Karl-Heinz Urban (born 7 June, 1972) is a New Zealand actor.
He is known for playing Éomer in the second and third installments of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy in the 2009 film Star Trek and Julius Caesar on Xena: Warrior Princess. He played Vaako in The Chronicles of Riddick, the Russian assassin Kirill in The Bourne Supremacy, and Ghost in Pathfinder and won acclaim for his performances in New Zealand films The Price of Milk and Out of the Blue.
Urban was born in Wellington, New Zealand. His father, a German immigrant, owned a leather goods store, and his mother once worked for Film Facilities in Wellington, through which the young Urban was exposed to classic New Zealand cinema and developed an interest in the film industry. Urban attended St Mark’s Church School, where he showed an early love for public performance. His first acting role came at age eight, when he had a single line in one episode of the New Zealand television series ‘Pioneer Woman’. Though continuing to take part in school stage productions, he did not act professionally again until after high school.
He attended Wellington College from 1986–1990, then Victoria University of Wellington in the Bachelor of Arts programme for one year, but left to pursue his acting career. Over the next few years, he landed several theatre roles in the Wellington area, and eventually he moved to Auckland, where he was offered many guest roles in local shows (one of which was playing a heroin addict in the police drama Shark in the Park). The role which launched him to local fame was that of gay paramedic Jamie Forrest in the hit New Zealand TV series Shortland Street. He appeared on the show for the 1993–1994 season. Urban then moved to Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia in 1995, returning to New Zealand the following year.
New Zealand roles
As well as appearing in films and television shows, Urban had various roles in theatre productions and TV advertisements. In February/March 1998, he was in a play called The Herbal Bed at the Maidment Theatre in Auckland. In August 1998, he played Mark Antony in Auckland Theatre Company’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. The following year he starred in the Auckland Theatre Company’s production of the New Zealand classic Foreskin’s Lament.
Urban was seen on the internationally syndicated American TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and on its spin-off Xena: Warrior Princess, in which he played the recurring roles of both Cupid and Julius Caesar from 1996 to 2001. Both shows were filmed in New Zealand. In 2001 he appeared in the offbeat rural romance The Price of Milk, for which he received his first nomination at the New Zealand Qantas Film and Television Awards. Urban later won acclaim for his portrayal of policeman Nick Harvey in Out of the Blue, a dramatisation of New Zealand’s Aramoana massacre, for which he won the Qantas Film and Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in 2008.
Urban’s first Hollywood role was in the 2002 horror film Ghost Ship. Since then, he has worked on many high-profile movies, including the second and third installments of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Two Towers and The Return of the King), The Bourne Supremacy, The Chronicles of Riddick and Star Trek.
The Hollywood Reporter speculated that Urban was one of several actors being considered for the part of British secret service agent 007 in Casino Royale, directed by fellow New Zealander Martin Campbell. The role eventually went to Daniel Craig.
Urban played John “Reaper” Grimm in Universal Pictures’ Doom (based on the classic first-person shooter video game Doom), which was released on 21 October 2005. In 2007 he starred in the Viking adventure Pathfinder. A longtime fan of Westerns, Urban appeared as Woodrow Call in Comanche Moon, the CBS miniseries prequel to Lonesome Dove, in January 2008.
In 2009, he played Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, a role famously originated by DeForest Kelley, in the eleventh Star Trek film. A fan of the Star Trek franchise since childhood, Urban actively pursued a role in the film. His performance was widely embraced by the Star Trek fan community for its faithfulness to the spirit of Kelley’s McCoy.
In 2009, Urban appeared as himself in the documentary film Reclaiming the Blade, discussing his sword-wielding experience in films such as The Lord of the Rings.
Between 2009 and 2010, Urban was cast in Black Water Transit, as Earl Pike, and And Soon the Darkness, as Michael. The first one, directed by Tony Kaye, hasn’t been released yet. The second was released directly to DVD market in early 2011.
Urban next appeared as CIA agent William Cooper in RED, adapted from the DC Comics graphic novel of the same name and co-starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren. He portrayed Black Hat, a villainous priest-turned-vampire, in the film adaption of the Korean manhwa Priest, released in 3-D in 2011.
In 2012, Urban starred as law-enforcing comic book hero Judge Dredd in the movie Dredd. In an interview with Shave Magazine, Urban described it as a “high-octane, action-fueled film… about the day in the life of Dredd.” The film was directed by Pete Travis, with a script by Alex Garland. Though it under performed at the box office, Dredd was well received by critics
He reprised his role of “Bones” McCoy in the sequel to Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness (released 15 May 2013) and Lord Vaako in the third movie of the Riddick franchise, Riddick (released 4 September 2013). His role as Vaako has just a couple of minutes on the film, but Urban has assured that he’ll have a bigger part in the next movie of the franchise, that is if it’s get filmed.
Since November 2013, Urban is starring as Detective John Kennex in Almost Human, the new TV series created by J.H. Wyman. The series is set 35 years into the future when humans in the L.A.P.D. are paired up with life-like androids, as a detective who has a dislike for robots ends up being teamed up with one with emotional feelings.
This Christmas we’ll see him in Walking with Dinosaurs 3D as Zack, an adventurous uncle who takes his nephew and niece to the remote site in Alaska where he is excavating dinosaur remains.
Urban will next be seen in the ensemble thriller The Loft, a remake of the Belgian film of the same name. Filmed in New Orleans and Belgium, it is helmed by the director of the 2008 original, Erik Van Looy.
He’s rumoured to be included in the cast of The Wonder as Consul William Stanley. The movie was set to start shooting last October, but no news has reached the net about it.
Urban married Natalie Wihongi (who was his makeup artist on The Privateers) in September 2004. Together they have two sons: Hunter, born November 2000, and Indiana (‘Indy’), born January 2005 and named for the eponymous hero of the Indiana Jones franchise, which Urban has cited as among his favorite films. They live in the Auckland, New Zealand suburb of Herne Bay.
Urban serves as a celebrity ambassador for KidsCan, a charity which currently supports over 16,000 disadvantaged children all over New Zealand by providing them with essentials such as food, coats and shoes.
He is an avid fan of rugby union; in particular, the New Zealand All Blacks national team.
Updated by Lady B