Sharlto Copley and David Oyelowo star in Gringo, a film directed by Nash Edgerton. 
Picture: Gunther Campine Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Charlize Theron is the reason why Sharlto Copley decided to star in the movie, Gringo.

“(Charlize) contacted me and asked me to do it,” the District 9 star told the Saturday Star this week.

Amazon’s dark action comedy, which hits South African cinemas in a week’s time, features two of South Africa’s hottest exports.

Theron and Copley play a ruthless businesswoman and a mercenary in Gringo. The film centres on a mild-mannered businessman, Harold Soyinka (David Oyelowo), who finds himself at the mercy of his back-stabbing business colleagues back home, local drug lords and a morally conflicted black-ops mercenary.

Crossing the line from law-abiding citizen to wanted criminal, Harold battles to survive the dangerous situation he finds himself in.

Directed by Nash Edgerton, the film also stars his brother, Joel Edgerton, and is also produced by Theron.

Copley said it was an honour to have worked with Theron again. The pair first worked together in 2010.

“We first worked together on a short I wrote and directed called Wikus And Charlize. It’s my character from District 9 trying to find Charlize in Hollywood because he wants to present an Afrikaans music award with her.

“We’ve been friends since then. In Gringo, Charlize and my characters actually never meet.

I’d love to work with her again, though, and we are on the lookout for something else to do together.

I think she’s one of the greatest actresses of my generation.”

Copley said he enjoyed playing the role of a mercenary in Gringo.

“I play a former American mercenary who has found his ‘spiritual side’ and is trying to turn his life around,” he said. “You first meet him helping people in Haiti.

“Then he’s dragged into a kidnapping saga in Mexico. He doesn’t want to get involved, and he probably shouldn’t have (laughs) - it’s like sending an alcoholic into a bar. “

Copley said he really enjoyed shooting in Mexico.

“It was my second time shooting there. The people have a great sense of humour.

“I also had to go and spend a day shooting on one of the largest trash heaps in the world. Ironically, we shot on the same trash heap for Elysium. They keep sending me to trash heaps! “

Having played a number of exciting roles in his movie career so far, Copley still rates his role as Wikus van der Merwe in District 9 as his all-time favourite.

“There are so many reasons why. One is that I got to break the ‘Afrikaners are racist’ stereotype in international media.

“The fact that Afrikaners voluntarily gave up power in South Africa is still one of the most remarkable things that has occurred in my lifetime.

“I only half-joke that it would be similar to white California giving California back to Mexico. “

Meanwhile, the 44-year-old actor said he missed South Africa. He and his wife, South African model and actress Tanit Phoenix Copley, now live in Los Angeles.

“I do miss South Africa, but we do come back a lot to visit and spend time with friends and family.

“In the last few years, what I actually miss most was the sense of hope and optimism there was during the Mandela presidency The whole world was looking to us, almost like some kind of evolutionary example of what humanity can achieve. Perhaps our new president can re-kindle some of that.”

Copley said he was also enjoying fatherhood, having become a dad to a baby girl last year.

“Our daughter has been an incredible blessing.

“I’ll never forget the first time she smiled at me when she was only a few weeks old It felt sort of like a smile acknowledging being alive - recognition between two beings - a sort of ‘I see you’ It’s all too easy to lose that as we grow older.”