José Padilha may be in the midst of conducting interviews for his current film, “Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within,” but he has a clear eye on what he’s doing next: a remake of Paul Verhoeven’s “RoboCop.” Speaking to The Playlist in Austin, Texas, where the filmmaker is hosting screenings of “Elite Squad 2” at Fantastic Fest, Padilha offered some insights how his “Robocop” will be similar – and different – than Verhoeven’s original.
“I never approached [‘RoboCop’] by looking at the first one, and asking myself what do I keep and what do I take away,” Padilha said in an interview Sunday morning. “I just looked at the concept of ‘RoboCop,’ and the concept of ‘RoboCop’ is very, very interesting. RoboCop is not a superhero – he is not a superhero. He is a man that’s turned into something else, by technology, and by a certain political perspective that’s being criticized in Verhoeven’s film, and by the media, too. So that idea, of a man that’s turned into something else for some purpose, appeals to me on its own regardless of the first film.”
Padilha was mum on specifics, but he said that those ideas formed the foundation of a story the film’s producers found exciting. “I had a take on it, which I can’t tell you what it is because it would ruin the surprise of the film, but I presented this take to MGM and to Roger [Birnbaum] and John and Adam, and they’re great guys,” he explained. “And they loved it, so they said, ‘let’s make a film about it,’ so I’m like recreating the story based on that concept, that brilliant concept of changing a man with technology, automated systems, which is sort of a metaphor for what’s going on in society anyways.”
The original “RoboCop” augmented its visceral story of a man transformed into a machine with an ongoing social commentary about political corruption and media manipulation. Padilha, whose new film examines these same ideas, suggested that his “RoboCop” will also explore larger social and cultural ideas. “I think the media needs a little criticizing now, as it did in the ‘80s, don’t you? Just look at what happened in the Bush era with the lack of criticism we’ve seen from most of it at the beginning of the Iraq invasion, and the sort of patriotic approach of the media that you couldn’t say anything against it. It’s high time we got a little acid criticism of that in my film – in ‘RoboCop’.”
Meanwhile, online reports have repeated news that Padilha reportedly wants actor Michael Fassbender as his star. But Padilha insists that talk is very premature, no one has even been approached for the title role, and that Fassbender’s name only came up as one in a larger discussion of actors he liked -- and pushed for that answer to boot. “I did this interview for the Dutch media, because Verhoeven is Dutch, and I was doing them for ‘Elite Squad’ which is opening there,” he revealed. “And I’m being interviewed by these guys and they said, ‘so who is going to be RoboCop?’ "
“I said I don’t know, and after the guy asked the same question like ten times, I said, ‘there’s so many great new actors in American films, like Michael Fassbender, Chris Pine [who was once rumored to be on the top of the 'RoboCop' wishlist], and so on.’ And all of a sudden I’ve called Fassbender out, but we haven’t even discussed this film. But it’s true – he’s a great actor. But they’re all great actors. So it’s from one sentence in one interview with a Dutch guy,” he said with a shrug.
Additionally, although Padilha reportedly said that he will start shooting early next year, he insisted that those decisions have yet to be finalized. “I wish I could be doing this planning,” Padilha said with a laugh. “There’s a lot of scheduling with actors and stuff like that, and it’s difficult. All of the schedules of all of the different people who are very busy, so it’s not easy. But I think I will know in ten days.”