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Karl Urban

Karl Urban

Biography
Actor (1972–)
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New Zealand-born actor Karl Urban won over audiences with his roles in 'The Lord of the Rings,' 'Star Trek' and 'Thor: Ragnarok' before emerging as a star of the popular Amazon Prime series 'The Boys.'

Who Is Karl Urban?

Born in New Zealand in 1972, Karl Urban started starring in stage, TV and film productions in his home country. Introduced to American audiences in the series 'Hercules' (1996-98) and 'Xena' (1996-2001), he enjoyed new opportunities after joining The Lord of the Rings installments The Two Towers (2002) and Return of the King (2003). Following a string of action-heavy parts in films like The Bourne Supremacy (2004), the actor capably filled the shoes of Leonard "Bones" McCoy in Star Trek (2009) and its sequels and delivered a winning comedic performance in Thor: Ragnarok (2017). Beginning in 2019, Urban drew praise for leading the charge of vigilantes in Amazon Prime's dark comedy superhero series 'The Boys.'

How Old Is Karl Urban?

Karl-Heinz Urban was born on June 7, 1972, in Wellington, New Zealand, to immigrant German parents.

Early Years

While he was reportedly pressured to follow his father into the leather-goods manufacturing business, Urban instead was drawn to the profession of his mother, whom worked at a film production and equipment rental company.

"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," he 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."

From his first, brief television appearance at age eight, Urban began writing his own plays and took part in school theater productions. Enjoying a taste of professional success upon graduating from Wellington College in 1990, he soon dropped out of Victoria University to pursue an acting career full-time.

What Is Karl Urban Known For?

'Shortland Street' 

Along with parts in various stage productions, Urban began his career in New Zealand with a recurring role in the police drama 'Shark in the Park' (1990) and appeared in the war film Chunuk Bair (1992). In 1994, he broke ground on 'Shortland Street' as Jamie Forrest, the first openly gay character in the popular soap opera's history, before showing off his equestrian skills in 'Riding High' (1995-96).

'Hercules,' 'Xena' 

Urban first became known to American audiences in the mid-1990s via his multiple roles, including the love god Cupid and Roman dictator Julius Caesar, in the fantasy series 'Hercules: The Legendary Journeys' and its spinoff 'Xena: Warrior Princess.' Meanwhile, his big-screen career was also building steam, as he garnered best supporting actor nominations at the New Zealand Film Awards for his work in the dysfunctional-family dramedy Via Satellite (1998) and the romantic fantasy The Price of Milk (2000).

'The Lord of the Rings' 

Urban's performance in The Price of Milk also caught the attention of director Peter Jackson, who cast the rising actor in The Lord of the Rings’ second and third installments, The Two Towers (2002) and Return of the King (2003). Although his part of the warrior Éomer was fairly minor in an epic filled with A-list stars and stunning special effects, Urban nevertheless made his presence felt with his physicality and fierce glare.

'The Chronicles of Riddick,' 'The Bourne Supremacy,' 'Doom' 

The mega-success of The Lord of the Rings paved the way for a slew of action roles for Urban: He stared down Vin Diesel as Commander Vaako in The Chronicles of Riddick (2004); stalked Matt Damon as a Russian assassin in The Bourne Supremacy; and gunned down mutants alongside Dwayne Johnson in the video game-inspired Doom (2005). Following a return to his home country to star in Out of the Blue (2006), about a mass shooting in a small New Zealand community, Urban resumed his Hollywood career as the lead of the Viking-era Pathfinder (2007).

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'Star Trek' 

Urban's career took another defining turn when he played Leonard "Bones" McCoy alongside Chris Pine's James Kirk and Zachary Quinto's Spock in a reboot of Star Trek (2009). Along with winning over the members of a devoted fan base, Urban's performance showcased a sense of humor that was largely unknown to those who'd witnessed his previous fare.

"I have no doubt that some people perceived me as just being simply an action guy, but playing 'Bones' went a long way toward convincing them otherwise," he told Tulsa World in 2010. "I can judge that by the number of offers and how often the phone rings since Star Trek came out."

Urban went on to reprise the character for the film sequels Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016).

'Red,' 'Priest,' 'Dredd' 

Part of a star-studded cast assembled for the action-comedy Red (2010), Urban wound up taking his during an extended fight sequence with Bruce Willis, though the pain was offset by the film's critical and commercial success. However, his two follow-up roles, as a vampire hunter in Priest (2011) and as the titular justice-dispensing judge of Dredd (2012), both failed to make a significant impact at the box office. Similarly, Urban's return to television in 2013 as the lead of the futuristic crime drama 'Almost Human' fizzled out after one season despite strong early ratings.

'Thor: Ragnarok' 

Following the family films Walking with Dinosaurs (2013) and Pete's Dragon (2016), Urban delivered another fan-favorite performance in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) as Skurge, the weary guard forced into servicing Cate Blanchett's bloodthirsty Hela. He then appeared in supporting roles in Acts of Vengeance (2017) with Antonio Banderas, and The Hangman (2017), with Al Pacino, before taking the lead in the gritty crime thriller Bent (2018).

'The Boys' 

Once again diving into comic/graphic novel-inspired property, in 2019 Urban landed the role of vigilante Billy Butcher in Amazon Primes's subversive superhero series 'The Boys.' While part of an ensemble cast, Urban emerged as a clear standout thanks to his cutting one-liners and butt-kicking prowess, his performance helping to drive the popularity of the show through multiple seasons.

Wife and Children

Urban has two sons, Hunter and Indiana, with his ex-wife, makeup artist Natalie Wihongi. The two announced their separation in 2014 following a decade of marriage.

Charities and Personal Life

Urban has been involved with KidsCan, a New Zealand-based charity that assists children mired in poverty. In 2022, he was named a UNICEF ambassador for his native country.

The actor has resisted the urge to plant roots in Hollywood, preferring to make the long flight from his New Zealand home when it comes time for a film or TV project. He enjoys a variety of outdoor activities between shoots, especially fishing and surfing.

The two celebrities are not related, although the shared last name and birth country has prompted questions about family ties and occasionally a case of mistaken identity: According to Karl Urban, a foreign newspaper once incorrectly reported that he, not the country-music singer Keith Urban, had married actress Nicole Kidman.

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