‘Dredd': ‘Game of Thrones’ star takes ‘mad’ sci-fi detour

May 07, 2012 | 12:34 p.m.
lena headey in dredd Dredd: Game of Thrones star takes mad sci fi detour

Lena Headey in “Dredd.” (Lionsgate)

On “Game of Thrones,” Lena Headey plays Cersei Lannister, the diabolical but damaged queen who hides behind a face of royal beauty, but fans of the HBO medieval epic might need a moment to recognize the British actress in the sci-fi film “Dredd,” which is scheduled to arrive in September. Like Cersei, Madeline “Ma-Ma” Madrigal ruthlessly puts down all challenges to her authority, but her scarred face is no facade — it’s more like a map of the cruel metropolis called Mega City One.

cersei lannister Dredd: Game of Thrones star takes mad sci fi detour

Lena Headey in “Game of Thrones” (HBO)

In a world scorched and sickened by radiation wars, Mega City One is one of the last pockets of civilization but it tests the bottom limits of the word. Madrigal is the fierce gang leader who rules Peach Tree City Block and that puts her squarely in the sights of the film’s title character, Judge Joseph Dredd — played by Karl Urban of “Star Trek” and “The Bourne Supremacy” — the most feared of the city’s Street Judges, the elite armored agents who bring the entire criminal justice system to the sidewalk; they are arresting officer, judge, jury and, yes, executioner.

The film has being called a remake of the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film “Judge Dredd,” but it might be more precise to think of it as do-over adaptation; in his 35th anniversary, Judge Dredd remains the most iconic creation of the British comics scene, but none of the savage and scabby spirit of those comics (think “Dirty Harry” on patrol in the “Death Race” world) reached the screen in the glossy bloat of the Stallone film.

The first Judge Dredd comic premiered in March 1977 — the same month the Clash released their first single, “White Riot,” and the Sex Pistols signed a contract with A&M Records at the gates of Buckingham Palace. All of London seemed up for grabs, and the choices seemed like anarchy or fascism. Headey, during a recent interview at the offices of HBO in Santa Monica, says the goal of this new “Dredd” was to get back to the blood-bruise qualities of those comics.

judge dredd 1987 Dredd: Game of Thrones star takes mad sci fi detour

Judge Dredd in comics, circa 1987 (IPC/Fleetway)

“The world [in the film] feels really British, and I don’t know if that’s because it’s so dirty and dark,” Headey said. “And it’s … violent. Just in terms of gunplay, they’re not afraid to show blood and gunshot wounds. And it’s set up in this concrete sort of shanty town — it’s shanty but they’re blocks — concrete favelas.”

With that backdrop, many citizens are ready to accept the glowering Dredd with his Lawgiver pistol and police-state promise. Others, however, would rather escape with Slo-Mo, the reality-bending drug that is funneling though Madrigal’s gang.

Madrigal was conceived as a much older character, in her 70s or older, but Headey won over Alex Garland, the screenwriter and a key engine of the project, to the idea of a middle-aged woman who has logged a lot of city miles.

“She’s a prostitute who then kills her pimp and takes over his drug-running business,” said Headey, whose acting credits include Queen Gorgo in “300” and the title role in “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.” “And Ma-Ma is a bit of a man-hater.”

Headey said she came up with the image of a sullen and cynical predator to help her find an entry point to the role.

“I think of her like an old great white shark who is just waiting for someone bigger and stronger to show up and kill her,” Headey said. “She’s ready for it. In fact, she can’t wait for it to happen. And yet no one can get the job done.  She’s an addict, so she’s dead in that way, but that last knock just hasn’t come. This big, fat, scarred shark moving through the sea and everyone flees and she’s like, ‘Will someone just have the balls to do it? Please?‘”

judge dredd karl urban Dredd: Game of Thrones star takes mad sci fi detour

Karl Urban as Judge Dredd (Lionsgate)

The big question in the air around “Dredd” is whether the Lionsgate film is actually going to be any good. There were reports that director Pete Travis (“Vantage Point”) was fired during post-production, but then a released statement insisted that he was still onboard and that he and Garland (“28 Days Later”) had agreed early on to share duties in an unorthodox way. (You can read the back-and-forth of it all at 24 Frames.) Working with Garland was the draw for Headey.

