We talk to Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel and The A-Team Cast
The A-Team just hit UK cinemas and we were lucky enough to chat to Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Jessica Biel, Quentin ‘Rampage’ Jackson, Sharlto Copley and Joe Carnahan at the London Press Conference…
There have been so many aborted attempts to bring The A-Team to the big screen – how does it feel to be the man to have finally done it?
Joe Carnahan: It’s fantastic – that reception we got in Leicester Square at the UK premiere was the most extraordinary thing. To have a movie like this be received like that and with that level of enthusiasm was just wonderful.
One of the best aspects of the film was the camaraderie – how easily did that come together? Did you have to work at liking each other?
Liam Neeson: It was a no-brainer. That’s the thing I’m proudest of with the whole film – our chemistry on screen. It’s there and palpable and it was a joy to go into work every day with the boys, it really was. All egos were left at the door…
Bradley Cooper: Well, some of ’em… (laughs)
Sharlto, you were a massive fan of the original show and Murdock in particular – what did it feel like when you were going to play him in the movie?
Sharlto Copley: I suppose it was moving in a way, to be honest. The show was a big part of my childhood and Murdock particularly was a character that had quite a lot of influence on me 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 around 10 years old so it was a real honour [to get the part]. I just tried to play a Murdock that I would like and do the best I could.
The script’s full of great one-liners and one of the finest falls to you Jessica with the words “I don’t believe it, they’re trying to fly that tank”. How do you prepare for delivering a line when you’ve got to imagine a tank being parachuted out of the sky and then flown by the men on board?
Jessica Biel: How do you do that? Well, Joe told me exactly how to say it… I think that’s one of the hardest things when you’re working on a film like this, to really imagine these incredible things happening before your eyes, and it’s really just a piece of green tape and a tennis ball that you’re looking at. You just have to be able to imagine really well and make-believe… it’s what we do and we get paid for it! (laughs)
Bradley, how was it bringing Face to the big screen? He’s got a beautiful and hilarious streak of vanity in the film.
BC: I didn’t see it that way. Maybe I was too busy tanning… I didn’t see him as that vain, I thought he was just bored in the prison or liked being outdoors so wanted to get some sun. And he was just in shape because he was a lethal A-Team member. But I didn’t really see him as an exfoliator.
There’s a lot of physicality in the roles – did any of you sustain any injuries during filming?
BC: Liam and I bore the brunt of most of that stuff.
LN: The first week I tore my rotator cuff… getting out of the van. (laughs)
BC: We gotta change that story man! And I tore my hamstring… heading back to my trailer after lunch. It was a brutal shoot! (laughs) My trailer was way, way back… What is Rampage doing?
Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson: I don’t understand why y’all would have a premiere then early the next morning have the junket! We don’t make people do the weigh-in and then get up early in the morning for a cage fight.
LN: Rampage and I haven’t slept.
QRJ: The thing is, Liam and I know how to have fun. You might find us at clubs, bars dancing with drinks in our hands, whereas Bradley and Sharlto they’re probably reading a book or something! But we got that wine, got that Grey Goose… (laughs)
Liam, there’s nothing quite as dedicated as a reformed smoker, so what was it like for you having to endure those enormous cigars?
LN: I tell you, it was tough. Bradley’s an ex-smoker too and I’m a nicotine addict but I’m off cigarettes now for 16 years which I’m very proud of. But Joe insisted I smoke real cigars, which he was absolutely right to do. And because we shot in Canada, there’s no trade embargo, so we had real Cuban cigars. And after day one, I got what cigars were about. But it was dangerous for me for a couple of days. And Bradley kept saying ‘Blow that smoke this way…’
BC: I was always around for those scenes.
Liam, have your boys seen the film and did playing Hannibal bring you some street cred with them?
LN: I think there’s a wee bit. I went to see the film with my boys and my mother-in-law Vanessa Redgrave. Three-quarters of the way through I asked Vanessa what she thought of it and she replied (English accent) ‘I’m a little bit confused but I love every second of it!’ (laughs) Joe was amazed, he said ‘You brought Vanessa Redgrave to see The A-Team?!?’
Sharlto mentioned the inspiration of Murdock so are there other iconic TV characters you’d like to play or shows you’d like to make for the big screen?
BC: Nobody can recreate Angie’s performance but I’d say Murder She Wrote.. (laughs) I know her personally, it’s ok.
QRJ: We should do MASH next! (laughs)
BC: You could be one of the Korean soldiers!
