Daren Horley talks about his early concept art for the brilliant Dredd 3D film, what designs made it to the screen, and why
At what stage did you work on the film Dredd, and what art did you create?
I was involved at a very early stage of Dredd. I think at that time the studio was still looking to raise finance for the project, so they came to Framestore (the London visual effects facility) to get some of the resident artists to come up with a collection of images that they could use to help pitch the idea.
The brief was for something that stayed reasonably true to the spirit of the original comic, and that had a very gritty, urban edge to it.
Not overly science fiction, more something that reflected the dark future that they were looking for in this version of Mega-City One.
It was clear that we were looking at something rather different from the previous movie (which wasn't all bad in my opinion), but what it lacked was the hard edge that I remember from reading the comics. My recollection was brutal violence, but also dark humour.
I think humour had already been explored, so this time around it was to be a different feel. I was tasked to create three sets of images, exterior views of the Peach Trees tower block - the location for most of the film, the Lawmaster bike and Dredd Himself.
How did you create the art? Painting from sketch, or photo references, etc?
Step one is to look at images that relate to what you are designing, so that was photography of brutalist architecture. Russia and Eastern Europe seems to supply a lot of inspiration on that front. Los Angeles provided references of concrete raised freeways.
Concept art is always extremely fast turnaround. So I often use photo images as a start, kind of like priming the canvas, ready for paint over the top. Juxtaposing textures and blending with painted detail.
I bypassed the gold chain and instead chose to embed the badge into the chest armour. I'm glad that made it through
When you're dealing with subject matter that relates directly to the real world, in this case a not so distant future of urban decay, it's good to directly utilize elements in a painting, you otherwise risk getting too fantasy, abstracted and sci-fi, which this project certainly wasn't.
Was it a straight up homage to the 2000AD comics, or was there room for your new ideas?
There certainly was a lot of homage to the comics. This had to look recognizably Dredd, but a direct translation would result in both a massively expensive film, and also something very removed from today and maybe not very believable.
There are a lot of exaggerated forms in comics, that don't necessarily translate to a photo real world. Plus the look in the comics changed depending on who was drawing the art.
Ezquerra, Bolland and MacMahon all had different takes on the character. I guess Bolland was the nearest to a naturalistic feel. That maybe provided the best start for me.
The brief, at that point, for Dredd's uniform was that it should be reminiscent of riot police, so I was looking at body armour from various police and military forces.