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New Zealand native Karl Urban, a veteran of local film and TV productions including Xena Warrior Princess, rides to new heights as Eomer in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Eomer, who first appears in The Two Towers, goes on to play a critical role as a Rohan warrior who helps shape the future of Middle-earth in The Return of the King. Here, hometown-boy-made-good Urban talks about his character and his biggest project yet.

Eomer probably spends as much time on horseback as any character in the trilogy. How did you prepare for that?
Eomer's a consummate horseman and I was nowhere near that level, so I invested a lot of time learning-six to eight weeks, five days a week, two hours a day. I wanted to get to the point where I could neck reign-hold control of the animal with one hand while leaving the other hand free to wield a sword. I wanted to be so at one with the horse that I wasn't conscious or concerned about what the horse was doing.

Did you feel like you were living the character after a while?
Absolutely. When you're under that armor all day long and on horseback all day long, riding with your troop behind you, it's very easy to let your imagination go and just be there.

If you had to boil Eomer down to his essence, what would that be?
He's very forceful, proud of being a Rohan warrior, but a little bit hot-headed. His job description is Orc killer-that is what he does. He's the protector of Rohan. He's out there doing the dirty work, and trying not to lose hope under extraordinarily trying circumstances.

  Did Peter Jackson give you any specific direction for Eomer?
I never had any in-depth discussion with Peter about the psychology of Eomer, or how the death of his parents may have affected him as a young man. Besides, any questions you need to ask are answered in the book, where you get to see how your piece of the puzzle fits in with the bigger picture. That's not a luxury you have on other projects.

Between wrangling with Wormtongue and battling at Helm's Deep, the mood on the set must have been intense at times.
I think Viggo Mortensen summed it up best with a note he wrote above his makeup mirror: "Adapt and overcome." That just gives you a little insight into the attitude that you had to have.

Sounds like you guys had plenty of good times, too.

Awesome times. I remember once when myself, Viggo, Orlando [Bloom], Bernard [Hill], Miranda [Otto], producer Barrie Osbourne and some make-up people decide not to do the hour and a half journey back to the hotel because we had a dawn shoot the next morning. We stayed on location and slept in our camper vans. Viggo caught some fish and, being the consummate outdoorsman, dug a fire pit and grilled them up. We sat around laughing and drinking and listening to music, and Barry Osbourne's there and telling us old Hollywood tales. It was a really amazing night and one of the memories I cherish the most.

Can you talk about the battle of Pelennor Fields, which is a centerpiece of Film Three?
The battle of Pelennor Fields takes place on the huge, grassy plains outside the city of Gondor and it constitutes one of the largest cavalry charges in the history of cinema. It's a ferocious battle, which is very costly for some of the characters in The Return of the King. We shot the charge down in Twizel, on the South Island, and it was a phenomenal experience. There were like 500 horsemen and horsewomen charging down this plain, and it was just incredible hearing the rumble. The ground was actually shaking.

Was filming the Battle of Pelennor Fields hard work?
It's a very hard-fought battle, and it was exhausting to do. I learned an important lesson: you don't want to eat lunch before you fight, it generally doesn't stay down.

How does Eomer change from Film Two to Film Three?
The stakes are raised. Eomer goes from just protecting and serving the people of Rohan to protecting and serving the people of Middle-earth. He's faced with making the ultimate sacrifice--his life and the lives of his men--to ensure the survival of future generations.

What was it like filming in your homeland?
I got to see more of my country shooting this trilogy than I had living there my entire life. We went to places I had no idea existed. I thought I knew my country, but now I know I didn't. I'm hoping one day I can go back to those places.

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