'Behind The Candelabra' Photocall - The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival

INTERVIEW: Matt Damon on his New Film Elysium

30 Jul 2013

Starring in the new sci-fi film by District 9 creator Neill Blomkamp has made Matt Damon appreciate how the other half live...

Neill Blomkamp, writer-director of freaky earth-based sci-fi film District 9, has created an alternate reality for Matt Damon, ­and his co-star Jodie Foster, to stretch their theatrical legs in. Veering between the life on planet earth in the gutter (literally) and space station Elysium, a haven for the post-apocalyptic uber rich, filming was a challenge some days, but at least Matt’s exoskeleton hero suit weighed 25lb less than Emily Blunt’s did in her coming-soon sci-fi flick, All You Need is Kill (yes, they’ve been comparing notes).

“The level of detail was literally mind-boggling,” admits Matt, “Apart from speaking to James Cameron about Avatar, that was really the only other time I have met a director who did that, who literally came with a fully formed concept, a science fiction world, which was unlike any world I had ever seen.”

In it, Matt plays a tattooed skinhead, reading and willing to save day – Jodie Foster is his nemesis, and the world around them is Neil Blomkamp’s finest creation, showing (we suspect), the present day divide between the world’s poor and wealthy.

Our roving reporter caught up with Matt to find out more...

Why did you want to make Elysium?
I saw District 9 and I freaked out like everyone else did and Neill [Blomkamp] was instantly top of the list of people I wanted to work with. Then I heard about this movie. I didn’t think I would get to work with him right away but sure enough the next movie there was this role available. And about 20 minutes into my first meeting with Neill — I met him for coffee, in a diner in New York — he pulls out these renderings that he has done. He has built the entire world on his computer and he has made a graphic model and there was a whole other book he’d got on weaponry. This is stuff that isn’t necessarily going to be featured in the movie. It is deep background stuff but each gun’s got a description of how it is engineered and how it works. The level of detail was literally mind-boggling. Apart from speaking to James Cameron about Avatar, that was really the only other time I have met a director who did that, who literally came with a fully formed concept, a science fiction world, which was unlike any world I had ever seen.

You shot some extensive scenes in an enormous garbage dump in Mexico City…
Yes, a number of locations were within the dump. We had locations, for instance, one of them was called ‘Poo River’. Literally, it was, “OK, can we get everybody down to Poo River for scene 36?” And only after we’d started filming do they tell you that all the dust in the air is really faecal matter!


For all the bad smells, the garbage dump must’ve given Elysium some really authenticity?
Neill spoke very articulately about why we needed to do that and it is a very convincing argument and he was right. It is the visual expression of the entire theme. We have a Bugatti space craft which crashes in this Third World dump, so it is a really arresting visual collision of these two worlds and also it is a completely unique place to do an action set piece. It was an incredible backdrop to use. We knew why we were there and, yes, it was a little uncomfortable for a couple of weeks but the good far outweighed the discomfort.

Tell me about the bodysuit you wear for the film — was it heavy?
Neill got the guys from the Weta Workshop to make it and those guys are amazing. The hulk suit had been through I don’t know how many stages of R&D before it got to me, but they would send me videos of New Zealand stunt guys who were my size in the hulk suits doing somersaults and jumping jacks and pull ups and all kinds of stuff because they were working on two things. They wanted full mobility and they wanted it to be as light as possible and the one I ended up with was 25lbs distributed all over my body, which really wasn’t bad. Emily Blunt just did a movie where she had a similar type of exoskeleton and she emailed me like, “Man, this is brutal!” I asked how much her suit weighed and she said it was over 50lbs and I was like, “Oh, you should have gone to Weta!” She’s in better shape. She can handle it! The hard thing about that is the suits are supposed to give you more strength and speed. On the first day, though, we had to shoot something where I was running in the hulk suit and I came back to look at the monitor after we had done a take and Neil said, “Man, can you run any faster than that?!” I looked at it and it looked as though I was jogging. It was because of the suit. That was me sprinting at the max. So we had to figure out ways to make sure that we were selling the strength and the speed of this thing, which was supposed to make me as strong as a droid. We had to kind of shoot around that a little bit.

INFO: Elysium’s global release starts 7 August, UAE release dates to be confirmed. For our full interview with Matt Damon, don't miss Ahlan! - on shelves 7 August.