DINKUM AUSSIE CHAPPIE
Hugh Jackman had to relearn his native lingo for his starring role in a new sci-fi movie, which follows the story of a robot who has feelings
Reports of the death of Hugh Jackman’s Australian accent are greatly exaggerated. The arrival of Jackman’s new film, Chappie, has brought with it stories that director Neill Blomkamp complained Jackman’s accent wasn’t Aussie enough for the role and that the actor was trolling the internet to find colloquialisms he’d forgot after living in New York.
But it was more about turning up the Aussie accent he already has, Jackman reveals.
“I’ve just come away from doing something I’ve never done before – a hologram press conference,” Jackman marvels.
“Me and Neill were hologrammed into Spain ... I can see the future of acting being all done from the bedroom, basically.”
This future-is-now occurrence is rather apt, given Chappie is a sci-fi thriller set in a not-too-distant future where the streets of Johannesburg are patrolled by a robotic police force.
The city’s new-found peace is upset when the droids’ creator Deon (Dev Patel) cracks the secret to artificial intelligence, bringing into the world the first robot that can learn, think and feel.
Jackman plays another droid developer, Vincent: Australian, former soldier, man of God and out for payback when his own robo crime fighter is overlooked in favour of Deon’s units.
“It was a little bit out of the blue,” says Jackman who, even with his desire to be a “jack of all trades”, never believed he’d wind up working with the kid who reinvented sci-fi with District 9.
“I got the call when I was on X-Men: Days Of Future Past, because Simon Kinberg was a writer/producer of that and also produced Chappie. He said, ‘Neill wants to talk to you’. I pretty much signed up then and there because Neill is a real maverick and a genuine auteur. I really loved District 9 and think he changed the genre. Neill was the one who was like, ‘Man, I see you playing a bad guy’. I was like, ‘Cool. I mean, I know my kids think I’m a bad guy but I don’t think anyone else does!’ ”
Blomkamp had very strong ideas of how Vincent would look (blond-tipped mullet, safari shorts, ever-present rugby ball) and sound.
“I remember Neill sending me script notes saying, ‘I really want you to go broad Australian’,” Jackman recalls. “He knows some of those exmilitary guys. He came up with (the line) ‘mad as a frog in a sock’ and I was like, ‘Mate, I’ve never heard that and I was born and bred in Australia’. He goes, ‘Nah mate, I’ve seen it, it’s on Google!’ I found myself Googling Aussie slang – I thought, ‘I’m going to have to match him now’.”
Co-star Sharlto Copley, who donned a performance capture suit to portray the titular AI robot in the film, says his “favourite all-time Hugh Jackman performance” is the one he gives in Chappie. “It’s not a comedy but his character is so ingeniously done and so funny. It’s priceless.”
Blomkamp calls it “honest”, saying Jackman “didn’t have to manipulate or change himself to fit the character”.
“I saw Vincent a bit like Ricky Gervais in The Office, the guy who thinks he’s the coolest dude but in actual fact no one likes him: they’re all just a little bit afraid of him,” Jackman says. “I had this image of a guy who changes shirts three times a day just so he can feel fresh and ready. It made me laugh. We had a lot of fun making the movie.”
Hugh Jackman in character for Columbia Pictures' new sci-fi