About The Production
Judgment Is Coming
"800 million people living in the ruin of the old world. Only one thing fighting
for order in the chaos: the men and women of the Hall of Justice."
-- Judge Dredd
The future. America is an irradiated wasteland. On its East Coast, running from
Boston to Washington DC, lies Mega City One, a teeming, ultraviolent metropolis
where over 400 million citizens live in perpetual fear. The only justice waged
on these mean streets is imposed by The Judges - law enforcers, jurors and
executioners rolled into one. The epitome of these Judges is Dredd (KARL URBAN),
and today he has a mission: road test the rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (OLIVA
THIRLBY), a genetic mutant with powerful psychic abilities.
It is to be a training day. But it becomes one like no other when they are
called to the nefarious Peach Trees mega-block, the 200-story vertical slum run
by the pitiless Ma-Ma and her crime empire - who are spreading rampant addiction
to Slo-Mo, a wild new designer drug that cuts reality to a fraction of its
normal speed. When Ma-Ma (LENA HEADEY) puts the maze-like building on lockdown
and orders her clan to hunt the judges to the death, the result is a relentless,
head-spinning fight for survival.
Based on the future-shock lawman from the revered British comic series, comes a
ferociously faithful vision of the apocalyptic world of Judge Dredd and his
signature brand of knockdown justice. The inventive screenwriter Alex Garland
(28 DAYS LATER, SUNSHINE, THE BEACH) and director Pete Travis bring DREDD 3D to
life as a neo-noir action film that pulls no punches. The film stays true to the
hard-core, blistering action and dark sci-fi dystopia of John Wagner and Carlos
Ezquerra's original comic, while featuring immersive 3D cinematography and
stunning slow motion sequences that bring a chillingly dangerous future to life.
Lionsgate and Reliance Entertainment present in association with IM Global a DNA
Films production of DREDD 3D. The film is directed by Pete Travis from a
screenplay by Alex Garland, based on the comic book created by John Wagner and
Carlos Ezquerra. The producers are Andrew Macdonald, Allon Reich, and Alex
Garland. The executive producers are Deepak Nayar, Stuart Ford and Adi Shankar.
Jason Kingsley and Chris Kingsley produced on behalf of Rebellion.
World Of Dredd
In 1977, the British graphic novel series 2000 A.D. introduced a badass cop like
no other. He came from a shockingly harsh future. A future where crime raged so
out-of-control that the divisions between police, juries and justices were
utterly obliterated. There were now only men and women known as "Judges" -
granted the power to investigate crimes, use extreme force and mercilessly
execute the lawless wherever and whenever they could be seized.
At the top of their ranks was Judge Dredd, the very best lawman in a world where
rational laws no longer exist. Inspired by an intoxicating mix of gritty sci-fi,
take-no-prisoners pulp and hard-boiled crime stories, Dredd was part renegade
cop, part one-man legal system, and as fierce and unrelenting as the
war-ravaged, anarchic mega-city he and his fellow Judges patrol.
Millions found the series compulsive, high-voltage reading, and one of those
drawn in by Dredd as a boy was screenwriter and novelist Alex Garland, lured
both by its fast, furious action and its wild vision of a future gone wrong.
Garland has always had a love of bold, graphic storytelling, which has come to
the fore in his hyper-intense screenplays for such films as 28 DAYS LATER,
SUNSHINE and NEVER LET ME GO. Now, he imagined seeing the story of Dredd and the
world of Mega City One come to the screen with all the thrill-packed excitement
he'd discovered in it as a young man - and with its original pitch-black tone
"I grew up reading Judge Dredd. The incredible writers and artists of 2000 A.D.
were formative influences on me," says Garland. "My hope was to create a screen
adaptation that would bring out all the story's adrenaline and realism, and all
the scale and spectacle of Mega City One -- something hard-core and edgy."
Most of all Garland wanted to translate the spirit of what he had seen popping
off the pages of the graphic novels -- a punchy, unflinching universe of
desperate characters, alarmingly plausible futuristic scenarios and sheer visual
audacity - into a 21st Century moviegoing experience.
