Why Elysium's Copley might be the best villain since Ledger's Joker

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Adam-Troy Castro
Dec 17, 2012

Feels like forever since Neill Blomkamp wowed audiences with his indie sci-fi debut District 9, but he's been off the radar for a reason. Busy toiling away on his latest sci-fi epic, Elysium, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and his former boss and now collaborator, Sharlto Copley (Wikus van de Merwe in D9), Blomkamp finally revealed the first footage at San Diego Comic-Con, to wild enthusiasm.

Set in 2154, the eponymous Elysium is an orbiting space station for the rich in a dystopian future where Earth has been left behind for the poor because of disease and a lack of resources. Damon plays Max, a dying Earth citizen who makes a run for the space station so he can get cured. Foster's Secretary Rhodes is an Elysium politician who wants to keep the outpost "pure" of the unwashed masses, so she enlists Copley's Kruger to deal with problems like Max.

Playing his first film villain, Copley said at a press conference for the film that he asked Blomkamp for the part of Kruger. "When I read the script I said to Neill if I could be anyone, this is the guy I would want to do. He's a Special Forces, black-ops guy that essentially works for Jodie's organization. When Jodie and the other politicians can't solve problems by peaceful negotiations and chat, they call my guy and I deal with the problem."

Asked how he crafted Kruger, Copley says he looked to The Dark Knight for inspiration.

"The last time I was really entertained by a villain was Heath Ledger's Joker," he said. "So I felt with this character there was an opportunity to do something that didn't take itself too seriously. It's all very dark and intimidating, but hopefully he has a certain level of charisma and entertainment value which he presents that hopefully you haven't seen. Neill let me do my thing and really gave me a chance to do something different that hopefully people will enjoy."

Copley continued, "The key for me playing a villain was being able to access two parts of myself, because it was very different from roles I played before. One was growing up in a very hard environment, in a very dangerous place [South Africa], where I had been involved in violent things happening, and being able to be comfortable with the understanding that there is a certain level of violence that exists in the world. You almost see the world in a black-and-white way, in the sense there are people who talk about things and then there are people who have to go and execute all the things those people talk about. The key to my character's emotional state is I go do things so that everyone else can have nice things. You can enjoy your cappuccino while I do what I do, which is where I came at it to play someone who does what he does."

Matt Damon, that sounds ominous. Better watch your back on the way to Elysium.

Elysium opens in theaters March 1, 2013.

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