23 March 2023

Born in the RSA: 6 South Africans setting Hollywood alight

When it comes to getting your star on Hollywood Boulevard, it seems the plan is: study acting, get some gigs, build a killer showreel, move to Los Angeles and get discovered. While it sounds simple enough, thousands of actors from across the globe stream into LA every month to take their shot at the big time, but only a few manage to truly hit it out of the park.

It’s a combination of hard work, talent, luck and good timing, a game where it can happen when you least expect it – or never at all! From your father’s drive-in to shouting at a bank teller, there’s no telling where an actor’s journey begins or ends. Born in South Africa, these six top international acting talents prove dreams can and do come true – no matter where in the world you find yourself.

Sharlto Copley: Ted K

Sharlto Copley in Ted K on Showmax

Born in Johannesburg, it’s this very city that catapulted Sharlto Copley into stardom when it became the epicentre for an alien invasion in Neill Blomkamp’s critically acclaimed sci-fi thriller District 9. One of South Africa’s most famous acting exports, Copley’s magnetic appeal has helped him rack up many distinct, memorable and trademark performances.

His latest lead role finds him driving the biographical crime drama Ted K as Ted Kaczynski, better known as The Unabomber. Set during one of the most expensive investigations in FBI history, the film focuses on Kaczynski’s time living in the Montana wilderness. Giving an intuitive and well-balanced lead performance of many shades, Copley remains compelling against the backdrop of this hypnotic, engaging and timely character study.

Charlize Theron: Bombshell

Bombshell with Charlize Theron is on Showmax

Born in Benoni, Charlize Theron was a model and ballet dancer before she realised her calling to be an actor. In a league of her own as South Africa’s most famous actor, Theron’s also one of the world’s highest paid actresses who has trail-blazed her way through Hollywood. Starting with a non-speaking role, Theron could’ve coasted on her Helen of Troy looks but shattered all preconceptions with an Oscar-winning turn as American serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster.

Charlize has remained elusive and free from being typecast with a perpetual evolution of performances. In the provocative drama, Bombshell, Theron echoes her unrecognisable breakthrough in Monster with facial prosthetics and a nod from the Academy Awards. In a typically strong turn, she plays the conservative journalist Megyn Kelly who became embroiled in a scandal at Fox News when she and two other news anchors exposed the man who made them famous, Roger Ailes.

Arnold Vosloo: Griekwastad

Arno Vosloo in Griekwastad

Born in Pretoria to stage actors who ran a drive-in theatre, it seemed Arnold Vosloo was predestined for performance art. Having made a name for himself as an award-winning stage actor and regular at Pretoria’s State Theatre, he transitioned to film before moving to the US to pursue his acting career. Best known for his roles as villains, it was his performances in Hard Target, The Mummy and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra that set him apart.

While Vosloo’s had recurring roles in 24 and Chuck, he’s kept a link to South Africa with roles in Forgiveness, Blood Diamond and Silverton Siege. Able to use his natural accent, the actor had top billing as Colonel Dick de Waal in the dark true crime drama Griekwastad. Vosloo brings his international calibre and commanding presence to screen in this gritty cat-and-mouse thriller as he tries to siphon the elusive truth behind a grisly farm murder from its lone survivor.

Kim Engelbrecht: Reyka

Born in Cape Town, Kim Engelbrecht has been acting since the age of 12 when she landed the title role in the sports drama Sarahsara. Known in South Africa for her role as Lolly on the long-running soap opera Isidingo, Engelbrecht returned to film with the adaptation of the Dickens classic Boy Called Twist. Having racked up several film credits, Engelbrecht has become known for her TV roles as Sgt Noma Bank in Dominion, Marlize DeVoe in The Flash and Decima in Raised by Wolves.

While Engelbrecht has become recognisable abroad, it’s her intense role as Reyka in the local crime thriller series of the same name that’s earned her an Emmy nomination and a SAFTA. Troubled investigative psychologist and profiler Reyka uses her own dark past to help solve cases in KwaZulu-Natal. A beautifully shot production, Reyka echoes The Silence of the Lambs with Engelbrecht starring and Iain Glen of Game of Thrones fame in a key supporting role.

Alice Krige: Gretel & Hansel

Born in Upington to a professor of psychology and a physician, Alice Krige originally wanted to become a clinical psychologist before switching her studies after taking acting classes. After moving to London, it wasn’t long before she received the Laurence Olivier Award for most promising newcomer. Her breakthrough film role was as Sybil Gordon in iconic sports drama Chariots of Fire, which she followed up with a supernatural horror in Ghost Story.

While a seasoned actor with numerous appearances across TV and film, Krige’s role as the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact led to several roles, including Morgana in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Witch in the chilling adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, retitled Gretel & Hansel. A grim, unsettling and visually captivating arthouse horror reworking, it’s Krige’s terrific performance that anchors the nightmare. In an echo of her turn as the Borg Queen, she unpacks a character whose supernatural gifts ultimately alienate and banish her to the woods, where she begins to lure children to their death.

Troye Sivan: Spud

Spud is on Showmax

Born in Johannesburg, actor turned singer-songwriter Troye Sivan is now best known as a music artist, having gained a following through YouTube and Australian talent competitions. Yet both career paths collided when his haunting song Revelation was nominated for a Golden Globe. While he had a role in Boy Erased, Sivan first starred as Oliver Twist in a production of Oliver! before landing the role of a young Wolverine in Gavin Hood’s superhero origins film.

To South Africans, Troye’s probably best known for his role as John “Spud” Milton in Spud, based on John van der Ruit’s semi-biographical novels about the growing pains and misadventures of being a high school boarder. Sivan became the face of the beloved character opposite John Cleese as The Guv, going on to reprise the vulnerable yet determined schoolboy in two sequels.

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