The stark contrast between the pristine space station and impoverished Earth of "Elysium" may seem like hyperbole, but director Neill Blomkamp says that the film was inspired by a real-life harrowing experience near the border of the United States and Mexico.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Blomkamp discussed a fateful night in 2005 that would change his life. While in San Diego shooting a commercial, his executive producer suggested a trip to nearby Tijuana. The pair drove down, bought some beer, and began cruising the main tourist drag, Avenida Revolución, when they were suddenly confronted by Mexican police officers.
"They got out of the car, threw me onto the hood, cuffed me, took my passport, did the same to my friend, and threw us into the back of the car," Blomkamp told the magazine. "They weren't speaking to us; they just started driving us out of the city."
Blomkamp's producer ended up bribing the police with some of the petty cash from the commercial shoot -- to the tune of $900 -- and the officers eventually released them, driving off and leaving them stranded in the dark, completely lost. Unsure of what else to do, they began walking, trekking more than two hours before they reached the border.
It was a surreal experience, and one the director said he was trying to duplicate in the disparity between Earth and Elysium in his new movie.
"We were walking through these totally impoverished, insane areas with feral dogs and crying babies and people making fires, and on the horizon I could see the floodlights from the U.S. shining into Mexico, and there were multiple Black Hawks flying the perimeter, and it was like science fiction on Earth," Blomkamp said. "Nothing has changed, but now you're on the other side of the border."
"Elysium," which was filmed primarily in Mexico City, opens August 8.