The director shows Neill Blomkamp's alien sci-fi thriller and lives to tell the tale
Back in the summer of 1982, my mom and dad jumped into a movie line that wrapped around the bock of our small town theater. That movie was a sneak preview of E.T., and before sitting down to watch it, we knew nothing about the magic held within its framework. We didn't have the Internet back then, and some films still held a bit of mystique. Walking out of Steven Spielberg's signature epic, I was filled with a scene of joy that was indescribable. With the exception of a few other films, I haven't ever really felt that way since. I know you will hear a dumpster heap of praise when it comes to Neill Blomkamp's District 9, but this Peter Jackson produced film truly transported me past the essence of its hype and put me directly into the action. It made me feel like a ten year old kid again, and there is one scene that had my jaw dropping to the floor, exclaiming, "This is too fucking cool." Yes, it made me feel the way I did when I first walked out of E.T., and though I didn't want to see a film while I was here at Comic-Con, it will probably be remembered as the best thing to come out of this trip to San Diego. I believe that it will surpass the hype you're about to hear from every corner of the globe. This will be the movie of the year. And that's no small potatoes.
Over heard coming out of the theater?
"I can't move...Because I am glued to the seat in my own ejaculate."
"The CGI in this movie is more amazing than what I saw in Avatar."
"I feel like I did when I first walked out of Robocop."
That's no small praise, and this movie is going to shock a lot of people. The trailer doesn't do the film justice, and you have no idea what you're in store for when you buy a ticket. After watching the film, we were able to chat with Peter Jackson about the film. This is what he had to say:
After Halo fell apart, Neill said he was looking for something new to do with you. Can you talk about that?
Peter Jackson: After I did Kong, I sort of let on how big a fan of Halo I was. I have a son that is fourteen, and he grew up playing games. I played games with him. The Halo game is fantastic. I could sit there all weekend and play that. So I was really keen on making a movie about Halo. I thought it was a great opportunity to find a new filmmaker. A mentor that would bring something new to the project. I thought it would be great to find someone with a unique style that was a gaming fan. I was told to check out Neill's commercials and short films. They are incredibly impressive. We felt good about that. We brought him down to New Zealand, and we went to work on Halo. The timeline is a bit fuzzy. We were working on Halo for four months, and then things fell apart. We didn't really see it coming until the last week or two. We realized that the studios didn't want to make the movie. Neill had even finished creature designs, but they just didn't want to do it. We felt really bad, because we'd found this genius young filmmaker. We worked with him for three or four months on this hellish experience, and then it fell over. We felt bad and terribly guilty about that. In the last moments, we felt like we'd lost a family member. We decided to take control of the situation and get something good going. The idea was to develop an original film with Neill. We didn't own the rights to Halo. The studios controlled it. So we came up with an original idea that was really low budget. We financed it independantly. We could give Neill the freedom he needed.
Can you talk about the casting of Sharlto?
Peter Jackson: Neill had done a ten-minute test for the movie with Sharlto. He wanted to cast his old school chum in the lead role. We didn't know him, but we knew we wanted someone that could improvise. Neill didn't want to do a completely scripted film. He wanted some improve, and he wanted it to have a documentary feel. He wanted something that didn't feel like it was being read off the page. We wrote more of a treatment than a screenplay. We didn't write all the dialogue, and we needed actors that could work with that. Sharlto is not really an actor. He is a film guy. He has directed a film, but he hasn't acted before. Neill had said that he was very funny. And they did that ten-minute test. They worked on the production design, and it looked great.
Can you talk about the budget?
Peter Jackson: This cost thirty million dollars. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? We live in a weird world where they say $30 million is a small amount. I guess South Africa is cheap to shoot in. We tried to put all of the money on the screen.
The movie is fairly political. Can you talk about that?
Peter Jackson: We didn't make this as a Hollywood commercial movie. That gave us freedom. I told Neill, if this is successful, enjoy. Because your freedom does get less and less. Which is true. Once you are dealing with a hundred million dollars, there is a sense of responsibility not to loose that money. You naturally get a little more conservative. And you get safer. And you think about all of those Hollywood things. With this, we had totally freedom. I kept telling him to be as crazy as he could. He had an R rating. I kept encouraging him to put more splatter into it, which he did. We were able to be dirty, and grungy, and rude. We got to be violent, and we were able to put splatter in there. We were able to do things that Transformers can't. This reflects Neill's life experience. Neill didn't base this movie on any other movie. This came from him growing up in South Africa after apartheid. He wanted to do that with a sci-fi spin. Because he is a geek. That is what makes the film special.
Did you use any practical effects?
Peter Jackson: We did have an alien costume. We had a guy in a suit, but it was cut out of the film. Everything is CGI, and even I am surprised. Some of them look incredibly real. The close ups are all CGI. Everything is.
How did you keep the alien child from being too cutesy?
Peter Jackson: That was a big fear of Neill's. He liked the alien child. He didn't want the alien child to be too cute. He hated the idea of it being schmaltzy. And he walked that fine line of having him be too sentimental. I think he succeeded.
District 9 lands in theaters on August 14th and stars Kenneth Nkosi, Sharlto Copley and David James. This is one you are not going to want to miss.