Interviews: The A-Team on THE A-TEAM!

Following its Wednesday release in the UK, The A-Team hosted a raucous press junket in Claridges hotel and OWF were there! The following is a transcript of a series of interviews with members of the cast & crew. In the mean time, you can find my review of The A-Team right HERE; Smokin' Aces director Joe Carnahan is no stranger to action movies, but in The A-Team he achieved new levels of high-octane absurdity, and brought together a great cast in doing so. Q. There have been so many aborted attempts to bring The A-Team to the big screen, so how does it feel to be the man who finally did it?
Joe Carnahan: It feels fantastic. That reception we got last night in Leicester Square was the most extraordinary thing ever. To be received like that and get that level of enthusiasm was wonderful. And then to be able to work with my fine cast...
Q. Are there any other TV shows you€™d like to see revived or would like to take a shot at?
Joe Carnahan: I keep hearing people saying that it€™s a remake... but we really didn€™t remake The A-Team €“ you can€™t remake a television show. You can distil whatever... five years and maybe 98 episodes into a two hour movie, but it€™s difficult. They called me about The Equalizer, but I thought: €œYou know, I€™m good.€ I love The Six Million Dollar Man... that€™s something that I always thought would be a great movie.
Q. So, what part of the original characters did you lean on and what part did you steer clear of?
Joe Carnahan: Well, you have to be able to have some fun with it and to contemporise it and keep it lively.
Q. How difficult was it casting the film? In addition, to the team itself you have people like Patrick Wilson on board too...
Joe Carnahan: It was interesting but once I got Liam... Liam is what they call an actor attractor in the business. So, once Liam was interested it became evident to people that it was going to be interesting. We weren€™t going to lampoon The A-Team and we weren€™t going to satirise it. I mean, you can€™t satirise a satire. So, once that happened it came together very quickly. And you always watch actors and performances, so I was always a big Patrick Wilson fan. Brian Bloom wrote the script with me and hadn€™t been in anything in ages... I think the last movie he was in was Once Upon A Time in America when he was 12-years-old . So, I just thought... it€™s always lovely to be able to do that and to have guys like Gerald McRaney or people that you€™re already fans of, who can come in and do sensational work for you. That€™s always a treat. The most fun I had was getting to work with the actors, no explosions can beat that. When you can sit in a room and work with these people and see this great chemistry develop is wonderful.
Q. I gather Sharlto Copley sent you quite a persuasive audition tape for Murdoch?
Joe Carnahan: Sharlto was great. One of the things he€™d done involved a bowl of tortilla chips with one that looked like a shark€™s fin. So, Murdoch was convinced that a miniature shark was swimming around in his salsa, and I just cracked up when I saw it. I thought that anybody who was willing to go to that kind of trouble, and while they were on a promotional tour was worth a shot. It was really funny. People have been asking me about this all day, and whether the tape will be on the DVD... they have to be.
We had a little time to listen to what Liam Neeson had to say about the project, as well as about the massive news that the UK Film Council is set to be abolished. Q. One of the big things with The A-Team is the camaraderie that has to exist between the members. So, how easy did that come to you?
Liam Neeson: It€™s a no brainer. That€™s the thing I€™m most proud of in the whole film. Our chemistry is there, it€™s very palpable and it was a joy to go to work every day, it really was. There were no egos... they were all left at the door. There was no room for that stuff anyway. But it is the thing I€™m most proudest of.
Q. Did you sustain any injuries given the physicality of the role?
Liam Neeson: First week I tore by rotator cuff getting out of the van . It was deeply embarrassing. So, we hurt ourselves.
Q. As a reformed smoker, what was it like having to endure those enormous cigars?
Liam Neeson: I tell you, it was tough. Bradley€™s an ex-smoker too, but I€™ve been off cigarettes for 16 years. Joe insisted that I smoke those cigars, which was absolutely right . And because there were no trade embargoes with Cuba, (we shot in Canada), we had Cuban cigars. So, after day one I got what cigars were about. I€™d got the prop guys to make me rubber ones. I had this idea that someone would occasionally come up and try and light this thing, and I€™d say: €œNo, no, no, I€™m trying to stop smoking.€ I thought it was a reasonable idea, but the director didn€™t like it.
Q. Have your boys seen the film and what do they think of you as Hannibal Smith? Does it give you some street cred?
Liam Neeson: There was a wee bit. I went to see the film with my boys and my mother-in-law, who is Vanessa Redgrave. Three quarters of the way through, I asked her if she was following it and she said: €œI€™m a little bit confused but I love every second of it.€ So, I called Joe, and he was like: €œOh my God, you brought Vanessa Redgrave to see The A-Team! But we all loved it and I have a little bit of cred with my boys, yes.
Q. What part of the original character did you lean on and what part did you steer clear of?
Liam Neeson: Well, we all sort of paid homage to the actors and characters in the TV show but after that we made Joe€™s movie. We couldn€™t be burdened by thinking we must recreate George Peppard, that would be silly, wasteful and stupid in the 21st century. So, we made Joe€™s movie. All of us acknowledged or tipped our hat to various iconic elements of the characters €“ Rampage with the Mohawk and where that comes from, and myself with my salt and pepper wig and cigars.
Q. I gather you also got to improvise a lot?
Liam Neeson: We did... every day, every scene we worked on was always alive. We would use the script as a guide but Joe would always encourage us to try something.
Q. What do you think about the axing of the UK Film Council?
Liam Neeson: I just heard about it last night. I know we all have to tighten our belts and stuff but I think it€™s quite appalling. I just gave a knee jerk reaction last night. But to save $17 dollars? It€™s pretty shocking. It makes me worried about this government if they€™re going to do that. Hopefully, we€™ll start a campaign or something.
