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The Untold Truth Of The Boys' Karl Urban

If you're a fan of "The Boys," Amazon's hit superhero satire series, then it's almost guaranteed that you're a fan of Billy Butcher. The brooding mentor-turned-protagonist is one of the most memorable TV characters of recent years, and a lot of that is due to the nuanced performance of Karl Urban. You may already know Urban from fandom-rich franchises like The Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But, despite the actor's many high-profile roles, there are sides of him that most fans still don't know.

Urban is a native of New Zealand. Like most actors from that part of the world, the road he took to Hollywood was a long and winding one, very different to the routes typically taken by American and British actors. Let's take a look at some of the stops he made along the way and explore the unknown side of this intensely talented actor. This is the untold truth of Karl Urban.

From Rohann to Rohan

Even with the monumental success of "The Boys," Karl Urban may still be best known for his role in the second and third "The Lord of the Rings" movies. Many people first fell in love with Urban for his portrayal of Eomer of Rohan, a man desperate to protect his family and country but beset by seemingly insurmountable betrayal and corruption (which, to be fair, he probably should have expected from someone named Wormtongue). Eomer was a friend to the Fellowship of the Ring and later became a close ally to Aragorn, re-establishing the bond between the kingdoms of Gondor and Rohan. Oddly enough, Urban's first-ever on-screen role was as a character named Rohann.

The series was "Shark in the Park," a New Zealand police procedural that ran for three seasons in the early '90s, totaling 38 episodes. Urban had a recurring role in six of those episodes, playing a young drug addict named Rohann Murdoch. He robs a pharmacy and later takes an accidental heroin overdose, which police begin to suspect was attempted murder. His performances are as green as can be expected from any actor in their first televised role, but even back then he had presence, catching the eye whenever he was on the screen.

A prank war with Aragorn

The sets of Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" movies were famously warm and playful, creating lasting friendships and unofficial families. Hours and hours of behind-the-scenes footage chronicles the silliness, inside jokes, and hilarious pranks. Aragorn actor Viggo Mortenson is notorious for pulling pranks on set — even in the middle of filmed takes — and Urban was not exempt.

As Urban revealed at Fan Expo 2019, he was once woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call from his agent, who promised to buy him some new socks if he would just get on his flight as planned. After Urban responded with confusion, his agent instantly realized what had happened and simply said: "Viggo." Evidently, Mortensen had called Urban's agent pretending to be Urban, claiming that he would not fly without his lucky socks.

Urban took his chance to prank Mortensen back a decade later when both actors were promoting movies in Spain. Urban told every member of the press he could that Mortensen had bought a farm, 1,000 goats, and gotten really into making goat cheese. Interviewers asked Mortensen about his new goat cheese business so much that the fake story made its way to the national news.

He's a genre icon

Playing Eomer in "The Lord of the Rings" will always be the biggest jewel in Karl Urban's fandom crown, but it's far from his only beloved franchise character. There are few actors in Hollywood with as much pop culture cred as Urban, once dubbed a "genre icon" by SyFy. He played Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the Star Trek universe and Skurge the Executioner in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He just needs to add Star Wars and a DC role to his resume and he'll be working conventions for the rest of his days.

Technically, Urban has already dabbled with both DC and Star Wars, though most fans aren't aware of this. He was in the 2010 action comedy "RED," based on comics originally published by WildStorm Productions, which became an imprint of DC. In fact, the same can be said of "The Boys," which began life at WildStorm before moving to Dynamite Entertainment. And though you'll never see his face or hear his voice, Urban did play a role in "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" — friend and director J.J. Abrams snuck him into a Stormtrooper costume on set.

When you add his roles in "Hercules" and "Xena," his role in 2005's "Doom," his recurring role in the Riddick franchise, and his turn as the titular judge in "Dredd," you realize that Urban is the pop culture king you never knew you had.

Taika Waititi personally shaved his head

Most Karl Urban roles allow him to keep the same hairstyle he rocks in "The Boys," but sometimes he has to get rid of the mane. One time, he let his director do it for him. If you scrolled through a list of the many directors Urban has worked with, you would probably guess who we're talking about. For his role as Skurge in "Thor: Ragnarok," Urban let Taika Waititi personally shave his head.

"I turned up on set and Taika, our esteemed director, greeted me," said Urban. "He literally stopped directing the movie and came out and shaved my head and then went back to directing." Clips of the incident are scattered around the internet and show Waititi smiling with boyish glee as he takes the trimmers to Urban's dense locks. It's the type of behavior that fans have come to expect from Waititi and it says a lot about Urban's affability that he played along. "I embraced it," he said. "What are you gonna do?"

Karl Urban spends a lot of time at sea

If you follow Karl Urban on social media, you'll know that he is no stranger to the sea. His Instagram feed is filled with posts that chronicle his deep-sea fishing hobby. Seemingly every third picture is Urban out on his boat or holding up his latest catch. He's also a skilled surfer, as a few thousand Star Trek fans found out when Urban posted a trolling video on his YouTube channel entitled "Karl Urban: STAR TREK COMIC-CON SNEAK PEAK !!" that just showed him surfing for four minutes.

