Neill Blomkamp is turning down offers left and right. The South African newcomer recently made a name for himself with his mid-budget sci-fi alien film District 9. Now, Blomkamp is being offered films with huge budgets, however, he’s not having it. In a recent interview with LA Times‘ Hero Complex writer Geoff Boucher, the Johannesburg native shared his ideas about big-budget filmmaking, the Hollywood Machine, and a possible sequel for District 9.
Now I know what you’re thinking — sequels ruin perfectly great movies and are unnecessary. Blomkamp is very aware of that, which is why he’s thinking of prequel as a 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.”
A prequel based on such an interesting character like Wikus does sound intriguing, but also tricky. On the other hand, seeing aliens come back a second time is completely overplayed by Michael Bay. Whatever Blomkamp decides to do, I trust him to do a good job; he has Peter Jackson by his side.
The interview is very honest and shows Blomkamp as a passionate filmmaker whose sole intention is to make a great film. After the success of District 9, I was certain that sooner or later the news would come that he had signed on to make a big-budget film for a huge picture, but that day has yet to come.
“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.”
Wow. Now that’s passion. Here’s a guy who really loves film. Blomkamp’s District 9 is proof that a big budget isn’t necessary to make an amazing movie (just like Michael Bay’s Transformers is proof that a big budget won’t make a great film). But what about A-list actors? Now that Blomkamp has proven himself as a good director, it will be easy to get someone like Will Smith or Angelina Jolie, right? Probably, but the director says, he’s not interested in that idea.
“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.”
Blomkamp was lucky enough to find a good enough actor, who wasn’t really an actor, for District 9 (Sharlto Copley), and the film still debuted at number one on opening weekend. According to Blomkamp, he doesn’t want “egos and personalities on the set that make it more difficult to make the film,” he wants the audience to focus on his story and the meaning of it. That is exactly why films should be watched (eye candy is not a priority, it shouldn’t be).
So what does the future hold for this passionate South African native? One thing is for sure, Blomkamp will stick with sci-fi for now because he’s into sociopolitical ideas. His next film is set 150 years into the future. Other than that, all we know is that Blomkamp will stick with his beliefs of using less money:
“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.”
What do you think of Neill Blomkamp after this?