The Korea Herald


Matt Damon: ‘Elysium’ resonates with the world we live in

American actor visits Korea for the first time with dystopian thriller

By Claire Lee

Published : Aug. 14, 2013 - 20:29

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Following on the heels of “World War Z,” “After Earth” and “Snowpiercer,” local theaters are seeing the arrival of another dystopian blockbuster, this time starring Matt Damon.

Damon, who is best known in Korea for his 1997 drama film “Good Will Hunting” which he co-wrote with his friend and fellow actor Ben Affleck, visited Seoul for the first time to promote his latest movie “Elysium.”

The film, directed by “District 9” filmmaker Neill Blomkamp, is set in 2154 where the powerful live in a space station orbiting Earth, while the rest of humanity live on the dystopian planet below. The luxurious space habitat is called Elysium ― where there is no disease, war or poverty. 
Actors Matt Damon (right) and Sharlto Copley pose at a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap News) Actors Matt Damon (right) and Sharlto Copley pose at a press conference in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap News)

Damon, who plays Max DeCosta, an ex-convict living on Earth who later turns into a reluctant revolutionary, said the movie reflects the world we currently live in, even though the director’s primary goal was to make a big, entertaining summer movie.

“I think having spoken a great deal about the film with the director, he, more than anything, wanted the film to be entertaining,” said Damon during a news conference held in Seoul, Wednesday.

“He wanted people to have the chance to just unplug and enjoy the ride. Very much like ‘District 9,’ which people can enjoy on a whole number of different levels. You can just enjoy it as a piece of entertainment, or if you wanted to think about thematically what the film is saying and what comparisons it is drawing to the world we actually live in, you can do that, too.

“‘Elysium’ is an allegory. It’s a metaphor of the haves and have-nots,” the actor continued. “And the director sets up a dystopian future that resonates with the world we live in today.”

And playing the tough-looking revolutionary required a lot of work.

“There were pictures of the Max character and what the director wanted him to look like,” said Damon. “And the guy had a shaved head and tattoos everywhere and very masculine. And that’s obviously not how I normally look. So I went to the gym four hours a day to put on muscle and basically went on a diet for a number of months and couldn’t eat any of the food that I like.”

Damon has been active in humanitarian projects, including founding, a nonprofit organization that provides aid to regions in developing nations that lack access to clean water and sanitation.

“It just came out of traveling a lot and spending time in the third world, and realizing what a mess of a problem it actually is,” the actor said. “In every 21 seconds a child dies somewhere around the world because they don’t have access to clean water and sanitation. And it is solvable. So I just wanted to do what I could do to affect (the situation).”

Damon was accompanied by his co-star Sharlto Copley at the news conference. The South African actor plays a vicious Elysium agent who is on a mission to eliminate illegal immigrants and refugees from Earth who try to get into the space habitat. Copley also stars in Spike Lee’s American remake of famed Korean director Park Chan-wook’s 2003 movie “Oldboy.”

“I really loved the original Korean film,” Copley said. “I think Korea has something very creative and very different that is being embraced by the rest of the world. And I think that is the case in ‘Oldboy’ and the case of ‘Gangnam Style.’”

“Elysium” opens in theaters on Aug. 29.

By Claire Lee (