The versatile Sharlto Copley caught the world’s attention with his role in Neill Blomkamp’s debut feature, the breakneck sci-fi thriller District 9. Now both gentlemen are teaming again for another film that mixes social issues with relentless action, in the futuristic world of Elysium, in which Copley stars opposite Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. Find out what he had to tell me about his role in the film in the following exclusive interview.
Your character in Elysium appears quite different than your role in District 9. How would you describe him?
My character’s a guy named Krueger, and he is essentially a black ops operator, who works for the Elysium government agency, but hides out on earth. They sort of activate him whenever they need to have problems dealt with. He’s the sort of muscle guy who will go and, off the record, deal with any people who are giving him problems.
And he’s trying to kill Matt Damon’s character…
With good reason! [Laughs.] In his mind. That was half of why I wanted to do the movie. I just wanted to see if I could take Jason Bourne out.
This film has a larger scope and canvas than District 9. What was that like for you as an actor, playing on these sets?
It was very relaxing, very easy for us this time around. Neill had a lot of money to play with, so the schedule wasn’t as demanding. It wasn’t as grueling on me generally, and I think on him as well. But at the same time it was very much the same kind of creative heart that Neill brings, the focus on making sure that the emotional tone of the film doesn’t get lost in the scope. We focused a lot on that and tried to make sure that the human dynamics are still more important than the action sequences – if that makes sense. Despite how good Neill is with action, he’s always focused on that, and not getting too carried away with trying to overdo the spectacle, when you lose the characters. So it’s very strong characters in a great spectacle environment.
Since you’re so involved in the action, was there an especially grueling scene to shoot?
Definitely the end sequence that I’m in, with Matt and I. It was the longest sequence and the most challenging. We had rain and wind on us and a lot of contraptions during this huge fight sequence. I would say that was the most challenging for both of us, just the sheer volume of stuff we had attached to our bodies during a huge fight sequence.
What was it about this project that grabbed you?
I responded to this movie – apart from working with Neill – my personal resonance was that I read it and I said to Neill, if you want me in this movie, this villain character is the one I would love to do now. Because I feel like I can make a character that kids would get excited about. They would want the action figure of that character. That’s what I grew up with – wanting the action figure of that character because the character was so cool. It wasn’t about genre so much as give me a character that grabs me. It does have happen that fantasy and sci-fi often have the best characters. They’re the ones who can be larger than life, the ones you do want the action figure of.
Could we someday see a District 9 sequel, and could you be involved?
God I hope so. Please ask Peter and Neill if you speak to them.
Could Elysium spark a franchise?
I don’t know if I’m allowed to say, so you’ll have to ask Neill about that as well. [Laughs.]
If it did, would you like to revisit your role?
I would return to do anything with Neill. I would shoot little fun interstitials with Neill for nothing. It’s that kind of relationship.
Thank you for your time, Sharlto.
Cool. My pleasure.