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When Sharlto Copley was shooting "The A-Team," there were rumors I heard several people repeat about dailies really upsetting some of the execs at Fox because they had no idea what they were looking at. Sharlto Copley's performance had them allegedly terrified and they weren't sure any of it would cut together. I don't really believe the exaggerated lengths that the stories then went on to describe, but I can imagine that the first time he made a film for someone besides Neill Blomkamp, it must have been a major attitude adjustment.
After all, he and Blomkamp are friends first, guys who share this particular world view, this perspective that is shaped by where they came from, and that absolutely affects how you work with someone. When Blomkamp talks to Alice Braga or Matt Damon, I'm sure he's good at conveying what it is he has in mind, but when he's directing "Sharl," as he calls him, that's a whole different level of communication.
I ran my interview the other day with Matt Damon where he was talking enthusiastically about working with Copley and about how amazing his work in "District 9" was from a performance point-of-view. I don't think I fully grasped how much character work he was doing in that film until I rewatched it recently. Now I can see all the little details, all the choices he made in building that character, and I can appreciate them in light of seeing how he approaches the mad dog soldier of fortune he's playing in "Elysium."
It's been interesting tonight watching some very hostile reactions to the film showing up on Twitter. I've resigned myself to the idea that 2013 is the summer of division, the first season I can remember where there's no consensus at all, and I think it's pretty clear that Blomkamp likes big performances, actors who really go all in on something. Jodie Foster's work seems to be the line in the sand for some people. Like with "After Earth," there's some really bold accent work going on, where they're using the way people talk to suggest some of the societal shifts that have taken place, and Foster really goes for it.
Again, if you look at Copley in both "District 9" and this, he's the canary in the coalmine, the bar by which you can measure just how far Blomkamp is willing to let you go as an actor. I enjoyed this chat with him, and I look forward to checking out "Europa Report" this weekend, which I hear is another strong bit of work from this great, eccentric performer.
"Elysium" is in theaters now.