Having a shaved head was cool
Hollywood actor Matt Damon said having to shoot in a toxic garbage dump in Mexico City for his latest film, Elysium - directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9, 2009) - was "no walk in the park", but that "wasn't even the hardest location".
There was also a location which the 42-year-old leading man said was called "Poo River".
Damon reveals more about how it was like on the set of Elysium, a sci-fi action film set in the year 2154, where the very wealthy live in a pristine man-made space station, Elysium, while the rest live in an overpopulated, resource-drained planet below.
Why did you want to make Elysium?
I saw District 9 and Neill was instantly on the top of the list of people I wanted to work with. Then I heard about this movie.
I didn't think I would get to work with him right away but, sure enough, this role became available.
About 20 minutes into my first meeting with Neill, he pulled out these renderings that he did. The level of detail was literally mind-boggling.
Apart from speaking to James Cameron about Avatar (for a lead role in the 2009 sci-fi film which Damon turned down due to other commitments), that was really the only other time I have met a director who did that.
You shot some extensive scenes in an enormous garbage dump in Mexico City. Tell us about it.
Yes, a number of locations were within the dump.
One of the locations was called "Poo River". Literally, they said: "Okay, can we get everybody down to Poo River for scene 36?"
And only after we started filming did they tell us that all the dust in the air is really faecal matter.
Were those the toughest scenes to shoot?
No, that wasn't the hardest location.
There was a set in Vancouver, where Sharlto Copley (who plays the villain, Kruger) and I face off at this gantry in the inner core of Elysium. The scene required us to be wet.
So Sharlto and I were both wet and they had these big Ritter fans blowing. It was like a giant wind tunnel. It was freezing.
That was definitely the most uncomfortable scene. Wagner Moura (who plays Spider) was in the scene and he was sick. He ended up with pneumonia. And he is a tough guy.
Did you enjoy your character's look in the film, with the skinhead and tattoos?
When I had tattoos all over my neck, it definitely made me feel different when I was walking around.
(My character) Max is this guy who is bald and has all these big muscles and tattoos everywhere.
They hired a trainer for me and I went to the guy with a picture and I went: "Just do that!" And he goes: "Okay, I got it. That's a lot of work."
So it was really just dieting and spending a lot of time in the gym.
Did your wife, Lucy, like your shaved head?
She did for a time.
I liked it. I remember when I did The Brothers Grimm (2005), I had to wear a wig, so I shaved my head completely, and I just remember getting out of the shower and just literally running a towel over my head and being thoroughly dry.
That part of it was cool.
Elysium opens in cinemas here on Thursday.