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Dr. McCoy on Quentin Tarantino's R-rated 'Star Trek': 'He's the exact kind of energy the franchise needs'

Ethan Alter
Senior Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
Karl Urban as Leonard McCoy in Star Trek: Beyond. (Photo: Kimberley French/Paramount Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Star Trek‘s recent return to television in the form of Star Trek: Discovery took the beloved sci-fi franchise in exciting new directions. And now the feature film series is plotting an equally bold journey into previously unexplored narrative territory. Last year, news broke that none other than Quentin Tarantino had pitched an idea for an R-rated Trek yarn, the details of which have remained top secret — so top secret that the current big-screen Enterprise crew has yet to be briefed on the details of their next mission. Speaking with Yahoo Entertainment recently, Karl Urban — who inherited the role of the starship’s good doctor, Leonard McCoy, from DeForest Kelly in J.J. Abrams’s 2009 reboot — reveals that he’s still eagerly awaiting word about what the Pulp Fiction director has in store. “I know nothing more than you guys do! My personal belief is that he’s probably the exact kind of energy the franchise needs.”

That’s not a belief that’s universally shared, of course. Some have openly questioned the need for an R-rated take on Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision, and Tarantino’s own reputation has been taken a hit in the wake of Uma Thurman’s revelations about a stunt gone wrong on the set of Kill Bill. Urban says that he’s deliberately refrained from thinking too intensively about how the Q.T. version of McCoy might depart from the classic version of the character — like if he’ll suddenly be smoking Red Apple cigarettes or dancing to ’70s rock in the medical bay, for example. “It’s just important to remain open to whatever the story is, and whatever collaboration may evolve. Whether that’s going to mean swearing, more graphic violence or sex, I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see.”

Urban plays a disgraced cop looking to clear his name in Bent. (Photo: Lionsgate)

While waiting for his Tarantino-stamped Starfleet papers to come through, Urban is currently headlining the new cop drama, Bent, which opens in theaters and VOD on Friday. The actor describes his character, Danny Gallagher — a disgraced narcotics officer who emerges from prison looking to clear his name and avenge his dead partner — as being in the tradition of Robert Mitchum and other vintage noir antiheroes who aren’t above getting down and dirty. “That’s why the action has a certain flavor to it,” he says. “For example, when Danny is on the losing end of a fight, he takes the opportunity to bite the other guy’s ear! I like that it’s this brutal, no-holds-barred visceral experience, not a slick martial arts showcase.”

Urban plays futuristic cop Dredd in the 2012 cult favorite. (Photo: Joe Alblas/Lionsgate/Courtesy of Everett Collection)

Danny isn’t the first no-holds-barred cop that Urban has played, of course. In 2012, he donned the helmet of Dredd, the futuristic judge, jury, and executioner that originated in the pages of the influential British comics magazine, 2000 AD, for a cult favorite film written — and, as the actor has suggested elsewhere, directed by — Alex Garland. While Dredd is frequently ranked amongst the best comic book adaptations ever, the movie was a major money loser, a fact that Garland himself joked about when chatting with Yahoo Entertainment recently. Urban says he’s kept in touch with the current keepers of the character, who are reportedly eying a TV series for his next incarnation. “I met with them and expressed my interest in it; I would love the opportunity to go back and tell some of those stories — there’s a lot of great material [in the comics] to mine.”