EXCLUSIVE: Sharlto Copley Explains ‘I Am Number Four’ Departure, Creative Differences Not A Factor

Yesterday, Variety reported that “District 9” star Sharlto Copley was being replaced in upcoming sci-fi flick “I Am Number Four” by “Hitman” star Timothy Olyphant due to “scheduling conflicts.” A report emerged later from our friends over at Film Drunk, who reported that the real reason for Copley departure stems from creative differences over his alien character’s appearance. They wrote that the actor “wanted wear a prosthetic nose and fake ears like Spock and look like an alien in the movie, while director DJ Caruso was adamant that the aliens were supposed to look just like regular humans, hence why they’re able to fit in.”

MTV News contributing editor Josh Wigler spoke to Copley yesterday following the MTV Movie Awards nominations announcement (he’s up for Best Scared-As-S–t Performance), and the actor was happy to set the record straight. “It was pretty much what was announced today — the schedule,” he explained. “I had actually never announced [my involvement] and neither had DreamWorks, officially. Someone leaked that.”

Copley chuckled at the mention of the creative differences rumor. “I don’t know where that came from! I was working on a prosthetic look for the character, but not for an alien look at all, no,” he revealed. “He was going to look human. There was no difference of opinion on the physicality, on trying to look like Spock or anything. I love that.”

Ultimately, the actor is disappointed that something couldn’t be worked out. He’s a big fan of Caruso’s — “I would work with him in a second,” he said — and the same goes for producers Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg. Efforts were made to keep Copley around, perhaps more than there even should have been, but in the end everyone agreed that the movie, the story, would be best served if he bowed out.

“They were really trying to be as accommodating as possible to even rewrite certain scenes, to write me out of stuff, so it would deal with the schedule. But it just wasn’t working in terms of what was coming together,” Copley said. “It was like, ’Guys, you’re harming the movie and the character’s function in the film to accommodate the schedule’s requirements.’ Obviously, they knew it would be tricky up front, so we were really trying to work that out. We just realized that in the best interest of the film, it wasn’t right for us to try and do it.”

The real shame here is the scheduling conflict in question stems from Copley commitments to doing press for “The A-Team,” which hits theaters next month. If he were going to be on set for something else that would be one thing, but this is a situation where the need to do publicity is the obstacle. Doing press is important of course, but it’s a shame to see it get in the way of a gig like this.

Copley’s staying positive though. He wouldn’t go into any detail, but he’s working on a few things right now. “I’m trying to find stuff that’s really different but still has a commercial edge,” he said. “It’s rare to find that sort of project, but there are a few things I’m in talks about. But I’ve learned to be very, very quiet, so I don’t have another situation like ’I Am Number Four’ where everyone’s like, ’He’s doing this movie!'”