Exclusive Interview: Elysium’s Adrian Holmes Talks Neil Blomkamp’s Vision, Matt Damon’s On Set & More
What would you do to survive?
That is the question posed by Manuel played by Adrian Holmes in the latest Neil Blomkamp movie Elysium, a futuristic sci-fi flick in which the world is divided up between the poor who live down on an overpopulated resource deprived earth and the rich who live up in a space station. Film Equals had a chance to chat with Adrian to ask him about the themes in the movie, his character’s true nature and more.
Check out what he had to say below and don’t miss him in Elysium which comes out in theaters today Friday August 9 2013.
Break down what ‘Elysium’ is all about
Adrian Holmes: This is a movie with a lot of themes and basically to me it’s about segregation of classes and the have’s and have not’s.
The poor, the unfortunate live on this apocalyptic earth, and it’s overpopulated at borders, of course, and it’s just lacking a lot of resources. So all the wealthy and elite and pristine privileged live on this manmade space station called Elysium, which is like a utopia. It’s just hovering, orbiting above the planet, and all the wealthy and higher class are just partying up there, laughing down on the rest of us here on earth.
Matt Damon plays Max De Costa who was a gangster. He was in and out of prison. He hung out with a gang that I run with who is led by Spider, played by Wagner Moura, an amazing Brazilian actor. My character is Manuel who’s the weapons expert of the gang, and the brawn. I’m the tough guy of the group. Max leaves the gang to live a normal life, and he works for this factory called Armadyne. He gets exposed to radiation. He’s given five days to live. He comes back to us for help because he needs to get to Elysium because they have med-pods that can heal you, eradicate any toxin at any degree you have.
So we experiment on him with this exoskeleton suit that attaches to your nervous system and it gives you super strength and abilities. It also has potential to access the entire system on Elysium so that we can all become citizens. So that’s our goal. Everyone on earth wants to be a citizen of Elysium so we can all live a better life. The adventure begins from there. It was an amazing film to shoot. Definitely one of the best times of my career. I’m just so proud and honored to be associated with a film of this magnitude.
Manuel is the weapons expert and the brawn of the group. What aspect of this character drew you to him?
Adrian Holmes: Well, I’ve always been a big ‘A-Team’ fan. He’s kind of like the B.A. Baracus, you know, act first think later. I just really liked the character because he’s good with weapons and he’s pretty loyal to his group. He’s got everyone’s back. He’s got good morals. He’s got good judgment.
We live in an apocalyptic world so it’s survival of the fittest, every man for themselves. He’s not a bad guy. He’s just basically a victim of his environment and the circumstances that he’s had to live with, what he’s been subjected to. He does whatever he has to do for the greater good, but like you said, you have to break a few laws, a few rules to get ahead because that’s just how the world is in the year 2154. I just had a lot of fun with him. I thought he was a cool character to play.
What aspect of the movie do you think is going to resonate most with the audience, the action side of it or some of the serious themes that are on display in the film?
Adrian Holmes: Well, what I love about Neill [Blomkamp] is that he’s able to blend the two really well without hitting you over the head with this metaphor, with this message. I don’t think that he has a specific message where you’re going to get this from the movie. I think it’s all interpreted. It’s all subject to interpretation, and whatever you get from it, that’s what you get from it. He does sprinkle these little themes throughout the film, but he does it in a very entertaining way so that you’re getting a real visual stimulation and this background of visual FX. He’s so good with the sci-fi stuff, but he doesn’t want it to be like you’re going to school and getting this lecture, don’t do this or don’t do that, whatever. It’s just what exists.
‘This is reality in certain aspects and I’m just going to amp it up a few more notches just for the cinematic effect.’ Immigration and the segregation of classes is definitely pretty self-explanatory and it’s pretty evident there would be the have’s and have not’s metaphor being so dominant.
Those who are fortunate and privileged of not living on earth anymore. They live in this utopia, this Elysium, which by the way, is from Greek mythology. Honored soldiers who had fallen in battle, it was said that when they die they would go to Elysium, which is like a form of heaven. So that’s basically what Elysium means. It’s like a form of heaven, this utopia, this perfect kind of world. That’s what Neill had explained to us.
What memorable moments during production stay with you the most?
Adrian Holmes: One of the great moments for me shooting this was just connecting with Matt Damon. I’m a huge fan from ‘Good Will Hunting’ on. ‘Bourne Identity.’ He’s such a great actor and he makes great choices in his films. So just hanging out with him, playing poker on some nights, weekends and stuff. We’d go to his hotel room and play poker and just hangout. Just seeing him as a normal guy was really cool for me. Working with him, of course, was also just a joy and an honor, just to see his choices and just how he conducts himself on set with so much poise and respect for everyone.
He makes us feel like we’re all on an equal playing field, we’re all peers. There was no hierarchy. It’s like our voices were just as important as his, and I really appreciated that. There were so many things. It was just overall an incredible, incredible journey, and we all got along so well. We all really loved being around each other. Wagner Moura who played Spider was hilarious. On set he just called me Balls because my character had balls of steel. He was like, ‘Hey, Balls.’ Alice Braga. So beautiful. She’s just funny and sweet. Neill, a great director. It was just a great, great family. Simon Kinberg, our producer, too, is such a cool guy to be around as well. I really miss it. I hope that I have many, many more experiences like this one in my hopefully long running career.
Do you have any other upcoming projects you can talk about?
Adrian Holmes: I’ve got a movie coming out early next year called ‘Debug’ which is a sci-fi movie with Jason Momoa from ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Conan.’ That’s going to be coming out, and then I’m working on ‘Arrow’ at the moment for The CW. I play Lt. Pike on that, and we started our second season. It’s going to be great. Then I’m also going back to ‘Continuum’ for a third season in November. Then I’ll be off to Montreal in September to start my own series, I got the lead in, called ’19-2.’ I play this beat cop named Nick Baron who feels the responsibility and guilt for the shooting of his partner. He’s a really, really cool character. He’s got a lot of depth, a lot of layers. It’s going to be a great workout for me as an artist because I haven’t played anybody quite like this before. It’s also not sci-fi. I like to switch it up every now and then.
Photo credit: Robbie G Photography