While at Comic-Con to do a big Hall H presentation, Elysium co-stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley spoke to press about the highly anticipated but very mysterious sci-fi film, from writer/director Neill Blomkamp. The filmmaker described it as being “about an orbital space station that has the rich living on it, while Earth is diseased and has been left behind.”
During the interview, the actors were clearly guarded in their responses, so as not to reveal too much, but they talked about who their characters are, the key to finding their performances, the themes that they’re addressing with the rich versus the poor, and what they think the world might really be like so far into the future. Check out what they had to say after the jump. Also, check out our recap of the Comic-Con panel.
Question: What can you say about the characters you play in this?
MATT DAMON: I play a guy on Earth who’s just hoping to someday go to Elysium, like everybody on Earth.
SHARLTO COPLEY: I play a guy called Kruger. When I read the script, I said to Neill, “If I could be in this movie, this is the guy that I would want to do.” He’s a special forces/black ops guy that hides out on Earth and essentially works for Jodie’s organization. When Jodie and the other politicians can’t solve problems by peaceful negotiation and chats, they call my guy on Earth and he deals with the problems. It was something very different for me. The last time I had seen a really entertaining villain that I liked was Heath Ledger’s Joker. I thought, with this character, that there was the opportunity to do something that didn’t take itself too seriously. He’s still very dark and very intimidating, but hopefully has a certain level of charisma. I wanted to present something that audiences really have never seen, thanks to Neill. Neill let me do my improv thing, as I do, ever now and then, and really gave me a chance to do something different. Hopefully, people will enjoy it.
JODIE FOSTER: I play a political figure who is very interested in keeping the habitat pure and trying to save it from those pesky earthlings.
What was the key to finding your performances?
FOSTER: I don’t know. I haven’t seen the movie. None of us have seen the film. Matt may have seen bits and pieces, but none of us have seen it, so we’re going to be as surprised as you are. Interestingly, when you do films, sometimes you have conscious reasons, things that you were looking for, or stuff that you were trying to do. And then, you see the film and you think, “Wow, it ended up being something totally different!”
DAMON: That’s a tough one to answer. My character is dying, imminently, so that’s probably what’s driving a lot of what he does. The acting stems from the imminent death. That was most of the direction I would get. “So, what am I thinking here?” “Well, dude, you’re gonna die!”
COPLEY: The key for me, with playing a villain, was being able to access two parts of myself because it was very different from roles that I’ve played before. One was growing up in a very hard environment, in a very dangerous place, where I’d been involved in violent things happening and seen a lot of violence happening around me, and to be able to be comfortable with the understanding that there is a certain level of violence that exists in the world. And then, secondarily, I had to see the world in a black and white way, in the sense that there are people that talk about things, and there are people that actually have to go an execute all of the things that those people talk about. So, the key to my character’s emotional state is that he’s got to go do things that are not necessarily pleasant so that you can all have nicer and safer lives. That’s his thinking. Doing those things that aren’t pleasant can also sometimes mess with your head a little bit. That’s where I had to come from, to be able to play someone that can do the things that he does.
What sort of themes are you addressing, with the rich versus the poor?
FOSTER: It’s a tough trick to be able to create an intelligent movie that has socio-political commentary, and also has the emotional and moving stuff, at the same time. That’s something that Neill does. This film is very different than District 9, and addresses some of those issues in a very different way, but they share that mixture of sensibilities.
DAMON: I think it, first and foremost, will be really entertaining and really work on that level. It certainly has a lot of relevance. Funnily enough, the whole terminology of the 99% and the 1% wasn’t even there, when we started. I just remember Neill, the first time I met him, said, “I grew up in South Africa and I immigrated to Canada when I was 18. And to go from the third world to the first world, at that age, absolutely changed the way that I look at the world.” The sci-fi world and the gore is all the stuff that he loves, so what he’s thinking about gets expressed that way.
Can you make any comparisons between the statement this film is making with the rich and the poor, and how celebrities are treated differently from regular people?
FOSTER: I don’t know if there’s much to compare. I think celebrity culture and social commentary with disparate wealth can be compared.
DAMON: My character is trying to get to the space station because he’s dying and he wants to get there because they have health care. They have these med bays that you lie in and get completely healed. So, he’s desperate.
What do you think the world will really be like, this far into the future?
DAMON: Well, I probably won’t be here. But, I don’t even think this would be, necessarily, Neill’s vision of what the world would really look like in 140 years. This is just a dystopian fantasy. It’s a thought exercise that he went on, where he just looked at where he grew up and where he lives now and what’s going on now, in terms of disparate wealth and the increasing gap. What if that kept happening for another 140 years? What would that look like?
FOSTER: There are lots of futurists that spend their whole life trying to figure out who we’re going to be in 40, 50, 60, 100 years. That’s the great thing about science fiction. When you look at The Matrix, 15 years ago, I feel like we’re living that now. Obviously, it’s allegorical, so they took it to a different extreme, but we are plugged in and living virtual lives, and have all of our connectivity done virtually. We don’t have body connectivity anymore. That actually came true, which I thought was amazing that they came up with that before any of that stuff was really around. What would I like to happen? We all talk about our fears and what’s going to happen, but there are good things, too. What the digital age has offered us, in terms of connectivity and transparency, is that all of these people from weird places in the world are all talking to each other, at four in the morning, and are sharing ideas. There’s more openness than has ever been known, so that’s a good thing.
Matt, what did you learn from making this film?
DAMON: A lot of it was really interesting. I learned a lot. Every time I work with a great director, I just learn a lot. Every day was really interesting. The level of detail that Neill had gone into was just really great. The first time I met him, he gave me this whole graphic novel, and a different book with weapons systems and vehicles. I looked at that stuff and went home and told my wife, “There is no way I’m going to let this get away. I have to do this!” And we planned our whole life around it because of it. I feel really lucky. After I saw D9, Neill immediately went to the top of the list of people that I wanted to work with. I feel lucky that it came around so quickly to me.
What did you think when you found out about the look for your character?
DAMON: In that graphic novel that he gave me was a picture of the Max character and he had a very specific look, like every other piece and detail of the whole world that Neill created. If you look at the graphic novel, it’s gonna look a lot like the movie is eventually going to look, except the movie will obviously be rendered in much greater detail. But, Max had this certain look. He spent time in prison. He was supposed to have a bald, shaved head with tattoos and he was a muscle-bound guy. I had never really done anything like that, so it seemed like a good fit. And the gun was in the weapons catalog that I got. Like every other gun, Neill and the guys at WETA workshop came up with all these things. They made sense, all of these guns. Some of them have battery packs on and these gnarly weapons that obviously don’t exist in the world that we live in, but you totally buy them when you see them. Just seeing them on set, you’d go, “That looks like some horrible weapon that someone’s going to invent, someday.” It was just that level of detail.
Jodie, do you have a lot of scenes with Matt Damon?
FOSTER: I only have one scene with Matt, and he was very quiet because he was gagged.
How did you like District 9 when you first saw it?
FOSTER: I saw District 9 and I jumped up and said, “This is a perfect film. I want to find this guy.” That’s actually what happened. A little bit after that, I saw the script for Elysium and, lo and behold, there was a role for a woman. I was like, “It sounds good to me!”
Catch up on all of our continuing Comic-Con coverage here.