A-Team, The: Starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper

As the project gained momentum and the script was fine-tuned, the filmmakers turned to casting the “Team.” “There was a lot of debate about where to go with the casting,” recalls Alex Young. “And it was tricky, because when we were getting into it we realized there were a lot of different ways to go; you could look at every male actor over a certain age and make a legitimate case for them being in the film. The one thing we knew was that we wanted the four actors playing the A-Team to feel fresh. We didn’t want to just cast the usual suspects and then surround them with a bunch of supporting actors.”
When contemplating casting choices for the pivotal role of Col. John “Hannibal” Smith, the filmmakers felt it was important to find an actor who exuded power, confidence and authority–along with a razor-sharp sense of humor. As The A-Team’s leader, Hannibal is a master tactician who is always a step ahead of the enemy. He keeps his team out of trouble, but his unconventional methods rarely lead to a predictable conclusion. No matter the scheme, he loves it when a plan comes together.
Liam Neeson is best known for his dramatic turns portraying characters with great physical presence and humanity, but it was his acclaimed action-hero performance in the global hit Taken that led the filmmakers to see Hannibal was a natural fit for the actor. Says Jules Daly: “Liam is sexy, fit, and strong and brings gravitas to the role. I think when Liam came on board, he set the tone as to where the project was going.”
“No matter what the role, Liam shows different facets of himself and the characters he plays, and he does it with integrity, passion and honesty,” says Carnahan. “Liam brings the right combination of intelligence and strength to the character. It’s easy to believe that his men love, trust and respect him.”
In describing what attracted him to the role of Hannibal Smith, Neeson states: “I was really taken with the relationship between the four guys that [co-screenwriters] Joe [Carnahan] and Brian [Bloom] managed to keep at the heart of the script. Clearly a lot of thought had gone into the story and characters, and the script had a wonderful camaraderie between the guys. Hannibal is a believable hero. He’s moral, has a strong sense of ethics and loves his country and his men.”

While Neeson was pleased the opportunity to play the master tactician, he struggled with the fact that he would also have to embrace his character’s trademark stogie. “As an ex-smoker, I felt conflicted about the cigar,” admits the actor. “But I understood why the writers kept the conceit; it does add a contentment to Hannibal’s character when a plan is going well and he pulls out a cigar and lights it. There’s a feeling of oneness with the world when he lights that match that I totally empathize with, and I understand there were certain scenes where we had to have the stogies, but obviously we don’t want kids to emulate this.”

 

Bradley Cooper as Lt. Templeton “Face” Peck


Lt. Templeton “Face” Peck is the A-Team’s con man and go-to guy when it comes to getting what they need when they need it. He uses his good looks and charm to scam and hustle his way to the prize and to live the good life. Face can talk anyone –especially women–out of (or into) anything he wants. To bring the role of Face to the screen, the filmmakers tapped Bradley Cooper, whose starring role in the comedy smash The Hangover cemented his reputation as one of the hottest talents of his generation. “When Bradley expressed an interest in playing Face, I didn’t see the point in looking any further,” recalls Carnahan. “You know when you hit it off with someone right away and you think, okay, this is probably going to be one of my lifelong friends. That was the vibe I got with Cooper immediately. A lot of actors talk a big game, but they don’t deliver. Bradley gives it his all 100 percent of the time. He’s a great guy with a great sense of humor and I think he brings a new dimension to the role.”

“Aside from being enormously clever, seductive and handsome, the character of Face needed to be really likable and charming; qualities Bradley has in spades,” asserts Daly. “He’s a tremendously appealing guy and looks the part physically, so you can believe him when he gets into action. It was just a really terrific fit.”

It wasn’t a difficult decision for Cooper to tackle the role. “It’s always been a dream to do a big action movie,” recalls the actor. “I love sports and I love pretending to fight. And to take on such an iconic show, one that I grew up on, and to do so besides the likes of Liam Neeson, is just amazing.”

Cooper particularly enjoyed that the role gave him the opportunity to be a part of some physically demanding action scenes. To make sure he was up to the task, Cooper adopted a strict diet and rigorous training regimen – which included doing ‘The Grouse Grind” a grueling speed-hike up 2,800 feet of Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain.

“I keep pretty fit, but I had to up the ante for this film,” says Cooper. “Action scenes are tricky and take an enormous amount of energy. You have to pay close attention to so many things – your body position, how you move when you fight, and how you move when you handle a gun. Face is a soldier; he doesn’t mind getting a little rough so I had to be ready for the physical stuff.”

