The original 1987 RoboCop was written by Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Neumeier has said in interviews he first got the idea when he walked past a poster for Blade Runner and the notion of a cop hunting robots was so intriguing that it sparked the idea for him to write about a robot cop.
While its roots are in classic, intellectual science fiction, the first RoboCop movie is a wild, whacky ride only a director like Paul Verhoeven could pull off.
As with his other high-concept films (Total Recall and Starship Troopers to name a couple), RoboCop has become a pop culture marvel. It is so iconic in its irony, its satirical sting, and its visually heightened, as a comic book / propaganda film mash-up. It’s got that intrinsic Verheoven vibe.
Yet, comparisons will be inevitable when the new RoboCop is released on February 12. While horror and sci-fi remakes are nothing new and have certainly outlived the hopes of those who thought it was just a trend, the actors don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing.
Joel Kinnaman, who takes over the title role from Peter Weller, told us, “When I first heard about the remake, it was through a call from my agents. My initial reaction was that I might see that in the movie theaters, but I don’t think it is a great fit for me. Then I found out that Jose Padilha was going to direct it. I’d seen his documentary Bus 174 and his two Elite Squad movies. Knowing he was attached completely changed my perspective of what the possibilities of the remake could be. There are a lot of wrong reasons of why you would do a remake, but there are some good ones. I sat down with Jose and he told me the vision of the story of what he wanted to tell by using [just] the concept of RoboCop. I thought it was a brilliant idea. It’s human nature that we retell our favorite stories; in the theater we do that all the time. I’ve seen four different Hamlets, and every one of them has given me something different.”
“In this case it feels like in 1987 when this film was made, it was a futuristic vision that felt very much like fantasy, and it was an incredible film. But in 2014 the technology has had an exponential curve, and we are so far into the future that I think in 1987 we couldn’t imagine where we would be right now. And, for us where society has come today… the concept of RoboCop really made sense to revisit. It was one of those great opportunities where you could meld a big, big scale, exciting action movie but at the same time get the opportunity to talk about some very interesting philosophical and political questions.”
Abbie Cornish, who plays the doomed cop’s wife, told us she was on board for the remake right away, even though she holds the original in high regard. “RoboCop for me was actually a very nostalgic film from my childhood. I grew up with brothers, and we had it on VHS. We would watch that VHS till it shredded itself, and it couldn’t be watched anymore. So when I heard that RoboCop was being remade, I instantly was interested. Then I heard Jose Padilha was directing it, so I had a Jose Padilha marathon night where I watched Elite Squad 1, Elite Squad 2, and Bus 174.”
Padilha broke in, chuckling and shaking his head, “No one has ever done that before. Don’t attempt that, it’s very dangerous. don’t do at home.”
Cornish continued, “It was an amazing night. I was still up when the sun came up and I finished the Jose Padilha movie marathon. And I thought that this is an incredibly talented director who it would be an honor to work with. I emailed him right away to tell him I was in.”
Michael Keaton chimed in, with a winking aside, “I decided to do it, then I heard Jose was gonna direct it –and I thought, ‘Oh shoot, I made a huge mistake.’ But it was too late. I had to do it.”
What about all of the pop culture references and classic lines from the original movie? Keep, or kill?
Padilha explained it this way: “Well, first thing I want to say here is that sometimes people have the illusion that the director is choosing everything, right? That he is choosing the lines or is choosing the way we work, and so on. People can change their dialog. We changed dialog several times, and we changed scenes, too. The scene in this movie that I love when Dr. Norton [Gary Oldman] is explaining to Sellars [Keaton] why RoboCop can never be as good as a machine, but that scene wasn’t going to happen (as it does now in the final film) because it wasn’t written that way. The screenplay had no scene where Gary was in the same room with Mike. It was a phone call from China and we were on the set and I looked at them and said you guys are here, you’re Gary Oldman and you’re Michael Keaton, I am not going to do a phone call. Just go out there, and we will figure out how it happened!”
Oldman laughed and said, “Yeah, I was supposed to be on a totally different continent, so we had to figure out real quick how I suddenly got from Detroit to China.”
Padilha added, regarding what lines to keep and which ones to discard, “Everyone saw RoboCop over and over again, everyone knows those lines. One time, on set, somebody said, ‘I would buy that for a dollar,’ and so we just kept it in. But I hope some new lines like ‘Why is America so Robo-phobic?’ also become classics.”
Joel agreed. “There were a couple of versions of the script where it was just so many of the old catch phrases that were in it, and we all had a discussion asking, ‘Are we are remaking, or doing a reboot of RoboCop? Verhoeven is a film director I have a lot of respect for but he had a very specific tone. Jose is a phenomenal film director who also has a very specific tone to his films, so I think it would be a disservice to and disrespectful to the original film to try to keep every line in there. So we kept maybe a line or two, sort of as an homage to the predecessor that we all love so much. But I think more than that would be a mistake.”
Kinnaman paused, smiled big and added, “And, yes: it felt pretty cool to say those lines!”
Jose Padilha’s film stars Joel Kinnaman as the title hero plus Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Jay Baruchel, Michael Keaton, Michael Kenneth Williams, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Abbie Cornish, Aimee Garcia, and Jackie Earle Haley. Look for it in theatres February 12, 2014.
Related Story: RoboCop News Archive
In RoboCop the year is 2029, and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Their drones are winning American wars around the globe, and now they want to bring this technology to the home front.
Alex Murphy is a loving husband, father, and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit. After he is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp utilizes its remarkable science of robotics to save Alex’s life.
He returns to the streets of his beloved city with amazing new abilities but with issues a regular man has never had to face before.
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