Neill Blomkamp has said that he owes his career to “the ruins that were Halo,” referring to his and Peter Jackson’s failed attempt to turn the video game franchise into a big budget film. The sci-fi film director was speaking to L.A. Times on the eve of release for his first star-studded effort Elysium, a futuristic thriller starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster.

Blomkamp gained notoriety as a young director chosen by Jackson and his filmmaking partner Fran Walsh to help green light Halo for the big screen.  At the time, Blomkamp was best known for his work directing TV commercials for big brands. He caught Jackson’s eye for his ability to blend live action with impressive CG effects on a budget.

Blomkamp created “Landfall,” a three-part live-action video series acting as a proof of concept for a Halo film by setting the stage for its milieu.  The videos caught fire with fans, and they took home a 2008 Cannes Lion after Microsoft worked them into its campaign to promote Halo 3. But the Halo film didn’t take off.  Jackson then helped Blomkamp with his next project, the modestly budgeted sci-fi film District 9, which went to become both a critical and commercial success.

“The luck is the fact that Peter and Fran let me make [District 9] out of the ruins that were ‘Halo,” Blomkamp said. ‘What happened out of that was learning to trust my ideas. If ‘Halo’ had come out and succeeded or failed, I wouldn’t have learned that.”

Blomkamp with Matt Damon

Besides teaching him a lesson as an artist, Blomkamp says District 9 helped him break into feature films on his own terms.  After the film succeeded, the director says he turned down big budget film offers from Hollywood studios because Halo was still fresh in his memory.

“Our impression was that [Blomkamp] was a brilliantly talented young visual filmmaker who had a real voice,” Columbia Pictures president Doug Belgrad told L.A. Times. “He seemed to stay away from the fishbowl of Los Angeles and to be interested in making original, unique films.”

Blomkamp said that the inspiration for the dystopian society in Elysium came from growing up in South Africa, comparing the class-delineated world in the film with wealthy neighborhoods in his native Johannesburg as well as posh Los Angeles communities Bel-Air and Beverly Hills.

“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,”said Blomkamp.

Source: LA Times