District 9 and Elysium director Neil Blomkamp is back with Chappie, his latest vision of near-future South Africa, in which robots are the new police force. Things take a turn when the robot cops’ inventor – a brilliant young programmer named Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) – uploads a program into one of the units that endows it with artificial intelligence.
While that robot, “Chappie,” begins to learn about the world from a group of street thugs (musicians Die Antwoord and Elysium actor Jose Pablo Cantillo), Deon’s revolutionary innovation catches the attention of rival programmer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), who yearns to use his mentally-controlled combat robot unit to smite Chappie and his friends, before the A.I. entity can fully come alive.
We attended the Chappie junket in NYC, where we chatted with stars Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley (who provided the mo-cap for Chappie) – and of course, Wolverine himself, Hugh Jackman. In the interview with Jackman, we touched upon the… unique construction of his character, Vincent Moore; why his filmography suggests a fascination with robotics (Real Steel, Chappie); and what his take is on the future of the X-Men movie universe.
Screen Rant: First question after seeing this film I gotta ask you is: you gotta give me the backstory on your character and his aversion to wearing long pants. It’s really a rare man who goes into the office cubicle and on the battlefield rocking khakis and boots.
Hugh Jackman: That’s a great question. The original inspiration came from an image that Neil sent me. As soon as I opened it up, I started laughing and I rang him. We were just laughing on the phone. It just seemed perfect for him because he identifies…there’s nothing subtle about Vincent. Everything he wants you to know, he wants you to know and will let you know. One of those things is that he was a soldier, that he comes from a military background, that he’s actually been in the field.
In a weapons company filled mainly by engineers and scientists and creating weapons, he wants that whole office to know that he’s been there, that he’s the guy. So he’s sort of that quasi-uniform look.
I think actually even when he goes…He’s religious. When he goes to church on Sunday, he wears the long khaki pants. [laughs] And the mullet I think he thinks is awesome. I just don’t think he’s ever got the memo. And even if you got the memo that it’s not awesome, he doesn’t care.
He’s sort of the guy, like Ricky Gervais in ‘The Office,’ who thinks everyone thinks he’s cool and the greatest, and he’s just not. And that includes the hair and the shorts and long socks.
Between this film, looking at something like Real Steel, and even The Wolverine… are robots your thing, like secretly Hugh Jackman’s thing?
Hugh Jackman: [laughs] That he hates them?
Or just always dreamed about fighting robots?
Hugh Jackman: No. I did love The Iron Giant when it came out. But, no. I can’t tell you that that was my obsession growing up. It looks like it’s becoming that way. But it is fascinating to me. I’m someone who actually likes all this technology. I don’t love it in that I’m not a geek with it. I’m not lining up to get the latest thing. But I love the possibilities of it. I’ll probably be one of the first ones to have a driverless car. I love that idea.
So the idea of something like Chappie, a real AI entity, is that interesting or scary for you?
Hugh Jackman: I think it’s really interesting. I think if this was possible, a lot of mistakes would be made. I think it has great power for good and great power for bad depending on which direction it’s set off in. so it’s something that does need to be thought about very, very deeply. And that’s what separates Neil as a filmmaker. He’s making these films that are fun and entertaining but do have these important sort of ethical, philosophical questions at the heart of them.
Finally, I’ve just got to ask you. I just wanted to pick your brain. Now that Fox has really kind of stepped into the game and greenlit multiple X-Men movies in the same year (in 2016 we’ll get three of them) I just wanted to get your thoughts on that and how this universe is blowing open in a very wide way.
Hugh Jackman: X-Men came out and Fox led the way with the comic book movies. It wasn’t a genre at the time. It was pretty much dead in the water. I think for a while it became, “Well, that was successful. Let’s make another one, and let’s make another one.” I think Marvel has been a great model of how to really invest in story and a long term view of it. I think with X-Men I’ve always thought, “Oh my god. There’s so many characters.” You see an X-Men movie and there’s 15 characters. That’s just a drop in the ocean of the characters that have been created in the 50, 60 years of the comic book.
So it’s not for lack of resource. It’s just a matter of committing to it and finding different ways to go. It will be interesting to see, as it goes on, how much appetite there is for an audience for these types of movies. But I’ve always believed people see good movies. They don’t see bad ones. Well, they might see one or two bad ones, but they don’t continually go and see bad ones.
At the moment, comic books movies in general have been good. So I think, yeah, as long as they keep making them good, there will be appetite for them. And there is certainly enough depth in the material to justify it.
Chappieis now in theaters. Wolverine 3 (not the official title) will be on theaters on March 3rd, 2017. X-Men: Apocalypse on May 27, 2016