The film was inspired by director Neill Blomkamp's childhood in South Africa during apartheid. The title is a nod to a real place and a real incident. District 6 was a mixed race neighborhood of Cape Town which the apartheid government demolished in 1966 to make room for whites. Star Sharlto Copley had not acted before and had no intention of pursuing an acting career. He stumbled into the leading role as Neill Blomkamp placed him on-camera during the short film.
The main role was first offered to Ninja(star of Chappie), a South African rapper, who despite being a fan of District 9 (2009) (he has a D9 tattoo on his inner lip) did not take the role. The role was then offered to rapper Eminem, but he wanted the film to be shot in Detroit. That was not an option for the two studios, so Neill Blomkamp moved on to Matt Damon as his next choice.
The voices of the scout robots at the start of the movie are Peter Weller's "Robocop" voice. In the movie, Michelle (Sigourney Weaver) delivers the lines, "A thinking robot could be the end of mankind. Destroy that robot! Burn it to ash." This is a reference to her role in Alien (1979) where a thinking robot (named Ash) protected the alien at the expense of the "expendable" crew. Neill Blomkamp's next project is an Untitled Alien film.
Dev Patel, Hugh Jackman, Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Sharlto Copley, Sigourney Weaver