“I don’t ever want to be in the same room as him again.”
Those are allegedly Neill Blomkamp's own words when he was asked about working with Watkin (Waddy) Tudor Jones, a.k.a. Ninja of Die Antwoord, on his latest sci-fi thriller, Chappie. Blomkamp has always come off as a very soft-spoken guy to me, so him saying that of an actor is kind of shocking—but then I realize he's talking about Ninja, and then I'm not so shocked.
[Chappie](movie:466720) opened to a negative response this week, as critics have incessantly bashed the film's weak narrative, but perhaps the rumors of a stressed relationship between Die Antwoord and basically everyone on set brought the whole production down. I'd like to think that was a contributing factor.
Cast and crew supposedly gave accounts of their horrid experience to a South African tabloid under strict confidentiality, and what they had to say about Ninja and Die Antwoord was pretty insane. Below is what they disclosed, broken down into six separate sections.
1. Ninja had to be written out of several scenes
According to an article from City Press:
After the production took a Christmas break – and as Hollywood star Hugh Jackman flew into the country to shoot his scenes – the production was informed of a script change.
Jackman’s character was supposed to have interacted with Ninja’s character – a gangster who abducts security robot Chappie (Sharlto Copley) to use for his own evil ends.
Instead, Ninja was written out and the scene was given to Copley to handle.
“It was because he didn’t want Ninja back on set,” said a source, quoting a senior crew member.
This was confirmed by several members of the set.
Okay, if Hugh Jackman doesn't want you on set you have to be a complete asshat. I mean, come on, it's Hugh Jackman! The Wolverine! Probably one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, if not the nicest. Remember how quickly he came to Jennifer Lawrence's rescue?
2. Ninja told actors how to do their job?!
“That pile of sh*t” is how one cast member now refers to Ninja.
“The other actors were [irritated]. He told them how to do their scenes. He’d call and say they were doing it wrong and tell them how to do it,” said a source. Another said Ninja sent emails to this effect to other actors.
Two actors particularly targeted by Ninja’s director complex allegedly included US actor Jose Pablo Cantillo and local star Brandon Auret.
A source said: “Brandon is the greatest actor on set, calm and present. You must know that if it gets to a point where he wants to hit Ninja he’s so angry, there was a serious problem.”
City Press was told that Ninja’s own performance grew increasingly violent and physical and departed from the script. Yet Ninja “wanted to phone Blomkamp every five minutes” to discuss his character.
Wow. Clearly this is a case of a prima donna wanting everything to go their way. As Tony Stark had so appropriately described Loki in [The Avengers](movie:9040), Ninja is totally coming off like a full-tilt diva here.
For more fuel to stoke the flames on this conflict, here's Brandon Auret (who played Hippo in the film) giving his response when asked about working with Ninja during an interview:
3. Ninja is a scumbag, basically
It is alleged that the conflict between Ninja and Blomkamp was strained to breaking point over photographs. Blomkamp’s sister, Stephanie, was the stills photographer on set. A crew member said: “When they were planning publicity shots, Ninja said they should do something special, get a really good photographer in. Neill was offended because his sister is a really good photographer.”
It is claimed by two sources that Ninja sent explicit photos – in the act of having fellatio performed on himself – to at least one female member of the set.
Several sources say he hit on female cast and crew, even in front of his partner Yolandi.
He invited them to Cape Town “telling them they would get a hotel room and hire prostitutes to join them,” said a source.
Another source said Ninja made a pest of himself with local model and actress Tanit Phoenix.
I'm honestly not surprised if all the above is actually true. Ninja strikes me the type of person who's likely always on edge, ready to explode at a moment's notice for no reason whatsoever. Is it an image or product that Waddy Jones is putting on? Possibly. But I'd be hard pressed to say that he's not even a little bit crazy; the guy looks nuts!
4. Ninja wanted to get Dev Patel baked
One of the more outlandish stories heard by City Press is about a visit to the working class Joburg suburb of Fietas.
Their adopted child, Tokkie, hails from Fietas, which Ninja considers to be his home away from home.
After work on set, Ninja allegedly took star actor Dev Patel on a visit to the suburb to “show him the hood,” says a source.
During the visit, “Ninja gave Dev a ‘space cake’ to eat. Dev ate some but then his bodyguard took it saying there might be marijuana inside. Dev was livid.”
Another source in the production crew said that Patel complained to producers about the incident.
This one doesn't seem so bad; just a guy showing his fellow castmate some hospitality. Still doesn't make up for all the other crap Ninja has supposedly done on set though. Actually, had I been given a "space cake" without knowing there was a bit of marijuana inside, I'd probably be a little upset too.
5. Die Antwoord is classy, yet trashy?
Said a crew member: “I felt sorry for the guy looking after Die Antwoord. They were always making stupid demands.”
Die Antwoord’s assistant was tracked down by City Press but refused to comment.
However, there are claims by the irritated crew that Ninja refused to sit next to, or nearby, other cast members, believing himself to be superior.
“Take Hugh Jackman,” said one source. “In Soweto, he would sit with the crew and eat whatever everyone else was eating. Nicest guy.
“Die Antwoord are vegan and they refused to eat the vegetarian food on set. They made their driver go into town from Soweto every day to fetch special food.”
Another source joked that the couple were reported to have eaten fish and eggs when off set.
Their image may be zef and trashy but [they] only drink Veuve Clicquot champagne when they take alcohol.
More asshole-esque behavior, how quaint. There's always been things said about various celebrities making the most impractical demands, but not mingling with the cast and crew due to some sort of superiority complex? The guy seriously needs an ego check.
6. No Comment
City Press put all these allegations, as well as some questions about the production, to Die Antwoord’s Los Angeles agents and to the Chappie publicity office. No response was received by the time of going to press except for a statement from Susie Arons, who represents the Chappie producers, Media Rights Capital.
It reads: “Neill Blomkamp is hard at work getting Chappie ready for release. As with all things Chappie, our lips are sealed, but we are looking forward to sharing the final film with Neill’s fans around the world.”
Word on the set was that Blomkamp was seriously considering a sequel if Chappie is as big a hit as his other features have been. But it’s unlikely that Ninja will be considered for a role if that does happen.
“He was stupid,” said a source.
“He’s totally burnt his bridges with Neill.”
I think it's safe to say that Die Antwoord will never be in another movie directed by Neill Blomkamp. Though, despite all the alleged tension between Die Antwoord and everyone on set, I actually thought Ninja and Yolandi played their parts just fine in Chappie. What's clear to me is Blomkamp might be a one trick pony, but he does that one trick pretty damn well to be honest.
Now, did Ninja sabotage Chappie to a point where he prevented it from being a better movie? Maybe, but the film certainly had bigger issues than casting a giant douche in a major role. It was probably frustrating to work with him, but that's no excuse for failing to tell a good story.
Source: City Press