Reteaming with DNA Films producers Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich, who last
worked with Garland on the sci-fi thrillers SUNSHINE and NEVER LET ME GO, it
looked like Garland might finally get his chance to do justice to the infamous
Macdonald and Reich began tracking the rights through an intricate maze as
Garland started penning drafts of the screenplay, spelunking into the shadowy
depths of Dredd's universe. Once the rights were settled, there was only one
major but absolutely essential hurdle left: getting the character's original
creators, writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, to bless their
"It was absolutely vital to us to get the support of the person whose
imagination Judge Dredd first came out of and that was John Wagner," explains
When Wagner teamed up with Ezquerra in 1976, England was in the midst of a new
wave of authoritarianism under steely Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which
sparked the idea of penning the ultimate tale of a no-holds-barred, over-the-top
cop of the future. They had no idea where it would lead. And they certainly
could not have predicted that Dredd would become a supremely influential graphic
novel creation, a man who stood on the razor's edge between hero and anti-hero,
at once bone-chillingly deadly and the last hope of a desperate city overrun
For Wagner the unending fascination with Judge Dredd lies partly in the irony
that he uses the most unchecked and extreme tactics while meting out much-needed
justice. The comic series never whitewashed that. "He's a real badass cop and in
some respects you are all for what he's doing and at the same time you think:
'Thank God someone like him doesn't exist today,'" observes Wagner. "But Dredd
would never see himself as villainous. He believes he's upright and righteous.
At the same time, he is certainly not someone you would want on the streets
looking for you."
Decades after Wagner and Ezquerra had imagined him, it seemed that cinematic
technology had caught up with the ability to make Judge Dredd's world what they
felt it should be: harrowingly real. After meeting with Garland, Macdonald and
Reich for the first time, Wagner was convinced they not only would be true to
the story, but had the right stuff to make something fresh and believable for a
"After I met up with them, I thought to myself 'these guys are genuinely
serious,'" he recalls. "I was impressed by their honesty and the fact that they
cared enough to get me involved at such an early stage meant a lot to me. I knew
they wanted to make the Judge Dredd I know."
Once Wagner came on board, Garland breathed a sigh of relief. "If at that first
meeting John had said 'I just don't want this film, and Dredd is a comic book
character and that's where he should stay,' I think we would have walked away
and said fair enough. But I knew Dredd. I read him my whole life and I felt
confident we would be able to do this."
Working with Wagner through several story-lines, Garland ultimately stripped his
screenplay concept back to the uncompromising basics. He honed in on just one
"day in the life" of Judge Dredd - albeit a day that becomes an incredible siege
battle in a sprawling high-rise, as he and his rookie partner pursue the female
crime lord Ma-Ma and her signature addictive drug Slo-Mo, which is sweeping the
Producer Allon Reich believes the meeting of minds between Garland and Wagner
resulted in a thrillingly contemporary take on Dredd. "Alex is a big comic book
fan, he grew up with Dredd and was already immersed in the world of Mega City
One. When he combined that with his own imagination and creative vision, it put
a distinctive stamp on this movie," he says.
When Wagner read Garland's final script, he was fully won over: "Alex's script
is faithful to the original concept that made Judge Dredd a favorite badass
hero. It's a sleigh-ride through the dark underbelly of a vast future city," he
Another fan of Garland's taut, adrenaline-soaked approach was director Pete
Travis, who first came to attention with the award-winning docudrama OMAGH and
went on to direct the assassination thriller VANTAGE POINT. "I read Alex's
script and it blew me away," he says. "If you live in a city, violence frightens
you, and DREDD is set in a future that is not so far from ours. I think he has
managed to fashion a character anyone can really grab hold of."
DNA was especially gratified to join up on DREDD with Lionsgate, a company known
for boldly marketing the boldest of action films. "We wanted to make a film that
would be tough and grown up," sums up Macdonald. "Now, we had a great character,
a great script and a great team to make that happen."
The next step was to find the man who would be Dredd. It wasn't an easy bill to
fill. A stony lawman encased in a helmet and fortified with armor and an even
steelier attitude, Judge Dredd is a man doing a job, but it's a job that has
made his soul a fortress. To play him, the filmmakers searched for an actor who
could capture both his mercilessness when it comes to the criminal kind and his
unending sense of mystery.
Explains producer Allon Reich: "Dredd is an extreme character, and he
administers justice with an extreme lack of prejudice. He is the best at what he
does and the most feared. He brooks no argument and is tough as can be. He was
inspired by Dirty Harry and remains one of the most loved of graphic novel
characters - and we needed to bring all that to the film."
Adds Andrew Macdonald: "We also had a character we knew could never take off his
helmet so we were looking for a very good actor who could make that possible.
