Oft forgotten in the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty is the character of King Stefan, father of Princess Aurora. In the original tale we meet a man of regal nature who is brought down to sorrow because his only child is cursed thanks to the lack of one name on a VIP list. But, in Disney’s Maleficent, you’ll find there is far more to the story…a twisted depth you never imagined. Originally voiced by Taylor Holmes, we now see the king brought to life by Sharlto Copley (District 9, Elysium). Sharlto brings power, emotion and a touch of something darker…
He sat down with us to talk about how he adjusted to his position in the castle, fighting dragons and how family plays a large part in his character motivation.
In a previous interview you said Angelina was a better prankster than you. Were there pranks on [the Maleficent] set?
SC : There was a lot. I sometimes would improvise my dialog. [In one scene] I pretended that I’d heard a noise in the bush — while the cameras filming ’cause this particular prank was trying to get something with her that was on camera. I suddenly said to her, “Do you hear something?” She sort of looked at me [and said], “Oh, what’s he doing?”, but she’s got to keep playing on. And so I run off and I go behind the bush and I’m like…
*at this point Sharlto dives under the table, appearing to struggle with something. The room explodes into laughter.
…and I come up with the raven… As if the raven had been following her, and I’m like “I got him!” And the whole crew laughed. The next morning I get to my trailer and there’s these two huge real ravens in my trailer. They looked at me [and] kind of went SCREECH! I was literally too scared to go into my trailer. It took half an hour before the guy could come and remove them — ravens are intimidating birds!
How did you step into the role of your character?
SC : I really don’t enjoy playing villains. I find it quite unpleasant in some ways. My way in with Stefan was to take a very male trait, which is, you know, most men have sort of ambition, they want to be the king of their castle.
I felt like there was a chance to play a cautionary tale for men with Stefan, of what happens [when] male drive and ego and ambition get carried away with itself.
In smaller ways you see that all the time. You know, you see men whose families — very successful, very wealthy man — whose families are in complete disarray. They don’t spend time with their wives anymore. They don’t spend time with their kids. Their sort of ambition has sort f become their obsession. That was, for me, the interesting part about playing [Stefan].
Did you go in really wanting this role?
SC : I did really want this. When this came around I was really looking for a fantasy film. I was looking for something that I could show my seven year old nephew because most of my films are R-rated movies. I was like, “Come on man. Gotta do something with a positive message”. So, I went after this quite aggressively. I shot a tape for it, a bunch of scenes, and I actually was saying to my agents, I was like, “Guys, get my tape to Angie.” And they’re like, “Oh, we can’t. She’s on a boat. We don’t know where she is.” I’m like, “Just get it to her”.
How much training did you have to do for all the fighting you did in the film?
SC : I didn’t do, for example, as much in this as I did with Elysium. You really just have to keep yourself conditioned, almost like an athlete does. Just general, all around conditioning just for the repetitive nature of it.
What is actually the hardest is you end up in Pinewood Studios, the sound stages, and everything’s relatively luxurious around you and then all of a sudden you find yourself in a stage where there’s not good air con[ditioning] systems and you’re burning. We had real fire in there all the time because of the dragon. And so there wasn’t enough oxygen. And people constantly having to go out to just try and get enough air [and then] come back and go again. I found myself almost passing out two or three times in the action sequences just from lack of oxygen.
You had a lot of emotion and power in your role. How did you prepare for your character?
SC : I do feel like I become somebody else and, and in the rare occasions where I’ll be doing a take where that slips, you know, and I suddenly feel like myself again and I’ll actually stop and go like, “Okay guys, hang on.” You know, and go again. When I’m preparing [it] is really just understanding the deepest truth that I can find in humanity or in human archetypes within human behavior.
Once I know what that is… for example, I can relate to ambitious men. I’m an ambitious person in my life. And it’s like, okay, so I know what that is. I have certain alpha male type tendencies. I’m quite a dominant guy, so I I take that and just do that in its extreme form. It’s not like every day I practice my lines first in my trailer or things that some actors find useful. I don’t do that.
This film comes out right before Father’s Day. Do you have any messages that you can give dads who may want to take their little girls to see the film?
SC : Yes. Spend time with your children so you don’t end up like Stefan. I have people like, “What’s the message for my child?” I was like, “Well, the message is for you, dude. Don’t fall off your castle. It’s like, “Well I was making money for my family.” They didn’t want money. They wanted time with daddy.
I don’t have kids yet because I was aware that I was working so hard. If I want to have kids, I want to be able to spend some time with them every day.
Maleficent premieres nation wide on May 30th. You can get more information, watch clips and even preorder tickets on Disney.com
*Travel expenses and accommodations provided by Disney in exchange for editorial coverage on RJC. All opinions expressed will be my own.