Sharlto Copley – yes, the dude from District 9 – was sprinting through New York City on Wednesday on an A-Team promotional tour, and we tracked down his cell phone number so that we could hit him up with a couple questions about the film before he made it to the airport.
Yes, we’ve seen the movie – we were the ones giggling in the back row about all the over-the-top, thoroughly-enjoyable silliness – and we wanted to pick the brain of the new Murdock about what it takes to step into the shoes of a small-screen icon:
Well, no one’s going to accuse you of having a lack of effort here. You really left it all on the set, turning Murdock into a mentally-unstable crack-up. I thought your take on the guy was pretty hilarious…
I just tried to have fun with how this character functions in this world. He’s the supporting comic relief and I think when you have an “origins” version of the story like this, you can really try some new things.
I think you can tell right away, though, that there’s a lot of inventive improvisation going on here.
Oh very much so. I actually didn’t go for the part the way Murdock was written in the script originally. I read the script and I felt as if they had kind of trimmed away a little bit of the original Murdock. And so I was promoting District 9 at the time in Texas, and I just locked myself in my hotel room and had two hours where I came up with all kinds of little voices and impersonations that Murdock could do in the movie – just running with the idea of how to make him a little more crazy funny.
And I sent all that to [director Joe Carnahan] and said ‘If you’re open to doing this with him, and incorporate a little more of what Dwight Schultz brought to the part, I’d love to be involved,’ and thankfully Joe said yes. And he was game for doing things like that throughout the shoot, just encouraging improvisation and pushing some of the craziest stuff in the movie between Murdock and the other guys.
What did you end up thinking were your best improvised moments? I’m sure magic struck a couple times on the set, with that sort of cast to work with…
I think my favorite moment was probably Murdock doing his Braveheart impression. It’s just so off the wall, and I actually think it almost didn’t make it in the movie but then it tested really well and they left it in.
Little moments like that, just thinking of crazy things like jumping on the rotors of the helicopter or doing the gunpowder barbecue, I was trying to push the script from making him cool-crazy to fun-crazy. And I think that’s what Schultz did so well in making him this force of nature on the show. He created the one character that holds up the best out of any of them.
But what was it about his performance in the TV show that made Murdock work so well?
Well, personally, I think Dwight really pioneered for me a certain type of off-the-wall characterization that you started to see more and more after the series. Well I guess Peter Sellars was doing it early on, but after Dwight showed his ability to play multiple characters then you had actors like Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams and Jim Carrey who injected a whole lot fun and playfulness into their characterizations. They would almost be playing multiple characters at once. And I think the key difference as a viewer is that you can tell the actors are having a lot of fun. So that’s what I tried to do here, in the A-Team: I think it’s pretty obvious that I was having a ball.
I’ve heard you were always a big fan of the show
Oh man, it was huge when I was a kid. I had my A-Team gang, we celebrated B.A. Baracus’s birthday – we made a cake – I loved the show. And that’s why from the start I felt like they got the casting spot-on. These guys are hilarious, and with it being an origins story you get to see where B.A.’s fear of flying comes from, and what all of these characters were about.
But my favorite moments are just when you have the four guys in the same room together. There’s solid chemistry there. And I read in some other interview about the movie that when you put four alpha males in a room like this you’re either going to get magic or a disaster. And I think Joe just nailed it.
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