Neill Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp

Blomkamp's work as an animator coupled with his film education naturally led to directing, starting with several music videos for local bands. He soon graduated to television commercials, helming spots for Nike, French automaker Citroën and Gatorade. In his off-time, he directed self-funded short films that were heavy on special effects, including "Tetra Vaal" (2004) and "Alive in Joburg" (2005); the latter of which was a six-minute documentary-like sci-fi film that explored the theme of apartheid by way of an alien race being ostracized after settling on Earth. After being showcased as a new director at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, Blomkamp earned the Hollywood's full attention by landing one of the town's premiere agents, Ari Emmanuel, to represent him. In 2005, he was tasked with directing his first feature, a $145 million adaptation of the popular video game "Halo." With Peter Jackson serving as the screenwriter and executive producer, and hundreds of people employed designing costumes and sets, the project appeared to be a sure thing. But the joint venture between 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios fell through amidst money haggling and rumors of lost confidence in Blomkamp, leaving the young director dismayed and ready to go home.Inspired by Jackson's longtime collaborator, Fran Walsh, Blomkamp set about turning "Alive in Joburg" into a feature-length film, which Jackson excitedly determined would be completely financed outside the studio system. Along with writing partner and wife, Terri Tatchell, he began concocting the script for "District 9" (2009), which expanded upon the ideas of apartheid and minority rule in a more satirical way than he did in his six-minute short. In order to keep costs down, Blomkamp utilized his animation prowess, while at the same time casting non-star Sharlto Copley in the leading role of Wikus van der Merwe, a field operative who keeps alien invaders segregated, only to become exposed to DNA-altering biotechnology that intensifies the rift between humans and aliens. After being picked up for distribution by Sony Pictures, which launched an intriguing ad campaign that featured "humans only" segregation signs, "District 9" became an instant hit while earning the respect of most critics. For his part, Blomkamp received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Screenplay, which was soon followed by an Academy Award nod for Best Adapted Screenplay.Following the surprise success of "District 9," it took Blomkamp awhile to get his next project off the ground. For his dystopian action film "Elysium" (2013), which began production in 2011, the director initially targeted hip-hop superstar Eminem for the lead, but when that possibility fell through, Matt Damon signed on as the headliner. This casting coup, combined with Copley's return as a formidable antagonist, only increased anticipation for the film, which was released in August of 2013. By that point, Blomkamp, clearly making up for lost time, was already working on his next movie, "Chappie" (2014).