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The Untold Truth Of The RoboCop Reboot

"They'll fix you. They fix everything." While that line arrived courtesy of Peter Weller's Alex Murphy in Paul Verhoeven's "RoboCop," it was an ominous omen for the franchise, and accurately describes the attitude of Hollywood towards remakes. The 2014 "RoboCop" reboot starred Joel Kinnaman as the titular character, supported by the likes of Abbie Cornish, Michael Keaton, Gary Oldman, and Samuel L. Jackson in other pivotal roles. Unfortunately, the sci-fi action blockbuster didn't define its era like the original "RoboCop" did in the 1980s, feeling more like a cash-in than a reinvention for a modern age.

Digging into the archives of the "RoboCop" reboot, what is abundantly clear is that no one was on the same page about the production. Interviews with the cast and crew paint a different picture to the final cut of the film, giving credence to the rumors that there were studio executives looking over director José Padilha's shoulder the whole time. Even a few of the original players from 1987's "RoboCop" couldn't help but weigh in on why they believed the reboot didn't quite hit the bullseye. Without further ado (and before OCP sends their cyborg officers after us), let's take a look at the untold truth of the "RoboCop" reboot.

Joel Kinnaman wasn't convinced when he read the script

Whenever someone thinks of RoboCop, two things likely come to mind. The first is Peter Weller's iconic performance as the techno-trooper. The second is the infamous scene where RoboCop blasts a criminal in the nether regions. Either way, those are some tough shoes to fill for any new actor taking the role. Turns out that Joel Kinnaman felt the same way, even questioning the point of a remake or reboot in the first place.

When asked by Den of Geek what he thought of the script, the Swedish actor disclosed that he needed a bit of convincing to take the part. "At first I was [a] bit hesitant — well more than hesitant about the idea of a remake or 'RoboCop,'" he said. "Because there are a lot of films being remade because there's a built-in fanbase, and they're an easy way to make a couple of dollars. So actually, when I was first given the opportunity to pursue ['RoboCop'], I turned it down." It was only after Kinnaman met with director José Padilha, who explained to him the concept of the film and how he wanted to approach it, that he felt confident enough in the direction and purpose of it.

Joel Kinnaman has an unexpected favorite RoboCop scene

For the critics, the "RoboCop" reboot was a mixed bag, receiving a 48% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Regardless of what one's thoughts are about the film, there's no denying that it featured its fair share of heart-stopping action scenes. Being involved in these types of sequences must be a blast — pardon the pun — yet Joel Kinnaman listed a quieter scene as his favorite from the film.

The actor told Den of Geek that the moment when Alex Murphy wakes up as RoboCop for the first time was a special one for him, though it was tough to film since it relied heavily on practical effects. "It was particularly difficult because, what the character's going through, and what I have to portray, is the deepest existential anxiety and despair," he said. "And I couldn't move. I'm in this docking station, so I had to be completely still, and that was difficult. It's hard to be emotional and still, because usually you're doing some kind of movement." Kinnaman added that he had to dig deep for the scene and credited co-star Gary Oldman for his assistance in making the moment as powerful as it was.

Darren Aronofsky was meant to helm the RoboCop reboot

Between "The Crow" and "RoboCop," it seems there's an unspoken competition to see how many directors board and depart a reboot. Both film franchises seem to always be burning away in some kind of production hell. However, the "RoboCop" reboot holds one distinct achievement over its gloomy companion: It actually happened (even if it's being remade again).

Before José Padilha took the director's chair, there was another famous filmmaker attached to the movie. In 2008, Darren Aronofsky was announced as the director for the "RoboCop" reboot. While promoting "The Wrestler" at the time, Aronofsky spoke to Empire about his specific vision for "RoboCop" and the approach he and co-writer David Self were taking to the script. "I'm a big fan of the original," he said. "It still holds up as an amazing film, and I think it's more just looking at that same type of material in the 21st century and seeing where it leads us." 

Sadly, MGM's financial issues resulted in Aronofsky departing the project, but he revealed that he still would love to remake "RoboCop" at some point. With every passing day that there's no news about the upcoming "RoboCop Returns," the odds might be in his favor. 