That was more important than a marquee name."
As the hunt for Dredd kicked off, things took a turn when Karl Urban - known for
his roles in the blockbusters STAR TREK and THE LORD OF THE RINGS - approached
the filmmakers. Already a fan of the character, Urban's curiosity was piqued. "I
was very interested because of my history of reading the comics, so I took a
meeting with Alex, Andrew, Allon and Pete and listened to their take," he
recalls. "It was clear that they wanted to make a film that would be gritty,
realistic and hardcore. And faithful to the source -- which immediately
It soon became apparent that Urban and Dredd were meant for each other. "It was
great to see Karl's passion," says Reich. "Karl grew up with the comic and
brought his own attitude towards it that meshed with the screenplay."
"I really love the character of Dredd," says Urban. "He is the ultimate lawman
in a society where the normal process of justice has changed. There's no more
protracted legal system, it has all been condensed into this one man. I've
always loved a vigilante-type character and Judge Dredd is one of the best."
In taking on the role, Urban knew he had his work cut out for him. In a rare
twist for an actor, he signed on knowing that the filmmakers never, ever wanted
to see Dredd's full face. But he leapt at the challenge of it. "I think one of
the great aspects of Dredd has always been that you never fully see his
identity," he explains. "Since he was created in 1977 he has been the faceless
representation of the law and an enigma. To do anything else just wouldn't have
Still, giving a performance with limited facial expressions was a task that took
him into unexplored territory. "The question was: how do you convey a subtle
emotion like doubt or concern when you don't have the use of your eyes?" says
Urban. "It was a very challenging process."
While Dredd lives in a mythic, sci-fi world that takes our own to the darkest,
outermost extremes, Urban approached him very much as a real human being - a man
caught up in a hellish society that demands the best of him while simultaneously
drawing on the darkest impulses inside him. "You have to play the man and Dredd
is a man who has an insanely tough job working in this society that is
fragmenting and falling apart," says the actor. "I think his heroism is that of
an ordinary person, like a fireman. He's not a stereotypical superhero. With
him, what you see is what you get and he calls it the way he sees it but the
huge challenge for me as an actor was to inject as much dynamism as possible
into this very stoic character."
That wasn't simple, because Dredd is a man who chooses his words carefully and
keeps everything locked deep beneath a cold, hard surface. "Dredd is an
interesting kettle of fish in that his emotion is completely repressed, and any
normal social life that he may have enjoyed has been burned from his psyche,"
observes Urban. "In some ways I think he is tragic because he is charged with
the job of protecting these people in society but at the same time he is
incapable of functioning normally in that society."
On top of the psychological challenges of the role, playing Dredd required
intensive physical training. "This was a very physical role," states Urban.
"During pre-production, I spent time in the gym getting into the right mindset
and physical condition and then I was thrown into boot camp. That involved
weapons training, technical movement, learning how to move under fire, learning
to bust perps, breach doors and arrest people. One of the insane aspects of what
I do is that I am constantly learning skills you rarely get to use in real
The realism of DREDD meant that Urban also had to train in authentic weaponry
and vehicles. "The 'Lawgiver' I use in the film is a fully functioning weapon
based on a 9mm system, so it actually fires and you can change from automatic to
semi-auto. It is an added bonus as an actor when you don't have to imagine your
weapon. Lawmaster is Dredd's motorbike and it is based on a 500cc bike with a
massive frame built over the top with machine guns, an extended wheel base and
the chunkiest tires that they could find. It is a beast of a machine that was
real fun to ride."
Urban insisted he do his own bike work. "I thought it was important that the
audience get to see me on that bike, riding the bike, weaving in and out of
traffic. There is no blue-screen/ green-screen trick. When you see Dredd on the
bike, you are there for the ride."
The final touch for Urban was finding Dredd's voice, literally. "In the research
I had done, Dredd's voice was described like a saw cutting through bone," he
says, "So I had to attain a resonance outside my normal register. It's harsh and
raspy, which can be difficult to sustain."
He even worked with Alex Garland to keep a constant terse, clipped minimalism to
Dredd's dialogue. "I felt that with this character, if could be said in one
sentence it would be better than three. I wanted Dredd just saying the bare
minimum. And I can't speak highly enough of Alex and how he helped. He was a
wonderful collaborator and quite often he would take what he wrote that next
step and really elevate the material even higher."