“‘Dredd’ was a weird, little, out-of-the-blue thing for me,” Headey said. “We met up and I read, and he kind of loved what I did and I loved the script. I think he’s a brilliant writer, he’s good guy, Alex. So I ended going out to South Africa to shoot this mad thing. In terms of the scale of the movie, the budget was tiny.”

Indeed, the film has a lean budget — reportedly $55 million to $60 million — but an approach of austerity and bleak shadow may actually help the film separate itself from the shiny sci-fi of the 1995 movie (which also had an especially odd cast that included Diane Lane, Max von Sydow, Rob Schneider and rock star Ian Dury).

That version, directed by Danny Cannon (who would go to be an executive producer and director on all three “CSI” franchises), infuriated longtime Dredd readers by jettisoning the dark satire of the comics, adding a romance for the title character and daring to let Dredd walk around without his helmet, which is akin to letting the Lone Ranger ride into town without a mask. Adding insult to injury, those fans would hear again and again that “Mad Max” and “RoboCop” took direct inspiration from the Dredd comics and produced genre classics — while the character’s own spotlight moment ended up as a dim-bulb project.

But will the lawman’s second shot be any closer to the target? At least this time the project has started with the correct ammunition, judging by the comments of Urban, who grew up as a Dredd fan: “It’s going to be much more gritty, much more real — the environment, Mega City One, is going to feel like a real city,” the actor told Chris Tilly of IGN back in 2010. “It’s not going to feel like a Hollywood back lot. There will be no gold cod-pieces, and we’re definitely going to stay faithful to the way that the character was originally conceived and written. He’ll keep his helmet on.”

– Geoff Boucher

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Comments


17 Responses to ‘Dredd': ‘Game of Thrones’ star takes ‘mad’ sci-fi detour

  1. dreddhead says:

    Tiny budget?

    Shanty town?

    Sounds worrying. Not quite how I imagined Judge Dredd’s world.

    • RorshachLives! says:

      Get real dreddhead, or should I say Scojo/Scott Nestle, you've been spewing bile about this movie the moment the producers announced it's existence, so don't give us any of your "sounds worrying. Not quite how I imagined Judge Dredd's world" faux-innocence crap, you've been telling anyone who'll listen this movie is going to suck, they're doing it wrong, it's gonna flop, and they should have used your script (the one where Dredd surfboards around MC-1) all along, just do everyone a favour and bugger off, why don't you…

      The article is a little misleading in that the actual budget for 'Dredd' is $45m, but the fact it was shot in the extraordinarily cost-effective South Africa (25% rebate on production costs, for one thing), means the finished film will end up looking like a $90m-plus movie, in other words, it's going to look awesome, and I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up being something of a sleeper hit, considering they'll be nothing else like it on release… seriously excited about it, it looks like we're finally going to get the Judge Dredd movie that we've waited 35 years for, but also one that will do the source material justice (pun intended)…

  2. Pedrolas III says:

    Yes, please keep the whining for the pub. This movie looks like it's going to be awesome! can't wait!!

  3. dreddhead says:

    You’ve missed the point. Mega-City 1 is not a shanty town. Alex Garland wrote Mega-City 1 as a shanty town, actress Lena Headey confirmed this. This is not authentic to the source material.

    The Judge Minty fan film is depicting a futuristic Mega-City 1. If a very low budget fan film can depict that, surely a larger budget film like Dredd can do the same? And, as we all know, much of ‘Dredd’ is set inside. 90 percent or more is interior filming so it’s not as if the production budget requires huge sets being constructed or hundreds of CGI shots of the city. There was no reason to go with a shanty town look.

    The leaked footage of the lawmaster chasing the van (!) was very worrying because it looked nothing like Mega-City 1. It looked like Cape Town with some CGI tower blocks added to the background. This is not Mega-City 1. Film making is about compromise but it has to be sensible compromise. It shouldn’t be about dismissing the basic look of Dredd’s world and reinventing it as some dump. DNA’s approach should have been:

    “We haven’t got a lot of money to spend but let’s be true to the original vision of Mega-City 1. If we have to make the film on a small scale let’s not make it look like a shanty town, let’s spend our money on making Peach Trees look like a vision of the future.”

