Who the hell is Neill Blomkamp? That was the response of many a movie fan (including myself) when it was first announced that Blomkamp would be directing Peter Jackson’s big-budget adaptation of the blockbuster videogame Halo. As the story goes, Halo never made it out of the script stage, collapsing under the combined weight of studio politics and Microsoft’s intransigence, and Master Chief’s big-screen debut was placed on the shelf indefinitely.
Wanna see what Blomkamp’s Halo flick might have looked like? Then check out District 9, the sci-fi epic that he and Jackson plucked from the dead project’s ashes. In an intimate chat with journalists at the Solamar Hotel in San Diego last night, Jackson gave the Halo post-mortem:
“[Neill] had literally moved down to New Zealand to start work on Halo. The timeline’s a little bit fuzzy now, but I think we were working on Halo for maybe three or four months and then then the film died. It fell over due to various politics between Universal and Fox — it was a co-production between the two studios. We didn’t really see it coming until the last week or two when we just realized that these studios are not gonna be making this film. It wasn’t anything to do with the budget, because we hadn’t finished a screenplay. We were still developing the script. Neill was busy working with WETA doing a lot of creature designs, which were going really well … we just felt really bad because we’d found this exciting young filmmaker. The idea was to mentor him into a film and what did we do? Three or four months and then this hellish experience happens and the film falls over. So we felt terribly guilty and terribly bad about that.”
So what did Jackson and Blomkamp do? They took Halo lemons and turned them into District 9 lemonade:
“We were literally in the dying Halo moments and, you know, you’re depressed. It’s almost like losing a member of the family — not that bad, but you’re emotionally committed to the movie and you’ve totally sort of gone there with your heart and soul and feeling terrible and we just thought Well, why don’t we actually take control of the situation and try to get something good happening. So the idea, which was an obvious one in hindsight, is to develop an original film with Neill.”
And lo, District 9 was born.