There has to be the popcorn genre element, or I don't engage the same way. I like action and vehicle design and guns and computer graphics as much as I like allegory. It's a constant balancing game. I want audiences to be on this rollercoaster that fits the Hollywood mould, but I also want them to absorb my observations.
I think that people who make films and think they're changing the world are sorely mistaken. If that really is your goal, there are far better ways to do it. I'm making politically observant films for audiences.
When any young director gets hired by a studio to do a $125 million film based on a preexisting piece of intellectual property, they're climbing into the meat grinder. And what you're coming out with on the other side is a generic, heavily studio-controlled pile of garbage that ends up on the side of Burger King wrappers.
There's no question that how Johannesburg operates is what made me interested in the idea of wealth discrepancy. 'Elysium' could be a metaphor for just Jo'burg, but it's also a metaphor for the Third World and the First World. And in science fiction, separation of wealth is a really interesting idea to mess with.
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.
A lot of parts of L.A. are interchangeable with suburbs in Joburg. Very big, ostentatious houses with palm trees and lawns. Lawns are very important. Never underestimate lawns.
I actually think Johannesburg represents the future. My version of what I think the world is going to become looks like Johannesburg.
In a lot of the really impoverished areas of Johannesburg you see these packets of cheesy puffs which are like 6 feet long and the width of a basketball, and they're transparent and they have like 10,000 cheesy puffs in them, and you can buy that for like 50 cents. It's kind of a weird treat that you'd see people having in the townships.
Johannesburg is weird, because half of it is like Los Angeles. It feels like just wealthy parts of L.A. But half of it is severe slummy, something like Rio De Janiero or something. So it's kind of weird, because it's both happening at the same time.
I think that in the realm of commercial, popcorn cinema, the amount of message or smuggling of ideas you can get in there is quite limited. Like, if you think you're going to make a difference or change anything, you're on pretty dangerous thin ice.
If you look at the most meaningful science fiction, it didn't come from watching other films. We seem to be in a place now where filmmakers make films based on other films because that's where the stimuli and influence comes from.
If there isn't a deep core reason for a film existing, what is the point? For me to be known as a filmmaker that makes films that have a point, I'm stoked.
High-level actors can be all about their close-ups and the size of their trailers. I'd heard these horror stories of how a really powerful actor can come in and change your script.
I think our problems are inherently unsolvable. We need to change our genetic make-up or create computers that will think us out of it. I don't think humans are able to deal with what we have.
There are loads of sociopolitical, racial, class and future-planet situations that really interest me, but I'm not really interested in making a film about them in a film that feels like reality because people view that in a different way. I like using science fiction to talk about subjects through the veneer of science fiction.