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Matt Damon's leap into the not-so-great future in "Elysium"

LOS ANGELES – Matt Damon’s hair has grown back, and he appeared to have packed on a few more pounds since filming “Elysium,” the futuristic thriller [opening Friday] also starring Jodie Foster. The movie is about a circa-2154 world where the poor and meek have truly inherited a spoiled, polluted, crime-ridden world, but the rich have escaped to an idyllic ring-shaped satellite named Elysium.

During a chat in a Beverly Hills hotel room, the Oscar winner talked about speaking Spanish in the movie, having to wear an scary-looking ecto-skeleton, plus what the film says about the future of our planet.

BZ: In the film, you have to wear that bizarre ecto-skeleton to make you into a semi-robotic fighter. It looks like it was horribly uncomfortable.

MD: No, it wasn’t bad. I thought when I looked at the renderings of it — before we started filming — that it was going to be rough. It was more that I had to be patient in the morning. It took about two or three hours to get everything on. Plus not only that, but the tattoos, the blood, the scars.

BZ: [Joking] You mean you didn’t have those tattoos put on permanently?

MD: No. NO! Not exactly my style. [Laughs]. No, that was just part of it. It helped make that character believable. After all, he is an ex-con. A former car thief. It all helped telegraph who this guy was.

BZ: You speak a lot of Spanish in “Elysium.” I know your wife’s first language is Spanish. You got to use it in the film. I assume you’re pretty fluent?

MD: No, not as fluent as I want to be. And sometimes I pretend not to speak it at all, if my wife is yelling at me. No, my Spanish is improving, but I have a long way to go.

BZ: Are your kids bilingual?

MD: Yes, definitely. … because that’s a real gift, if you can give that to your kids. You know, obviously trying to learn a language at y age — it’s a lot more difficult. But the brain is more receptive to it, when you’re long. So it’s good [my kids] got to get it while they were little.

BZ: While this is a big, summer action film, it obviously delivers a message about the wide gulf between rich and poor — a gulf that seems to be getting wider. Was that part of why you signed on?

MD: Yeah, of course. [Director] Neill Blomkamp’s other movie, “District 9” had all these similar themes percolating too. Frankly, it was after watching “District 9” that I knew I had to work with that guy. Really wanted to be directed by him. … But while I care a lot about so many issues like providing clean water for people that don’t have it and things like that — this ultimately is a really fun and entertaining movie, which was our goal.

Of course, the best part: There are important themes here, but it’s not hitting you in the head with them. … Thematically we wanted that stuff in there because the movie has to have a soul — it has to be about something.