The “crazy” to Face’s “cool is “Howlin’ Mad” Murdock, one of the best chopper pilots to emerge from Desert Storm. If it’s got rotors, Murdock can fly it. He has a genius I.Q. and knows everything about anything. He’ll impersonate a surgeon or a prince with a moment’s notice – and you’ll believe him. Murdock’s record reports him as being officially mentally unstable, and sometimes he’s scarily convincing at it. He doesn’t run from trouble; instead, he’ll plot a course directly for it.

 

Sharlto Copley as Murdock


Producer Jules Daly first took notice of Sharlto Copley when she saw an early cut of “District 9.” “I loved what Sharlto did with the Wikus character; he had a quirkiness I thought would be perfect for the role of Murdock” recalls Daly. The filmmakers asked Copley, who was on a promotional tour for District 9, to put a few scenes of how he thought Murdock would act on tape and to send it to them. The rest, as they say, is history.

The idea of playing one of his childhood heroes on the big screen appealed to Copley. “The A-Team was my favorite show as a kid and Murdock was my favorite character,” he says. “So to play him was like a dream come true.”

A master of improvisation, Copley embraced the creative atmosphere on the set, developing comic bits and expanding his character beyond what was on the page. “What really excited me was the dangerous element to Murdock’s character – the dangerousness combined with the humor,” explains Copley. “You never really know if he’s really crazy of if he’s just putting it on. Because he’s such a wacky character, you can have a lot of fun with his scenes. He’s unique.”

It was Copley’s idea to give his character a Southern accent. “Sharlto has a definite South African accent, but there’s not a shred of this in the movie,” says Carnahan. “He’s doing this Texas Panhandle twang that is really something. You just can’t exhaust his imagination in terms of what he will give you. His whole attitude was that Murdock is nuts, so Sharlto had to be a bit nuts, too. I think people are going to love what he’s done with the role.”

 

The filmmakers were looking for was someone who was not afraid to make the role of B.A. his own. Following an exhaustive search, they cast former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Recalls Carnahan: “We brought Rampage to Vancouver to screen test him and he just nailed it. He was so unbelievably good in the scene he read: There’s a moment in the movie where B.A. takes a vow and Rampage delivered it so perfectly that we were all just blown away.”

Jackson notes that some of his fondest memories growing up are of watching the original series with his father. “I used to bond with my father watching ‘The A-Team’ as a kid, it was cool; we used to try to build crazy stuff, like the show’s characters did, right in front of our TV,” recalls Jackson. “So my take on B.A. is really actually me and my dad put together. Joe told me to ‘put my own stank’ on it, which is what I did.”

From the very beginning, the chemistry and camaraderie between the four actors was strong both on and off the screen. Comments Jules Daly: “The guys clicked right away; they really complement one another. They are, in every sense of the word, a team. And that, for us, was probably the most critical thing in terms of the film working. We knew that if the chemistry was right, we’d have a wonderful movie.”

“I think the actors are perfectly cast,” states Cannell. “I don’t know how we could have done any better. Liam, Bradley, Sharlto and Rampage have captured the essence of what people loved about the original characters, but at the same time, are making the roles completely their own.”

 

Jessica Biel as Charissa Sosa

Joining Neeson, Cooper, Copley and Jackson in the starring cast are Jessica Biel and Patrick Wilson. Biel portrays Charissa Sosa, a captain with the military’s Defense Criminal Investigation Service unit. Extremely capable, independent and focused, Sosa – who shares a complicated dating history with Face – becomes his and the Team’s number one problem as their chief pursuer. “Sosa is a dynamic component in the story and we needed someone who could step up to the role,” says Carnahan, “Jessica is sharp, astute, intuitive and notoriously funny, sexy and smart – all qualities I felt the Sosa character had to have. I knew Jessica wouldn’t have any problem holding her own among these guys.”

Biel says she was immediately drawn to the character. “Joe was emphatic that Sosa wasn’t going to be the testosterone-laden female element of the story, and she isn’t. It’s sometimes hard to get the right balance of femininity and strength in a role like this, but she’s cool and savvy and so skilled that she could probably be a member of the A-Team, but she’s also extremely comfortable with who she is and as such, is not afraid to show her feminine side.”

Patrick Wilson stars as CIA operative Lynch, a key player in the Team’s most explosive mission. “Little is know about Lynch,” says Wilson of his character. “Is he a good guy? Is he trustworthy? Is he a villain? I typically play such solid earnest characters that it’s been fun for me to play someone who’s a bit of a mystery man. We just keep peeling away the layers and by the end you see what he’s become.”