was going on. The things you couldn't see. You were more drawn to what you couldn't see. You were drawn to what was going on in his head, because you couldn't see his eyes. Karl did something extraordinary with it. He really made you care about him in a way that I didn't think was possible when you couldn't see someone's eyes. That was the rule. You can't make Dredd 3D if you see his face. Its just not Dredd otherwise.
Was it tough for you to find an actor willing to do that, or did you find Karl right away? I have to imagine a lot of actors wouldn't be up for wearing a mask that covers their face for a whole movie. Obviously Sly wasn't up for it...
Pete Travis: I think some actors are not brave enough. Karl Urban? We met him early on, and he just seemed so right. He was a huge fan of the comic books when he was younger. He seemed to have an instinctive sense about the character. When we heard his voice in the read through, it was kind of frightening. He just seemed to be there, and he wasn't even wearing a costume at that point. He just got an instinctive sense of who Dredd is from the get go. From when we first met him, it was obvious that he had to be Dredd. He seems to inhabit the man in a way that is extraordinary. He makes you like him, even though he is a real tough hard-ass. That is really challenging. He is not trying to be sympathetic. John Wagner, who created the comics, said famously, "The harder you make Dredd, the more people will like him." I think that is true. Karl Urban has been extraordinary as Dredd.
And playing off of that is Olivia Thirlby as his partner. She plays an important role in the film, and I have to imagine that was a tough character to find within an actress as well...
Pete Travis: Yeah. Olivia Thirlby auditioned against a couple of other people. Again, she was one of the first people we met. She had something extraordinary about her. A real toughness, yet a real vulnerability. The thing about Anderson is that she is kind of the audience. She is the rookie who wears her heart on her sleeve. She hasn't made it yet as a Judge, and she doesn't really understand the rules. She understands the rules, but she struggles to live them in the way that Dredd lives them. She is our way into his world. Olivia Thirlby did that beautifully, really. She had grown into a real tough person by the end of the film. There is a real toughness to her all the way through, but at the same time, there is an extraordinary vulnerability. As she says early on in the film, she became a judge because she wanted to make a difference in the world. I think she found a delicacy and a real toughness. And at the same time, she was someone who could handle a weapon. You believed that she could kill people. She did all of that wonderfully. I think it was a fantastic combination of toughness and vulnerability.
It was fun to see her in this role. We haven't really seen her in a role like this before.
Pete Travis: No. I think actors and actresses love the opportunity to go to places where people haven't seen them before. She got to fight and shoot. Being in an action movie is a lot of fun. I think you get to explore a lot of boundaries that you wouldn't normally get to in other films. It's always exciting when someone can combine that with a great humanity. I think she does that beautifully.
When the trailer came out for Dredd, some people thought you were ripping off The Raid: Redemption. Which we know isn't true because this film's script was written before that movie went into production. Did you sweat a little when you saw that movie was coming out before yours? Were you worried about the similarities in the storyline?
Pete Travis: There is no point in sweating it. It happens. You only have to look at the timeline of the films. Alex Garland's script was written way before The Raid: Redemption ever got made. Then when a film comes out before yours, and gets compared to it, there is nothing you can do about that. The Raid: Redemption is a great movie. I really enjoyed it. But it's not the same movie. I don't think there was a need to sweat about it. Those guys made an amazing film. And we made an amazing film as well. That's what is important. That's what you have to do, really.
I think the comparisons came out because of the trailer, more so than comparing the two films side by side...
Pete Travis: Yeah, but it is a similar story. It's about a bunch of cops going into a tower block. People assume that, close your eyes, someone is using someone else's story...None of that is true. Just look at the timeline of the film, and you will see that we were in pre-production before that film even began. I must say, though, I really loved that film. I thought it was really good.
We actually covered this on the site. Most people know it's not a rip-off. But then you have these 14 and 15 year old kids who are the loudest, writing on comment sections about how this is a rip-off. They don't understand how movies are made, or the long process behind getting a film to the screen. That is lost on them.
Pete Travis: Well, you know what? Now they have two very kick ass movies that they can watch! (Laughs)
It makes for a great double feature...
Pete Travis: Absolutely, it does! It does, yeah...
Dredd is coming out on Blu-ray in 3D...
