Unless you grew up in or around South Africa, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t know the story behind the film’s unusual title. “Chappie is a type of childhood South African bubblegum that Neill grew up with,” says Terri Tatchell. “Yo- Landi, when we first told her about the film, got the image of Chappie – the little chipmunk that they have on the chewing gum – tattooed onto herself. So there was a little bit of pressure to actually get the film greenlit! I don’t know whether that gum still exists or not.”
Bringing the bot to life
In comparison to District 9’ s year- long scriptwriting stage, penning Chappie was a doddle. “The first draft only took three weeks,” Tatchell says. “That was Chappie written for South Africa. Then there was a period where we thought it was going to have to shoot in LA. So we rewrote it for LA, and that took about two months, I think. And then we combined the two scripts to go back to Johannesburg again. If we were organised enough and still had that first script to look at, it would probably be very, very close to what was ultimately shot.”
Fans might be surprised to see that Hugh Jackman’s character Vincent sports a dubious mullet in Chappie, a do Tatchell says was in the script from the start. “It was definitely in the script, but I can’t take credit for it, Neill designed that character. I don’t know if I would dare do that to anybody! It makes me smile just thinking about it. It’s pretty funny. He was such a good sport about it. He Instagrammed a picture of himself the day he got it. He’s such an amazingly good sport, he’s ready to throw himself into anything.”
Being a filmmaking family means Blomkamp and Tatchell’s home is filled with memorabilia. “These things just come home. Our house is filled. We have a droid from Elysium that greets people at our front door. He actually had a cowboy hat on last time I looked. We have a life- sized model of Little CJ, the little alien from District 9, he’s on our mantel. At the head of our dining room table we also have the probation officer that interviewed Matt Damon in Elysium. So I’d be a fool to think a few Chappies weren’t going to show up.”
Hugh Jackman sports a very non- Wolverine hairdo for the film.