Some actors say they fought for a role, but Sharlto Copley means it.
“When I was 12 years old. I started a gang playing 'The A-Team,' and another gang in school copied my idea,” Copley, who played “Howling Mad” Murdock in this year’s big screen adaptation of the 80s TV action-fest (out on DVD and Blu-ray on Dec. 14), tells PopcornBiz. “We had this big fight down on the field, as you do in South Africa when you're 12 years old, little mini-fisty fights – and we won. So we played 'The A-Team' for like a year, and I had a lot of the toys and merchandising and little trading cards.”
“What resonated with me about the 'A-Team' was the Murdock character,” Copley says of his childhood obsession. “My primary concern was to just try and make a character that fans of the show would appreciate and respect the way that I had brought the character to life again, and that new kids going out to watch it would like him. It was important because it was close to my heart to not mess that up.”
Not surprisingly, Copley bonded tightly with the original Murdock, actor Dwight Schultz, when Schultz cameoed in the film. “I still keep in touch with him,” he says. “I'm biased, but when I watch 'The A-Team' even now, I feel like he was the most talented of those guys. His performance still holds up. It doesn't date as much the other characters.”
Copley was especially moved when he was able to show Schultz his own method in Murdock’s madness. ”I had done a test where I had shot some scenes that I improvised called 'Things That Could Happen to Murdock in a Hotel Room' and I sent those [director] Joe Carnahan,” he explains. “I was doing Murdock as I saw him, with a whole range of different characters and singing and his invisible dog – I really had it all in there! That's how I got the role.”
When Schultz arrived on the set, Copley said, "he would giggle at all the right moments, and then when he turned to me his eyes were welling up with tears – he just gave me a hug and said, 'You are Murdock. You just captured the spirit of him.' His only note to me was, 'Just have fun with it. That's what I used to do, and that is what you're doing.' It was quite uncanny.”
PopcornBiz spoke with Copley just prior to the announcement that he would reprise his breakout role as Wikus van de Merwe in a sequel to “District 9,” and his enthusiasm was already brewing.
“It's an incredible character, It's an incredible world. Neill Blomkamp is an amazing director, and it's something that would be a real honor to do, for the fans of the movie especially. I think it would be a shame not to do it.”