The S A-Team

2010-08-21 00:00

JUST two years ago most people had never heard of Sharlto Copley — now the District 9 star is setting the big screen alight with his portrayal of Captain HM “Howling Mad” Murdock in The A-Team, which opened in South Africa yesterday.

The South African actor stars opposite Hollywood heavyweights Liam Neeson­, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel and American mixed-martial artist and actor Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, in the film that begins with the story of four American soldiers who are tasked with recovering plates for printing $100 bills, used to print $1 billion in Iraq.

After returning to base, their commanding officer is killed in an explosion and the plates are stolen. As a result the soldiers are court-martialled and sent to different prisons.

Six months later, their leader, Colonel Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson, star of the Oscar-winning Schindler’s List and the box office smash hit Taken), is visited by a CIA agent Lynch (Patrick Wilson of Watchmen fame), who reveals that he knows where the man who took the plates is and that he wants Smith and his men to recover them.

Cooper, star of The Hangover, takes on the role of Lieutenant Faceman Peck, and Jackson plays BA Baracus (the role made famous by Mr T). Biel takes on the role of Captain Charissa Sosa, a former love interest of Face, but who is now determined to get the escaped soldiers back behind bars.

Copley, who lives in Cape Town with longtime girlfriend Jeanne-Melanie Haasbroek, was promoting Neill Blomkamp­’s Oscar-nominated sci-fi thriller District 9 when he got the chance to audition for The A-Team.

In an interview with TV Plus, he reveals that when he got the call about doing the role of Murdock he improvised a series of scenes with various props in the hotel room and called it “things that could happen to Murdock in a hotel­ room”. That eight-minute video was sent to Joe Carnahan, the director, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Copley admits to being a huge fan of the original eighties television series.

“The A-Team was my favourite show as a kid and Murdock was my favourite character, so to play him was like a dream come true,” he says.

In the film version, Murdock is one of the best chopper pilots to emerge from Desert Storm. He also has a genius IQ and he can impersonate anyone from a surgeon to a prince at a moment’s notice. Considered mentally unstable he doesn’t run from trouble and instead plots a course directly for it.

Copley used his improv skills to develop many of his character’s traits, expanding Murdock beyond what was on the page. “What really excited me was the dangerous element to Murdock’s character — the dangerousness combined with the humour,” explains Copley. “You never really know if he’s really crazy, or if he’s just putting it on, and because he’s such a wacky character, you can have a lot of fun with his scenes. He’s unique.”

It was also Copley’s idea to give his character a southern accent. “Sharlto has a definite South African accent, but there’s not a shred of this in the movie,” says Carnahan. “He’s doing this Texas panhandle twang that is really something. You just can’t exhaust his imagination in terms of what he will give you. His whole attitude was that Murdock is nuts, so Sharlto had to be a bit nuts, too. I think people are going to love what he’s done with the role.”

Did you know?

• Sharlto Copley’s first name comes from a word that his mother heard on a radio play.

• While at Redhill High School in Johannesburg he met Neill Blomkamp, director of District 9, and in 2005 he produced Blomkamp’s short film Alive in Joburg, on which District 9 is based.

• He wrote and directed two of South Africa’s most popular viral short films — 2001: A Space Oddity, a comedy featuring a space shuttle making a crash landing in Cape Town, and Hellweek, a spoof on digital artist training in Africa. Both films were screened at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

• In 2009, Copley won the favourite hero award at the IGN Summer Movie Awards and best performance of 2009 for his role in District 9.

• In 2010, he produced and directed an insert for the South African Music Awards called Wikus and Charlize, featuring Charlize Theron. The clip features Copley as his District 9 character, Wikus, attempting to track down Charlize in Hollywood to help him present the award for best Afrikaans pop album.

In the original A-Team television series, Dirk Benedict (Face), George Peppard (Hannibal), Dwight Scultz (Murdock) and Mr T (BA Baracus) played four Vietnam veterans who are framed for a crime they didn’t commit. These ex-United States Army Special Forces men then set out to help the innocent, while on the run from the military.

The A-Team was created by Frank Lupo and Stephen J. Cannell (who also collaborated on Wiseguy, Riptide and Hunter) and ran for five seasons. – Wikipedia.

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