With the help of Peter Jackson and his Weta workshop, south African film director Neil Blomkamp came virtually out of nowhere to create an oscar nominated feature film. The $30 million budgeted sci-fi tale that was District 9. Blomkamp, the Johannesburg native who celebrated his 30th birthday the month after the movie opened wide was the man originally chosen by Jackson to direct the big budget adaption of the popular video game franchise Halo. When that project fell through they went on to make District 9 instead, based on Blomkamp’s short Alive in Joburg. Critically acclaimed, as financial success. So where is the Sequel?
District 9 began the story..
In 1982, a massive star ship bearing a bedraggled alien population, nicknamed "The Prawns," appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty-eight years later, the initial welcome by the human population has faded. The refugee camp where the aliens were located has deteriorated into a militarized ghetto called District 9, where they are confined and exploited in squalor. In 2010, the munitions corporation, Multi-National United, is contracted to forcibly evict the population with operative Wikus van der Merwe in charge. In this operation, Wikus is exposed to a strange alien chemical and must rely on the help of his only two new 'Prawn' friends.
The Film, critically applauded for its intelligent handling of its material incorporating such views as Stephen Hawking's warnings of Alien contact and political mismanagement of refugee crisis. District 9 went on to bank $200 million at the worldwide boxoffice and launched the careers of both he and Sharlto Copley [Wikus Van De Merwe]. Since its release and resulting critical and financial success people have been clamoring for more. The sequel to District 9 has been talked about since the original movies success, back in April MarketSaw’s contacts at WETA say that not only is it happening, it’s already in pre-production. Word was that they plan to start shooting in October of this year and that both Blomkamp and Jackson will be back to direct and produce respectfully. In the wake of the film’s Oscar nomination they have a lot of options.
In January Blomkamp spoke to HeroComplex about the direction he wants to take with the sequel.
“The concept of aliens in Johannesburg is such an appealing idea to me and the issues of race and how they meet. All of the things that I had going on with it. I wouldn’t mind messing around with it again. I’m open to it if the story works and there’s a reason to do it. And [Copley’s character] Wikus is so funny to me, I’m very interested in a sort of passive racist like that. If you go forward [with his story beyond “District 9”] it’s more of a traditional film but if you go backward I’d be intrigued in that. I’m not so interested in aliens coming back and blowing things up but [a prequel] might be interesting.”
“I’ve been offered films – a lot of films, in fact – with seriously high budgets, and I’ve turned them all down. The reason is exactly what you said earlier: Once the budgets get bigger, you can’t do what you want as a director, unless you’re Peter Jackson or James Cameron. And even then, the pressure is still on the filmmaker. Even if the studio isn’t clamping down on you, all the pressure is on the director. And if you screw that up, the jeopardy situation is even worse. The way you don’t get yourself in that jeopardy situation is by making films that aren’t as risky financially. 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.”
“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. I’m not interested in that at all. 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. That being said, it’s hard finding very good performers who aren’t well-known.”
“You can do a lot for less now. It’s all about process, too. If go into it knowing what you want to accomplish, you can save money. If you go into it trying to figure out what you want, it’s going to cost a lot of money. The other aspect is trimming it down. It’s like a diet. Instead of 2,000 effects shots, you can probably do with 1,000. Those kinds of sacrifices are worth it if you get to make something that is not in any way generic.”
In June of this year in a press release promoting The A-Team District 9 lead Sharlto Copley [Murdoch] discussed District 9 and plans for its sequel.
During District 9 most of the acting was improvised. It’s good you got to do some improvising—but probably not near as much—on “The A-Team.”
Absolutely, it wasn’t as much because “District 9” was basically 100 percent. This was not that level of percentage, but every single scene we went into had improvisation happening for sure; going backwards and forwards between Joe and myself and the other actors. Particularly Rampage and Bradley [Cooper], they were comfortable and enjoyed the improvisation. Liam [Neeson] is a little more traditional, more old school; he liked to stick to his lines. We had him going by the end [laughs], he started joining us.
Looking back, was there anytime when you were filming District 9 that you thought it had a chance of being nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture?
No. The critical side, I had a strong sense it would work commercially. Virtually every movie gets mixed reviews and I knew we were taking such a crazy chance and I really thought we would get more critically slammed, but it just didn’t happen on District 9. Yeah, the Oscar thing, I think when I heard—and I can’t remember when it happened—that there were going to be 10 categories, it kind of did actually cross my mind. As soon as I heard that, I did kind of think, you know, well, the movie is intelligent. So, it’s possible that intelligent moviegoers, as well as people that just want to see popcorn, might actually go for this film. Once I knew there were 10 categories, I knew there was a possibility that we would actually get a nomination.
There was a report the sequel might start filming as soon as October. Is this accurate?
No, that’s definitely not true. (Director) Neill (Blomkamp) went straight on to doing another film, which he’s writing and directing and he’s probably going to start on that pretty shortly. He’s been doing that literally since the end of District 9 and I went to The A-Team. The only thing that we discussed is that both of us want to do it. We’re really close friends and we stay in contact all the time, but we’ve been talking about other projects and other things that we would be interested to do together as well. I think it’s a timing issue, we both want to do a sequel or a prequel or both, whatever, for District 9. But I really think it’s just going to come down to a timing issue of when Neill is ready.
So it sounds like it will definitely happen, it’s just “when.” It doesn’t sound like it’s a big secret that both of you want to do another one.
No, it’s not a big secret. I think the most important thing, for me—and, with Neill, I wouldn’t conceive of it without him—is that we do something really good. The last time I went to see a sequel that really topped itself was Terminator 2. And Neill is that kind of auteur; a really ridiculously groundbreaking director. I fully believe that—if we do another one—the two of us will top ourselves.