Even more impressive is the fact that Urban has transitioned his nautical chops into his career. As "The Boys" co-star Jack Quaid revealed during a SiriusXM Q&A, that's Urban driving in the famous speedboat scene from Season 2. Quaid said: "I actually felt super safe with you driving, 'cause I look at your Instagram — that's all you do!"

Why Karl Urban was perfect for Dredd

When the "Judge Dredd" franchise was relaunched in the 2010s, Karl Urban was cast in the titular role. He brought his A-game to 2012's "Dredd," delivering a performance that fans lauded. The 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle "Judge Dredd" missed the mark by such a wide margin that the character vanished from the big screen for years, but the team behind the reboot knew exactly what fans wanted. Urban's spot-on portrayal was all but inevitable given his affinity for the character.

Urban told MTV News: "I'm a longtime fan of 'Dredd.' I read it growing up." When asked about the 1995 movie, Urban took issue with that film's insistence on taking Dredd's helmet off — something almost unheard of in the comics. "To me, [the helmet staying on is] essential," Urban said. "That's part of his enigma. That's part of who he is." Urban even knew the character well enough to give the "Dredd" screenwriters notes. "Karl's got a very clear sense of the character and how he's going to perform it, so he was just adjusting lines to make them work for him," co-writer Alex Garland said in an interview first published in Empire magazine.

He's part of a secret DC cameo in Thor: Ragnarok

In Marvel comics, the character Skurge the Executioner is — as you no doubt guessed from his name — a grim, serious sort. For the majority of his publication history, the character has been a no-nonsense, battle-lusting villain out to punish Thor or claim some piece of our planet as his own. However, when Taika Waititi decided to include Skurge in "Thor: Ragnarok," the filmmaker did what he does best: He gave the character a goofy but endearing charm. Urban was up to the task, delivering the offbeat comedy expertly.

Skurge's funniest moment has to be the "My stuff" scene, in which he shows off his collection of pilfered goods to a couple of Asgardian women. Along with his twin rifles Des and Troy, Skurge shows off his skills with a Shake Weight — one that belonged to Waititi himself. "The Shake Weight is actually a DC crossover," Waititi told Fandango (via ComicBook.com). "That's mine, and that was something I bought while I was in 'Green Lantern.'" Waititi played engineer Thomas Kalmaku in the much-maligned Ryan Reynolds-led flop.

How Blade Runner informed his career choices

Karl Urban is pretty much royalty in the sci-fi world. Between "Star Trek," "The Chronicles of Riddick ," "Doom," "Almost Human," "Dredd," and others, the Kiwi is a true elite in the genre. This status is a dream come true for Urban, who has always wanted to work in sci-fi. In an interview from 1998 — before the actor had broken through outside of New Zealand — he was asked what he would do next if it were up to him. "Genre wise, I'd like to do science fiction," he said. "'Blade Runner' is one of my all-time favorite films. It's a masterpiece." The funny thing about Urban's answer is that the next five years of his life would be almost exclusively devoted to roles in fantasy stories rather than science fiction.

For years following that interview, Urban's most public work was in the mythological fantasy "Xena: Warrior Princess." Even his lesser-known side projects — the movies "Truth About Demons," "The Price of Milk," and "Ghost Ship" — were all fantasy or fantasy-inspired horror stories. Following those, his next role — the one that launched his stable, successful career — was in perhaps the most influential fantasy story of all time: "The Lord of the Rings."

He's the UNICEF Aotearoa New Zealand Ambassador

Karl Urban has long held a reputation for being a genuinely friendly guy. Fans and co-stars alike maintain that he is a pleasure to meet and work with, and when those accounts are combined with Urban's controversy-free public history, it becomes clear that he's the anti-Billy Butcher. With that in mind, it will come as no surprise to learn that Urban regularly devotes himself to charity work.

As part of Omaze's "To Boldly Go" campaign, Urban helped raise over a million dollars for charity. He decided to give his share ($160,000) to the New Zealand charity KidsCan, which gives food, clothing, and medicine to underfunded schools. His work with the charity has also included personally visiting schools.

In May 2022, UNICEF made Urban an official ambassador. His job is "to support in raising awareness on children's rights both in New Zealand and around the world," the organization said in a statement. It's clear that Urban is willing to use his star power to make the world a better place.

Fans of The Lord of the Rings still love him

Much to the delight of those who still love Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings," the director and the entire main cast reunited in 2020 for "One Zoom to Rule Them All," a part of actor Josh Gad's "Reunited Apart" YouTube series. Hosted by Gad, the series brought together cast and crew from fan-favorite films over Zoom during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With 6.8 million views as of this writing, "One Zoom to Rule Them All" is by far the series' most popular entry, and that's not surprising — it's packed with fan-pleasing moments.

Many of those highlights came in the form of scene re-enactments by the cast. Orlando Bloom and John-Rhys Davies read the classic "Would you like me to find you a box?" scene, and Sean Astin performed his iconic "It's worth fighting for" speech. For Urban fans, the ultimate highlight was the Kiwi actor reading a scene with Miranda Otto (Eowyn). The actor delivered his lines with more gusto than anyone else on the Zoom call — and he even wore his original Eomer helmet. He clearly loves the character, and this continues to endear him to "The Lord of the Rings" fans to this day.