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The A-Team - Sharlto Copley interview

Sharlto Copley in The A-Team

Interview by Rob Carnevale

SHARLTO Copley talks about playing Murdock in the big screen revival of classic ‘80s TV show The A-Team, and getting to meet Dwight Schultz (the actor who played the character originally).

He also talks about the now legendary audition tape he prepared to land the role and how he went about tackling an American accent…

Q. You were a massive fan of The A-Team already, and of Murdock in particular, so what did it feel like to be playing him?
Sharlto Copley: It was, I suppose, moving in a way. The show was a big part of my childhood and Murdock particularly was a character that had quite an influence and was an inspiration for me to get into film in the first place. I started making little movies with my friends from when I was 10-year-old. So, it was a real honour, you know. And I just tried to play a Murdock that I would like because I knew I was already a big fan and just wanted to do the best that I could with the character.

Q. How much did you have on this? It looks like you had a blast with your Braveheart moment a particular highlight… Were those scripted or did you improvise?
Sharlto Copley: No, it was a huge amount of improvisation. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to do the movie. When I spoke to Joe [Carnahan] and sent him a tape that I had made in my hotel room of improvised stuff… he was really comfortable with that world. And actually, Bradley [Cooper] and Rampage [Jackson] in particular are amazing improvisers, too, which really surprised me. So, a lot of my best moments not only as Murdock, but within the whole movie, were sort of improvised by me or the rest of the cast.

Q. How difficult was it to pull off the American accent, hailing from South Africa?
Sharlto Copley: Yeah, I grew up being fascinated by accents and dialects. One of the things that interested me were actors that were doing different characters, or sort of more caricatures. Some of the stuff that Robin Williams was doing… in addition to Dwight Schultz and Eddie Murphy and Jim Carrey to a lesser extent. There was a type of fascination that I had from a very early age with different characters. So, I grew up doing that.

Actually, because I wasn’t pursuing acting as a career, I had sort of slacked off on it. But when I was in school, form the age of about 10 to 19-years-old, I used to do them regularly. I could do maybe 19 or 20 different caricature dialects and I’ve started getting back into that. So, I find that stuff very interesting. I studied speech and drama at school, I’m very interested in phonetics and I like the phonetic alphabet and understanding both dialects from a creative point of view, but also from a technical point of view… what sounds are technically correct versus not.

Q. Dwight Schultz has a cameo in the movie, so what was it like working alongside him? And has he given his approval to the project?
Sharlto Copley: It was a pretty moving experience for me because I’d just come off District 9 and was starting to meet a lot of Hollywood people. But someone who had been such a part of my childhood, it was a really moving moment. We actually had lunch and I was really getting on with him, so I thought: “Well, he’s not really going to see much of what I’ve been doing with his character today, within the scene…”

So, I showed him the test that I had shot where it was me improvising and doing different voices with props in the hotel room. He turned to me, had tears in his eyes, gave me a hug and said: “You are Murdock.” He then put out on his website: “Murdock is dead, long live Murdock.” He’s actually a theatre actor and does a lot of Shakespearean stuff and all of that, so it was moving. He’s also been very supportive. He called me after the film and congratulated me and said he was just so proud of seeing the character come to life again. It meant a lot to me.

Q. So what was on this tape?
Sharlto Copley: It was a couple of scenes that wouldn’t end up in the film. It was just different stuff, different examples and a whole bunch of different scenes. One, for example, was a range of different characters with some stuff being very close to what the original Murdock was doing. He would have hygiene issues when he was in the bathroom – he would get paranoid about being stuck in a bathroom and having to call BA on one of those bathroom phones. He’s having this conversation with BA and BA is being difficult and telling him to call the house-keeper, but he doesn’t want to call the house-keeper.

You know, stuff like talking to a plant and he could hear voices. There was an invisible dog that kept barking at BA and he thought the dog was racist [laughs]. They wouldn’t put that in the movie… BA was playing rap music next door and that was irritating him, so he phones BA as the manager and puts on a voice. Just stuff like that.

Read our review of The A-Team