Blomkamp at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International
17 September 1979 |
Johannesburg, South Africa
|Occupation||Film director, film producer, screenwriter, animator|
A lot of parts of L.A. are interchangeable with suburbs in Joburg. Very big, ostentatious houses with palm trees and lawns. Lawns are very important. Never underestimate lawns.
'Chappie' would be like 'RoboCop,' but hilarious. If you mixed 'Robocop' with 'E.T.' and it was… funny, that's what it is.
There has to be the popcorn genre element, or I don't engage the same way. I like action and vehicle design and guns and computer graphics as much as I like allegory. It's a constant balancing game. I want audiences to be on this rollercoaster that fits the Hollywood mould, but I also want them to absorb my observations.
I have zero strategy for my career – like, zero. I could get as much satisfaction about doing a $20,000 shot film the same way I could do a $100 million film with a bunch of effects.
I think filmmakers in general are, as the tools become more and more advanced, you're able to tell stories in a way that I think is more realistic. The technology just wasn't there up until pretty recently, and it takes a bit of time for the normal artistic way of approaching something to become a mainstream thing.
A lot of America is kind of done. People have been making films about it for 100 years. Everything to me feels used up. But Jo-Burg feels unbelievably inspirational to me.
I don't want egos and personalities on the set that make it more difficult to make the film. I don't want people who take the focus away from the movie and the ideas behind the movie.
Obviously I don't want to make a film that offends people, but the whole world is so politically correct – I'm not going to not do something because it may be politically incorrect. At some point, the metaphors and allegories break down. They disappear, and you just have science fiction.
'District 9' was a singular anti-Apartheid metaphor, and 'Elysium' is a more general metaphor about immigration and how the First World and Third World meet. But the thing that I like the most about the metaphor is that it can be scaled to suit almost any scenario.
Johannesburg is weird, because half of it is like Los Angeles. It feels like just wealthy parts of L.A. But half of it is severe slummy, something like Rio De Janiero or something. So it's kind of weird, because it's both happening at the same time.
'District 9', 'Elysium' and 'Chappie' were all born out of some visual concept first. 'Chappie' is the imagery, because I think I'm a visual person first, of this ridiculous robot character. It's much more comedy based and in an unusual setting.
I don't put any pressure on myself in terms of what people or fans do or don't want. It really just doesn't occur to me. I honestly just want to make the films I want to see as a fan. The film will survive or fail in my mind by how much I like it. Having said that, everyone wants their films to do well and to be well-received.
I want to make a film that is commercially successful because that means that the larger cinema-going audience around the world like the movie, which is my goal. That's my job, to make films that people respond to.
There are loads of sociopolitical, racial, class and future-planet situations that really interest me, but I'm not really interested in making a film about them in a film that feels like reality because people view that in a different way. I like using science fiction to talk about subjects through the veneer of science fiction.
I still really love the world and the universe and the mythology of 'Halo.' If I was given control, I would really like to do that film. But that's the problem. When something pre-exists, there's this idea of my own interpretation versus 150 other people involved with the film's interpretation of the same intellectual property.
I think naturally I'm a very visual kind of person. If I wasn't in filmmaking, I'd be in something related to visuals. And I used to actually work as a visual-effects artist.
I think our problems are inherently unsolvable. We need to change our genetic make-up or create computers that will think us out of it. I don't think humans are able to deal with what we have.
On one hand, I think people are destined for something incredible if we don't wipe ourselves out, but I think we're going to wipe 90 percent of ourselves out.
I actually think Johannesburg represents the future. My version of what I think the world is going to become looks like Johannesburg.
I never really think of something in terms of what not to do. It's always what's appealing or what's cool.
If you don't have something that glues the audience to the screen, you're in trouble.
The only genre of movie that I could see making that doesn't have anything magical or otherworldly about it would be a war film. I'm very interested in history, and a war film could be something that would lure me in.
There's no question that how Johannesburg operates is what made me interested in the idea of wealth discrepancy. 'Elysium' could be a metaphor for just Jo'burg, but it's also a metaphor for the Third World and the First World. And in science fiction, separation of wealth is a really interesting idea to mess with.
I think growing up in South Africa, and then moving to Canada, I'm just genuinely interested in the difference between the First World and the Third World, immigration, and how the new, globalized world is beginning to operate. All of those things run through my mind a lot.
When any young director gets hired by a studio to do a $125 million film based on a preexisting piece of intellectual property, they're climbing into the meat grinder. And what you're coming out with on the other side is a generic, heavily studio-controlled pile of garbage that ends up on the side of Burger King wrappers.
