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PATHFINDER

Karl Urban Is Ghost
As production began in earnest, Marcus Nispel set out to find an actor to play the hero of PATHFINDER – the orphaned Viking child who grows up to become the Indian warrior named Ghost and a divided man ready to wage his own relentless war against his brutal former countrymen. Nispel wanted a fresh persona for Ghost, rather than someone who came with an already set-in-stone image. After seeing Karl Urban in supporting roles in the hit thriller The Bourne Supremacy and in the epic Lord of the Rings, Nispel was struck with the feeling that he was staring at a leading action hero of the future. Urban clearly had personality to spare and none of the drawbacks of a blockbuster star.

"We were looking for someone who could really make you believe in our David versus Goliath story,” explains Nispel. "And when Karl came along it was very apparent that he was a guy who could elevate every element of this tale. As a painter, I was fascinated by his face and eyes, which have so much depth to them. He also obviously knew how to use a sword and ride a horse, so we wouldn't have to spend months training him. Equally important, he didn't have any kind of cookie-cutter image already attached. A lot of well-known young actors I talked to about the role were worried that running around in a loincloth would effect their image – and I was thinking about what a tragedy it would have been if Peter O'Toole had felt that way about the outfit he had to wear for Lawrence of Arabia! With Karl that wasn't an issue.”

Urban was attracted to the role because it was so different from anything else he'd ever read. "This is an action-adventure story,” notes Urban, "but Ghost is also a unique and complex character. Having been shipwrecked at a young age and adopted by Native American Indians, he has tried to assimilate and fit into their culture. But there's something within himself that just won't shift. He's not all Indian and he's not all Viking; he's somewhere in between. In a sense, he's the first melting pot American. And now he has to face up to his past demons – almost literally – to prove his loyalty and his worth both to himself and to his new people.”

Urban was especially attracted to the gritty, primeval nature of the role – one that would take him deep into the fiercest forms of forested battle and the darkest zones of a warrior's divided heart. "I like that the character is a natural survivor,” he continues. "Throughout the course of the film, Ghost is relentlessly hunted and pursued and he has to make it through this arduous test of his body, will and soul. In the end, the story becomes about how he transforms himself into a true warrior – and a man worthy of his culture.”

To go deeper into the role, Urban not only had to familiarize himself with Viking lore but with the early Wampanoag Indian cultures, which fascinated him. "One of the things that attracted me to doing this film was the opportunity to better understand American Indian culture because I feel a real affinity with them,” he says. "They were the people of the dawn, the first people in America and they had such a holistic view of their place in the world and how everything functions. I think it's a view that modern man could really take to heart.”

He also thought a lot about the ideals that make a true warrior. "One of the themes of the film is that you can't really win simply by using blind rage and fury to deal with your enemy,” he observes. "You have to use your smarts. You have to know your enemy from the inside and figure out how to use their own weaknesses against them.”

Yet nothing could prepare Urban for the intense physical challenges he would face as Ghost, from climbing treacherously steep cliffs to engaging in one-on-one combat against savage Viking weaponry. "This was by far the most grueling, dangerous film I've done,” he admits.

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