What about you Joe?
JC: I don’t know, I keep hearing people saying ‘It’s a remake of The A-Team’ but you can’t remake a television show. You can distil, you know, five years of television into a two-hour movie but… They called me about The Equalizer but I’m good with the series as it is..
LN: The Equalizer would be good…
JC: Well, let’s go Liam… (laughs)
QRJ: We could do Knight Rider and I could play KITT (laughs)
BC: You’d be like ‘F you, Michael!’ (laughs) ‘Get me some gas!”
Jessica, what was it like being part of a man’s world on set?
JB: It was really interesting. I really like action movies, I like being a part of them and I don’t really feel like I have an insecurity with being on set with lots of men… You can see that we all had a lot of fun and are really comfortable together, so it was a really good experience.
Sharlto, it seemed like you had a huge amount of fun with Murdock’s comedy – how much of that was improvised and how much was in the script?
SC: A huge amount of was improvised, actually. That was one of the reasons why I wanted to do the movie – when I spoke to Joe after I’d sent him an audition tape I made in my hotel room, he explained he was very comfortable with that world. And Bradley and Rampage especially are amazing improvisers, they really surprised me. So a lot of my best moments, not only as Murdock but in the whole movie, were improvised moments either by myself or with the whole cast.
What parts of the original series did you think needed maintaining and what was due for a change?
LN: We all sort of paid homage to the actors and characters from the TV show but after that we made Joe’s movie. You can’t be burdened by thinking ‘I must recreate George Peppard…’, that would be silly and wasteful. But we do have an acknowledgement and tip our hat to various iconic elements of the characters – Rampage has the mohawk, I had the salt-and-pepper wig and cigar.
JC: You can’t start to treat The A-Team and its nomenclature like the Dead Sea Scrolls, you have to be able to invent elements, have fun with it, contemporise it and keep it lively.
BC: The Dead Sea Scrolls are hilarious, Joe, I don’t know what you’re talking about! (laughs)
Sharlto, how difficult was it for you to do an American accent being South African? And do you do other accents?
SC: Yeah, I grew up fascinated by accents and dialects and actors doing different characters or almost caricatures. People like Robin Williams, Dwight Schultz, Eddie Murphy… Jim Carrey, to a lesser extent. I wasn’t pursuing acting as a career so I had sort of slacked off on it but when I was about 10 to 19 years old I guess, I used to do accents regularly, I had about 19, 20 different caricatures so I’m starting to get back into that. I studied speech and drama at school and I’m very interested in phonetics, alphabets and understanding dialects from both a creative and a technical point of view.
Joe, how difficult was casting the film and getting the team together?
JC: Liam’s what they call in the business an ‘actor attractor’, so if Liam was interested in the movie, it became evident to people that this was going to be an interesting proposition. We weren’t going to lampoon The A-Team and you can’t satirise a satire. So once that happened it all moved very quickly. And to me, the most fun I have is working with actors – there’s nothing that can beat it, no explosion, no nothing, it’s wonderful to sit in a room with people and see this great chemistry develop.
Bradley and Sharlto, what was it like working with Dirk Benedict and Dwight Schultz who have cameos in the movie?
BC: I didn’t get a chance to meet Dwight but Dirk Benedict was great. We did a scene in the tanning booth in the prison and I remember being in the makeup trailer watching him in his black Speedo being sponged with brown tanning as I was simultaneously and thought ‘There’s something that doesn’t happen every day…’ (laughs) I’ll always take that with me…
SC: For me, it was a very moving experience. I’d just come off District 9 and was meeting a lot of Hollywood people but he was somebody who had been such a part of my childhood. We had lunch together and were really getting on so I realised he wasn’t really going to see what I was planning to do with the character. So I showed him the test tape I’d shot where I was just improvising in my hotel and he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said ‘You are Murdock’ and then he wrote on his website ‘Murdock is dead – long live Murdock’. He’s been really supportive, he called me after seeing the film to say he was so proud to see the character come to life again and it meant a lot to me.
Finally Liam, how do feel about the recent news that the government is to shut down the UK Film Council?
LN: I know we all have to tighten our belts but I think it’s quite appalling. I haven’t quite formed my opinion of it – I’m just getting a kneejerk reaction of ‘Oh my god, of all the things to tighten…’ To save what, 17 dollars? It’s pretty shocking and it makes me worried about this government.
A-TEAM IS IN UK CINEMAS NOW