Exclusive: “The A-Team” and “District 9” star Sharlto Copley — Hollywood In Ten

By Sean O’Connell
HollywoodNews.com’s interview feature, “Hollywood In Ten,” showcases the creative individuals responsible for the movies we love, and corners them for 10 quality minutes.

Sharlto Copley was running late. Not too late, mind you. The “District 9” star was roughly 20 minutes behind schedule when he finally called for our interview to discuss his role in the upcoming summer blockbuster, “The A-Team.” And then he asked to reschedule. When we finally spoke, I had to give him a hard time. His breakthrough, science-fiction masterpiece gets nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, and all of a sudden he’s blowing off journalists left and right? It broke the ice with several laughs, and got the latest Hollywood In Ten off on a very interesting tangent.

Hollywood News: I get it. I get it. You’re Mr. Oscar guy now, so you can blow reporters off.

Sharlto Copley: [Laughing] That is so funny! We actually just shot a whole little thing that’s behind-the-scenes for “The A-Team” with that where we joke how I have done one movie and all of a sudden I’ve become a total prima donna! It’s a comedy piece where I’m giving Joe Carnahan, the director, like a really hard time. I’m complaining about my stand in, saying he doesn’t look enough like me! We had a lot of fun.

Are they going to put it on the DVD?

I think so.

Before we look ahead to “The A-Team,” can you tell me what kind of doors the success of “District 9” opened for you as an actor?

Absolutely. Obviously, the first major door that it opened up for me was “The A-Team.” It was the first thing that came rushing at me. I was still actually on the “District 9” publicity tour in Austin, Texas when I got the call about “The A-Team.” One of the producers had seen a screening of “District 9.” And I just loved the Murdock character so much that I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I actually shot a series of scenes in my hotel room that I called, “Things That Could Happen to Murdock in a Hotel Room.”

You scripted them yourself?

Oh yeah, it was an improve thing that came together in literally two hours. I filmed a bunch of scenes, edited together while we were flying to the next city for “District 9,” and sent them to Joe Carnahan. And that’s how I ended up doing the film.

That’s hilarious.

Yeah. Well, I was a huge fan of “A-Team” as a kid, and so I had a real sense of what I would do with Murdock. I could do voices, and all of that stuff.

Speaking with a fellow critic, we were trying to figure out the tone of “A-Team,” if it fell into the category of a tongue-in-cheek satire of the established series, or if it was a straight up action thriller that just happened to use characters we already knew from an existing world.

We’re going for, I guess, the action comedy tone of the movies we grew up with in the ’80s, like “Lethal Weapon” and “Die Hard.” It’s still fun. It’s not so updated that these guys are in “The Hurt Locker,” where we’re trying to make these guys into real rangers.

Of all the characters, I think that I’ve tried to stick the closest to the original Murdock. I’ve tried to stick to the inspirations of the original character. Because for me, of any of those characters, when you go back and watch “The A-Team” now in reruns, the guy that holds up the most to me is Murdock. He’s got that entertaining, zany kind of thing that, to me, doesn’t date as easily.

Does Joe use a lot of CGI, or did he prefer hands-on techniques for the movie’s stunts?

There is a lot of CGI. We did a lot of inside work on soundstages in Canada. We had a lot of green screen, which is very different for me from my work on “D9.”

Did you ever get comfortable? It can be difficult putting yourself into a scene when you don’t have something physical to play around with at your fingertips.

Yeah, but they gave us enough. If you are flying something, you are in a cockpit, and it’s enough to work with. So that didn’t bug me. But I think it’s a challenging thing for a filmmaker who opts for that, because it’s harder to try and get a certain sense of realism. It’s harder from a technical standpoint. And it’s harder for some types of acting. But Murdock, I think, is so in his own head and so kind of crazy anyway that you don’t need the real environment as much. You know? He’s crazy wherever you put him.

Now you guys are bringing an “A-Team” event to the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race in Charlotte, N.C. this weekend, right?

Yes, yes, absolutely, and I’m totally, totally excited about it.

What do you guys have planned?

Well, I know some of it, but I really want to keep it as a surprise. It’s going to be very cool. And from my point of view, I have always wanted to go to a NASCAR race. We don’t get that in South Africa (where Copley is from). We get Formula 1, which I’ve followed for a number of years. But we’ll get the odd thing about NASCAR on international channels. And of course, you know, after I saw “Days of Thunder” with Tom Cruise, I’ve always thought that must be an amazing atmosphere, and amazing vibe. I really, really want to see it. And I hope they let me take a car around the track!

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