Comic Con 2012: Olivia Thirlby on Dredd

Getting 'obsessed' with her character, being more realistic than the Stallone film and what she'd like to do in the sequel.

William Bibbianiby William Bibbiani


That Dredd 3D screening has been building up a lot of buzz at Comic Con 2012, with Pete Travis's new, darker take on the classic comic book series quickly erasing memories of the disappointing Sylvester Stallone version. LionsGate has been out promoting the movie in full force, providing us with an up close and personal interview with the film's star, Olivia Thirlby, who makes her comic book movie debut in the new sci-fi action film. Though distracted by her dynamite smile, I still managed to pull my wits together and discuss what it took to tackle the character of Judge Anderson, a psychic whose partner is none other than the legendary Judge Dredd, played by Karl Urban.


CraveOnline: Is this you first Comic Con?

Olivia Thirlby: Yeah. Well, I was at New York Comic Con this past year, but it’s, by comparison, not really the same thing. [Laughs]


You’ve done genre stuff before. You’ve done Darkest Hour, which I liked, by the way…

Oh, thank you…


But this is your first comic book movie.



Are you prepared for that? Because there’s the protectiveness of the fans, for all their beloved characters.

Of course. I mean, I don’t know exactly what to prepare for? But it is my most sincere hope that people are happy with my portrayal of Anderson, and I certainly didn’t take it lightly. It was very important to me to make sure that I remain true to how she has already been established. That’s why I died my hair blonde [laughs], among other things. But you know, I can only hope that people will feel it’s an accurate representation.


What is your take on Anderson? When you think of her, when you were building her up, what is the core of the character?

Well, I’m completely obsessed with her, and that’s been my favorite part actually, of promoting this film, is realizing that I’m completely obsessed with this character. She is literally my dream role. I can’t imagine anyone cooler [laughs] than Anderson! I think, for me, the essence of the character was making her psychic abilities part of her entire essence, and part of her experience of being alive. And to take it seriously and treat it not as some comic book superpower, and treat it as a rather believable phenomena that does exist in the world. I came up with the ways by which I thought that she was sensitive and how she perceives things, and what exactly is going down inside her head, and how she knows that Dredd is angry and in control, but there’s something else… all this stuff.


Did Karl Urban take the helmet off between takes…?

He definitely took it off between takes. As a matter of fact the suits were so uncomfortable and restrictive and hot, that usually the second the camera wasn’t rolling we were unzipping and throwing the armor… at least throwing the armor off.


Did you see the Sylvester Stallone movie?

You know, it was a decision not to see it before the film. But actually, I think I would like to watch it.


It’s a very different, much more conventional take.

That’s what I heard about it, and it seems like they took a lot of liberties with imagining the world of Megacity One.


That’s why I brought it up, because their costumes are more flashy and codpiece-y, and yours much more Kevlar and practical.

Yeah, well we wanted to make this movie feel real. And in the comics, Dredd does have kind of oversized shoulderpads, but it’s a comic, and the other thing about the world of Megacity One is that it’s real gritty and dark. We felt like that was going to be the essence of what would ring most true in adapting this material, so the costume design was very deliberate. We wanted to make them look like riot cops. They would be wearing gear that would be protective, above all else, and not sexy, and it was a fight because I thought I looked like a football player [with] the shoulder pads. I wanted at least to come off as being female [laughs] but they were really sticklers about having the suit, it needs to be zipped up. You can’t show your neck, that’s not realistic. So that was always the goal of the movie. It wasn’t to have them look sexy, it was to have them look real.


It’s also a cop movie, a buddy cop movie.



Oftentimes when you hear about people doing research, doing ride-alongs. Is that even worth doing with material like Dredd?

We did not do anything like that. We were also in South Africa, which was kind of a different setting. But we did have our tactical training guys, or a military crew, so they were ex-military guys. They were the ones that taught us how to realistically move through hallways and do those kinds of things.


I don’t think I’d seen you in a fight scene before this, unless there’s a deleted scene in Margaret



I just saw that last week and I was like, “Olivia Thirlby’s in this…?”

Yeah, that was my second job ever, Margaret. Yeah, I think I was nineteen when I shot that.


It turned out great.

Yeah, I’d heard that. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ve heard such amazing things about it.


Even the truncated cut is brilliant.



Yeah, but back to the fight scenes. You’d done The Darkest Hour, but this is more…

Yeah, The Darkest Hour was pretty simple: run away.


“Oh no, CGI monster! Argh!”



You acted better than I did.

I actually fractured my foot on The Darkest Hour. [Laughs]


Oh my god!

Running in heels!


Where? What scene?

It’s actually in the film. You see it happening. There’s this scene where we’re… running… which is what happens often in that film, and we’re running and I’m wearing heels, and you see me totally wipe out. And then I stand up and everyone’s like, “Oh my god, are you okay?” And I take my heels off and keep running, and by the end of the take you can see I’m limping. That’s because I fractured the third metatarsal in my left foot. But it’s cool, at least it ended up in the film. It was a real fall. [Laughs] And it was on cobblestones. It hurt! So the moral of the story is, don’t run on heels on cobblestones. Because it doesn’t matter how graceful you are [and] I’m not that graceful, so it was just a recipe for disaster.

But I loved doing the physical stuff for Dredd. I have to give a shout-out to the stunt team that I worked with. Grant [Hulley] and Vern taught me how to roundhouse kick, and I also kill them in the film. Those are the two guys that I do my hand-to-hand combat scene with. And also Paul [Hampshire], and Fleur [van Eeden], my stunt double, was amazing although they didn’t have to use her as much as they thought they would, because I could do my own fighting.


Because you’re a total badass.

Because I’m a total badass! Fleur is a total badass times ten, but she was very inspiring for me. Yeah, it was great fun. It was really hard work. It required dedication. There were some days when I thought, “Oh my god, I’m never going to learn how to roundhouse kick, and they’re going to have to do it with my double.” But I pressed on and I did eventually get it, and I loved learning that stuff. I throw a mean right hook, and the training was a lot of boxing, for that fight, to make it look believable that I fell somebody with a kidney punch. It was really important.


Were you looking for something this action-oriented, at least in a general way?

No, I wasn’t looking for this, but it came my way and I thought that the script was awesome, and I definitely was not opposed to donning leather and playing a badass. It just…


That’s how I spend my free time.

Yes! Exactly! See? It’s something that we all wish we could do. It really is like a childhood fantasy, but with amazing production values. It’s like what we all wished we were doing when we were young, and what some of us wish we were still doing, and some of us actually are doing it. [Stretches cockily, laughs]


So you read the comic books…

Yeah, absolutely.


So you know some of the places that Anderson goes. Is there anything you would be particularly excited to see in the sequel?

Oh my goodness, fingers crossed tightly for the sequel. You know, I would love to see her come up against some of the Dark Judges.


Judge Death?

Judge Death. I think especially because she is an atypical judge, and because she is an extraordinary judge. It would be really interesting to see her come up against other judges who are different in that way.


What would you ask you in an interview?

I can’t help you…


No! Old standby then, what have you got coming up?

Well, I have a new movie coming out in October which couldn’t be more different than Dredd, tonally and everything-ly. It’s an independent film called Nobody Walks, and it’s kind of a very subtle exploration of relationships. It is the literal opposite film of Dredd. It comes out three weeks after Dredd does. [Laughs]


Awesome. We’ll make it a double feature.