Comic-Con 09: Live Blog from District 9 Panel

by nathanbloch   July 24, 2009 at 7:27PM  |  Views: 69

Peter Jackson is introduced and takes the stage. He goes right up to the lectern and, looking trimmer than ever, says, "It's so much better being here than being a talking head on the screen. You're here. Geek power."

He continues, saying that he knows everyone has lots of questions about The Hobbit, and who's going to play Bilbo Baggins. He says, "We're about three or four weeks away from delivering our first draft of the film to Warner Bros., 'cause the film's not greenlit yet."

"I know there's a lot of speculation about casting... And I just want to say, we haven't gotten to the stage where we can offer anyone a role yet. We have to be green lit." He goes on and says that "probably in about two months we'll be able to offer people roles."

"One of the things which is interesting, as you know, Tolkien wrote The Hobbit first. ...The Lord of the Rings continues a lot of information from what was happening in The Hobbit." He says, "We can take the expanded information...and apply it to The Hobbit and put it in the greater activity of what's going on in Middle Earth at the time, so we feel we need two films."

Jackson introduces Sharlto Copley, who walks onstage and takes his seat. He then took a couple pictures of the crowd, saying, "Smile, no that guy in the back, smile, I have to do it over."

He introduces Neill Blomkamp, saying, "If there's a guy who was born to make movies, it's Neill Blomkamp."

Blomkamp then prepares us for seven minutes of the film he's going to show us, and says they sum up the "feel" of the movie. He says that besides last night, when a few lucky people got to see the film, we're the first to see this material. "You better like it!" he says.

Two seconds of film played of a street lamp, then the screen goes black and the lights come back up. Technical difficulties, we're told.

Jackson discusses how he came to know Blomkamp and says that awhile ago he was looking for someone to direct a movie version of the game Halo. Neill flew down to New Zealand and met Jackson and the Halo film fell apart. "Neill was doing a terrific job with conceptual art... And the movie fell over, and we got disillusioned...and the whole thing died."

He goes on, "We suggested the idea of working on an original idea, we wouldn't be beholden to studio politics." He discusses a short film made by Neill and how the development of this idea turned into the concept for District 9. "It worked out for the best as far as I'm concerned."

The seven minutes of footage are played, and they. Are. Amazing. The trailers for District 9, as great as they are, barely begin to show how incredible this movie is. The documentary look combined with traditional action/sci-fi narrative help make this movie at once naturalistic and out of this world awesome to watch.

Blomkamp says, "I think me growing up in South Africa had a huge hand in me wanting to see the science fiction that I loved placed in an environment that was slightly unusual. ...It's image-based originally, but because of South Africa's natural political environment, that's where I wanted to do it."

Copley talks about his lack of acting experience, saying, "I've done lots of characterization, doing voices and prank phone calls. I convinced my friend I was in the witness protection program." He continues, "I think when it came to actually shooting it, I never felt nervous or stressed or pressured. ...All of a sudden Peter's saying, here you go, go ahead and make it, and that was inspiring."

Blomkamp jokes that during filming Copley repeatedly asked when the fame would begin. Copley says that the first day he felt confident, and then the wardrobe lady pulled out a jewel bag for when he was in the bath, and how he had to wear it for a scene that was in the bath, which was ultimately cut from the film. He says he wore the bag around his own jewels but the scene did not last. He jokes, asking Blomkamp whether the scene was actually written or whether it was just a prank on him.

Jackson talks about how during the filming of The Hobbit he's not going to have anything to do, and that he's considering doing a low-budget horror movie. The crowd cheered at this.

Asked where he drew inspiration to make this film, Blomkamp said, "I wanted some of the science-fiction, the concept, to feel familiar. ...In terms of the hardware, the ships and the guns, that's where the idea came from. As far as the aliens themselves, they were insects because...they're like an insect hive and they've lost their queen. They're biological drones. If that's what these aliens are on a biological standpoint, then...that's what they are."

In response to whether a Halo film will get greenlit if District 9 succeeds, Jackson says the rights have expired and belong to Microsoft again. He says it was a miserable moment when the film fell through, and he says Microsoft feels like they've been bitten a little bit after dealing with Hollywood. It sounds like a Halo film is not something that's going to happen anytime soon, at least under the aegis of Jackson and crew.

Blomkamp says that there's wounding that happens when a film like that falls through, and that he wants to develop some of his own ideas. On a creative level he would love to do Halo, but that he wouldn't want to go through a similar experience.

Asked about how he feels about directing vis a vis producing and directing, Jackson says that he feels like his job was helping getting Blomkamp get his film made. "Now that Neill's got his first film made, if it does well, he doesn't need me anymore," Jackson says, continuing, "I always let him have the final decision, and the movie is very different from what I would have made. ...So I'm very happy with the role I played, very happy indeed."

Copley says, "What you can see in [Neill's] animation work is a desperate desire to tell a story." He says, "As soon as you got into live-action you were like, Thank God."

Jackson says District 9 was a $30 million movie, which, from the look of the footage we saw, is truly incredible. The film looks like it cost $150 million. He says that it was a genre film made for the fans.

If you missed it, be sure to check out the first theatrical trailer from District 9:

Source: Michael Buckner/Getty Images

 

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