SDCC 09 - Sony Shows Off DISTRICT 9, LEGION @ Comic-Con

Image from LEGION

On Friday, Sony shone the spotlight on a pair of upcoming genre films: the horror film Legion and the sci-fi thriller District 9 — which finally brought Peter Jackson to his first appearance at Comic-Con International: San Diego.

Legion was up first, with director Scott Stewart introducing an extended clip. The movie is an end-times fable, with Paul Bettany playing a machine gun-toting angel coming to Earth to protect the unborn child that can save humanity. The film also stars Doug Jones, Tyrese Gibson and Adrianne Palicki, all of whom were on hand to discuss the movie.

Stewart says he started working on the project as a writer, and by the time it came back around ready to make he was able to take it on as a director – marking his debut in the director’s chair, after working on Visual Effects for such movies as Sin City, Iron Man and Harry Potter & The Goblet of Fire.

As for the concept, the director says it’s pretty simple. “Angels with machine guns,” he says. “It just seemed like the right thing to do.”

Jones, best known for his roles as Abe Sapien in Hellboy and Silver Surfer in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, says he plays a harbinger of doom called the Ice Cream Man. Stewart says it was easy to sell the actor on the project: “I called him up and said ‘I’m not going to put a mask on you’, and he said, ‘I’ll do it!’”

Tyrese Gibson says the film was shot in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and was a blast to make because of the great cast and crew. “The most exciting part for me was getting a chance to see Paul Bettany’s muscles,” he joked.

Gibson plays a character who happens to stop in at the wrong roadside diner and gets caught up in the apocalyptic action.

Bettany says he’s been waiting to make a movie like this. “I desperately wanted to make an action movie,” he says, who is best known for his work on A Beautiful Mind. “I had never done one. It was like being on a movie set for the first time.”

Bettany’s co-star Adrianne Palicki says her character is a misfit who just happens to be pregnant with the future of mankind.

Stewart says the film is not a religious one. The apocalyptic overtones are “just a fun milieu to play with.”

He did says the tattoos on Bettany’s character were more than just eye candy and will be explained in the movie. They also will be explained in a four-issue comic book series Stewart is writing for IDW that portrays alternate events occurring away from the action in the main film. The comic, titled Legion: Prophets, is planned as a four-issue miniseries to be released weekly in November, with the movie’s debut scheduled for January 2010.

Stewart ended by showing a preview image from his next collaboration with

Bettany: Priest, an adaptation of the manwha series published by TokyoPop that begins shooting in late August.

The panel was then passed over to famed director Peter Jackson. When Jackson came out, he received a standing ovation and took a photo of the crowd from the podium. “This is a moment to remember for the rest of my life,” he said.

He began with a Hobbit update, saying they were about four weeks away from delivering a script to Warner Bros. so the film can be budgeted, officially greenlit and offers can start going out to actors.

Despite all rumors, he says no one has been cast in any role in the film.

He also said the plan is to do two Hobbit films. He was looking forward to incorporating the expanded view of Middle Earth that J.R.R.

Tolkien had created for The Lord of the Rings novels that they will incorporate into and expand the scope of the earlier work, The Hobbit.

Image from DISTRICT 9

They then got into District 9, with Jackson recounting how he had met director Neill Blomkamp to make the Halo video game movie adaptation that fell apart at the studio level. After Halo was a no-go, Jackson and Blomkamp jumped right into District 9, which they made independently and on a relatively low budget.

Blomkamp and lead actor Sharlto Copley then joined Jackson on stage to talk about the film and introduce an extended clip. The film — in which aliens are stranded on earth and segregated into an area called District 9 — has a verite style that comes from Blomkamp’s desire to bring a sense of realism to science fiction.

Growing up in South Africa, Blomkamp was pleased to set and shoot the film there. He says it feels like the sci-fi parts are the real bits and Johannesburg is the alien environment.

Copley had little previous experience as an actor, but had known Blomkamp for years and found the idea of acting in the film to be quite normal.

In answering questions, Jackson says seeing the results Blomkamp got on District 9 has him itching to do a quick, low-budget film and he openly speculated he may do so once the Hobbit, which Guillermo del Toro is directing, goes into production.

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