NEW YORK – Since bursting onto the international scene in “X-Men” 15 years ago, Hugh Jackman has almost always played the hero. It appears 2015 will be the one year where he goes against type. This summer he'll bring Blackbeard the Pirate to life in Joe Wright's “Pan,” but first he makes Dev Patel's life hellish in Neill Blomkamp's “Chappie” which opens on Friday.
Set in the near future, “Chappie” is the name of the world's first sentient robot. Chappie is also the creation of Deon Wilson (Patel), the top robotics scientist at Tetra Vaal, a company contracted to provide non-sentient security bots to the Johannesburg, South Africa police force. Vincent Moore (Jackman) is a former soldier turned robot designer who has come up with a much more aggressive option called “Moose” (think of a “Robocop” inspired drone with 10 times more firepower). Over the course of the film, Moore's frustration grows as Wilson's more peaceful bots help curb the city's crime rate and the dream of his own creation ever getting the green light starts to fade. When Moore finds out about Chappie — whose existence is unknown to both Tetra Vaal and the general public — he seizes on the opportunity to use Wilson's creation to his own advantage.
Speaking to Jackson in New York last month, he didn't describe Moore as a villain, but a man “pushed to his limit. Certainly pushed in the corner.” Jackman says, “It's so sad because when he created the Moose he thought this was a game changer that was going to make him famous the world over and he's slowly become obsolete.”
Moore is a pretty over-the-top creation, however, and Jackson seems to relish in his inherent combativeness. He's one of the rare Aussies Jackman has been able to play on the big screen and says both he and Blomkap shared a lot of laughs creating him.
“He was sending me images and one of them had the shorts which reminded me of my school uniform,” Jackman recalls. “That is what I used to wear to school. It was a picture from the late '80s, early '90s and I was like 'This is perfect.'”
He adds, “I immediately saw him as a guy who thought he was a man in the office that everyone loved and no one loves him. No one loves him, but no one wants to say anything because it's too much trouble.”
One aspect of Moore that audiences will definitely do a double take on is his hairstyle. It's sort of a semi-mullet. Maybe.
“We wanted along mullet but my hair just wasn't growing long enough,” Jackman says beaming. “It was on the back end of 'Days of Future Past' so I don't think I had enough time to fully grow the mullet. We got a little bit of the front and a little bit in the back.”
For more on Jackman's thoughts on “Chappie” and his feelings about Wolverine ever entering the Marvel Studios cinematic universe watch the video embedded at the top of this post.
“Chappie” opens nationwide on Friday.