Neill Blomkamp is, all of a sudden, a very busy man, or at least his business is getting a lot of new attention. This week, his new film, Chappie, hits theaters. He’s then due to make a brand new Alien film. After that, could we see a sequel to his 2009 Best Picture Academy Award nominated film, District 9? According to Blomkamp, this is a possibility.
First, we have Blomkamp’s Chappie, a story about a South African law enforcement robot named Chappie (Sharlto Copley) who gains true consciousness. Dev Patel plays Deon Wilson, a programmer who has discovered a way to make artificial life human, while his rival (played by a mulleted Hugh Jackman) attempts to thwart these plans in order to sell his robot, called the Moose (which looks a lot like RoboCop’s ED-209, which Blomkamp admits is a direct homage). But Chappie is missing, having fallen into the hands of criminals, led by characters played by members of the South African hip-hop group, Die Antwoord. Rumors have circulated that Die Antwoord’s presence on set led to a lot of tension, rumors that Blomkamp kind of, sort of deflects, but doesn’t deny.
When I watched Chappie, it was impossible not to think about RoboCop. The original RoboCop…
[Laughs] Yeah, being influenced by the remake would be awesome.
You should go on record that it was the remake that influenced you.
Yeah, even on a timing basis, that would be interesting.
Was RoboCop an influence?
RoboCop was a conscious influence in the design of the Moose.
Right, based on the ED-209. What about the voices of the police robots?
No. I mean, I think what will happen, the Moose is a conscious connection, so I can admit to things that are conscious. Then, things that I don’t know about — crowd sourcing across many people seeing the film – will say, “this reminded me of this,” I have no control over that. Like, for instance, the voices you’re talking about, at least consciously to me, no connection. But the Moose is a connection – that’s my favorite cinematic robot ever, so I’m tipping my hat to that design.
And Chappie himself looks great. I saw the behind the scenes footage of Sharlto Copley running down the street dressed like Chappie, before the effects were added.
If Chappie was ever in the movie, I think there were two times it was a stunt guy and not Sharlto.
There were many times in the movie I’m looking at Chappie and wondering if it’s a practical effect.
I know, it’s so good.
He looks like a real robot.
I agree. They knocked it out of the park.
[Warning: Some vague spoiler talk ahead.]
Thematically, there are some similarities with District 9. A similar thing happens to a character in both movies – in that they become what they are most obsessed with.
[Pauses] That’s a byproduct. That’s kind of some subconscious. If you’re reading it that way, I didn’t mean to do that. It could be though. I mean, that’s really interesting to me. There’s a whole lot of psychologist’s couch stuff that seems to happen.
And both of their futures are left vague.
The difference with this film, though, is I actually have treatments for a Part 2 and a Part 3, if I wanted to do them. Where, District 9, at the time, we didn’t.
[End of spoiler talk]
It’s rare that a movie like District 9 wasn’t made into a franchise.
The reason that it hasn’t is because of Peter Jackson. I was really lucky to have him be my kind of guardian in that whole process.
But he likes franchises.
I know. But, he always says that nothing will happen with that until I want it to. That’s a very rare thing, to have someone that defensive and kind of awesome to the filmmaker. So, he’s always stated that. So, I’m not nervous it’s going to be turned into a franchise.
Unless you want to do it?
Yeah, totally. And, by the way, I do.
Right after you do the new Alien movie, do the second District 9.
[Laughs]. Yeah, yeah. You’re lining them up.
We’ve got it all figured out.
You’ve got the schedule in place.
It’s like the Marvel schedule.
Up until like 2029.
I wasn’t expecting to see He-Man show up in this movie. Chappie watches the cartoon.
When I was a kid and we got a VHS machine and He-Man blew my mind. Like, it literally exploded.
I still love the theme song.
Well, totally. And you’ll probably even recognize it when it says “Filmation.”
I did, with that keyboard sound.
So, that sound and that intro song, that to me was like a candy store of cerebral LSD. So when I was like, “What would Chappie see? What would be the first thing on television that would form part of his brain?” It should be the same thing that blew my brain when I was roughly the same age as him, so it should be He-Man.
How did you stop yourself from doing a “I have the power!” callback at the end of the movie?
It was hard enough that it was actually in the edit for a while.
Why take that out?
It is and it isn’t. It’s slightly comedic, so you’re not sure if it’s the right place.
You would have won over the Gen X crowd with that.
Yeah, exactly. We would have understood, but there would be a very large part of the population being like, “What is that?”
Was that hard to get the rights for?
It was more expensive than we anticipated.
You’d think they’d want the free advertising.
That’s not how it works. I think I’m going to clear it up on the director’s commentary, too, is stuff related to product placement. People don’t understand how product placement works in an R-rated film: You have to beg to get the products.
Watkin Tudor Jones and Yolandi Visser from Die Antwoord have prominent roles in Chappie. There were rumors of tension on the set. Can tension help?
Yes. I firmly believe that. Chappie was really difficult for me to make. And I’m not blaming Die Antwoord at all. You know, I’m chums with them… now, for sure. And I was fans of them prior to the film; I fought to put them in the film. So, I’m not even talking about Die Antwoord, but I’m saying that tension, in general, Chappie was very difficult for me to make.
And that didn’t help…
But what I’m saying is, if you make something that doesn’t have tension, you should be a little worried. You’re on to something if it’s difficult and you have to work through things. And this movies was that. District 9 was that.
That reminds me of the behind the scenes footage for The Phantom Menace, when George Lucas kept thinking everything was going wonderfully.
Yeah, that’s a bad sign. The director should look like he wants to kill everyone, then you know it’s good.
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.