Olivia Thirlby Interview For ‘Dredd’
In ’Dredd,’ the future America is an irradiated waste land. On its East Coast, running from Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One- a vast, violent metropolis where criminals rule the chaotic streets. The only force of order lies with the urban cops called “Judges” who possess the combined powers of judge, jury and instant executioner. Known and feared throughout the city, Dredd (Karl Urban) is the ultimate Judge, challenged with ridding the city of its latest scourge – a dangerous drug epidemic that has users of “Slo-Mo” experiencing reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
During a routine day on the job, Dredd is assigned to train and evaluate Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a rookie with powerful psychic abilities thanks to a genetic mutation. A heinous crime calls them to a neighbourhood where fellow Judges rarely dare to venture- a 200 story vertical slum controlled by prostitute turned drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her ruthless clan. When they capture one of the clan’s inner circle, Ma-Ma overtakes the compound’s control center and wages a dirty, vicious war against the Judges that proves she will stop at nothing to protect her empire. With the body count climbing and no way out, Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival. ‘Dredd’ is brought to life by the endlessly inventive mind of writer Alex Garland (28 days later, Never Let Me Go) and acclaimed director, Pete Travis (End Game, Vantage Point). Starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Deobia Oparei, Wood Harris, Jason Cope and Domhnall Gleeson, ‘Dredd’ is out now in the UK and is set for release in the US on September 21st.
What was your reaction when you first read Alex Garland’s screenplay for ‘Dredd’?
Olivia Thirlby: Alex Garland wrote a brilliant script and that is what brought me in. The moment I read Anderson’s first line of dialogue she jumped right into my heart and I have Alex to thank for that. I really connected with the character, so I made an audition tape. Then I didn’t hear anything for maybe three weeks and forgot about it and thought, “Oh well, I guess they found someone else.”" I took no news as bad news and as it turned out: no news is good news (laughs), because out of the blue I heard they really liked my tape and it all kind of went from there.
Anderson becomes an unexpected asset to the legendary Dredd. Her psychic abilities leave her with an emotional style of law enforcement that makes her a great counter-point to Dredd?
Olivia Thirlby: Yeah. Dredd is all black and white, whereas Anderson exists in a grey area where everything is enhanced or clouded by the fact that she knows what is going on in the very interior of a person, maybe even more than they themselves do. She has deep understanding of the scope of human experience. She knows the greatest joy and the deepest sorrow, because she can feel it in other people. And Anderson, she’s a mutant, she’s been affected by radiation from outside of the city. She was born near the perimeter of the city. And instead of making her deformed, or giving her three eyeballs or something like that, she’s just become hypersensitive to energy. That translates to the kind of psychic ability.
Considering Anderson’s psychic abilities, that leads her to some intense moments in the story. I can imagine they were emotionally taxing?
Olivia Thirlby: Definitely. In this slum there are a lot of really bleak things that happen here and there are several times in the film where she has no choice but to take in the entirety of the pain of what people are feeling. And that is always very hard on her because her gifts are a curse; she has no choice but to feel the pain.
Anderson is very much an underdog amidst the explosive violence of Mega City One….
Olivia Thirlby: The odds are stacked against her in every conceivable way. As with many people she has to lose herself to find herself and she has to give up before she is able to do what it is she is actually able and wants to do. She begins the film trying very hard to impress and do the right thing and follow the right procedure and during the course of the film the stakes become so high, so life and death, the plot thickens and she is forced to let go of all these things she is trying to do and completely be herself.
With a high-octane film like this, how did you find the intense stunt, weapons and tactical training?
Olivia Thirlby: Oh man, I am proud that I can re-load and rack a gun and it’s great to approach a set with corridors and figure out how you would tactically move through these spaces properly. I had to learn how to roundhouse kick, which was very difficult (laughs), and other basic fight training but everything was done so that you believe Anderson could be physically commanding enough to kill somebody with her bare hands.
How was it working opposite Karl Urban’s Dredd?
Olivia Thirlby: I loved working with Karl, I think he really is Dredd! When that helmet goes on and that snarl crosses his lips and he speaks in this low gravely voice: he is this character, he is Dredd. And he makes it believable. Judge Dredd is a very severe character, but I think Karl does such a good job in making him real and bringing him to life. He’s also just great fun to be around (laughs). I think we have a great working relationship.
The cinematography in ‘Dredd’ is stunning, how was it working with Anthony Dod Mantle? Some of his work on the film really adds to your character in ways….
Olivia Thirlby: Yeah. I loved being around Anthony Dod Mantle, he’s such a gifted cinematographer. I think he’s really pioneering some things with the 3D in this film, in ‘Dredd.’ Anthony was building his own cameras and coming up with his own kind of way to shift his stereography. And it’s especially cool for my character, for Anderson, because they found a way to show, with the 3D, when Anderson is reading somebody. I loved that.
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