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Sharlto Copley Biography


Home > Actors > C > Copley, Sharlto > Biography


Birth Name: Sharlto Copley
Born: 11/27/1973
Birth Place: South Africa


Sharlto Copley was born Nov. 27, 1973 in South Africa. Of his Irish surname, Copley explained that a character of the same name from a radio show had inspired his mother when it came time to name her newborn. Copley - who grew up in Sandton - was the eldest of three children and considered himself a devoted fan of American television while growing up an ocean away. While attending high school in Johannesburg, he developed an interest in amateur filmmaking, and ended up producing, directing and acting in many school plays. After graduation, Copley co-founded a media production company, and employed a fellow teenager six years his junior, Neill Blomkamp, as a computer graphics designer. Copley's company was part of the first privately owned television station in South Africa, for which he would go on to develop programming, in addition to providing the short films and commercials that he wrote, produced and directed. While all this production surrounded them, it was in 2005 when Copley and Blomkamp endeavored to make a dream project that would later transform both of their lives.

Copley produced pal Blomkamp's sci-fi short film, "Alive in Joburg" (2005), a view of Johannesburg circa 1990 when it had become home to extraterrestrial refugees. The short explored the escalated tensions between dissident humans and the aliens - a thinly veiled analogy of South Africa's own apartheid - with Copley cast as a sniper. In the meantime, he next co-wrote and co-directed the supernatural-thriller "Spoon" (2008), about a man (Rutger Hauer) who suffers from blackouts that lead to a life-altering discovery. That same year, when Blomkamp opted to further develop his "Joburg" short, he again enlisted Copley; this time for some on-camera film tests that gave the novice actor an opportunity to develop the character of Wikus Van De Merwe, a government agent who becomes the central focus of the internationally acclaimed film, "District 9" (2009). Producer Peter Jackson took a shine to Copley's work and agreed with Blomkamp that the new actor should be the film's hero. "District" - shot in documentary-like format - expanded the world that the short-film first brought to life, with the aliens segregated in internment camps. Copley's brilliant performance - all improvised dialog - saw him nominated for Best Newcomer from both the UK's Empire Awards and Most Promising Performer for the Chicago Film Critics Association Awards. Additionally, the movie was nominated for four 2010 Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

Irony and destiny mixed when Copley's next job was announced as the big-screen adaptation of his favorite American TV show from his youth. So in love with "The A-Team" (NBC, 1983-87) had Copley been as a child, that he taped the shows on audio cassette in pre-VCR days so he could at least listen to them later. Due in no small part to his passion for the project, Copley was cast as Captain "Howling Mad" Murdock, the clinically insane pilot in the mega-budgeted remake of "The A-Team" (2010). Produced by Ridley and Tony Scott, the film reprised the premise of four U.S. Army Special Forces -- this time stationed in the Middle East versus the TV version's Vietnam -- who work as soldiers of fortune while on the run for crimes they did not commit. Copley perfected his American accent and worked to redefine "madness," given his character's history and the 25 years that separated the series from the film: "We created a general Southern guy. He's odd, for sure. You never really know if he's genuinely crazy or whether he's playing the system." The film's director, Joe Carnahan, took a bit of a risk casting Copley who had only one film under his belt, but was elated with the end result, saying later that he found that "with Sharlto, you can't exhaust his imagination."

Copley wasn't seen onscreen during the next few years, but he was far from idle. In 2013, "Elysium," his second dystopian feature with Blomkamp, finally arrived, with the actor portraying Kruger, a sadistic mercenary armed with deadly tech enhancements and tasked with intercepting Matt Damon's unlikely hero. Staying within the sci-fi vein, Copley also starred in "Europa Report" (2013), a tale about space exploration gone wrong, and later had a major role in Spike Lee's gritty "Oldboy" (2013), a remake of the cult-favorite South Korean thriller.




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