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DREDD

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 intact.

"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 judge.

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 approach.

"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 Macdonald.

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 with villainy.

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 new generation.

"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 city.

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 summarizes.

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."

Being Dredd

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 intrigued me."

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 been Dredd."

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 life!"

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.

Fighting Dredd

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 character.

"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."

Making Dredd

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 with 3D.

"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, compellingly beautiful."

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 effects."

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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