Interview: Elon Musk

Elon Musk at SpaceX headquarters outside Los Angeles. Ben Baker / Redux

The new film Revenge of the Electric Car depicts the race between your company Tesla and other automakers to build an affordable electric car. Who will win? The biggest benefit that Tesla will have on sustainable transport is inspiring others to do it. Our goal is just to advance the electrification of transport.

You're known as a troublemaker, no? I don't create trouble just for the hell of it.

Did the disaster in Japan speed up your mission to foster life in outer space? What happened in Japan was very, very mild [compared] to what will happen in the future. This is just a shot across the bow from Mother Nature.

Do you really think we can support life there? Well, it's extremely difficult, but it's possible, just barely, to create a self-sustaining ecosystem on Mars. This is the first time in the 4 billion-year history of Earth that it's been possible, so I think we should take advantage of that.

Are you worried about NASA's space-shuttle program coming to an end this year? Not at all. The shuttle should have been retired 10 years ago.

It's become a trend among billionaires, like Paul Allen and Richard Branson, to dabble in space exploration. Is it just a penis-measuring contest? I don't think there's a penis-measuring contest going on. Amusing as that may be. That would be hilarious, actually. Our competitors are not Paul Allen and Branson, but Boeing, Lockheed, and the big aerospace companies.

Last week you attended a $35,800-a-plate fundraiser for President Obama. How's he doing? He doesn't have a deep business background, but he does listen. I don't worship the guy, but I think he's pretty good.

You've produced Hollywood films, but you're best known there as the inspiration for Iron Man. What do you think of the Hollywood version of Elon Musk? I've got five kids, and I spend every weekend with them, and I go to Disneyland with them a lot. I don't think Iron Man is doing that.

So it wasn't your playboy reputation that inspired Iron Man? I've been to Disneyland like 10 times. I'm getting really tired of Disneyland.

Interview: Elon Musk | Business