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Why Billy Butcher From The Boys Looks So Familiar

Does the lead headhunter of the gang of superhero assassins on "The Boys" look familiar to you? He certainly should. Billy Butcher may speak a dialect drenched in bravado and London street, but underneath all that cockney lies a pretty accomplished performer. His pursuit of vengeance against diabolical superheroes on "The Boys" has us all cheering for bloody justice, even if we're pretty convinced that our hero is as much a psychopath as the Supes he chases down. We are no longer sure if he is justified in his relentless vendetta or if he is actually completely out of his mind. Whichever it is, it sure is fun to watch him drag everyone along for the ride, and that's largely thanks to a stellar performance from veteran character actor Karl Urban.

The 48-year-old New Zealand native has been bouncing around Hollywood for longer than you may have realized. While he hasn't had his face quite so front-and-center until The Boys took off, he has gone toe-to-toe with some of the greats. If Urban looks familiar, it's because he's literally been in everything — full stop. Here are some of the highlights.

Karl Urban was the god of love in Xena

If you're a fantasy lover who grew up in the 1990s, then the chances are you were a fan of "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena: Warrior Princess." Both shows were delightfully campy, introducing an entire generation to Greek mythology and helping many of that same generation discover their sexuality — Xena became an LGBTQ+ icon over the years, something star Lucy Lawless has always been proud of. The shows were filmed in New Zealand and gave up-and-coming Kiwi actors like Karl Urban the chance to shine. Urban played several characters across the two shows, most notably Julius Caesar and Cupid, the god of love.

In a 1998 interview, Urban revealed the effort he put into the two roles but hinted that they were more about fun than anything else. "The work is taken seriously but not too seriously that it becomes a pain," he said. This carefree attitude shows in Urban's airy and fun performances in the two series, far from the subtle, multifaceted acting he displays in later projects like "The Boys." Instead, a young Urban is mostly just having fun, embracing the nature of these cult fantasy shows and making friends. In fact, he made some connections that would come in handy when he became a big star. "Interestingly enough, a lot of the people who worked on 'Xena' and 'Hercules' and shows like that then went on to work on 'The Lord of the Rings,' so it was a great training ground," Urban said during a panel at Fan Expo 2013.

Karl Urban has crossed fists with both Bruce Willis and The Rock

One of Urban's best attributes is his snarky, masculine demeanor. He can make you wondering whether you're cheering for the good guy or a shifty alpha-male villain. Casting directors have certainly recognized this quality and plugged him into roles that capitalize on just that. In 2010's "Red," Urban plays CIA agent William Cooper. He is charged with hunting down Bruce Willis' deadly retired black-ops agent, Frank Moses. The cast was absolutely stacked, so it's not entirely surprising that Urban might have avoided detection upon your first viewing. 

In one of the film's best scenes, Urban walks into his office at the CIA headquarters to find Willis standing there, grinning at him. The two immediately go to war, throwing each other against the walls and slamming their fists into each other's craniums. Re-watching "Red" is certainly worth it just to see these two macho men beat each other's brains in.

In 2005's "Doom," Urban plays a marine who is part of a squadron charged with beaming over to Mars through a wormhole portal and retrieving data at a research facility. He is led by his squad commander, Asher Mahonin, played by The Rock. Long story short: The Rock goes all evil when he is infected with some sort of crazy demon virus, and Urban is forced to face off against the imposing actor in an epic battle at the end of the film. The movie itself wasn't exactly a critical darling. That didn't seem to impair either Urban or Dwayne Johnson's career prospects, however.

Vin Diesel proved too much for Karl Urban to handle

The sleeper hit "Pitch Black," which starred Vin Diesel, generated such a rabid following for Diesel's character that sequels were produced featuring Riddick's name prominently in their titles. 2004's "The Chronicles of Riddick" and 2013's "Riddick" both featured Urban alongside Diesel's titular hero. In the series, Urban plays the brooding antagonist, Siberius Vaako, a commander in the Lord Marshal's army who uses Riddick's proclivity for disruption to betray his leader.

While most encounters between the two powerhouses leave Urban in the winner's circle, he is ultimately defeated by Riddick in the final sequence. Urban brings the appropriate amount of swagger to the role, while also injecting a visible reluctance when his lover pushes him to betray their leader. The film may have not done so hot in the box office and critics may be sour on it, but it's a fun movie, nonetheless. It doesn't try to be anything other than what it is: a Vin Diesel action flick in dark sci-fi world.

Karl Urban beat up Jason Bourne

Karl Urban is one of the few people who has pushed Jason Bourne to his limits. Matt Damon's titular superspy eventually gets the best of Urban's character (a Russian assassin named Kirill) in 2004's "The Bourne Supremacy," but Urban will forever have a momentary win over Bourne on his resumé. His character Kirill was the main antagonist in the second Bourne film, and he was a constant thorn in our hero's side. His skill in all things espionage and warfare allows him to get the upper hand on Bourne throughout most of the story, even to the point that he kills Marie, Bourne's girlfriend.

The role is a rare one in Urban's filmography — though he's no stranger to action, the settings have almost always been fantasy or sci-fi worlds. Seeing him play a hawkish, hyper-focused, hyper-competent killer is a treat, and he pulls the role off with aplomb. It wasn't exactly easy, however. Kirill is a man of few words, and that meant that Urban had to bring his character to life in different ways. "The wonderful thing about those characters that have, I guess, a minimal amount of dialogue — and they can often be quite skeletal on the page — is it forces you to get very specific as an actor, because every beat is an opportunity to convey meaning about your character," Urban told Den of Geek. "You have to utilize every beat. Otherwise, you run the danger of having an unrealised performance and character."

