In the upcoming RoboCop, Joel Kinnaman is the latest actor to don the iconic metal guise. He follows not only the steps of Peter Weller but of countless actors who’ve brought superheroes to life. Co-star Michael Keaton is a part of that legacy and during the press rounds, he shared how seeing Kinnaman brought up memories from his Batman days.
Joel, can you talk about some of the challenges you faced in this role? Particularly with the costume and what all that entailed?
Joel Kinnaman: First of all, it was a bit of a challenge to put on this suit. The first time I put it on we were out at Pasadena. It was a hot day in L.A. It took 1 hour and 45 minutes to put it on and it was so uncomfortable. It was digging everywhere, pressing down in my shoulders and I was just sweating like a pig. After 20 minutes I said, ‘I’ve gotta get out of this.’… It was a daunting idea that I would have to wear this for 14 hours a day, six days a week for five months. Actually the suit became one of the first seeds that led my imagination into the vulnerability that Alex Murphy felt after he became RoboCop. It was an interesting contrast because he’s got this body that is so powerful, but he feels very uncomfortable. He’s amputated from his throat down. He doesn’t know who he is anymore. My little level of uncomfortability sort of led me to think of what Alex might have felt times a thousand. I was surprised to think that the suit that should make me feel so powerful actually makes me feel vulnerable. That was interesting.
Michael, how did you find your character? How was it working with Joel?
Michael Keaton: I find talking about acting often is not very interesting and kind of very self-involved, so I’ll go through this very quickly. Without making a big deal, he’s really, really a fine actor. This cast is so good. Wait until you see the movie, it really pays off …Usually with movies you don’t feel real emotion, but this cast is so good on every level. Joel’s job is particularly difficult because what I was saying was people don’t know how hard it is to do what you need to do because your natural instinct or your unnatural instinct might be to say ‘let’s face it‘– without context it’s kind of ridiculous. So your inclination or your desperation make you want to go out and what he didn’t do was that. What he did do was kind of suck back. He makes these unbelievable transitions too, I noticed. He’s human-then he’s robot-then he’s human-then he’s robot and human. That’s really, really hard to pull off in a big, black suit. I was really knocked out by the movie.
You’re no stranger to wearing a restrictive suit, so you understood where he was coming from.
Michael Keaton: A long time ago when they were asking me about the first Batman, I was serious but I just worked my suit man. I just let that suit go to work for me. And that’s kind of what you have to do. I’m very claustrophobic, and we didn’t know that the suit was even going to work at all. Literally, I think hours before we were about to start shooting with the suit, we had shot a lot of Bruce Wayne stuff, which was the key by the way … I never really worried about the Batman thing. The way in was Bruce Wayne. That was always it for me. The Batman thing was, I don’t know what I was going to do with that. The moment I got in it, I went, ‘Oh man I’m in trouble, I really have to face this thing.’ because you couldn’t get out of it. This thing was wrapped tight. It didn’t totally work because one of the first shots, the whole thing…
Does anybody care about this by the way?
[Room breaks silence with nervous laughter and excitement for Keaton to continue]
Michael Keaton: So I’m very very claustrophobic but they actually used some of this plywood – one of those old boards that they put you on. I drank a lot of coffee, I eat a lot of vitamins, I drink a lot of water and I couldn’t have any of that because I couldn’t get out to go to the bathroom. Inside, honestly, I started having panic attacks. I have a little bit of history with it anyways and I thought, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to do this man.’ I was really, really scared and then it hit me … I went, ‘Oh, this is perfect!’ This is designed for this kind of really unusual dude. There’s this Bruce Wayne guy who has this different personality and is really alone and really kind of depressed. This is it. You just take all that stuff. All that stuff that suit was giving me. I was like, ‘I got it! I know exactly how to do it.’ So it’s odd, how those things happen to actors. The thing that will happen in your life, or somewhere … I don’t know how you get it but actors get it in that sort of regard. I think it’s fear.
Joel Kinnaman: I got no sympathy from Michael Keaton when I got my suit. He was like, ’Shut the fuck up, you got it easy. They had to glue my suit on!’
Michael Keaton: They had air conditioning in it [The RoboCop suit]
Joel Kinnaman: There was a lot of gloating. A lot of gloating.
Joel, did you adopt any sort of physical regimen? Either to wear the suit or for action choreography? Did they give you a piece of the suit to take home as a souvenir?
Joel Kinnaman: I did get the guns that I have in a frame at home. I was very happy about that. After putting on the suit for the first time I felt how taxing that was going to be. I realized that I would have to be in good shape and there wasn’t going to be much time to train while I was shooting because it was going to be long days. So just getting in shape. But also because of how we were discussing the programming and the software behind RoboCop’s movement patterns when he was in battle situations. Our idea was that it would be more Special Forces. I was hoping to do the most of those movement scenes, so I trained with Swedish Special Forces for three weeks, some guys I trained with previously for other projects, and I also trained with the L.A. S.W.A.T. team.
The original is a classic to a lot of people and has a few iconic lines. Several were used in this film, how did it feel to actually say them?
Joel Kinnaman: There was a couple of versions of the script where there was so many of the catch phrases in it. We all had a discussion that, you know what, we’re doing a reboot of RoboCop but we’re not doing [Paul]Verehoven’s RoboCop. And Verehoven is a film director that I have a lot of respect for, and he had a very specific tone. José [Padilha] is a phenomenal film director that has a very specific tone to his films. So I think it would be a disservice and actually disrespectful to the original to sort of keep every line in there. We kept like one or two, maybe three sort of as an homage to the predecessor … But more than that would be a mistake.
RoboCop opens in theaters February 12.