    The Judge Minty film is doing that – the preview shots of MC-1 are futuristic, it’s a not shanty town – so there’s no reason why DNA Films’ Dredd film can’t be the same.

    Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange were mentioned as inspiration for the look of this film? I believe so. I don’t recall Blade Runner and A Clockwork Orange depicting a shanty town vision of the future!

    If Dredd really looks like a shanty town with a few cursory CGI touches then it’s not authentic to the source material. Executive producer Stuart Ford was not being honest. He said the film is authentic to the comic character. Well, Mr Ford, please buy a 2000AD prog, read a Judge Dredd story, and provide evidence the artists depict Mega-City 1 as a shanty town! You’re not going to find any evidence.

  4. dreddhead says:

    “The article is a little misleading in that the actual budget for ‘Dredd’ is $45m, but the fact it was shot in the extraordinarily cost-effective South Africa (25% rebate on production costs, for one thing), means the finished film will end up looking like a $90m-plus movie, in other words, it’s going to look awesome, ”

    Lena Headey said the budget is tiny:

    “In terms of the scale of the movie, the budget was tiny.”

    Her words, not mine. So, RorshachLives!, is she lying, deluded? You seem to be suggesting that. After all, you said “film will end up looking like a $90m-plus movie” and she said the budget was tiny. How does a tiny budget equate to 90 million plus?!!! Wow – that’s some feat.

    She acted in the film, she was on the sets, she saw the scale of the film. Why would she say the film’s budget was tiny if it’s not?

    It’s possible the budget was considerably smaller than 45 million. Recent action film ‘Safe’ was 30 million dollars, not 45 million. IM Global financed Safe and Dredd.

    I’m not saying the entire film will look very cheap or small scale. I’m sure there will be some great wide shots of MC-1 but it is a little worrying when words like “shanty town” and “budget is tiny” are mentioned. It’s not unreasonable to get a bit concerned.

    • RorshachLives! says:

      You either need psychological help or a pair of reading glasses, Scott, because 'Dredd' was GREENLIT with a $45m budget, do a little research on the 'net, and if you're going to quote Lena Headey, then do it in context, what she actually said was "in terms of the scale of the movie, the budget was tiny", she was comparing the film's budget relative to the scope and scale of the actual production, not commenting on the size of the budget, in and of itself, don't misrepresent what people mean… and the reason why it will look a lot more than it cost to make is because South Africa is highly cost-effective place to make movies in…

      And I would wait to see the FINISHED FILM before I comment on what it will apparently look like, maybe you should do the same, Scott…

  5. Paul says:

    I think when she says 'shanty town', she's just trying to give a feel for the potential grittiness of the film. She actually says 'concrete shanty town', and if you look at favelas in Rio, I can see how they might compare to a run-down section of Mega-City One. I personally am looking forward to this, as nothing could be a awful as that Stallone film, which was such a wasted opportunity. Any changes they make (it's an adaptation after all), I'm on board with as long as they remain true to the tone of the film.

  6. Matt GC says:

    Realistically, if you go for a big budget approach on a movie with a little known (outside the UK) character you end up with the Stallone Dredd or John Carter. Neutered, watered down and safe but flashy. Smaller budget for Dredd is perfect as more risks can be taken, even though it may not look quite as grand in scale or polished. At the end of the day, what's more important? A film that stays close to the ethos of Dredd that we love (satirical, violent, dark) or a vapid movie that looks "cool"? I like Garland's writing and Karl Urban's a good guy. I have high hopes.

  7. the dude says:

    I think a smaller budget suits Dredd. It doesn't need to be 150 million dollars. The cinematographer has films like 28 Days Later and 127 Hours to his name, this film will look great. And Garland has some impressive screenplays under his belt too.

    Quietly confident for this movie. Just give us a trailer already!

  8. @aliguana says:

    quick correction: his gun is a "Lawgiver", not a "Peacegiver". These things matter lol ;)

  9. Asolethecnt says:

    If big budgets buy the Star Wars prequels, Avatar or John Carter; give me a movie with a smaller budget any day of the week. It's pretty sad that the budget is even mentioned or talked about. You would have thought the writing, the script, were of more importance, or the story even, but I guess these are side issues and not as important as how much money has been spent on false looking sets, or CGI which still doesn't look real!

