District 9’s Wikus in The A-Team

By admin
20 August 2010

He’s hounded for autographs, poses for snaps with grinning fans and is starting to become a paparazzi target. While he was on a press tour, word got out where he was staying and people camped outside his hotel for days, hoping to catch a glimpse of the shaggy-haired actor.

This is the whirlwind life of South Africa’s hottest new export, Sharlto Copley, who surprised moviegoers as Wikus van der Merwe in last year’s box office smash, District 9. Hollywood has become his second home - not bad for a Joburg boykie with just two films under his belt.

He doesn’t drink or smoke, has had the same partner for a decade, refuses to get a publicist and is worried about losing his South African accent. “I’m quite determined not to let my accent change,” he tells us. He’s in Joburg promoting his second film, action flick The A-Team. He stars opposite Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel and his new best friend, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who’s in SA with him.

Sharlto (36) divides his time between Los Angeles and Cape Town and his partner, model and producer Jeanne-Melanie Haasbroek, travels with him.

“I’ll be in Cape Town for three months and then in Los Angeles for five. It’s very much where my career happens to be flowing,” he says. “I’ve accepted my life will be nomadic for the next few years.”

So his name carries weight in Hollywood circles? “I suppose so,” he admits reluctantly. But not as much weight as District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, he says. “Neill can work with any actor on any film he wants,” Sharlto says.

District 9 put Sharlto on the movie map and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture.

He’s currently winning plenty of praise for his performance as Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock in the $100-million (R750 million) big-screen remake of The A-Team. Sharlto was offered the role of the crazy pilot with a penchant for impersonations and wacky voices while publicising District 9.

“I have no idea how they made that connection from Wikus,” says Sharlto, who grew up a fan of the ’80s TV show on which the movie is based.

Growing up with conservative parents who wouldn’t let him watch the show because they thought it was too violent for a 12-year-old, crafty Sharlto figured out a way to enjoy it without his folks’ knowledge.

“I’d leave the TV on but go play outside so my mom thought I wasn’t watching. But I was recording the audio on my tape recorder and would sneak off later and listen to what had happened.”

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