Michael Keaton thought the RoboCop suit was more comfortable than Batman's

Robert Downey Jr. had it easy when he had to wear the Iron Man suit. Except for the first film (when the filmmakers tried to keep the effects budget down), he wore a set of green pajamas on set all day and the armor was added via CGI in the post-production process. Talk about a chill time on set! Joel Kinnaman didn't have the same luxury as RoboCop, though. He had to wear the outfit and stomp around trying to convince everyone that he was half man, half robot. According to his "RoboCop" co-star Michael Keaton, however, the robo-costume was a holiday in the Maldives compared to what he experienced when he put on the Batsuit in Tim Burton's "Batman."

"This RoboCop suit, you can go out and play three sets of tennis!" Keaton joked to IGN. "You can move, you can sit, it's got air conditioning — it's got everything!" The "Batman" actor added that he used the Batsuit's limitations to his advantage, though, as he channeled the anxiety and isolation of being confined in such a restrictive costume back into his performance of the Dark Knight.

Peter Weller never thought the reboot could surpass the original

Peter Weller appeared in the first two "RoboCop" films before being replaced by Robert John Burke for "RoboCop 3." Weller didn't return since he was working with David Cronenberg on "Naked Lunch," as per Gizmodo. When asked about the possibility of the "RoboCop" reboot at the time when Darren Aronofsky was still attached to the project, Weller was frank in his assessment of it, saying he didn't feel it would have the same lightning-in-a-bottle effect of the original film.

"You've got that director Verhoeven and you've got those writers Ed Neumeier and Mark Miner," he told Gizmodo. "The combination of action and myth and humanity and humor, all those things wrapped into one in a perfectly constructed script. I don't think they're going to do anything better but I certainly wish them well to do something as good." Weller portrayed the famous lawman again in 2019, albeit in a different manner, when he appeared as Colonel RoboCop in KFC ads. It's almost a shame Weller's RoboCop costume didn't have the bare hands of Kinnaman's version so he could have proven the chicken was finger-lickin' good.

Joel Kinnaman received 42 missed calls after a RoboCop interview

In the lead-up to the "RoboCop" reboot, most fans and critics presumed it would be rated R. After all, the success of the original film was due to the fact that it served as a violent social commentary on technology, surveillance, and law enforcement — is it really possible to do that in a family friendly feature? Joel Kinnaman agreed and presumed that was the plan from the start. However, he probably should have checked in with the studio before saying as much to the press, as he quickly found out.

Speaking to GQ, Kinnaman discussed an awkward moment that arose from his assumptions. As the star explained, he was doing interviews for the show "The Killing" when he was asked a question about the film. "This reporter asked me, 'Is RoboCop gonna be R-rated?' And I was like, 'Of course it's gonna be R-rated!'" Kinnaman said, adding that only a fool would have aimed for a lower rating. The next morning, he checked his phone and had 42 missed calls. The question is, how many of those calls were from a frantic studio head?

Gary Oldman compared RoboCop's reinvention to Nolan's Batman

Most musicians say that an artist should only attempt a cover if they can bring something new or different to it, without changing the essence of the song. The same holds true for reboots of popular films. Remaking a cult classic like "RoboCop" would always be a cause for concern; however, Gary Oldman didn't see it that way. In fact, he considered the 2014 film in the same vein as the record-breaking and critically acclaimed "Dark Knight" trilogy he had starred in years earlier.

"What the director wanted to do was take the ideas from the first movie and expand on them," Oldman told Esquire. "To do that, he had to smash it to pieces. It's what Nolan did with Batman. He just wiped the slate clean, went way back to the original source material, and then gave you the world." Oldman offered praise for José Padilha's vision throughout his press tour for the film. However, the studio had its own plans for the "RoboCop" reboot.

The director fought with the studio about the movie

Looking through José Padilha's filmography, it's clear that he's a creative individual with something important to say. From his work on "Elite Squad" to his unique approach to "Narcos," he isn't a filmmaker with eyes only on box office receipts and blockbuster fanfare. So what happened with the "RoboCop" reboot — especially since most of the cast members spoke about a different version of the film than what ended up in theaters?

