The cast of RoboCop appeared at Comic-Con to promote their remake of the 1987 classic. Next year, we’ll see an updated version of the half man, half robot hardwired to bring justice. New RoboCop Joel Kinnaman, director Jose Padilha and co-stars Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton revealed what we can expect from the upcoming film.
Joel Kinnaman on his love for RoboCop and becoming the man in the suit:
Joel Kinnaman: Before I got this part I’ve probably seen RoboCop about 25 to 30 times. I started rehearsing the RoboCop walk way before I became an actor. So I was pretty well-versed in the Robo-walk. But then when I got the suit on, and also sort of the 1987 vision of where robotics would be is very different than a 2013 vision of where robotics would be and how a robot would move in 15 years in the future. So when I got the suit on, I had some ideas. We went for a more superhuman approach to his movement pattern, but then we added in some more robotic movement to it. But that was something I was mostly… I was playing around with it and then José would look at it and then maybe give me a little note and I would either take that note and work on something else but mostly I’d take his notes.
José Padilha: The suit is hot. That’s the only thing. He wants to get in and out quickly.
Joel Kinnaman: It was a bit of a torture device but I was glad –
Michael Keaton: Bullshit. I’ve seen the suit. You try wearing my Bat suit. Ah man, you’ve got it easy.
Samuel L. Jackson: I did three Star Wars movies and I just did Oldboy. I did Shaft.
Samuel L. Jackson on reading the script and his reaction:
Samuel L. Jackson: I was excited by the prospect of a modern day RoboCop. Thinking about it and thinking about the possibilities of what could be done with all the CG things we can do now, and the advancements in robotics. I read a lot of comic books… I was excited by the possibility. And knowing that there are a lot of young people who may be aware of RoboCop but not really the way we’re aware of RoboCop, so I’m excited to come into that world.
On whether the film will retain some of the black comedy of the original:
Samuel L. Jackson: You mean like Sanford and Son? Not that black?
José Padilha: Yes. The original RoboCop tonally was very ironic and very violent. It was a critique of fascism, at least the way I’ve seen it. But it was also very smart and it dealt with some concepts that maybe not everybody caught on, but they were there. The relationship between fascism and robotics, for instance, it’s very clear that it’s going to become way more important as time goes by. I’ll just give you an example. If you think about the war in Vietnam, or even in Iran. The war in Vietnam ended because American soldiers were dying. Same thing that’s happening in Iraq, we’ve got to get out of there. Now if you picture the same war with robots, substituting robots in instead of soldiers, then you don’t have the political pressure at home. There is a relationship between being able to use robots for war and fascism. The issue has already been posed by the use of drones by the way, and if you open all of the major American newspapers, you’ll read and hear their opinions pro and against drones. Now this issue, our movie is pretty much about that. That’s one part of it. And the other part of it is what it feels like to be a robot as opposed to what it feels like to be a human. And I kind of explain to you why. Say you have footage of the Hiroshima bomb exploding and then you play the footage backwards. So the bomb goes up into the plane, the plane flies backward. At the end of this you’re going to end up at Harry Truman’s table and he makes the call to drop the bomb. So now because Harry Truman is a man, he has free will and he can make choices. We can argue about whether he did the right choice or not. The same thing goes for criminals. A criminal shoots someone in the streets, we say this is a man who knows what he’s doing. He’s taken someone’s life and we can’t argue whether it’s right or wrong. Now once you replace man with autonomous robots, accountability goes out the window. Say you have a robot, let’s say in the middle of the Amazon forest hunting drug dealers, and the robot is there and nobody sees what it’s doing and it shoots drug dealers and it shoots a kid. Now who’s fault is that? So this is a huge philosophical issue that’s going to be present more and more. It’s been debated a lot already, but it’s going to be debated more and more as robots evolve, and our movie is also about that. And there are some fights in there too.
On catchy one-liners we may quote years from now:
Samuel L. Jackson: I’m sure there’s one or two lines in this film, but I haven’t seen it and I thoroughly expect my face to be on all kinds of T-shirts.
