Sharlto Copley
South African actor Sharlto Copley being transformed into an alien in the hit movie District 9.

There’s no word yet of a sequel to District 9, one of the sleeper hits of last year, but the South Africans Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley, the movie's director/cowriter and lead actor, are teaming up again for a futuristic sci-fi pic entitled Elysium – a film that may star Matt Damon.

Media Rights Capital (MRC) will finance the project, which looks to be adding a major star to its line-up with confirmation last week that Matt Damon is in negotiations to join the roster.

Deadline.com reported that the producers are in the early stages of making a deal with Damon and the film will be shopped to US and international distributors when the cast is finalised next year. Bidding should be fierce, particularly among Australian distributors who will be hoping a US major doesn’t snaffle global rights.

Budgeted at a modest US$30-million, District 9 was independently financed by its producer Peter Jackson and Bill Block’s Los Angeles-based production and sales company QED International. Most territories were acquired by Sony which made a fat profit from the worldwide box-office of $211-million.

Sony is keen to proceed with a sequel but Blomkamp has said that’s a decision for Jackson, who has his hands full directing the back-to-back Hobbit movies. The South African-born filmmaker, who migrated to Canada when he was 18, has said he’s interested in directing the follow-up which he speculates could look at how the aliens met before they descended on Johannesburg.

Blomkamp, who’s 31, wrote a treatment for Elysium a month or so after completing the thriller and sent it to MRC, which readily agreed to bankroll the project. Determined to keep the plot under wraps, Blomkamp has revealed that it’s set on another planet 150 years in the future, violent, and that it wraps his “sociopolitical ideas” inside a Hollywood action film.

Elysium is the name given to a volcanic region of Mars and one of its volcanoes, so perhaps there’s a clue in the title. In Greek mythology, the term refers to a section of the underworld.

Copley, who played the aliens-hunter Wikus van de Merwe in District 9, is carving out a Hollywood career for himself, starring, ironically, as an alien in Men in Black III after playing one of the leads in The A-Team remake.

Damon has a busy schedule with the Coen brothers’ True Grit opening in the US this month, followed by The Adjustment Bureau, the Cameron Crowe-directed comedy We Bought a Zoo and Steven Soderbergh’s Liberace biopic.

Sensibly for a filmmaker from the indie world, Blomkamp resolutely aims to keep a lid on budgets, telling the Los Angeles Times that Elysium will cost “much, much less” than the tentpole films of the summer.

“If I screw up the next one it will be like I never made District 9,” he said. “I’m totally aware of that. It can all disappear in 30 seconds.”