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5 Things You Might Not Know About Paul Verhoeven's 'Robocop,' Released 25 Years Ago Today

by Oliver Lyttelton
July 17, 2012 2:53 PM
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We're just over a year away from seeing "Robocop" back on screens, in a remake/reboot with "Elite Squad" director Jose Padilha making his English-language debut on the film, and an impressive cast featuring Joel KinnamanGary Oldman, Abbie Cornish, Samuel L. Jackson and Hugh Laurie . A viral video has already appeared, and this weekend saw banners from the film debut at Comic-Con.

And all that was some neat timing, because today marks the 25th anniversary of the original film. Directed by Dutch helmer Paul Verhoeven, the film was somewhat under the radar at the time, and had a relatively tricky trip to the screen, but on its release, was embraced by critics and audiences alike, and stands as an acerbic, satirical, ultra-violent sci-fi classic that Padilha and co. are going to have a tough time coming anywhere near matching. With the film hitting theaters on July 17, 1987 -- 25 years ago today -- we've taken the opportunity to find five facts that you might not be aware of about the film. Check them out below. Meanwhile, "Robocop" 2.0 hits theaters on August 9, 2013.  

Robocop Ronny Cox
1. "The Accused" helmer Jonathan Kaplan was the first director on board the project.
One of the reasons that we're a little wary of the remake is that it seems so difficult to imagine a successful "Robocop" away from the worldview of Paul Verhoeven (something backed up by the forgettable, generic nature of the various sequels and TV spin-offs). But the helmer was far from the first choice; almost every other Hollywood director had turned the film down before Verhoeven got to it. At first, director Jonathan Kaplan, who'd go on to direct "The Accused," was attached, but eventually departed in favor of Matthew Broderick's "Project X." One of the first on the list after that was punk helmer Alex Cox, who was hot off early films "Repo Man" and the soon-to-be-released "Sid & Nancy," and a friend of the film's co-writer Michael Miner (who penned the script with Ed Neumeier). Cox turned it down in favor of the Joe Strummer-starring "Straight To Hell" (he'd later be approached for the sequel too), and all kinds of other filmmakers were offered the job after that, including David Cronenberg. Finally, it came to Verhoeven, who'd moved to L.A in the early 1980s, and had made his English language debut in 1985 with "Flesh & Blood." Verhoeven told Empire magazine this month, that when he first read the "Robocop" script on holiday in the South of France, "I skim-read it and just threw it away. I thought it was terrible." But Mrs. Verhoeven picked the script out of the trash, and told her husband "I think you're wrong. Read it again because there are many possibilities here for you to do something different and interesting." Verhoeven took another look, and fortunately agreed with his better half.

2. Rutger Hauer, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Ironside and Tom Berenger all could have played the lead role, and Peter Weller was actually fired a couple of days into the shoot.
At first, backers Orion were keen on Arnold Schwarzenegger, the star of their recent hit "The Terminator," playing the title role. But it was ultimately felt that Schwarzenegger was too large to be convincing in the suit, and Verhoeven's regular collaborator Rutger Hauer was also considered, along with Tom Berenger, Armand Assante and Michael Ironside (who was also up for the villain Clarence Boddicker). Peter Weller got the gig, mainly, according to Verhoeven, because of "the fact that his chin was very good." Weller prepared heavily to play Murphy, hiring mime artist Moni Yakim to help him with his movement, but the suit was running late. After feuds between Verhoeven and designer Rob Bottin ("The Thing") who said after the fact: "When Verhoeven came on the project he requested numerous design changes, additions to the suit which looked more like [a] machine than man-like. I've never done so many conceptual drawings for a director in my entire life -- changing it, and changing it, and changing it!" As filming began, Weller hadn't had much time to rehearse, and rows immediately erupted between him and the director, to the extent that producer Mike Medavoy shut down production for two days and fired Weller. Overtures were made towards hiring other actors (Lance Henriksen has been mentioned as one possibility), but with the suit having been made for Weller, there weren't many options, and the director and actor later made up. Verhoeven and Bottin also made peace; they'd rowed over the lighting for the scene where Murphy removes his helmet, and the make-up supremo worried that the scene's brightness would make his work look ropey, to the extent that he thought he'd end up coming to blows with the director. But after the premiere, Verhoeven and Bottin were so impressed with each other's work that they later reunited on "Total Recall."

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  • Vincent | July 18, 2012 1:21 PMReply

    What Joel brought to the screen version of "Robocop," was nothing new It looked like nothing from the book, but was still a good film . The original "Robocop" graphic novel by Frank Miller, was extremely violent and still holds up today, suffices to say, Jose Padilha is very capable and able of doing the film justice

  • Warren | July 18, 2012 11:30 AMReply

    There is no way the remake is gonna touch this!!

  • Andrew | July 18, 2012 12:18 AMReply

    Verhoeven talks at length on the commentary about how he thought the script was completely stupid until his wife went on and on about how funny and subversive it was actually was. it's a good commentary and really shows what a lunatic the man is.

  • Tyrannosaurus Max | July 17, 2012 4:49 PMReply

    My acting teacher was in this film for like 5 seconds!
    He's the guy who screws on Robocop's faceplate, haha.

  • Mike White | July 17, 2012 4:23 PMReply

    Yup. Talked to Hellman about this in an interview with him for the Projection Booth podcast last year.

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