Karl Urban had no real interest in returning to the role of Leonard “Bones’ McCoy after making “Star Trek Into Darkness.”
“I had huge reservations about coming back to make another ‘Star Trek’ movie,” Urban says as he reclines on the couch in a room at the Four Seasons Hotel. He’s still suffering the affects of being in England a day earlier for the European opening of “Star Trek: Beyond.”
“I wasn’t particularly happy with what the fans and media picked up on, which was the marginalization of the character in ‘Into Darkness.’”
Urban, who had received so much praise for capturing the essence of the character of McCoy when the “Star Trek” series rebooted in 2009, was not under contract to do a third film in the franchise. Plus, when it came time to sign on to the the Enterprise crew again, he was in negotiations for another movie.
He was on the fence until he talked to Justin Lin, the “Fast & Furious” director who helmed “Star Trek: Beyond.” Lin laid out his vision of the movie and what he wanted to do with McCoy.
“That peaked my interest and I decided to come back. I’m glad I did because what we have is the most well-rounded, most well-defined picture of Bones in the three films I have had the pleasure to portray him,” Urban says.
Between Lin’s vision and the script by “Star Trek” fans Simon Pegg and Doug Jung, McCoy moves into a major player in “Star Trek: Beyond.” The banter between Bones and Spock (Zachary Quinto), which has been such a key through the original series and early movies, is brought to the forefront.
The quips and cuts the characters take at each other create the comedic relief in the film.
“What I relished most, and what I think audiences are going to enjoy most, is taking these characters into new territories,” Urban says. “There are some very honest and unguarded exchanges between Bones and Spock and that was very rewarding to play.”
The ultimate gift of this characters is there are so many different dimensions. The comedy part is something wonderful for me to access because it’s something I normally don’t get to do.
Along with those emotional elements, McCoy is put in the middle of most of the action, something that has rarely happened in the past.
There’s good reason Urban would be antsy when given a role with little to do. The New Zealand actor has been busy.
His long list of credits include, from his early days in the “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” the second and third installments of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the short-lived FOX series “Almost Human” and starring in the feature film “Dredd.” He is in the upcoming Disney film “Pete’s Dragon” and will be in Skurge in “Thor: Ragnarok.”
Fans deeply embraced his work in “Dredd.” There has been so much positive reaction, there has been rumors his Dredd character could become a series for one of the streaming sites. Urban liked the role so much, he would be glad to return to the role should that happen.
A lot of roles Urban plays are based in science fiction, a genre he’s always liked. The thing that made “Star Trek” stand out to him were all of the characters. He saw it in the way Gene Roddenberry created the show and continued through directors J.J. Abrams and Lin in the latest movies.
Urban’s certain the characters are a primary reason why the “Star Trek” franchise is still going after 50 years.
“You enjoy spending time with these characters, You like these characters because they care about each other. The central theme of this movie is that we can accomplish more together than we can alone,” Urban says. “ ‘Star Trek’ is like a lighthouse for us.”
For now, he’s back playing McCoy as friend, doctor, philosopher, hero and counselor. His counseling skills become huge in “Star Trek Beyond” as both Kirk and Spock talk to him about major life decisions.
“You wouldn’t have seen him as a counselor in the last two films, but if you go back to ‘Star Trek: The Motion Picture’ or ‘The Wrath of Khan,’ he definitely adopts that role,” Urban says. “As the ship’s surgeon, he’s not just responsible for the physical well being of the crew but also their mental well being. It’s lovely to see it represented so beautifully in this film.”