The cast of RoboCop recently shared the secret to rebooting Paul Verehoven’s beloved original. Actors Joel Kinnaman, Abbie Cornish, Gary Oldman and director José Padilha swapped anecdotes. They also talked about rehearsals and little homages that made it into the film.
How did you decide to address current hot button issues in the film?
José Padilha: The first RoboCop, Verhoven’s film, already had a great idea which is the connection between the automation of violence issues. If you take away the soldiers and put robots there, what happens? And for law enforcement, if you replace a soldier with a machine, you take away the possibility of the soldier or the police man to not do something the State asks of them. A machine doesn’t have that critical thought process. If you think about the first movie, you have Alex Murphy fighting against the directives inside his head. And so that character embodies this idea that you have to dehumanize the perpetrator of violence in order to have fascism. Now we are getting very close to having robots replacing soldiers. We’ve already seen drones flying abroad, so we wanted to make this idea current. Every country will have to decide soon whether they’re going to want to have robots following our force men or not. They have to pass legislation about what’s going to be allowed or not anymore, as far as machines go.
Why were the commericials from the original replaced with Samuel L. Jackson as the media?
José Padilha: As to the Samuel L. Jackson character Pat Novak and why we replaced the media, I think it’s because the media became like the commercials. So we thought it was a good thing to have a little bit of fun with the crazy, right-wing mogul, Rush Limbaugh guys that everybody has. Personally, I would have to say I’ve had it with them. So why not make a little fun?
Gary your character Norton is reminiscent of Dr. Frankenstein but with a conscience. How did you get into that character? Did you think of him or any other mad scientist type while you were preparing for the role?
Gary Oldman: Yeah, it is sort of the Frankenstein/sort of Monster unusual relationship because it’s a sort of patient/doctor and sort of monster/scientist. They’re friends and it sort of becomes like a father/son [relationship]. I think that’s maybe–possibly was a seed of the idea there in the original. Because it is very Frankenstein, sort of man tinkering around in God’s tool shed. It was a very terrific script to start with and then we had the luxury of rehearsal because Jose wanted rehearsal which is unheard of really in movie making. And so we, over two weeks, I think made the script better… If you’re trying to make the writing work like a map, there’s all the signs in the material for finding. It’s that old Stella Adler thing about reading out, not reading in. I didn’t bring my own baggage to it. You use your imagination and what is there on the page. As far as these bionic engineers and neurosurgeons, I Google’d. And the great thing about Google is you type in Neurosurgery and somehow you end up with Peter Sellers or you’re watching Frank Sinatra. Those searches. But yeah, Google is a great resource.
This film has a special place in pop culture and in cinema history. What were your initial thoughts when you first heard about it? Was there any hesitation?
Joel Kinnaman: Well, when I first heard them, I got a call from my agents and I heard that there was a movie of RoboCop being remade. My initial reaction was that I might see that in movie theaters. And then I found that José Padhila was going to direct it, and I’ve seen his documentary and his two Elite Squad movies, and that completely changed my perspective of what the possibilities of a remake could be. There’s a lot of wrong reasons why you would make a remake, and there are some good ones. When I heard that José was going to direct it, I was pretty certain that it was going to be one of the good ones. I sat down with José and he told me the vision of the story he wanted to tell by using the concept of RoboCop. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and it brought me back to the sort of–you know, I think it’s human nature in many ways that we retell our favorite stories. In the theater we do that all the time. I’ve seen four different Hamlets, every one 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. It was an incredible film. But in 2013 the technology has had an exponential curve and we’re so far into the future that I think in 1987 we couldn’t imagine where we could be right now. And for us, where society has come today, the concept of RoboCop really made sense to revisit, because it was one of those great opportunities where you could meld a big scale exciting action movie, but at the same time get the opportunity to get some very interesting philosophical and political questions.
Abbie Cornish: I’d like to say something about it. RoboCop for me was a very nostalgic film from my childhood. I grew up with brothers so we had it on VHS and we watched that VHS until it shredded itself and it couldn’t be watched anymore. So when I heard that RoboCop was being remade, I instantly was interested. And then I heard that José Padilha was directing it. I had a José Padilha movie marathon night where I watched Elite Squad 1, Elite Squad 2, Bus 1174 and emailed (Jose) after that. I thought, ‘this is an incredibly talented director who it would be an honor to work with’. And then I heard that Gary Oldman, who I’ve respected and admired forever, Michael Keaton and that Joel Kinnaman is playing RoboCop and I thought that was great casting and Samuel L. Jackson.
José Padilha: To work with this cast, and Samuel L. Jackson, Jackie Earle Haley is amazing, Jennifer Ehle is great. There’s so many great actors in this movie. J.P. (John Paul) Ruttan who we cast in the last second. I went through 200 kids…J.P. came in at the last minute when we were doing the rehearsals, he came on, they did a scene. As soon as the scene was over I looked at her (Cornish) and (about to say) ‘It’s J.P.’ but before I could say anything Abbie turned to me and said ‘It’s him!I was like, ‘Okay!’
We’ve talked about how the original is a classic that also has some iconic lines. You used several in the film. How did you choose which ones would work and how many would be too many?
José Padilha: A lot of the lines that we have in our movie [from original RoboCop just happened] Jackie Earle Haley said ‘I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.’ He just said it. I think it’s kind of like soccer, and I suppose American football and basketball was the same. If you were the coach, and you have great players around you, good things will happen. And that’s kind of how the lines that went in there, some of them were in the script, others were not. Others everybody, they just put it into the movie. And I hope some new lines like ‘Bad cop, RoboCop,’ ‘Why’s America so Robo-phobic?’ will have their mark. I hope so.
RoboCop is currently playing in theaters everywhere.