Matt Damon Talks Elysium

And nearly headlining Avatar

Another to file under the ‘Actors Who Could Have Played...’ lists. Chatting with us about Elysium, Matt Damon revealed that he was originally earmarked to play another sci-fi trooper in a certain outer-space epic. Sam Worthington may have snagged the lucrative role of Avatar’s Jake Sully, the paraplegic ex-marine assigned to avatar duties on behalf of an unobtanium-snaffling corporation, but according to Damon, not before he’d passed up the role. “I said no because of scheduling”, he told Empire, adding with a smile, “clearly the movie suffered for my absence!”

Elaborating, he went on: “It didn’t have anything to do with the creative part of it. I was desperate to work with James Cameron – I still am.”

As intriguing a prospect as it would have been to see Damon in full performance-captured, viperwolf-battling mode – assuming he wasn’t actually lined up to play Grace Augustine – it’s easy to see why a long stint in New Zealand, away from his family, might have been a deterrent.

Damon went on to draw interesting parallels between Cameron and his Elysium director, Neill Blomkamp. “I talked to Jim Cameron about Avatar before he made that movie and when he talked about that world he saw it completely”, he remembered, “he’d invented it in his head already – and that was what it was like talking to Neill”.

The two directors share not just a skill for pre-visualising their films, but on Avatar and District 9-form, a liking for smuggling in tart political comment into big, action-orientated stories. Elysium, which see Damon’s tooled-up civvy seeking a cure for his terminal illness amid the ivory towers of the titular sky citadel, looks set to add another slug of us-vs-them, Verhoeven-y satire to the genre.

Watch the trailer here or better yet, pick up the September issue of Empire for much more on Elysium. The new issue – onsale right now – reveals plenty about the latest Blomkamp sci-fi masterclass, with director, star and co-star Sharlto Copley all contributing to a fascinating piece.

Elysium is out on August 21.