How Sharlto Copley Became Chappie And Why Hugh Jackman Has To Kill Him

Illustration for article titled How Sharlto Copley Became Chappie And Why Hugh Jackman Has To Kill Him

Sharlto Copley (District 9) brought the titular robot of Chappie to life, thanks to performance capture and director Neill Blomkamp, but as it turns out everyone wanted him dead. We spoke with the Chappie'scast — Copley, Hugh Jackman and Sigourney Weaver — about the violence they inflicted upon this adorable robot.


Sharlto Copley

io9: You're given this really cool task — to develop a robot consciousness out of nothing, from an empty shell. How did you bring Chappie to life?

Sharlto Copley: It was kind of two-fold. I did a bunch of tests before we started shooting where I just kind of improvised the scenes with another actor, to work out how he might behave at different ages. So I had a general sense of how that would happen. When it came to be there on the day. [It was probably] the most reacting I've ever done. Usually my characters are quite verbose and dominating the environments that they're in. This was very much about observing a log more and reacting to things.

Did you find yourself reacting more or less as Chapie aged?

Copley: You react more, as would be the case. Using the analogy of the kid that comes into the world with a very innocent perception and a sense of interest and naivety around him, and then he starts to build his ego and his identity. It starts with a name, "Oh I'm this," and it starts to think that it knows what it is, because now it has a name. And then now this is my things and my toy and my car. Then it thinks it's the center of the universe. So by default is tempted to start behaving, speaking a lot more dominating it's environment a lot more. The ego gets in there.

Which part of Chappie's evolution did you enjoy playing the most? As an infant, him as a teenager?

Copley: They were all different. Personally, and for my soul, playing him at the very younger stage was the most awesome and the most freeing. Playing him when he had his gangster moments, as he's getting a little bit older, were fun. They were fun from a character point of view.


Hugh Jackman

Was it fun to play such an irredeemable villain?

Hugh Jackman: Yeah. I mean, I can redeem him. When you play him, you have to find a way to understand him. He's a little buffoonish, in the way he dresses. We came up with this idea of the guy, a bit like Ricky Gervais in The Office, who thinks he's the guy that everyone likes and no one really does. He thinks he's the man in every way, but right down to his haircut he's not. Yet he occupies an argument that is really important for the movie. The voice of caution against artificial intelligence. He's like, "I think this is bad, I don't think we should be creating things that are more powerful than humans that are just autonomous to go out and do things.


Chappie is very violent — more violent than it appears its going to be. Were you at all worried when you read the script and realized you'd have to try to kill such a friendly looking robot?

Jackman: No, I didn't worry. I don't mind a violent movie if it's sort of justified. This character — not only does he believe in it theoretically and philosophically, that no matter how cute this [thing] is, this is a really dangerous thing for the world. Because what's the moral compass behind this thing that you're sending out to make decisions during warfare or in the streets or whatever? [My character] even sees the end of humankind. Because if the robots are more powerful than us, why would they put up with us?


Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney Weaver: I think the idea of a robot [to my character] whose going to sit down and paint a picture or write a poem, it's a useless waste of time for a human being. Or for a robot. Why create a robot that's like a human being we have so many human beings around.


The way you deliver that... it's so crushing.

Sigourney Weaver: I know I don't agree with it. But I think that's what she thinks. I don't think she has that kind of imagination. So she probably is limited… she's probably in the best possible job for her which is weaponry.


Top image via Slashfilm. There are more behind-the-scenes photos available at the link.

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Doug Nash

It's nice to know that other people can do mocap acting besides that self-righteous Serkis twit.