Writer Alex Garland (Sunshine, 28 Days Later) and director Pete Travis (Endgame) have brought Dredd back to life in what appears to be a stunningly cool and violent incarnation. The film was screened and SDCC this year, and people were shocked by how much they liked it and how brutal it was.
We recently caught up with Olivia Thirlby (The Wackness, Juno), who plays Anderson in the film. She’s side-by-side with Dredd for the whole gory ride and I’m sure we can all agree she’s more than a preferable substitute for Rob Schneider in every conceivable way. She spoke about the differences between this film and the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle, the violence in the film and what it was like playing a psychic.
“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 neighborhood 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. Dredd and Anderson must confront the odds and engage in the relentless battle for their survival.”
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On what attracted her to such a violent film. “The appeal was the amazing script and the amazing character that Alex Garland wrote for this. Dredd didn’t read like a normal genre script; the characters felt so real and the circumstances felt so realistic. There’s something I really like about the heroes in this film and about this world in general. They are just men and women really; they don’t have superhuman strength, or they’re not gods from a different planet- they’re just really brave and they feel really real to me.”
What’s the difference between this and Stallone’s version of Judge Dredd from the 90’s? “It is a totally different reimagining of the same source material, but in this version the goal was always to stay very faithful to the comic books, which is in contrast to what the other movie had done. There’s a difference in the creative imagining of these worlds, for sure… There are the comic books, definitely. Those had the same kind of feel that this version had so they were helpful. I picked up on a lot of the dry humor to this world, too. That kind of humor that comes from desperation where the humor just begins to leak out in very dark ways. All that really informed what we were doing, definitely.”
Her character also has some psychic abilities, but she’s not quite used to them. “I think that because Anderson is still young, I’m sure there’s a lot more she could learn about her abilities, but she’s also had them her whole life. When she’s “cluing in” on this heightened sensitivity that she has, I think she’s really in her element and she feels more confident because she’s on her own turf, even if she is inside someone else’s mind. That’s where she excels. She comes at it from a place of compassion, and that’s something that’s rare for a Judge. Maybe that’s part of why she had always been disqualified as an unsuitable Judge up until the point of this movie. There’s something about her sensitivities on paper that makes her unsuitable to be a Judge, but you see in the movie that in the field, it’s that compassion which can distinguish her.”
Did anything else help her inhabit her character? “It was a combination of things: the suit, the weapons, the ability to do a roundhouse kick and hold my own – all of them. It just feels so cool when you’re on set dressed like this; it’s like playing laser tag but with huge production values (laughs). Actually, it would take a team of people to get you inside the leather body suits every day, which was crazy. But there is just something about being covered in blood spatter, looking mean and having a sub-machine gun in your hands that’s really just so much fun. Oh, and being blonde; that really helped (laughs).”
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