Matt Damon – via satellite from Berlin – joined Elysium star Sharlto Copley, producer Simon Kinberg, and writer/director Neill Blomkamp in Hollywood on Monday to talk about the highly-anticipated film and gave away more than a few secrets about the upcoming sci fi flick in the process.
Damon commended fanboys and girls for using “excellent judgement” to take their lunch hour and enjoy the world premiere of the trailer for his summer film Elysium.
The film, (we were treated to the trailer as well as a 10-minute sizzle reel) is visually stunning. The backbone of the story is that the very rich left earth to enjoy a life free from disease, war, and poverty on the space station Elysium. Everyone else is left on Earth, and it’s an earth transformed into miles and miles of shantytown slums.
Elysium, the off-planet paradise, was shot on location in Canada. Future Earth was shot in Mexico City, which according to Blomkamp is famous for pre-meditated kidnappings.
“I felt safer in Mexico because of the kidnapping thing and I was always like well, they’re going to go for Matt Damon before they go for me,” Copley joked. “I was like, hey brothers, I’m from South Africa I’m a third-world guy, I’m from your kind. Take the producer, he’s the American.”
With a simulcast in cities worldwide, Elysium used the platform to reach out to a global audience and share its message about classism and poverty. Some even wondered if Blomkamp had drawn inspiration from one specific incident in recent history: the Occupy Wall Street movement.
“I think if there are topics that are just on people’s minds, things manifest into reality, the sort of global conciseness being aware …” Blomkamp said. “So separate from the 99% and the Occupy movement I was thinking about this. If I wanted to make something that actually made a difference, roughly in this industry, I would make a documentary. That would be the closest that I could get to try and make a difference. So the film does speak about topics that really have a big impact on me but I don’t know how much the audience takes away from it. It’s inspirational art.”
But although these themes are integral to the film, it is steeped in action and sci-fi.
“I like films in this genre,” Blomkamp said. “My favorite film of all time is Alien. What Elysium doesn’t have, that I’d like to put in the next film is slime … but it’s got copious amount of robotics. For me to make a film without including any of those elements is just kind of boring to me. For me personally, to want to make it, it has to have crazy amounts of genre stuff in it.”
The movie started as a large look-book of drawings and concept art that Blomkamp brought to Damon in an effort to sell him on the film.
“It was really Neill,” Damon said of his ultimate decision to play Max, the main character of the story. “He had a deep understanding of this world a year before we started shooting.”
Copley makes a departure from sympathetic Wikus Van De Merwe, his character in District 9, and takes on the role of Max’s antagonist, Kruger. Blomkamp described Kruger as embodying “unrestrained intensity” and “explosive unpredictability.” Copley said he particularly enjoyed wearing his scruffy beard for the role – a beard that got him kicked out of an elevator that Kate Beckinsale was about to enter at Comic Con last year.
Working together again for the first time since District 9, Copley and Blomkamp had to change some habits to fit the film’s larger scale. Blomkamp told Copley to stick to the script, rather than improvise like he did with much of District 9. When Copley arrived for his first day of shooting, he had memorized his lines down to the precise punctuation. Copley also jokingly said they’d both become big divas after the success of District 9, and they’d fight on set, prompting Jodie Foster and Damon to think “who are these guys, they’ve done one movie!”
Check back to EW.com tomorrow after 4 pm PST when the trailer for Elysium goes live.