There were rumors that the studio execs brought out their red pens and scissors to make adjustments to Padilha's movie during production, and he confirmed that there was tension between himself and the studio. In a conversation with Screen Daily, Padilha opened up about his frustrating time on the film. "I didn't have the creative freedom I needed. I spent 90% of the time fighting," he said. "It made me realize that making a studio movie is not the same as making a film. I will think a million times before getting involved in another production of that size again." Maybe we can get a social media campaign to release the Padilha Cut of "RoboCop."

Joel Kinnaman had to do his own stunts

While Michael Keaton was jealous that Joel Kinnaman had a more flexible suit as RoboCop than he did as Batman, Kinnaman didn't exactly have a walk in the park either. The actor revealed to IGN that there were several versions of the costume, and they weren't always built with comfort or luxury in mind. In short, he certainly wasn't thanking it for its cooperation.

As a way to prepare for wearing the suit, the actor worked on the movements for his character, but he quickly realized that the suit had its own set of limitations and he would have to adapt with the costume's specific motions. This brought with it another set of unexpected challenges: stunts.

"I have to do most of my stunts because we realized that the movement pattern that I had decided for the character was hard to mimic in the battle situations," he said. "So I've been doing most of that, which has been pretty taxing." That said, Kinnaman found that the extra concentration required while wearing the suit helped him maintain focus on the performance and what was required of him.

Three big-name actors were linked to the part of RoboCop

In many Hollywood films, the person who winds up in the leading role isn't the first choice. Even with Paul Verhoeven's "RoboCop," the studio had plans to offer the part of Alex Murphy to Arnold Schwarzenegger, as revealed in Netflix's "The Movies That Made Us." When Joel Kinnaman was cast in the "RoboCop" reboot, he wasn't what most fans would deem an A-list actor. Unsurprisingly, there were other names linked to the film before Kinnaman put pen to paper on the offer.

Moviehole (via Fandango) stated that in 2011, there were three big Hollywood stars considered for the reboot. According to the report, Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, and Johnny Depp were all being eyed for the role of RoboCop. Considering that the film's reported budget was $100 million (via Box Office Mojo), it's likely that the studio could have afforded any of the actors in question. For whatever reason, though, none of them signed on for the part, which proved to be good news for Kinnaman as "RoboCop" accelerated his career as a leading man.

Paul Verhoeven thinks the reboot got it wrong

Look, let's be honest here — most directors will be opposed to someone else remaking their films. It's the equivalent of allowing someone to copy your homework and watching them get higher grades. Director Paul Verhoeven has experienced reboots of two of his most popular sci-fi films, "Total Recall" and "RoboCop." Speaking to Collider, he confirmed that he watched the remakes and had thoughts about why the "RoboCop" reboot failed.

"Somehow they seem to think that the lightness of say 'Total Recall' and 'RoboCop' is a hindrance," he said. "So they take these somewhat absurd stories and make them much too serious. I think that is a mistake." Verhoeven went into detail about how the satirical and comedic elements of the original "RoboCop" movie are what made it connect with the audience. He believed that approaching it as grave subject matter harmed the film in the end, since it lost its sense of humor and became far too serious for its own good.

Joel Kinnaman thinks he should have spoken up about RoboCop more

Featuring an all-star cast and impressive visual effects, much was expected of the "RoboCop" reboot. The film wasn't a disaster at the box office by any means, raking in over $240 million on a $100 million budget (via Box Office Mojo). However, it failed to capture the imagination of fans or critics in the way that the original film did in 1987. Looking back at his time on the reboot in 2021, Joel Kinnaman admitted to The Playlist that there were a few things he would have changed.

"That was the first big movie I did," he said. "I had to quell all my instincts for everything over the course of that film. I'm like, 'Why am I wearing a black suit? That doesn't make any sense at all.'" Kinnaman didn't disparage the film, though, saying he still believed it to be a good movie as a whole; it just wasn't what fans expected from a "RoboCop" movie and that's where they all missed the mark. In the end, nobody wanted to buy that for a dollar.