Sharlto Copley's Life In The Not-So-Distant Future

The man inside Chappie and that bug costume on his new superpowers and risk aversion in Hollywood.
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The man inside Chappie and that bug costume on his new superpowers and risk aversion in Hollywood.
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Casual moviegoers know South African actor Sharlto Copley as the guy who stole scenes in Disney's Maleficent and The A-Team, but cinephile recognize him as director Neill Blomkamp's muse, the human center of speculative sci-fi operas like District 9, Elysium and this month's Chappie. Now, the most successful South African actor since Charlize is branching out. He’s starring in Sony PlayStation’s first original digital TV series, Powers, as superhero-turned-homicide detective Christian Walker. It's strange, sure, but those are the waters Copley swims in.

MAXIM spoke to the man inside the machine and the bug and that badass war suit about his life in the not-so-distant future.

Why are comics so hot in Hollywood these days?

I think the simple answer is they make money. One can analyze it further, but really at the moment that’s what’s happening. There’s so much fear and risk aversion in Hollywood, that studios are very inclined to make things based on existing properties.

What differentiates the characters in Powers from the Marvel and DC Comics characters?

Brian Bender, the creator of Powers, described it as 'VH1 Behind the Music for Superheroes.' One of the things that drew me to this project is the social commentary aspect, where the superheroes in our project are very much akin to the pop culture icons we have in music and television. Everybody wants to be like these people. They look up to them, but these heroes don’t always behave very responsibly. They sometimes abuse their power, which is very much the case of powerful people in real life. With Powers, we’re taking superhero stuff that you’ve seen before, but we’re adding a lot of new stuff. I’ve never seen a superhero being autopsied before, or kids with minor superhero powers trying to take drugs to increase their powers.

How are the superheroes in Powers like today’s celebrities?

Back in the day when he was 'Diamond,' Christian Walker had agents and managers and lawyers and publicists because just because you can fly, how are you going to make money doing that? So it’s very much about being a popular superhero with your fans so you get endorsement deals. 'Diamond' also had groupies, and he took advantage of them. He was into drugs. He was a hero and he did good, people admired him and he was very charming and charismatic in front of the camera, but when we meet him in the story it’s ten years on from that when he lost his powers.

From Gotham to Daredevil to Powers, what is the serialized format opening up for super hero storytelling?

In the beginning when you meet Christian Walker you might think he’s just a grumpy, cynical tough guy who’s going to hit people when he’s upset, and that is a component, but there are way more layers to him. There’s a part of him who’s a 20-year-old kid that never grew up because he became famous at a young age. That’s something you see in society now, people who become famous very young and have really struggled to deal with that. They struggle to continue growing like normal people do because the world starts to treat them differently. Justin Bieber really believes that he’s more special than anybody else at his age because the world is treating him like that.

Having provided the voice of Chappie and starring with cyborgs in your upcoming movie, Hardcore, what are your thoughts on machines thinking for themselves and not going all SkyNet on us?

One of the most interesting aspects of playing Chappie was that I had grown with this concept that if we have sentient machines, they probably would just kill us because they don’t have emotions like we do. Playing Chappie made me have to consider the fact that because you are intellectually smart and rationally smart as a sentient machine would be, it does not necessarily mean that you wouldn’t have empathy or compassion. For example, if you could compute that it doesn’t make sense for human beings to be killing each other, you could therefore be more compassionate and more empathetic in your behavior towards human beings. If you computed it doesn’t make sense to damage the environment that you’re living in on such the planet to such a degree that it will actually harm you, you would be more respectful of the planet and living things on the planet of life itself. You could potentially be more appreciative of living beings as a sentient machine than humans, who have those old brain survival behaviors, which make them do things that don’t make rational, logical sense.

I realized that a machine could actually be more human in a certain way, with regard to the best attributes of human beings that we aspire to exhibit.