  10. INSTANT JUSTICE says:

    Pay no attention to the above poster "dreddhead" or "Scojo", he's an infamous troll where 2000AD is concerned.

    Considering he's the only person ever to have been permanently banned from the 2000AD forum -a forum that will allow anyne join who isn't spam on and let them say anything that's on their mind- for his alarmingly personal and vindictive behaviour against both the people who run the comic, writers, artists and forum members, is enlightening.

  11. dreddhead says:

    It’s worth pointing out….

    *There are no shanty towns in 2000AD’s Judge Dredd.*

    The only shanty town featured in 2000AD’s Judge Dredd was in the story called Shanty Town:

    Shanty Town 4 episodes (Progs 300 to 303)

    But that was located outside Mega-City 1. Following The Apocalypse War millions of people were left homeless. Some were forced to etch out a living outside the city walls but that was a unique situation.

    Justice Dept does not allow shanty towns inside the city. Justice Dept has a welfare system. If Alex Garland is depicting a Justice Dept that doesn’t care for the citizens, *he’s got it wrong*. 2000AD’s Justice Dept does care for the citizens. Well, it cares enough to give them basic accommodation in blocks and other locations. There are no shanty towns inside Mega-City 1. Garland has reinvented Dredd’s world to accommodate the tiny production budget.

    If some fans are happy about that, okay, but I’m sure some fans won’t be happy with a shanty town vision of Mega-City 1.

  12. OAP B2.1 says:

    He's a bit excitable ain't he?
    Look, just go see the film then Judge (chuckle) for yourself.
    All the doom mongering & nay-saying back & forth in the world is not going to count for a thimble full of monkey spit if the film rocks. & if it suck's, well It suck's & your out of pocket the price of a look see.

  13. STEVE DUNKLEY says:

    I THINK THAT DREDD HAS ONE BIG ADVANTAGE IT WILL NO WAY BE AS BAD AS THE STALLONE MOVIE YES IT HAS A SMALL BUDGET BUT WITH IT BEING SHOT IN SOUTH AFRICA WITH NO GREEDY A LIST ACTORS IT WILL DEFINITELY LOOK LIKE A 100 MILLION DOLLAR MOVIE AT LEAST.
    i THINK THE SMALLER BUDGET MAY HELP DREDD IT WILL GIVE IT A MEANER RAW LOOK.

    DREDD ALSO HAS A VERY CREATIVE TEAM AND AN EXCELLENT CAST AND THEY WONT HAVE THE RESTRICTIONS THAT HAVING A BIG BUDGET WILL HAVE THE MATERIAL WILL BE MUCH MORE ADULT. IVE NOTICED THAT A FEW OF THE CAST HAVE IMMEDIATELY COMMENTED ON HOW GOOD THE SCRIPT WAS WHEN THEY READ IT,SOMETIMES ACTORS WILL MENTION THE ACTION AND THE EFFECTS BUT THEY CLEVERLY DON'T SAY ANY THING ABOUT THE SCRIPT TO ME THIS IS A GOOD SIGN BECAUSE I REGARD SCRIPT AND ACTING AS THE FOUNDATION EVERY THING ELSE IS THERE TO ENHANCE THE SCRIPT AND ACTING. I WATCHED THE AVENGERS THE OTHER DAY AND THIS WAS DEFINATELY THE CASE

  14. Jon says:

    Look I dont know about all of you but movies now days suck… mainly in story. They are boring and leave nothing for your mind. Dredd is a story that should be at eye level but give use something to work with. If the look is not there.. then we are left with only a story and based on track record we will not be getting the next 1970 star wars that will set up a new wave in movies. With that what will we be getting ? Robocop meets Dredd ? What we need is something to work with not just a youtube movie or a Internet of pics oh no we need more and only time will tell. If I must say anything about what I see I am sorry to say that for all you long readers of Dredd 2000AD you are not going to get the look or the feel but only the character. I just hope I am wrong, I do not want to see another Robocop (Not from Dredd anyway).

  15. dudeman says:

    This movie was good. Not great, not sucky, but good.

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