Pete Travis: That is great! I don't have a 3D TV, but to be able to experience that in your own home must be pretty amazing. One of the really special things about this movie is the way it looks. It looks extraordinary. That is Anthony Dod Mantle, our Oscar-winning DP. He made all of it look extraordinary. The 3D super slow-mo visuals that are part of the drug experience, it's kind of out of this world the way it looks. Its this material that looks like you are in some hallucinatory dream. It is graceful and beautiful. Then you realize that what you've been watching is someone getting their face blown off. It is an extraordinary visual. The violence looks so beautiful. That is one of the things that we wanted to play with. It was great to have that.
That's the thing about this movie. I think it has the best 3D cinematography of this past year.
Pete Travis: I agree. I think it does, yeah. Anthony really broke the mold and took it someplace it hadn't been before.
The Oscar nominations came out this morning. Dredd was snubbed. I'm not making a joke about that. Do you think the Academy isn't looking at 3D cinematography the way they should be quite yet?
Pete Travis: Maybe not. With the right cinematographer, I think you can do really exciting things with it. We had an extraordinary time with telling this story in 3D. I hadn't anticipated that. I really enjoyed it. When you are working with a visionary, like Anthony, its almost like you are watching someone find a new medium. And they are playing with it in ways that have not been done before. It's great that this can be captured in the Blu-ray 3D experience. That you get a sense of that. That must be extraordinary to have in your living room.
What is the process of getting a hold of the screenplay, and then visualizing what is written on the page so that it is ready for a 3D screen?
Pete Travis: The truth is, it's a whole scene collaborative experience. For example, in the script, it says that Mama, when you first meet her, is taking the Slo-Mo drug. On a couch. I think that's what the script said. Our art director came up with putting her in the bath. Now you can't imagine that sequence being anything but that. As soon as someone says that, you have to add water. Then you have someone else saying, "Wouldn't it be amazing if the camera was right there?" You then have to look at how the bathroom should be lit. Where you need to put the lights. Anthony has a really strong sense of how he wants the 3D to look, beautifully. And to make a world that is dark and scary seem extraordinary. And you have the extras themselves, the way they might just move their hand. That one shot becomes a combination of an awful lot of people trying to get it up on screen. And then you have the visual effects added onto that. A lot of those Slo-Mo shots are shots that are joined together. It is a whole team. It is a whole collaboration amongst these people, and that is what came from the script. That's what is exciting about movies. It's about getting that collaborative sense, and figuring out what it is. And this was a collaborative movie like none I have ever worked on before. It was really extraordinary in that way.
In talking about a sequel, some of these shots are so great, and they define what the movie is in a way. The sequel obviously won't be about the Slo-Mo drug. Is there an idea about how to recapture that same uniqueness, and push it in a new, exciting way. Is there a way to exceed what you've done here in terms of the style and look of Dredd?
Pete Travis: I think Alex Garland has a trilogy in his mind. I think there is a whole exciting journey in front of Dredd if Alex and Karl Urban get to take him on that journey. The future is really exciting for him. Especially in terms of going with some of the other characters from the comic book. Finding out more about where Dredd comes from. I also think its exciting, the possibilities. The first film does go all out as a visual feast. Whoever gets a chance to do the others willl take that, and make it even more exciting. I can't wait to see it.
Saying that, you don't think you will be back for the second one?
Pete Travis: I don't think so. I really hope there is a second one. I just feel very lucky to have been involved in the first one. It has been a great experience for me. I read Alex Garland's script two years ago, and I feel in love with it then. I have enjoyed the whole process of working on that with him, and bringing it to the screen. It was extraordinary. I hope that get the chance to make another one. I think Dredd is an extraordinary character. I think Karl Urban captured him so perfectly. I think there is a real beautiful future there.
Are you done with the comic book genre for a while?
Pete Travis: Hmm? No. I wasn't looking for a comic book movie when I found Dredd. Like I say, it was all about the script. There is another comic book script that I have been sent, that I quite like. I hope it might get made this year. I think comic books and graphic novels are exciting. I think there are tons of ways to make them more real. It's an area I am really excited about.
Can you tell us what that comic book is?
Pete Travis: No, not at the moment. It is in the early stage.
Are you out of the running for Star Wars?
Pete Travis: I'm not sure I was even in.
Everyone keeps turning the movie down. You have such a great visual style in this film...I wouldn't count out the possibility.
Pete Travis: I wouldn't count out anything in this business, really. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?
Are you even interested in that?
Pete Travis: Oh, yeah. Who wouldn't be interested in that? I loved it as a kid. I loved it while I was growing up. So, who knows?
Dredd 3D is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.