Bradley Cooper readily admits his favourite part of making the big-screen adaptation of The A-Team was working with Liam Neeson. The Oscar-nominated actor, who plays team leader Hannibal opposite Cooper’s Face, elevated the entire production, he insists.
“You can’t really argue with the talent and ability and experience, which is what he brought to the movie,” Cooper says. “It’s like if you step on a court with Michael Jordan, the court’s going to feel different. He raised everyone’s game.”
But Neeson is quick to point out he had some learning to do himself, especially when it came to improvisation — something Cooper does a lot. One particular day of shooting comes to mind for Neeson: “This scene starts that’s not on the page,” he remembers. “Bradley starts this improv, and I’m going, ‘What the hell is this? What is going on?’ And then it would come to my line, and I’d forget my line because I was so busy watching Bradley and (director) Joe (Carnahan) getting off on each other. So it was terrifying, the first few days. I can’t do that s—-. I’m an old traditionalist. I like to learn my lines and deliver them.”
Improvisation aside, Neeson speaks highly of the experience of making The A-Team — but he also admits there were drawbacks to working on such a big project.
“It’s a big studio movie, and of course there’s a lot of studio input,” Neeson says. “Every time we changed a semicolon, a comma, of course it had to be passed through the studio. That would get frustrating, personally speaking. Very frustrating.”
For mixed martial arts fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, stepping into the role of B.A. Baracus made famous by Mr. T was a point of honour more than anything else.
“There’s no way I was going to come and try and outdo Mr. T,” Jackson says. “I figured that if I just be myself and put myself in there, maybe the fans will accept me, because I’m such a big fan.”
With The A-Team being Jackson’s first major movie role, he could be excused for being a little nervous going up against the likes of Neeson and Cooper. But he managed to keep his cool, he insists — except once.
“My first scene working with Liam, when he carjacked me in the van, scared the living daylights out of me,” Jackson says. “I’m from the hood. I’ve been shot at before, I’ve had a gun put to my head. But Liam scared the hell out of me. He put this gun to my head, and I almost pissed myself.”
Rounding out the team is South African actor Sharlto Copley, the breakout star of last year’s District 9, who signed on to play loose-cannon pilot Murdoch. Possibly the biggest fan of the series in the cast, Copley found making The A-Team almost like a vacation.
"District 9 was very gruelling, and the role was quite heavy at times, emotionally. I found this actually very easy,” he says, comparing the two films. “My part was the smallest of the four, so I had a lot of downtime in my trailer. I had lemurs visiting in my trailer, and had them turn it into a little petting zoo. I mean, these things you do on these big movies.”