1. He worked as a television executive before he became an actor.
He ran a visual effects house, a TV studio, and a talent agency in his native South Africa, becoming a TV executive and channel programmer at the age of 24.
2. His original passion was creating visual effects for film and television.
Having always been inspired by artwork and visual imagery, Copley became more and more interested in the flourishing field of 3D graphics and computer-generated special effects. After leaving the Vancouver Film School, he worked as a visual effects artist for a Canadian post-production company, and would later head up the visual effects for the controversial new age documentary, What the Bleep Do We Know!?.
3. District 9 was his first professional acting gig.
Although he had a small speaking part in director Neill Blomkamp’s pilot film, Alive in Joberg, he was the short’s producer first and foremost, not its star. He wouldn’t take center stage until some improvised test footage founds its way into filmmaking legend — and District 9 producer — Peter Jackson’s hands. Jackson supported casting Copley in a feature film adaptation, and a Hollywood icon was born.
4. All of his dialogue in District 9 was improvised.
While there was a detailed shooting script, every line spoken by good-natured bureaucrat Wikus Van De Merwe was 100% improvised on the spot to make the scenes feel more organic.
5. He’s the director of an unreleased supernatural thriller.
Copley’s feature-length directorial debut, Spoon, stars Rutger Hauer as “a man with a medical condition that causes him to black out during moments of extreme stress, and leads him to make a remarkable discovery about himself.” Although a teaser was leaked online, the film has yet to see an official release, much to the chagrin of diehard Copley fans everywhere.
6. He was an enormous fan of The A-Team when he was a child.
While he wasn’t allowed to actually watch the show, he would hide a tape recorder behind his family’s’ TV set and listen to the recorded audio when his parents thought he was asleep. According to Copley, the first thing he did when he was offered the iconic role of H.M. Murdock was call his mother and told her that he “was just getting her back for not letting me watch the series when I was a kid.”
7. Elysium is his second collaboration with director Neill Blomkamp.
They first met when Copley was 22 and Blomkamp was only 16 years old. Copley was running his own production house at the time, and after noticing Blomkamp’s abilities and ambitions with visual effects, he allowed the high schooler access to the computers at his studio to hone his skills. The duo is currently working on their third feature film collaboration.
8. His character, Kruger, was inspired by real-life special ops soldiers.
The sinister Kruger was based on the lives of actual black-ops operatives, who were forced to live behind enemy lines until activated to carry out their orders. In this case, “behind enemy lines” means the dystopic, ruined remains of Earth, and when Kruger is activated to track down car thief-turned-renegade Max Decosta, all hell breaks loose.
9. He pulled a very Kruger-like prank on co-star Matt Damon near the end of filming.
While Damon was visiting family off-set, Copley got a little too into character, sneaking into his co-star’s trailer and wreaking havoc. “I had made his trailer look like Kruger and his henchmen had been living in the trailer for a week,” Copley told Entertainment Weekly. “There were bloodied limbs in the shower and the sink. There was blood on the sheets. I had left all my dirty clothes from the movie — my underwear, smelly socks — in his bed. There was porn in the DVD player. You know, just trash, everywhere.”
Talk about method acting.