Karl Urban is a New Zealand actor popular for his roles in ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ ‘Star Trek,’ and ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’ He appeared in many high-profile movies before emerging as a star of the popular Amazon Prime series ‘The Boys.’
Who is Karl Urban?
New Zealand-born actor Karl Urban began his career with appearances in New Zealand films and T.V. series like Xena: Warrior Princess. In 2002, he landed his first Hollywood role in the horror film Ghost Ship, after which he appeared in many other high-profile movies, such as the second and third installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He also portrayed Skurge in Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok, Judge Dredd in Dredd, Vaako in the Riddick film series, and Leonard McCoy in the Star Trek reboot film series. Since 2019, Karl Urban has starred in amazon’s superhero streaming series The Boys, playing the main protagonist Billy Butcher.
Karl Urban was born on June 7, 1972, in Wellington, New Zealand. After exposure to classic New Zealand cinema, Urban was drawn to his mother’s profession. His mother worked at a film production and equipment rental company, while his father, a German immigrant, owned a leather goods store.
“Every time a film was completed, all the crews and the technical people would come to this warehouse where this film rental company was located, and they would screen the film on the garage of the building,” Urban later told The New Zealand Herald. “I was not only enamored with these films, but the culture of the crew and the way they interacted. I was hooked.”
Urban showed an early passion for public performance at St Mark’s Church School. At eight, he began his acting career with a single line in one episode of the New Zealand television series Pioneer Woman. Since then, he did not act professionally again until he completed his high school education.
After high school, Urban attended Wellington College from 1986 to 1990 and went to Victoria University of Wellington to pursue a Bachelor of Arts program. He later suspended his studies to pursue an acting career. Before landing any professional film role, Urban appeared in numerous local T.V. commercials in the Wellington area. He finally moved to Auckland, where he was offered many guest roles in various T.V. shows.
The 2002 horror film Ghost Ship was Urban’s first Hollywood role before landing in several high-profile movies, including The Chronicles of Riddick, Star Trek, The Bourne Supremacy, the second and third installments of The Lord of the Rings, and Doom. He appeared in Universal Pictures’ Doom, playing John Reaper Grimm. The film was released on October 21, 2005. Later in 2007, Urban starred in the Viking adventure Pathfinder. He portrayed Woodrow Call in Comanche Moon, a television miniseries that aired in early 2008.
In 2009, Urban appeared in the original Star Trek T.V. series, playing Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, a role that originated by DeForest Kelley. The entire Star Trek community embraced his performance, especially for its faithfulness to the spirit of Kelley’s McCoy.
Co-starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren, Urban starred as C.I.A. agent William Cooper in Red. He later appeared in the Korean manhwa Priest film adaptation, playing Black Hat, a villainous priest-turned-vampire. The film was released in 3-D in 2011.
In 2012, Urban portrayed the comic book character Judge Dredd in the film Dredd, which Pete Travis directed, with a script by Alex Garland. Urban described the film as a “high-octane, action-fueled film … about the day in the life of Dredd.”
In 2013, Urban starred in Almost Human as Detective John Kennex, who dislikes robots but ends up being teamed up with one with emotional feelings. The T.V. series was created by J.H Wyman and was set 35 years into the future when the L.A.P.D. cops are paired with lifelike androids.
In 2017, he appeared in the action thriller Acts of Vengeance, playing a psychotic cop opposite Robert Forster and Antonio Banderas. In the same year, he starred as Skurge in Thor: Ragnarok. He has been portrayed as William “Billy” Butcher in the Amazon Prime series The Boys since 2019.
On June 1, 2020, Urban joined Josh Gad’s YouTube series Reunited Apart, together with Sean Bean, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Viggo Mortensen, Dominic Monaghan, Miranda Otto, Andy Serkis, Elijah Wood, Liv Tyler, John Rhys-Davies, along with writer Philippa Boyens and director Peter Jackson. The series reunites the cast of popular movies through video-conferencing and promotes donations to non-profit charities.
Urban married his longtime partner, Natalie Wihongi, in September 2004. Natalie was Urban’s makeup artist for the 2000 television film The Privateers. They have two sons: Hunter, born December 16, 2000, and Indiana, born June 28, 2005. In June 2014, the couple announced their separation. Urban was in a relationship with actress Katee Sackhoff from 2014 to 2018.
Urban serves as a celebrity ambassador for KidsCan, a New Zealand charity organization that supports over 16,000 disadvantaged children by providing them with essentials such as shoes, clothing, and food.
In May 2022, UNICEF Aotearoa New Zealand welcomed Karl Urban as an official ambassador. His sole purpose was to raise awareness of children’s rights in New Zealand and worldwide.