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How District 9's Aliens Could Have Looked Completely Different

"District 9" was released in 2009, but it's still perhaps one of the most memorable science fiction films of the last two decades. Not only was "District 9" a massive hit with audiences, grossing $210 million worldwide (per Box Office Mojo), but the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Visual Effects (via IMDb). That's rarified air for a science fiction action movie, and all the more impressive because it was writer and director Neill Blomkamp's first feature length film.

"District 9" centers around aliens, demeaningly called Prawns, who crash land on Earth 20 years before the story starts. It details their government-mandated relocation from District 9 to a new location, and tells the story through the eyes of Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a government employee who becomes infected with an alien fluid that slowly turns him into a Prawn. The aliens themselves are entirely digitally crafted with CGI, which is an impressive feat for a film with a relatively modest budget. However, the Prawns almost looked entirely different.

District 9's aliens were almost played by actors in suits

During an interview with Bigfanboy in 2009, Neill Blomkamp revealed that they originally planned to use suits for the Prawns in "District 9," but they didn't turn out exactly like he'd hoped. Blomkamp said that, while the suits were good, they looked too much like "a guy in a suit" instead of like actual aliens. They shot some early footage featuring the suits but quickly decided that digitally created aliens was the best method to use. However, to showcase Wikus' transformation into a Prawn, Blomkamp did utilize practical effects to make it seem more real. 

It's fascinating that "District 9" could have been practical effects-driven instead of the CGI-finished product that fans actually got. Considering the film's nomination for Best Visual Effects, however, it's clearly a move that paid off for Blomkamp and the rest of the crew. With that in mind, it would be interesting to see what the director could achieve with modern technology in a "District 9" sequel, should that ever come to fruition.