Hold on to your seats: South African actor Sharlto Copley has just finished filming Hardcore, an R-rated, gaming-influenced, first-person shooter pitched as the cinematic equivalent of an adrenaline shot. The debut movie from Russian director Ilya Naishuller, whose Bad Motherfucker music video garnered more than 39 million views online and comparisons to Quentin Tarantino, Hardcore tells the story of a cyborg created in a Moscow lab. Fresh from filming in the Russian capital, District 9 star Copley talks to The Calvert Journal about the film and his experiences of working in Russia.
What can we expect from Hardcore? Have you watched a cut of the film?
The biggest challenge with the film is getting the narrative correct because you’re so limited from this one camera perspective. So there’s a lot of work that we’ve been doing now, really trying to get the story as strong and as understandable as we can. But when I see the footage cut together properly with sound and stuff on it I get very excited and I think it’s going to be a very unique experience for people in cinema. That I know for sure.
Do you think we’ll see computer games influencing films more often in the future?
I think so. Certainly after Ilya does this one you’ll see more of this first person action stuff that he’s doing and you’ll see it in a lot more Hollywood films. Regardless of how well this film does box office-wise, it’s creatively going to have an impact on Hollywood. I’m certain of that.
Were there test screenings for different audiences?
I don’t know exactly what Ilya was doing with that. Certainly they tested things like if people would get sick, that was one of the concerns so they’ve tested that to give us the best chance possible of reaching people in cinema. We have no doubt that people are going to watch it on their computer or a little TV at home. Every 16-year-old boy will want to download and watch this film but I think on the big screen it gives you a very unique experience.
What was it like working with Ilya Naishuller? Why do you think he’s caught the attention of people like Darren Aronofsky and Samuel L Jackson?
I think he’s a visionary. He’s one of those people who comes along — and he loves both movies and games — and he’s doing something that’s different from what people have seen before. That definitely gets attention in Hollywood. For me working with Ilya has been a real blessing. We’ve struck up a really good creative partnership and friendship because we’ve had to go through so many challenges together.
This is a Russian film shot in Russia for a global audience with a Hollywood actor. What does this say about the nature of filmmaking today?
I think it’s probably similar to South Africa; when we did District 9, people would ask me that. The interesting thing about Hollywood is that it draws people who think a certain way or want to create a certain type of entertainment from around the world. Different cultures, different languages, they come there. It’s a very mixed place. It’s not the typical sort of America that everyone might expect. And so I don’t necessarily think that because you do one film like this and even if this film is a huge box office success that that automatically means, and it was the same with District 9, that there’s an appetite for Russian film. But what it does — and what happened with District 9 — is that it makes people look more seriously to see what other talent is out there because obviously Hollywood’s always looking all the time but the world’s a big place. So they’ll certainly be looking here more to see if there’s more talent and it’s really up to Russians to decide if they want to make content that appeals to a global audience. If you do there’s nothing stopping you and there’s no reason why it won’t be received.
What did you find shooting in Moscow? What were your impressions of the city?
I think over an extended period of time the biggest challenge was the language barrier. It’s difficult when you’re working with people and you’re sort of developing a family-type relationship but you’ve only got three or four people that you can actually talk to. On the set there was maybe four, five people maximum that could speak English and communicate with me. So it’s difficult. You’re desperate when you come to a new place — and film is like that no matter where you are — to try and form some connection because you come from somewhere else, living in a city that you’re not used to. Creatively, it’s amazing how much the young people are pretty much on the same wavelength as what I’m used to in other places that I’ve worked. With regard to everything, movies, music, stuff that they’re interested in, it’s very similar, much more similar culturally to what I would’ve expected. Moscow is quite spectacular. I just wish I could understand Russian.
What was your response to an offer to star in a Russian film?
I was very excited because part of that offer was Timur Bekmambetov, who I know. He’s a producer who lives partially in Hollywood. So he sent me the information and he sent me the short film that Ilya had done for the music video. I was very excited and after that talking with Ilya convinced me.
Was it different working with a director that was Russian?
I’d say no. You notice the crew is above average hard-working. Very intense, very driven people. So that’s one difference that I noticed. I like that sort of intensity. Not all artists do, but I do. But I find that film or music or arts they draw artistic people and really it’s more about people who are artists than nationalists if you will. I’m South African, I’m very proud of my South African heritage but I’m not a typical South African in the sense that I’m an artist I’m not defined by my country. I find the same with Ilya, you can’t really place him. That’s something that a lot of great artists share.