Interview with Dredd 3D Actress Olivia Thirlby
By Lisa Minzey
Phoenix– For those who are excited to see DREDD 3D, we have a treat for you. We took part in a roundtable interview with lead actress Olivia Thirlby who plays Judge Anderson, Dredd’s intuitive psychic counterpart in the film. Thirlby, you may recognize for her roles in independent films such as Juno, The Darkest Hour and Being Flynn. She has started on Stage, Film and TV on a small scale, but now is crossing over into big budget film territory with DREDD 3D.
PFF: For the most part, you have done a lot of small films, such as Juno. What was it like to make the jump to action movie?
OT: It was a fun transition but not as severe of a transition as it may see. I think Dredd is bizarrely character driven for a film of its genre. My character (Anderson) was one of the most interesting ones I’ve ever played.
PFF: What was it like playing a character where you couldn’t see the other actor’s face?
OT: I think Anderson doesn't get affected because of her psychic ability, not that she had to read any emotional cues ever with Dredd, but it makes their partnership unique. For me, I valued using my face as an acting tool to help the audience gain a human way into the character.
PFF: What type of training did you have to physical prepare for this role?
OT: I worked with a trainer; the leather body suit was very small; no room for growth! There was weapons training, where we had to learn to fire [guns], there was also air soft pistols when required in a scene; when we were using blanks; how to change a magazine – mainly how to look comfortable handling a gun and doing so properly. There was also stunt training, which I had to learn to roundhouse kick & take down a henchman. The rest of the tactical training given to us was the same training used in the military.
PFF: Your character had enhanced psychic powers because of radiation fallout. Did you have any additional training aside from the physical/ tactical aspects?
OT: She was psychic, but the script didn’t really delve into how or what her personal experience was. I did come up with the way she was psychic, which was sensitivity to seeing colors; energy as color. My idea about her is that she can see the entire color spectrum of a person’s life; the inside of them. She can walk into the room, see the color there and feel the vibe and what’s happening. It’s very intuitive, yet complex way that she’s sensitive to energy; it provided fuel for the mind. She may not say much, but she’s always taking information in.
PFF: Were you familiar with the Judge Dredd graphic novels before you landed the role?
OT: No I hadn’t read the comics before getting cast. I had heard of the comic, but I had never read one. As soon as I arrived in Cape Town to begin shooting, I was handed a giant binder; I referred to them quite a bit when working on the character.
PPF: Did you have to change your acting method when shooting the slow motion scenes? Or did they shoot still shots at 4000 frames per second to make the scene work?
OT: Shooting the Slo-Mo sequences was very tedious. Everyone would get it all set up; we would review what we we’re supposed to do and then would roll for 2 to 3 seconds. What I had to do was “Turn from here to here” and then the director would cut. They would review it for 30 minutes after that. It looks really beautiful in the end, but it would get very tedious. In terms of changing your acting, you don’t do anything different because you’re only filming for 2 to 3 seconds per take.
PFF: In your audition forAnderson, you send in a video of yourself prior to knowing much about the character; basing your performance on the information in the script. Once you arrived in Cape Town, based on the research you read in the graphic novels, did you have to change much based on the material?
OT: It was a lot of both. Auditioning is a big part of the process of getting jobs. When I read the script I felt like I identified with Anderson the moment I started reading her on the page. When I got down to Cape Town, I did end up feeling like most of my choices could be based on this version of Anderson in the script. It was important to me to do this character justice since she has had such longevity through the comics, but she was different depending on who were the writer/ illustrators of that issue.
PFF: What was it like to work with Karl Urban?
OT: It was a total joy! We were really great partners both in the world of this film and out. We spent a lot of time breaking down the script; tracking these two characters emotionally – mainly whether Anderson is passing or failing her assessment. She has an idea so if she’s passing or failing, so it’s a lot of wave like emotions between them. So we spent a lot to time checking in with each other to see if we were still in sync. He’s so nice, funny and charming; nothing like his Judge Dredd character.
PFF: This film has a gratuitous mount of violence. Since your character is so sensitive to the events around her, did you pick up on any of that and were you affected by the amount of violence in the film?
OT: Not at all. The majority of what you see is the movie magic at it best. When you’re shooting that stuff, it couldn’t feel less real. A lot of that stuff was added in post production. At the time it felt like playing paintball and it was fun at the time.
PFF: The weapons and gadgets used in this film are pretty spectacular. Did you get to keep any souvenirs from the set?
OT: I have to give a shout out to Jason Wright, who was in Weapons Fabricators Props and Armour. He built the Lawgiver (the gun used by the judges). I didn’t get any souvenirs from the set, but one day we got to build a little man out of Cheetos. I believe that he still has that ,but I do have a lot of love for the creative minds that can take a glock and turn it into something fantastic. The production design was unreal – I could always find something to entertain myself on set by walking around and looking at the exquisite details. You would look at these candy wrappers and unfold them and they were these futuristic looking items. They had vending machines, convenient stores, posters, the graffiti; anything you can imagine. This world was fully realized, stuff that you would never see on film, it was absolutely spectacular to be around.
PFF: We will be seeing quite a bit of you this fall as your next film Nobody Walks comes out soon. Can you tell us a little about that?
OT: Right now, Nobody Walks is up next and is a complete 180 from Dredd. It’s a very small film that’s very subtle. It’s about the interpersonal relationships between people and the complications that arise from that. I play an artist that moves fromNew York to Los Angeles and the interactions of the family she stays with. What unfolds is this very subtle study of relationships and sexual dynamics. It’s a beautiful film that’s much different than Dredd.
You can see Olivia Thirlby as Judge Anderson in DREDD 3D, when it opens in theaters Friday September 21, 2012.