‘Oldboy’ baddie Sharlto Copley is done playing villains (for now)

"District 9" star Sharlto Copley plays the villain in Spike Lee's new version of "Oldboy." Credit: Getty Images
“District 9″ star Sharlto Copley plays the villain in Spike Lee’s new version of “Oldboy.”
Credit: Getty Images

Sharlto Copley is in Johannesburg, South Africa shooting “Chappie,” his third film with the director, Neil Blomkamp, who made him a star with “District 9.” It’s a nice role: He plays a kind robot living with a dysfunctional family. But he has to do press on a film where he plays a non-nice role: He’s the villain in “Oldboy,” Spike Lee’s version of the 2003 South Korean revenge favorite. It’s his second baddie role this year — he also went bad in Blomkamp’s “Elysium” — and he’s glad to go back to being good.

How did Spike Lee describe the role to you when he was casting you?

I was sort of hemming and hawing. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go and do something that was so dark. But when I met Spike, it was such an amazing experience. He was so warm and open-hearted to me — very much not what I was expecting. There I was, a white South African meeting Spike Lee. I was like, “Oh goodness, this could go terribly wrong.” [Laughs] The first thing he did was open his arms and go, “Hey, my African brother!” And we just connected quickly. I knew it was going to be dark material. I didn’t feel like going down that road with a bunch of heavy people. Once I felt this human connection with Spike, it made it safe to dabble in this darkness.

It’s your second villain this year. How do you feel about that?

Not great. [Laughs] “Elysium” was an interesting one, because I could again because it was different. This again was different. I’m not necessarily the easiest person to cast because you don’t what I’m necessarily going to do with a role. Over time you establish a reputation as a character actor. I definitely want to take a break from villains for awhile. I don’t want it to be perceived as me promoting darkness in the world. I’m personally not comfortable with that. But I want to be a working actor. Doing “Chappie” now, it’s really positive as a character. It’s fantastic to be able to come back into a really positive character and find naivete and innocence.

But in “Oldboy,” your character’s not a one-dimensional villain. And there’s not a one-dimensional good guy.

What was so interesting, even in the original material and certainly in our script, was that everybody is flawed. It’s not really a traditional good guy-bad guy film. You see how flawed Josh’s character is as well. I was interested in not just making [his character] one-dimensional — not just a spiteful man, but someone who was damaged, and who would go to extreme lengths because of the damage.

Your performances before this are very wild and very uncapped. This is very contained and arch.

It was quite a challenge in some ways. The voice was very easy to get. I developed the character from the voice. But with emotions, for example, having to repress a lot of energy, I spent a lot of time developing mannerisms. It would be as simple as the way I picked things up or drank tea. I had my girlfriend coaching me from the hotel every day to try and do things in ways that didn’t come naturally to me.

Was the characterization of the role something you worked on with Spike?

Spike said to me he wanted him to be English. I didn’t feel the villain in the original film was particularly developed. If you’re going to do the Western version of the film, you can try and so something different with the villain. So in talking to Spike, we tried to come up with a few things, like him being bisexual. I opted to play him as a bisexual man who had issues around love and sexuality.

Actors love working with Spike Lee and talk about how he’s very collaborative. What to you was so rewarding about the experience?

Spike has this way of making the environment safe for you, of making his humanity obvious when you deal with him one on one. In the media it becomes about issues or politics, but when you talk to the man one on one, there’s a humanity and an understanding of human nature and an interest in human beings. That makes him an interesting artist.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Brooklyn man charged in roommate's stabbing death

A Brooklyn man accused of violently stabbing his roommate to death on Monday is in police custody and faces murder charges.

International

Dinosaurs could have survived asteroid strike

It turns out there is a good and a bad time for the planet to be hit by a meteor, and dinosaurs were just unlucky.…

National

OkCupid admits to Facebook-style experimenting on customers

By Sarah McBrideSAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - OkCupid, a top U.S. matchmaking website, intentionally mismatched users to test its technology, the IAC/InterActive Corp service said on…

Local

MTA fares still increasing 4 percent in newly…

The agency said the 4 percent increases, previously announced in December, will remain steady even as the MTA deals with increasing labor costs.

Movies

Interview: Brendan Gleeson on the way 'Calvary' depicts…

Brendan Gleeson talks about how his new film "Calvary" began over drinks and how his character here is the opposite of the lead in "The Guard."

Movies

'Get on Up' producer Mick Jagger on the…

Mick Jagger, a producer on the James Brown biopic "Get on Up," talks about the time had to tell the singer some bad news and his favorite JB record.

Television

'Glee' star Lea Michele to appear on 'Sons…

"Glee" star Lea Michele has been confirmed as a guest star in the final season of "Sons of Anarchy."

Television

TV watch list, Monday, July 28: 'The Bachelorette'…

See Andi Dorfman make her big choice on tonight's 'Bachelorette' finale.

MLB

Angelo Cataldi: Ryan Howard deserves better from Phillies

Just last week, Ryan Howard endured the embarrassment of a benching that was inevitable, and yet still shocking.

NFL

Larry Donnell has inside track in Giants tight…

Little-known Larry Donnell of Grambling State currently has the inside track, as the second-year player has received the bulk of the first-team reps.

NFL

Computer to Jets: Start Michael Vick over Geno…

Jets general manager John Idzik says the choice of who starts between second-year quarterback Geno Smith and veteran Michael Vick will be a “Jets decision.”

MLB

Yankees looking to trade for Josh Willingham: Report

CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Sunday the Yankees are interested in Twins outfielder Josh Willingham.

Travel

Glasgow: Hey, hey, the gangs aren't here

This European city has done a good job getting rid of its more violent residents and revitalizing with artists.

Education

Babson College tops list of best colleges for…

Money magazine has just released its inaugural list of "The Best Colleges for Your Money" -- and the answers have surprised many. Babson College, which…

Education

NYC teens learn how to develop apps during…

Through a program sponsored by CampInteractive, the high schoolers designed their own community-focused apps.

Tech

The Ministry of Silly Walks app is both…

Monty Python have dug into their back catalogue for cash-ins once more, but with the Ministry of Silly Walks app, they've made something that's fun too.