Urban was especially thrilled when the creator of the character he plays, John
Wagner, came onto the set to see his work become flesh and blood. "I felt
somewhat nervous about it," the actor confesses. "Dredd is John's creation and
when you meet the creator you hope that you live up to his expectations. I have
to say he was happy with what he saw. He recognized that we were being faithful
to his creation and our hearts were in the right place."
Driven By Dredd
If Judge Dredd sees the world in black-and- white, kill-or-be-killed terms, the
partner he reluctantly joins with on this fateful day is his 180-degree
opposite. This is the rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson, whose psychic abilities
leave her with an emotional style of law enforcement that makes her a perfect
counter-point to Dredd.
To play Anderson, the filmmakers turned to Olivia Thirlby, who became an indie
darling and part of Hollywood's new wave of talent when she was discovered as
the best friend in sleeper hit JUNO. She caught the filmmakers' attention in a
video audition and, following a screen test with Karl Urban, their yin-yang
chemistry sealed the deal.
Thirlby couldn't resist the screenplay or Anderson's complex personality under
heavy fire. "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," she says. 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,
because out of the blue I heard they really liked my tape and it all kind of
went from there."
Once she dove in, Thirlby found herself intrigued by how Anderson becomes an
unexpected asset to the legendary Dredd. "Dredd is all black and white," the
actress observes, "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."
Allon Reich notes: "Anderson was based on Debbie Harry in John Wagner's mind and
that key vibe Olivia has in spades. Dredd doesn't take his helmet off but
Anderson can't wear a helmet, luckily, because it interferes with her psychic
ability. We can see her eyes, so she is our human way into the film and it was
important to have an actress who could show that vulnerability as well as the
strength to be a Judge."
Thirlby sees Anderson as an underdog amidst the explosive violence of Mega City
One. "The odds are stacked against her in every conceivable way," she comments.
"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."
Anderson's psychic abilities lead to some intense situations in the story, which
Thirlby admits were emotionally taxing. "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."
But the actress reveled in the stunt training and weapons and tactical training
needed for the performance. "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," she says. "I had to learn how to
roundhouse kick, which was very difficult, 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."
It all came together into a performance that strikes a distinctive note, says
director Pete Travis: "Olivia brings a huge depth of strength to the role. She
makes your heart go out to her, but at the same time she is super tough when she
needs to be."
For John Wagner, the synchronicity between Urban and Thirlby was everything he
imagined when he created the characters. "Dredd is your greatest hero and
biggest nightmare wrapped up into one and Anderson is fragile, interesting,
intelligent and you would think she could never be a Judge as she has too much
heart. The pair make for a really interesting contrast, especially the way Alex
has put them together in DREDD," he says.
When Judge Dredd takes the fledgling Judge Anderson on a training day, they find
themselves investigating a triple homicide in one of the most perilous places
for a Mega City One Judge: the Peach Trees Block, a 200-story housing complex
ridden with gangs and criminal scum. The place is overseen by Ma-Ma, a psychotic
villainess who not only serves as the grim overlord of the building but as the
sole distributor of the hot new addictive drug, Slo-Mo, which puts the brakes on
the normal pace of reality.
To bring out all the unabashed wickedness of Ma-Ma, the filmmakers of DREDD
turned to Lena Headey, best known for playing Cersei in hit HBO TV series GAME
OF THRONES and the female lead in the blockbuster visionary graphic-novel
adaptation 300. Everyone on set was excited by her all-out take on the
"One of our archetypes for Ma-Ma was Pattie Smith," says Allon Reich. "And Lena
gave us that kind of incredible feeling that she does not care at all about what
anybody thinks or feels and she will do, and behave, as she wants. She went
somewhere you wouldn't expect with this character."
Ma-Ma and the members of her gang were created especially for the movie, but
tonally they seemed to Alex Garland to belong to Judge Dredd's world. Garland
says, "Ma-Ma has had a hard life and at a certain point has decided to take her
revenge on the world. She does things that are irredeemably brutal. But she also
has some dimension to her. She's on a course in her life and it is to meet Dredd."
For the casting of Ma-Ma's sidekick Kay the filmmakers emphasized the
rough-and-tumble realism of the film by turning to a veteran of the acclaimed
series THE WIRE, which probed the urban chaos in contemporary Baltimore. Wood
Harris, well known to many as the drug kingpin Avon Barksdale, was ready to jump
into the future of crime.
