While Neill Blomkamp has yet to fully live up to the potential of his debut feature film District 9 (let’s face it, Elysium was a stinker), the science fiction film is probably one of the most important movies in its genre. District 9 was released on August 14, 2009, so for its five-year anniversary here are 9 things you might not know about District 9. That’s a lot of 9s.
1. District 9 is based on a short film called Alive in Joburg
In 2005, Neill Blomkamp made a short film called Alive in Joberg, which followed a group of alien refugees living in Johannesburg, South Africa. The documentary-style short film examined the human population’s conflict with the new alien immigrants. Blomkamp made the film as a proof-of-concept to show that it was possible to make a low budget film that featured advanced special
effects. The end result seemed to work!
2. The aliens are from the Andromeda Galaxy
Neil Blomkamp wrote a backstory for the “prawns” and how they managed to find Earth. According to the director, talking to io9, “they do have a home planet, it’s pretty far away probably in the Andromeda Galaxy, but what I like is that they’ll live on the ship for thousands of years. Obviously, there’s much more of a population on the main planet, but the ships will go out and get the minerals and the ore and whatever resources they need and then bring them all back home.”
3. District 9 was Sharlto Copley’s first movie
Sharlto Copley had no desire to play the lead in District 9 or pursue a professional acting career, but Neil Blomkamp convinced him to play the part of Wikus van de Merwe, as a friend. At the moment, Copley has six movies under his belt including The A-Team, Europa Report, and Disney’s Maleficent. Copley also appeared in the short film Alive in Joburg and was one of its producers.
4. The Defunct Halo Project became District 9
Peter Jackson eyed Neil Blomkamp based on the strength of Alive in Joburg and felt that he would be the right director for a live-action Halo movie, which Jackson would produce. However, Microsoft and the Halo creators backed out of the film adaptation, so Peter Jackson gave Neill Blomkamp $30 million to make District 9 instead.
5. District 9’s co-screenwriter Terri Tatchell is Neil Blomkamp’s wife
Blomkamp met Terri Tatchell while at Vancouver Film School’s Writing for Film and Television in 2001. They wrote District 9 together, as they both received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2010.
6. The District 9 shanty town was a real-life evacuated Johannesburg ghetto
The alien shanty town called Chiawelo, which is an area in the suburb Soweto, Johannesburg. Just before filming, all the residents of Chiawelo were placed in RDP housing, government-subsidized housing. The only shack created for the film was the alien Christopher Johnson’s.
7. Neil Blomkamp conceived of multiple alternative endings
There were alternative endings to District 9 that were ultimately abandoned for the ending that appears in the final cut of the film. According to Blomkamp and Copley, one of the endings were so embarrassing that they never want to reveal how District 9 could’ve ended. Blomkamp’s exact words on the matter are, “no one will ever see that ending.”
8. Sharlto Copley ad-libbed the majority of the “Documentary” segments
Since Sharlto Copley wasn’t a trained actor while filming District 9 (he was a producer and director though), Neill Blomkamp felt that it would be better if he improvised a majority of his scenes, rather than staying true to what was written on the page. To Blomkamp and Copley, it was more important to get the beats of the script on film instead.
9. One Actor Voiced All The Talking Aliens
According to Neill Blomkamp, actor Jason Cope voiced every alien with a speaking role in District 9. Cope also played the character Grey Bradnam, the UKNR Chief Correspondent, and the documentary cameraman.