Hugh Jackman goes from nicest guy in Hollywood to bad guy in Chappie
That's what Hugh Jackman, reputed to be the nicest guy in Hollywood, is aiming for this year - and we'd better get used to it.
"It's time for me to delve into my shadowy side...that's where I'm heading!" he declared, chuckling.
The 46-year-old Australian actor was speaking to M via Skype from Berlin, where he was promoting his new movie Chappie with co-stars Dev Patel and Sigourney Weaver and writer-director Neill Blomkamp.
Forget all the heroic, charming roles Jackman has done on the big screen, such as Prince Leopold (Kate & Leopold), Jean Valjean (Les Miserables) or even Wolverine (X-Men).
In Blomkamp's latest sci-fi thriller, Jackman is the vicious and aggressive antagonist who has no qualms about killing anyone - and anything - that stands in his way.
Opening here tomorrow, Chappie is set in 2016, when Johannesburg is under the thumb of autonomous, robotic police droids, created by robotic genius Deon (Patel).
Jackman is Vincent Moore, a tough Aussie military engineer who is envious of Deon's success, and one who hates the idea of humans being rendered redundant and replaced by robots.
When he finds out Deon has created a thinking, feeling and self-aware robot named Chappie (played by Sharlto Copley through motion-capture), Vincent takes matters into his own hands and vows to destroy Chappie and those involved at all cost.
"It's awesome to play an Aussie villain...this is the real me, this is my time. My kids always think I'm the Aussie villain, well, most of the time!" said the father of a 14-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl, with a laugh.
"This year, you'll see more of me as a bad guy!" Jackman added, referring to his role as evil pirate Blackbeard in Pan, Joe Wright's re-imagining of the Peter Pan story, opening here on July 23.
Though Blomkamp didn't write Vincent specifically for Jackman, the South African film-maker envisioned the Hollywood superstar playing it.
"Hugh is an actor I'd love to work with on many, many films," said Blomkamp, 39.
"He's so talented and so easy to work with...he's a director's dream."
Jackman jumped at the opportunity to work with Blomkamp, whom he has admired ever since he watched the latter's debut feature film District 9 (2009).
Said Jackman: "Neill's a visionary, and he's changing the game of science-fiction films."
He added that he'd do whatever Blomkamp wanted, including sporting a horrible mullet for the movie.
"No, no... it's not a requisite for bad guys to have a bad haircut!" he said, laughing.
"But it certainly turned people off.
"The mullet, blond tips, shorts and long socks...those were actually Neill's idea.
"He sent that image to me, which sort of reminded me of a geography teacher I once had!"
Jackman added: "Actually, I thought that mullet look might work in my favour because when I met my wife 20 years ago while doing (Australian TV series) Correlli, I sported a mullet too, so I thought it might remind her of the man she fell in love with!"
However, the response, he revealed, was quite the opposite. His wife of 18 years, Deborra-Lee Furness, didn't like how he looked at all.
Jackman said he was deeply impacted by Blomkamp's story, calling it one "that has got a lot of heart".
"You will fall in love with this robot. In fact, you'll fall in love with Chappie more than the humans."
He said: "District 9 was about racial depression. (Blomkamp's 2013 film) Elysium was about disparity of wealth.
"Chappie is about what it is to be human... (it) reminds us that we often act in very selfish ways".
The movie also resonated with the father of two.
When Chappie became sentient, he was like a baby, pure and innocent, and had to be taught and brought up like a human child.
But because he was "raised" by a pair of criminals (played by South African rap group Die Antwoord's Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser) in an unsavoury environment, Chappie became a gangster too.
"The film really stands out for me because the vulnerable thing about being a parent is that it doesn't really matter what we say to our kids.
"It's the impression and example from our behaviour that they're going to pick up from the beginning."
Jackman added: "I think Neill is playing with the idea of having this pure and innocent soul being put in this very violent and dysfunctional environment and seeing what would happen.
"It's a great reminder to all of us that kids pick up on what we do in life. What we say, how we say it...
"That's another great theme in the movie."
"It's awesome to play an Aussie villain... this is the real me, this is my time. My kids always think I'm the Aussie villain, well, most of the time!"
- Hugh Jackman, who has a 14-year-old boy and nine-year-old girl
'Tech dino' plays computer whiz
LEAD: Dev Patel plays the creator of Chappie in Neill Blomkamp’s movie. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES
In real life, Dev Patel (above) is so different from his character in Chappie that he never expected to be cast as the computer whiz behind the titular robot.
"That's the best acting I've ever done!" said the British actor via a Skype interview with M.
Patel, who shot to international fame after starring in Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning film Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, professed to be a tech dinosaur.
"I still have a really old-school Blackberry that doesn't even have a touchscreen. I bought another two of those as they've stopped manufacturing (such phones) so I can just keep going...
"I've never been on the social media websites, Facebook, Instagram and all that," he said.
"I'm quite old-school that way. The irony that I play this guy who's a frontrunner in technology and robotics, it's hilarious."
To be handpicked by Chappie writer-director Neill Blomkamp to headline the sci-fi thriller was "flattering and a truly magical experience", he said.
He added, laughing: "Not every day do you get a call telling you that Neill Blomkamp wants you to be the lead in his film."
Patel's last major film was The Last Airbender (2010), where he had a supporting role. The M Night Shyamalan-directed flick was a critical and commercial bomb.
While he dabbled in several other smaller and independent works (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Road Within), he found regular work in the Golden Globe-nominated TV series The Newsroom, which ended its run last year after three seasons.
Following Chappie, he reprises his role as hotel manager Sonny Kapoor in the sequel The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, opening here March 19.
He's currently prepping for his new film Lion, where he will share the screen with Nicole Kidman, which explains his current "homeless" look, which includes unkempt long hair and bushy beard.
So will Chappie be the 24-year-old's much-needed career boost? Patel was quick to brush off any expectations.
"I was like a 14-year-old on set with these legends," said Patel. "Working with Hugh (Jackman) and Sigourney (Weaver) obviously was like a dream come true.
"She's the queen of sci-fi, and she's so funny and generous and friendly. Hugh is everything you expect him to be and more."
You can tell Hugh Jackman's the villain of Chappie just by his hairstyle. After all, a terrible haircut seems to be the trademark of baddies.
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