On the balance between RoboCop, Alex Murphy and his corporate greed:
Joel Kinnaman: We go a little further with Alex Murphy. We get to know him a little better, we spent more time with Alex Murphy when he’s at work as an undercover cop and as a family man. He’s got a beautiful little family. And then that is very much the question. Is he now a property? Is he owned by OmniCorp? He’s very vulnerable because the system needs to be changed and he needs to be plugged in, so he’s dependent on this corporation that has made him survive, that has made him very powerful but at the same time very vulnerable. There are continuous interactions. They let him interact with his family, he gets to reconnect with his family after he had become RoboCop, and that’s of course something that’s not easy to come home and try to embrace your six year old son and your wife and you have just a big robotic body. You can’t really feel them.
On famous lines from the original and Clarence Boddicker:
Joel Kinnaman: Sorry to disappoint you man. We kept a couple of lines from the original but we also felt that all these iconic lines from the first one, they were part of that movie, the tone of that movie and [Paul] Verhoeven’s tone. I think that would feel like something unjust and disrespectful to keep all the lines. We’ve kept a couple of lines from the original but “Your move, creep,” no. That’s something that I would say to my friends all the time when I was obsessed with that movie. I practiced that a lot. [On Clarence Boddicker in the movie] Not really, no.
Abbie Cornish on working on RoboCop:
Abbie Cornish: It’s funny, when people ask me about RoboCop and the experience of shooting it, they say ‘How was it?’ and I say ‘It’s the easiest film I’ve ever made.’ And it was. We have an incredibly talented director who just helmed this quiet classic and political social story in such a sort of wonderfully deep way. I worked with an incredible cast and worked on a film that is, for me, iconic and very nostalgic. I was five when it came out, my brother had it on VHS and we ran that VHS until it shredded itself up. And so for me it has a lot of importance in my life, and in my childhood. So great cast, great crew and everyday was just easy. All the actors were A-grade, so prepared and same with the crew and directed by Jose. That was a dream gig.
José Padilha: Right… When I get on set, whether it’s a $1 million or a $140 million film, it’s about the script, it’s about the actors, it’s about having the camera the right way and it was so with RoboCop. We had fun while we were making the movie. We gave ourselves room to improvise. We made up a lot of lines on the spot that just popped up in our heads. The same way, we shot this movie, the same way we shot our movies in Brazil. I don’t know why it would change it. Actually I don’t even know how to do it another way. It wasn’t like, there is no such thing like, ‘Oh it’s such a gigantic movie, how’s it going to happen? How am I going to do it?’ You just go there and shoot a movie. And there’s a little less drug dealers and corrupt cops around the set, but I guess that’s because we shot that in Canada.
Abbie Cornish: That’s what I mean by easy.
Kinnaman on what scene he’ll remember years from now:
Joel Kinnaman: I think for me the whole awakening sequence when Alex awakes for the first time and experiences, the disbelief of his new reality. In those scenes I was working really close with Gary Oldman and also that whole sequence on getting to see, well there’s some things that I can’t… spoilers. But I think there’s a string of scenes in 40 minutes into the movie that were very demanding but very rewarding as well.
The cast on what will draw people to this updated RoboCop:
Samuel L. Jackson: The trailer. Always the trailer.
Michael Keaton: It’s a very current theme. My guess is it will be hugely entertaining and underlining. It’s relevant, it’ll resonate with people but not to the degree where your brain will hurt when you think about it when you’re going home. When there’s smart added to fun, even if you don’t notice the smart, it ratchets everything up exponentially. It just always makes movies better. Even if you have to go home and think about some things. Earlier on I thought Obama made a huge mistake not getting out of Afghanistan when he had the move early on, but I thought, you know, to surgically remove people and to surgically remove certain parts, that’s the way to go and win this war, not primarily drones. Now I don’t think that. I think there’s a whole other moral issue to that, and that’s what is really interesting about this, the moral aspect of this movie. I don’t mean to make it sound too serious because it’s very fun, but that’s the underlining intelligence and how it resonates. It’s there without you having to pay too much attention to it.
Samuel L. Jackson: Obviously we’re not going to put that in the trailer. We want the excitement in the trailer. Then people will get in there and then they’ll find out how morally intriguing it is, but first we’re going to show them the trailer. Then when people tweet their friends they’ll say ‘Damn, that shit is morally intelligent.’
RoboCop opens in theaters February 7, 2014.