Sharlto Copley was born in Pretoria, South Africa, and went into a career in advertising and production after finishing school. When he was in his early 20s, he befriended Neill Blomkamp, a gifted animator who had been finishing high school at precisely the same school from which Copley had graduated. He allowed him the use of the computers at his business, in exchange for animation work. This led to Sharlto Copley making and appearing in some of Blomkamp’s early jobs, including “Alive in Joburg”. In 2009, “Alive in Joburg” was turned to the feature length movie, “District 9, and he played the lead character. The movie was a huge success, and led to an increasing number of acting work. Ever since then, he’s appeared in costarring and starring roles in such endeavors as “The A-Team”, “Elysium”, “Oldboy”, “Europa Report”, and “Old Grave”. He’s next slated to appear in “Maleficent”, “Hardcore”, and “Chappie”.
Good friends with Director Neill Blomkamp. They attended the same high school.
He believes he was named after Thaddeus Sholto, a character featured in a radio production of "The Sign of the Four" - a Sherlock Holmes story.
He is in a relationship with South African supermodel and actress Tanit Phoenix Copley beginning of January 2012 and have bought a house together in Los Angeles. Sharlto proposed to Tanit on the island of Kauai, Hawaii, on the 28 March 2015. They got married on 15 February 2016, in Cape Town, South Africa.
He was a huge fan of The A-Team (1983) growing up and got to play one of them in the 2010 adaptation.
Often plays a main character in Neill Blomkamp films
South African accent
[How he got into 'Maleficent'] It came through my agents, and my agents gave me the script and said, "This is something going around town. A lot of people are going after it. You're probably not going to get in there." I was like, "Look, I really would love to do this." I went after it quite aggressively, in the sense of doing a tape. Actually, if I remember correctly, there was a delay because they thought it was going to someone else, but they were not sure. And then, as soon as they said, "We might be able to get your tape in there," I did it and they sent it.
I'm not particularly fond of playing villains. I do want to be a working actor, and I've had to look at what was offered to me, what roles I could get, and what I could do with them. Even though I'm not drawn to putting those kinds of darker characters out there, I think it's an interesting challenge.
[the challenge in playing 'Adrian', the mysterious baddie in Oldboy (2013)] It was finding the truth in that, taking somebody who could have been soft as a child and having him damaged by things that happened to him. That happens to everybody. This is obviously an extreme case. I think every soft child in the world gets damaged. All of of us come into the world and get damaged. It's just a matter of how much.
I feel so comfortable in an acting role, you know, as an actor. Maybe it's because I came into it late. If anything, I've felt frustrated that I can't carry a film because everything since District 9 (2009) has been supporting roles. I haven't found leads that I thought were good enough or there were twenty names ahead of me that will get the lead on a really good project.
To some degree Hollywood doesn't know what to do with me because the characters I do are so different. But hopefully that will give me longevity.