The news that Sharlto Copley would make his studio debut in “The A-Team” wasn’t much of a surprise to those in the industry. Copley had never acted professionally before starring in his friend Neill Blomkamp’s unconventional Sci-Fi thriller “District 9,” but had won over critics and audiences alike with his riveting performance. A role in the long-anticipated “A-Team” was seen as just another up and comer reaping the rewards of being in a surprise hit. What few knew is that if not for the original “A-Team” TV series, Copley might never have even been cast in “District 9.”
Speaking to the press Saturday in Los Angeles, Copley revealed he has been a “massive” “A-Team” fan growing up in Johannesburg South Africa. He was so addicted to the American action series he formed what he described as an “A-Team gang” at the age of 11. And when a competing group appeared, he didn’t take it lightly.
“Another group — another gang — started [and] tried to compete with us and also be the ‘A-Team’ in my class and we said, ‘Look there can only be one.’ I challenged them and we basically agreed to have a war. We went down to the field and had a fight,” Copley recalled. “And the stakes were if you lose, you are no longer the ‘A-Team’ and you [pretended to be] some other group. “
“I love how casually Sharlto talks about gangs in Joberg, South Africa,” director Joe Carnahan interjects realizing the bizarre historical context to Copley’s story. “Conjuring wonderful childhood memories.”
Happily for Copley, his “A-Team” won, but it was only one example of how obsessed he was with the show. He notes, “I had everything. The action figures, the dossier — the trading cards where you folded up everything.”
25 years later, Copley’s Murdock is definitely more certifiable than how Dwight Schultz played the crazy “Howling Mad” Murdock in the popular ’80s TV series, but that’s partially because of how Carnahan and screenwriter Brian Bloom conceived the film. Audiences would have to believe that Schultz was literally insane to attempt some of the crazy stunts and schemes he comes up with to aid his teammates. Unlike Schultz’s performance, the 36-year-old Copley has given Murdock a thick southern accent and intensified his love/hate relationship with B.A. Baracus played by UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. And along with Liam Neeson’s portrayal of Col. Hannibal Smith, the have delivered two of the more entertaining performances in the movie.
Although he never conceived he’d be in a movie based on the series, his discovery of “The A-Team” was the genesis of his amateur acting career.
“Basically from that point on I was very influenced by Dwight Schultz and doing the voices and that stuff,” Copley says. “So, I made lots of videos that I would put myself in. Little ‘Saturday Night Live’ type sketches or little action pieces where we would try to be like the ‘A-Team’ or whatever. It had a huge impact on me.”
And those skills lead directly to his being cast in Blomkamp’s Oscar nominated hit. Copley confirms, “The reason I ended up being an actor is my buddy who put me in ‘District 9’ knew that I did different voices and different characters with my staff as a business executive.”
And while Copley’s participation in a “District 9” prequel or sequel may never occur due to Blomkamp’s intent on moving on to other projects, based on the reaction so far, you can count on seeing this Murdock continue living the dream in other “A-Team” flicks down the road.
“The A-Team” opens nationwide this Friday, June 11.