'Elysium': Neill Blomkamp's 'Dirty,' 'Cheap' Sci-Fi Debuts With Matt Damon, Jodie Foster

The cast and crew of Sony's late summer thriller stepped out to celebrate the premiere.
Matt Damon and wife Luciana Barroso at the premiere of "Elysium"   |   Getty Images
The cast and crew of Sony's late summer thriller stepped out to celebrate the premiere.

Elysium descended upon Westwood's Regency Village Theater on Thursday as Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and filmmaker Neill Blomkamp stepped out for the premiere of Sony's sci-fi thriller.

"If you see a great movie, it can't be made by accident," Damon told The Hollywood Reporter on the gray carpet as he made his way into the theater. "When I saw District 9, I just knew there was a great director behind it with an original voice, so I just put him at the head of the list of people I wanted to work with."

The feeling was mutual for Blomkamp, who said he was always hoping to cast Damon in the role of Max, a poor citizen of Earth who fights his way up to Elysium -- a man-made space station created to house wealthy and privileged humans.

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"I was looking for Matt," Blomkamp said of casting the project. "There wasn't really anyone else. All I wanted to do was meet him and make sure he wasn't going to be a Hollywood diva, but he wasn't, so he's perfect."

In an age where budgets are scrutinized by the media -- which has recently been blamed for dooming projects before they are even released -- producer Simon Kinberg praises Blomkamp's ability to deliver a low-budget, high-quality film.

"This film is a lot cheaper than a lot of the other summer tentpoles, largely because Neill has such a clear vision for what the film is, so there's not a lot of reimaging while you're shooting," Kinberg told THR. "This film was made probably for half of what it would have been made for with a different filmmaker in a different situation at another studio."

Blomkamp puts it in simpler terms: "[I'm] just a dirty, cheap filmmaker," he said. "My style is hand-held cameras and dirty, natural light. It's not overly slick."


Elysium opens nationwide on Aug. 9. The film was reportedly made on a $90 million budget and is projected to bring in a $35 million-plus debut in its opening weekend.

The film is a sophomore effort for Blomkamp, whose Peter Jackson-produced debut, District 9, opened in 2009 and has earned more than $210 million to date worldwide. 

"It was as close to a perfect film as I could imagine," said Foster of District 9. "I wanted to be a part of whatever his next movie was. He could make a film that is so entertaining and has great structure to it, but still has this real heart and drive." 

With Elysium, Blomkamp drew on a frightening real-life experience in Mexico.

"I got arrested in Tijuana in 2005, and I was on the other side of the border where the police dropped us off," he said of his inspiration. "We had to walk back for about an hour, and I could see the U.S. border floodlights -- this movie is basically that."

But to hear actress Alice Braga tell it, Elysium should be an all-encompassing crowd pleaser. "It's the perfect combination of an action, sci-fi, futuristic film with a message."

E-mail: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com
Twitter: @SophieSchillaci

  • Sophie Schillaci