Karl Urban boldly went where no man has gone before

When "Star Trek" was rebooted in 2009 by J.J. Abrams, the new story of the USS Enterprise centered mostly around the journey of Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) even though the rest of the crew was composed of amazing actors who helped realize Gene Roddenberry's futuristic vision for a new generation. One of those supporting crew members was Karl Urban. 

Urban played Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, the ship's medical doctor. In "Star Trek," Urban helped carry on a legacy of optimism and kept crew members in good health while they traversed the stars. By joining the crew of the Starship Enterprise, Urban stepped into yet another massive genre franchise — and it wouldn't even be his last. A lot of actors might sit back on their laurels at this point and enjoy the wave of adulation. Not Urban. The man surged onward and dove into more roles in other multimedia franchises with massive fan followings.

Karl Urban is the law in Mega-City One

The '90s were a time of wonder, slap bracelets, and moody grunge. In the world of cinema, this beautiful decade gave us Billy Zane in a purple skinsuit and Val Kilmer lisping through a Batman cowl. We have so much to be grateful for. In the midst of all these early attempts at comic book adaptation, we were given 1995's "Judge Dredd." The only good that came out of this Stallone flick was the reboot in 2012, aptly named "Dredd." 

Urban plays the titular Judge, and it may be Karl Urban's most cryptic role because he was under a helmet throughout the entire film. In the "Judge Dredd" comic books, our hero never removes his helmet. Fans of the source material were extremely happy with this adaptation because it stayed true to that fact. The humility Urban displayed by masking his face through an entire studio feature film also makes us love him even more. 

It tells us a lot about Urban as an actor that he was able to bring so much to the role of Dredd without even showing his handsome visage. The movie completely flopped at the box office, barely breaking even after international release. We have no idea why, other than maybe people were disappointed they didn't get to stare into those dreamy hazel eyes.

Karl Urban channeled Blade Runner in Almost Human

In 2013, fresh off his role in "Riddick," Karl Urban re-teamed with J.J. Abrams to launch a new sci-fi series, Fox's "Almost Human." Based on their previous collaborations, "Star Trek" and "Star Trek: Into Darkness," as well as their recent solo projects (Abrams had just wrapped the criminally under-appreciated "Fringe"), it seemed like the series was bound for success. Set in 2048, "Almost Human" takes place in a world where police officers are forced to work with android partners to combat a crime rate that has spiraled out of control, largely due to advances in technology. It had shades of "Blade Runner," which is probably what attracted Urban to the project — Ridley Scott's seminal sci-fi film is one of his "all-time favorite films," Urban said in a 1998 interview. "It's a masterpiece."

"Almost Human" built a modest following and earned decent reviews from a number of critics, but Fox decided not to renew the show for a second season. Despite some aspects — most notably the pacing — failing to wow audiences, "Almost Human" had some memorable sci-fi moments. Urban is brilliant as John Kennex, an android-hating detective. His patiently unfolding relationship with fellow officer (and android) Dorian was a series highlight, and it promised much for future seasons. But, ultimately, "Almost Human" will be best remembered as yet another casualty in Fox's campaign to end excellent sci-fi shows before their prime. Like "Firefly" and "Terra Nova" before it, fans were furious when the show got canned.

Karl Urban led the Riders of Rohan across Middle-earth

You read that right! Karl Urban was in two "The Lord of the Rings" films — in a very crucial role, we might add. He played the leader of the Riders of Rohan, Éomer, the man who rescues Merry and Pippin from certain death and leads the defenses at Helm's Deep. In this massive battle scene, Éomer is crucial to the fight against the combined armies of Sauron and Saruman, an unholy alliance committed to wiping the nation of Rohan off the face of Middle-earth.

Don't beat yourself up if you forgot about him. Urban was in a helmet for a lot of the epic journey, after all (again). It's hard to forget that gravelly voice, though. Urban manages to be rugged even under all those flowing blonde locks. Without him, the world of men might have been lost — and before we even got to the third film!

Karl Urban has also conquered the Marvel Cinematic Universe

We were excited beyond belief when Karl Urban showed up in one of the MCU's most notable threequels. Urban entered "Thor: Ragnarok" by bragging about his loot from around the universe, which included his machine guns named "Des" and "Troy" because "when you put them together, they destroy." The guns are pretty cool, but let's not forget: He also scored a Shake Weight. That's right: Though he's hardly recognizable, Karl Urban played the role of Skurge in the MCU's third "Thor" film, directed by "Jojo Rabbit" auteur Taika Waititi.

When Skurge is forced to serve as the right-hand man to the evil Hella, he does so with a reluctance that makes the character more complex than many Marvel villains. Ultimately he gets his own tale of redemption when he leaps from the shuttle at the end of the film, wielding Dez and Troy in a heroic rescue act that allows innocent bystanders to escape unharmed.

Karl Urban has already shown us why he deserves to be in the spotlight right now. His role as Billy Butcher on "The Boys" almost feels as though it was written specifically for him. Wherever the Urban legend goes next, we're sure it will be another multi-billion-dollar genre franchise. All the better.