This might sound like a scene from an adventure film but for actor Wood Harris, it was reality during filming for “Dredd 3D.” The futuristic sci-fi action flick, based on the screenplay by Alex Garland and directed by Pete Travis, opens today.
The film is based on the British comic book series and stars Karl Urban as the title character and Olivia Thirlby as Anderson, a rookie judge. Judges, who issue on-the-spot punishment for perpetrators, patrol Mega City One. From fines to imprisonment to death, the judges are merciless when it comes to administering penalties.
Drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headley) has taken over the Peach Trees tower block, and the horrific torture and death of three men is what brings the judges to her domain. Harris plays Kay, one of Ma-Ma’s henchmen. However, he is captured by Judges Dredd and Anderson, posing a threat to Ma-Ma’s power. Interrogation in the future has no rules, and she doesn’t trust Kay to keep quiet about her drug operations. What results is a violent life-and-death battle — complete with innovative 3-D effects.
Harris and the cast spent six months in Cape Town, South Africa, making the movie. However, during some downtime, he decided to rent a bike and travel to the country of Namibia, a 12-hour commute. Six hours later, he found himself lost and in the dark.
“It was like being in outer space, in the sense that it was pitch blackness. Even the light to my bike wasn’t illuminating very much,” he said. “The only thing it did was catch the eyeballs that were catching light in the brush. I turned around and headed back.”
Aside from this mishap, he said the filming experience was memorable. Although Kay is among many “bad guy” characters Harris has portrayed, he said this time the villain was more of a victim.
“I know what he’s seen as by everyone else. I just never saw him as a bad guy,” he said. “For me, I looked at it like the judge is a bad guy too because he’s judging and killing. He can judge and execute you on the spot.”
He said the moral conflict of the role of the judges versus their actions was intentional on behalf of the filmmakers and writers.
“This is a high-impact film with lots of action, but on a moral sense, I do believe that’s what the writers of the comics intended for you to think about, “ he said. “It’s possible to have a police state in the future that has cops that are judges and executors and juries, all in one.”
Harris’ roles have varied from playing a high school football player in segregated Virginia in “Remember the Titans,” a music legend in the television film “Hendrix,” and a drug dealer in HBO’s “The Wire.”
His next role is that of Malcolm X in the movie “Coretta and Betty.” The film will explore the friendship between Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz.
However, his recent stint on Broadway’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” is what he calls his best acting experience so far. Nicole Ari Parker and Blair Underwood also starred in the six-month run. Harris’ character was Mitch, made famous in the film version by Karl Malden.
“It was fantastic,” Harris said. “It was tiring, but the work was so rewarding.”