August 1st, 2013
12:15 PM ET
If "Elysium" writer/director Neill Blomkamp had his way, it would be Eminem starring in his upcoming dystopian action film instead of Matt Damon.
"That's true," Damon told Variety of the reports, but the way he sees it, "probably half of the movies I do have somebody else’s fingerprints on them. It’s the nature of the business. I’ve passed on things other actors have taken."
In a Wired magazine profile, Blomkamp explained that Eminem was actually his second choice for the project, which takes place in 2145. The lead role is an ex-con factory worker named Max who, struggling to survive on an increasingly impoverished and decrepit Earth, tries to break into the poverty-free utopian space station called "Elysium" in order to save his own life.
Envisioning a low-budget film without star power, Blomkamp initially took the part to South African artist Ninja. When he passed, the "District 9" filmmaker sought out Eminem, who was interested but wanted the film to be shot in his hometown of Detroit.
And so Blomkamp turned to Damon. But he couldn't take the Oscar winner just as he was; Damon recalls that the filmmaker was just as particular about his leading man's physique as he was about the movie's effects.
"Neill was so specific about what he wanted me to look like. He actually had a picture with my face tacked onto this guy with this body, and they literally hired me a trainer and I went to him with the picture," the 42-year-old father of four told Variety. "It was four hours a day in the gym – and I’m not 26 anymore, but I got in shape.”
In the end, even though he wasn't Blomkamp's first pick to play Max, Damon believes that he got the role he was supposed to have.
"The right actor gets the part, ultimately. In terms of me, I never asked Neill. I just found out about Eminem because I read it somewhere," Damon told MTV. "It's the kind of thing like — before I was married — asking your girlfriend about ex-boyfriends. You don't want to know, and it doesn't affect your relationship. You just get the parts you get."
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