"We wanted to do something very real in this movie" says Reich, "and to have
someone from THE WIRE in Wood Harris was like a statement of intent. That kind
of caliber of baddy was key to our tone and he is fantastic."
The star, who first leapt to fame as high school football player Julius Campbell
in REMEMBER THE TITANS, saw the fierce intelligence and irreverence inside Kay.
"Kay is definitely a villain but he sees himself as no worse than the Judges,"
comments Harris. "Judge Dredd goes around literally judging and killing people
if they do wrong -- and what is right or wrong is dictated by the system. Anyone
who goes against the system might end up the bad guy. So I think Kay has
justified fighting that in his mind. And he's caught up in a lifestyle. A lot of
bad guys are that way. You meet them and they are villains in our world but they
are brilliant and smart in their own world."
With a cast each ready to take their intense characters into the most
blood-curdling situations, the next step was to bring Judge Dredd's world fully
to life. It was important to all the filmmakers to have Mega City One feel not
like a sci-fi abstraction but like a living city - a seething city lit by
menace, fear and the constant threat of violence.
To add a new twist to the stylish grit, they made the choice to shoot DREDD in
3D. Andrew Macdonald brought in the legendary and maverick cinematographer
Anthony Dod Mantle whom he'd worked with before on THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND and
28 DAYS LATER to tackle the format for the first time in his career.
Dod Mantle won an Oscar and virtually every other professional accolade for his
work on Danny Boyle's SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE where he captured life in the dense,
fast moving Mumbai slums with an on-the-fly urgency. Macdonald wondered what
would happen if the cinematographer merged that kind of immediate, dynamic style
"We wanted to do something interesting with the 3D," says Macdonald, "and I knew
if I convinced Anthony to work on this movie he would do something unusual and
brave. He's a man who likes to push ideas and technology and he gets some of his
most exciting results that way. He came on board and right away, he wanted to
use the 3D to do something ultra-realistic. He was particularly keen on doing
close ups in 3D which isn't often done."
Dod Mantle says shooting in 3D pushed him to think in new visual ways. "I now
think more about 3D space and for this film I had to think a lot about the depth
versus the horizontal across the frame. It was very challenging, because we're
geared to think in 2D," he explains.
While the leading edge of 3D was an inspiration, so too were the stylish
atmospherics of vintage crime and gangster tales. "We wanted DREDD to feel very,
very visceral so we watched a lot of classic crime movies. Even though our world
was going to be futuristic, we wanted it to have the kind of realism you can
feel right down to the concrete on the walls in Mega City One. Then, we
harnessed the 3D into that," explains Reich.
Reality, however, gets scrambled for those taking Slo-Mo -- which decelerates
the normal pace of life to 1% of its usual speed. Creating these time and space
altering sequences with their own graphic lyricism was exciting for Dod Mantle.
"The slow motion and multilayer sections are very complex images," he says. "The
idea was that it would be disorienting for the audience and yet strangely,
As for Mega City One, the production created the volatile city and its
disorderly high-rises in the brand new Cape Town Film Studios in South Africa -
which proved well equipped for the film's balletically choreographed battles.
"We were able to shoot huge sequences like when Ma-Ma and her gang set up her
machine and massacres hundreds of people in her aim to kill Dredd," says
Macdonald. "That required ten days of filming, loads of doubles and eight
different sets, some outside and some inside, all mixed together with visual
Within Mega City One, the filmmakers echo the hyper-cities popping up around the
world today in places like Sao Paolo, Mexico City and Jakarta - but take that to
the next level of heart-stopping human chaos. It is estimated that some 95% of
humanity may one day live packed into urban centers, so Mega City One becomes
harrowing vision of what might come.
"Mega City One is big, chaotic and one of the key things about had to be is its
sense of scale," explains Garland. "The habitation blocks where people live are
colossal. They are like cities themselves, because they have so much contained
within them -- not just shopping areas but medical centers, schools and more.
You can be born and live and die and never set foot outside one of the blocks.
Establishing that was key to the film. The city is a character and the Peach
Trees block is a character too."
That feeling of a real city - a city so on the edge it has given birth to Dredd
-- transferred to the actors as well. Concludes Karl Urban: "I think the film
does a great job of showcasing the life of Mega City One. The conditions are
appalling and there are haves and have-nots, so you really get a feel for a
society in decay. The film doesn't just show Dredd in action - it shows what it
is like to live in Dredd's world."
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