Helen of Troy might have been the face that launched a thousand ships, but in the re-vamped A-Team Bradley Cooper is simply Face. It needs no adjectives. So what was it like playing the revitalised version of this marvellous 80s creation? Let's find out... Q. What was it like playing Face, who has this beautiful air of vanity, in The A-Team?
Bradley Cooper: You know, maybe I missed the boat because I didn€™t see it that way. I don€™t know why... maybe I was busy tanning! But I didn€™t really see him as that vain... I guess he was, but I just thought he was bored in prison and maybe he liked being outdoors. So, he wanted to get some sun. And he was just in shape because he was a lethal A-Team member. So, I didn€™t really see him as an exfoliator.
Q. Did you sustain any injuries given the physicality of the role?
Bradley Cooper: Liam and I bore the brunt of most of that stuff. I tore my hamstring heading back to my trailer, after lunch. It was a brutal shoot . Everybody else was fine. My trailer was way, way back. I could barely see it.
Q. Are there any other TV shows you€™d like to see revived or would like to take a shot at?
Bradley Cooper: Well, I don€™t think you could re-create Angie€™s performance but Murder She Wrote was the best!
Q. Dwight Schultz and Dirk Benedict have cameos in the movie, so what was it like working alongside them? And have they given their approval to the project?
Bradley Cooper: I didn€™t get a chance to meet Dwight Schultz, although I would have liked to because I loved Murdoch when I was a kid. Dirk Benedict was great. We did a scene where we€™re in a tanning booth in prison and I remember being in the make-up trailer watching him in his black Speedo being sponged with brown tan, as I was simultaneously, and thinking: €œThere€™s something that doesn€™t happen every day!€ I€™ll always take that with me.
Sharlto Copley (too often known simply as 'Sharlto-Copley-of-District-9'), whose childhood love of the TV series led him to go to some crazy extents (see what I did there?) to pay proper dues to Murdoch. Anyway, enough from me, here's what Sharlto had to say... Q. You were a massive fan of The A-Team already, and of Murdoch in particular, so what did it feel like to be playing him?
Sharlto Copley: It was, I suppose, moving in a way. The show was a big part of my childhood and Murdoch particularly was a character that had quite an influence and was an inspiration for me to get into film in the first place. I started making little movies with my friends from when I was 10-year-old. So, it was a real honour, you know. And I just tried to play a Murdoch that I would like because I knew I was already a big fan and just wanted to do the best that I could with the character.
Q. How much did you have on this? It looks like you had a blast with your Braveheart moment a particular highlight... Were those scripted or did you improvise?
Sharlto Copley: It was a huge amount of improvisation. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to do the movie. When I spoke to Joe and sent him a tape that I had made in my hotel room of improvised stuff... he was really comfortable with that world. And actually, Bradley and Rampage in particular are amazing improvisers, too, which really surprised me. So, a lot of my best moments not only as Murdoch, but within the whole movie, were sort of improvised by me or the rest of the cast.
Q. How difficult was it to pull off the American accent, hailing from South Africa?
Sharlto Copley: I grew up being fascinated by accents and dialects. One of the things that interested me were actors that were doing different characters, or sort of more caricatures. Some of the stuff that Robin Williams was doing... in addition to Dwight Schultz and Eddie Murphy... and Jim Carrey to a lesser extent. There was a type of fascination that I had from a very early age with different characters. So, I grew up doing that. Actually, because I wasn€™t pursuing acting as a career, I had sort of slacked off on it. But when I was in school, form the age of about 10 to 19-years-old, I used to do them regularly. I could do maybe 19 or 20 different caricature dialects and I€™ve started getting back into that. So, I find that stuff very interesting. I studied speech and drama at school, I€™m very interested in phonetics and I like the phonetic alphabet and understanding both dialects from a creative point of view, but also from a technical point of view... what sounds are technically correct versus not.
Q. Dwight Schultz has a cameo in the movie, so what was it like working alongside him? And has he given his approval to the project?
Sharlto Copley: It was a pretty moving experience for me because I€™d just come off District 9 and was starting to meet a lot of Hollywood people. But someone who had been such a part of my childhood, it was a really moving moment. We actually had lunch and I was really getting on with him, so I thought: €œWell, he€™s not really going to see much of what I€™ve been doing with his character today, within the scene...€ So, I showed him the test that I had shot where it was me improvising and doing different voices with props in the hotel room. He turned to me, had tears in his eyes, gave me a hug and said: €œYou are Murdoch.€ He then put out on his website: €œMurdoch is dead, long live Murdoch.€ He€™s actually a theatre actor and does a lot of Shakespearean stuff and all of that, so it was moving. He€™s also been very supportive. He called me after the film and congratulated me and said he was just so proud of seeing the character come to life again. It meant a lot to me.
Q. So what was on this tape?
Sharlto Copley: It was just different stuff, different examples and a whole bunch of different scenes. One, for example, was a range of different characters with some stuff being very close to what the original Murdoch was doing. He would have hygiene issues when he was in the bathroom €“ he would get paranoid about being stuck in a bathroom and having to call BA on one of those bathroom phones. He€™s having this conversation with BA and BA is being difficult and telling him to call the house-keeper, but he doesn€™t want to call the house-keeper. You know, stuff like talking to a plant and he could hear voices. There was an invisible dog that kept barking at BA and he thought the dog was racist . They wouldn€™t put that in the movie! BA was playing rap music next door and that was irritating him, so he phones BA as the manager and puts on a voice. Just stuff like that.
The A-Team is on general release in the U.K. right now.
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