The concept of even having fans is still kind of weird to me. I really just feel like a filmmaker that is only just finding my foot in and is beginning to participate in Hollywood and making films. So the idea of any kind of fandom or people that are waiting for something that I may release is very distant in my mind.
I grew up as an artist. Science fiction allows for design and creatures and guns and all the stuff that I like as well. So I think most of the films I make, I'm sure, will be in that category. But I can also see myself making a film like 'Black Hawk Down,' and I could also totally do horror.
I just want to make films that have enough of a budget to pull off high-level imagery but also have a budget that is low enough that I can do what I want.
The main stuff I like is from the late '60s to the early '90s. That's the stuff I love. It's the James Cameron's and the Paul Verhoven stuff. I guess when I was younger, 'Star Wars' had an influence.
The first film that I can remember seeing where, like, I just couldn't stop watching it – and it didn't necessarily make me want to be a director because I was so young, but it made me know that that's what I wanted to be doing – was 'Alien.' And I saw that when I was probably just over 10 years old.
I think that in the realm of commercial, popcorn cinema, the amount of message or smuggling of ideas you can get in there is quite limited. Like, if you think you're going to make a difference or change anything, you're on pretty dangerous thin ice.
If you just compare South Africans to the rest of the world, I think that white South Africans, and especially English-speaking white South Africans, are exactly the same as Brits or Australians or New Zealanders or Canadians or Americans.
I think that 'Elysium' the movie is unrealistic, with the space station and everything. I think 'Elysium' the metaphor is completely realistic: it's exactly where we're going.
I like where we're going with technology and global integration, but the fact that corporations and dollars rule everything in our lives, I don't like it. This isn't the Hollywood I wanted to be part of.
What I do is spend too much time thinking. Most of the time I just walk around annoyed. Would I describe myself as relatively happy, I suppose, but society gets to me. And the people that have mastered life seem to not care, and then they die, and then the grenade goes off.
If you're not observing the world around you, in some sense you're not really an artist because then that means you're just replicating other people's stuff, or, I don't even know what you're doing.
I just watch movies I like over and over. It seems to be a lot of sci-fi stuff. My favorites are probably – besides the first two 'Alien' films, I watch '2001', I watch 'Star Wars', the first ones, because those actually had a huge effect on me as well, 'Empire Strikes Back' especially.
I think that people who make films and think they're changing the world are sorely mistaken. If that really is your goal, there are far better ways to do it. I'm making politically observant films for audiences.
If I wanted to make something that actually made a difference roughly in this industry, I would make a documentary. That would be the closest I could come to actually try and make a difference.
High-level actors can be all about their close-ups and the size of their trailers. I'd heard these horror stories of how a really powerful actor can come in and change your script.
If something is as smart as you, do you treat it differently if it isn't a human?
I think the world of 'District 9' has a lot of race and oppression-based ideas that I would still like to explore in that world.
If you look at the most meaningful science fiction, it didn't come from watching other films. We seem to be in a place now where filmmakers make films based on other films because that's where the stimuli and influence comes from.
I think there's a lot of crazy stuff on the Internet. You read stuff that is wild speculation, and there's an element of it that makes me not trust it because there's this undercurrent of insanity to it sometimes.
Satire also allows you to make fun of every different aspect. It allows you to make fun of both sides. It allows you to make fun of everything, really, so you can do it in a harmless way.
I think that, if there are topics that are just on people's minds, things manifest into reality out of the sort of global consciousness of being aware of those topics.
There is something fundamentally fascinating about the mechanics, I guess, of the human body and where consciousness and mind exist, and what you can do with the mechanics of the body while keeping those intact, and where those two cross over.
If there isn't a deep core reason for a film existing, what is the point? For me to be known as a filmmaker that makes films that have a point, I'm stoked.
I'm not particularly interested in working with movie stars. It depends on where you come from, I suppose. Why are you making films? The reason I want make films is because they convey ideas. I think some directors make films because they want to hang out with movie stars and be part of Hollywood. They want to be a star themselves.
In a lot of the really impoverished areas of Johannesburg you see these packets of cheesy puffs which are like 6 feet long and the width of a basketball, and they're transparent and they have like 10,000 cheesy puffs in them, and you can buy that for like 50 cents. It's kind of a weird treat that you'd see people having in the townships.
I think the reason you use an actor is if they are right for the role. Most of the high-profile stars tend to be good actors. That's probably what led to their fame. So if they are right for the movie, you can certainly use them. But I don't want to, not at all. Stardom and Hollywood overpower the ideas and the film.
I'm a massive hater of 3D. I don't like it at all. For me, you go to a movie theatre and you want to be taken to a place and transported to a place and be in that environment, and I know 3D is meant to do that, but the effect for me is the reverse. I feel like I'm looking though muddy water, and I can't really see the image.