District 9 heralds the arrival of 29-year-old South African-born director Neill Blomkamp as a major new voice in science-fiction. Infused with gritty, hand-held authenticity, blistering intelligence and dazzling action sequences, Blomkamp’s alien-apartheid thriller recently snatched the No. 1 spot at the US box office, an impressive achievement for a film set in Johannesburg and populated with South African accents. Raised in South Africa until his family moved to Vancouver when he was 17, Blomkamp was a talented effects whiz with some visually stunning short films and ads under his belt when Peter Jackson handpicked him to oversee the screen version of Halo. When the $145m videogame adaptation went down in studio flames, Jackson stuck by Blomkamp’s side and shepherded District 9, an expansion of his 2005 short Alive in Jo’burg, to the big screen. RT sits down to chat with a filmmaker whose career is about to go stratospheric…
Neill Blomkamp: Totally. I haven’t thought of a story yet but if people want to see another one, I’d love to do it.
NB: Both would be interesting.
NB: Hollywood likes to simplify real life and it likes to tie everything up neatly at the end which isn’t how life plays out. The cool thing is that it’s unresolved with Wickus at the end and to a certain extent it’s unresolved with all the aliens.
NB: The thing that really appealed to me was this idea that they’re a hive. They are worker drones so they don’t have the direction that they need. I don’t think anything’s wrong with their planet. They’ve got their planet and they have all of these ships, like the one that you see, that leave their planet and go and get resources from other planets. Each ship has some kind of alien that we’ve never seen, like an elite queen or whatever, that they take direction from, and there’s some virus or bacteria that they picked up on another planet that affected the upper echelons of their society and left all of them. The ship auto-piloted them to the closest planet that would sustain life.
NB: Yeah, I think so. I’ve got another science fiction film I want to write, which will probably be my next film. I think I’ll stay in Vancouver, like I have always been, for this next one. I feel really good, I feel very creatively energised.
NB: I have a very loose treatment that needs to be refined so it’s extremely early.
NB: Not on this next one but I’d love to work with him again. I’ve had a great experience working with him. What I’m hoping for is that District 9 is received well because that means that people will be open to a sequel. I’d love to team up with Peter again. And Fran. They’re awesome people; in the world of sharks that Hollywood is, they’re rare people.
NB: Yes, but it’s not a temptation for me. I always try to do everything based on my gut instinct. And what I feel like I want to do is work on my own films at low enough budget levels that I’m left alone. I don’t want to work on huge budget films among the political world of Hollywood.
NB: Yeah, but where I am now is actually where I wanted to be after Halo. I just took a quicker route. I’ve ended up in a better place where I’ve made a film that has every ingredient I wanted.
NB: One thing I’ve learnt as I’ve gotten older is to never say never. My instinct says that I probably shouldn’t work on Halo because it’s just a strange feeling to pour yourself into something and then have the plug pulled on it. Something in the universe is sending me some kind of message. But the flip side is that the reason I wanted to do Halo in the first place, and the reason I was so energised to do Halo, is that creatively I love it. I totally love the universe of Halo on every level. Not only is it this epic space saga but Master Chief is such an awesome character. This guy – whether he knows it or not – is a victim of this military-industrial complex. It’s a totally compelling world to be involved in. So on a creative level I’d love to go back there, but I probably would say no.
NB: I don’t think so. I consciously didn’t want it to. Most of the work we were doing on Halo – I mean we were designing the Covenant and all of the aliens but predominantly the thing that interested me was the human side of it, which District 9 has none of. The humans are just humans here. In Halo, it’s many hundreds of years in the future with a totally different society – that’s really what I was getting into. And the technology and the Pillar Of Autumn and Reach – all that stuff.
NB: Yeah, we were working for six months. There was shitloads of design at Weta; we were actually manufacturing stuff. Things went into cargo containers when they pulled the plug.
NB: Yeah, with dust on the crates. There will be [Weta chief] Richard Taylor snapping open wooden boxes with a crowbar in 2020!
District 9 is out now in the US. It hits UK cinemas on Friday.