'Elysium's' Faran Tahir on the Film's Hot-Button Issues (Video)

Says the actor of director Neill Blomkamp: "He gives you the argument on both sides -- whether you subscribe to one or the other is your choice."

In Elysium, Faran Tahir plays the president on Elysium, the luxurious space habitat where the privileged live.

"He's trying to deal with a tough situation, but with some sensitivity," says Tahir in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi film is set in a world that's divided into two parts: the ravaged Earth and Elysium, a utopia where members of the human race live without the worries of poverty or disease. Matt Damon plays a resident of Earth who is infected with a cancer virus and only has five days to live. He's determined to hijack his way onto Elysium to be cured.

VIDEO: New 'Elysium' Featurette Goes Inside Matt Damon's Sci-Fi Epic

Tahir plays President Patel, who governs over Elysium. And while his character tries to be fair and balanced, his counterpart in the government, Secretary of Defense Delacourt (Jodie Foster), does not act the same way.

"She's a consummate actress," says Tahir of his co-star Foster. "You know you're in good hands. She comes from a full palette -- she can pick and choose from it. And you know that no matter what you throw at her, she's going to throw something better at you, so you need to bring your A game."

Tahir reveals that even his audition was a bit futuristic. He was not able to audition for Blomkamp in person, so he used his iPhone to put together a video.

"I was in New Mexico and he was in Vancouver or South Africa or something. There was no way for us to meet," he says. "So he sent me something, I took my iPhone, I recorded the other person's lines on my iPad, and I did the scene with myself."


Tahir, who also appeared in Star Trek and will star in upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger film Escape Plan, says that Blomkamp's film will spark discussion because it explores controversial issues such as health care and immigration.

"He takes a hot-button issue, he removes it just enough from the present day so you can look at it, and he gives you the argument on both sides --  whether you subscribe to one or the other is your choice," says Tahir.

Tahir says that one day of shooting for a scene that's toward the end of the film was especially taxing.

"We have to walk through all these tunnels, try to chase these people who are trying to invade," he says. "And at times, the fans that were blowing at us were so amazingly strong. Well, first of all, I didn't have this issue because I don't have any hair, but all of the other actors couldn't keep their hair in place."

"We had to go back every five minutes and set everything up and get all the hair back in place, and the the doors would open and everything would go haywire," he adds. "We had quite a day that day."

Elysium opens in theaters on Aug. 8 via Sony.

Watch THR's interview with Tahir above.

E-mail: Rebecca.Ford@THR.com
Twitter: @Beccamford