Saturday, December 7, 2013

RoboCop (1987)

The Old Man: Old Detroit has a cancer. That cancer is crime.
Detroit, Michigan is not what it once was.  Not by a long shot.  The city is crime-ridden with an extreme all time high.  It is up to a cop-turned-cyborg to not only become the most powerful the city has ever seen, but to bring criminals to their knees, begging for mercy.  There's only one problem: The past.
It was on the 17th of July in 1987 that "RoboCop" made its US-wide premiere on 1,580 screens.  Its only competition that weekend was the re-issue of Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Jaws IV: The Revenge".  Clearly, "RoboCop" defeated the other two at the Box Office as it brought in over $8 million within its first three days of release.  Ultimately, the film would become the 16th biggest hit of 1987 and earned over $53.4 million, Orion Pictures' second biggest hit of the year ("Throw Momma From the Train" was the other favorite among movie-goers that year).
Directed by Paul Verhoeven who previously directed lesser-known films such as "The Fourth Man" and "Flesh+Blood", "RoboCop" was probably the film that got him rolling as the films that followed this one were much better known: "Total Recall", "Basic Instinct", "Starship Troopers", and "Hollow Man" just to name a few.  What many people don't know is that "RoboCop" was actually nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Film Editing and Best Sound.  At the same ceremony, it won a Special Achievement Award for its Sound Effects Editing.  It was also nominated for various other awards including two BAFTAs for Best Special Effects and Best Make-Up.
"RoboCop" starred Peter Weller as Officer Murphy/RoboCop, Nancy Allen as Officer Lewis, Ronny Cox as Dick Jones, and Kurtwood Smith as Clarence J. Boddicker, and co-starred Miguel Ferrer as Bob and Dan O'Herlihy as The Old Man.
Although the storyline takes place in Detroit, Michigan, other filming locations included cities such as Monessen, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Irving and Dallas, Texas.  Another scene was filmed in Los Angeles (more on that is explained below).  Here's some more information on this action flick you might enjoy...
1.  Edward Neumeier came up with the idea for RoboCop after he had helped out on the set of "Blade Runner" (1982), which was about cops hunting robots that looked like humans in the future. Intrigued, Neumeier turned the scenario around into a future where a cop looking like a robot would be hunting human criminals.
2.  Jonathan Kaplan was originally set to direct, but opted to do "Project X" (1987) instead.
3.  The screenplay had been offered (and been rejected by) virtually every big director in Hollywood before Paul Verhoeven got hold of it.  He threw it away after reading the first pages, convinced it was just a dumb action movie.  However, his wife read it all the way through and convinced him that the story was layered with many satirical and allegorical elements, after which Verhoeven finally decided to direct the film.
4.  For the theatrical trailer, Orion used the music from their film "Terminator" (1984) which is also a movie about a cyborg (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger).  Schwarzenegger was briefly considered for the role of RoboCop, but those involved with the film were concerned he would be too bulky in the suit and end up looking like the Michelin Man.
5.  Tom Berenger was in talks with director Verhoeven about playing the lead role of Robocop.  That idea was obviously not final.  For a while, Michael Ironside was attached to the role of RoboCop, but they had to give up on the idea when they realized that the actor would have to have a much smaller frame to fit into the costume envisaged. 
6.  Before Peter Weller was cast, Rutger Hauer was another actor in line to play RoboCop.  However, it was decided that he was too large to fit into the costume.  Weller won the role because of his slender frame and the expressiveness of his lower face.  Peter Weller turned down a part in "King Kong Lives" (1986) to star in this film.
7.  Stephanie Zimbalist was originally cast as Lewis, but had to give up the part when she was called back to film more episodes of TV's "Remington Steele" (1982).  Nancy Allen was then cast and Paul Verhoeven had her cut her hair shorter and shorter several times until it was short enough, as Verhoeven wanted to desexualize the character.
8.  Up till then, Ronny Cox was usually cast in friendly roles so his casting as a villain was a surprise. This was also the case for Kurtwood Smith who had normally won intellectual roles.  It seems that director Paul Verhoeven like Cox's acting as a bad guy so much that he actually casted him to play a bad guy again in Paul's following film, "Total Recall".
9.  Kurtwood Smith originally auditioned for the role of Dick Jones, and when he first learned he had been cast, he thought that was the role he had gotten.  Not until later did he find out he would be playing Clarence Boddicker.  Later still, he discovered the reason: being Dutch, director Paul Verhoeven had grown up near the Holocaust, and thought that, when wearing glasses, Smith resembled Heinrich Himmler.  Smith apparently agreed with the idea, stating that a bigger, more menacing villain would come across as someone who could merely be outsmarted, while his character's glasses made him look smarter and therefore more of a threat.
10.  The character of Bob Morton was originally conceived as a stereotypical corporate executive, arrogant, unpleasant and unlikeable.  However, when Miguel Ferrer signed on and gave his performance as an amiable and charismatic individual, Edward Neumeier and Paul Verhoeven realised that the audience would likely start sympathising with the character, and Bob Morton was rewritten to become the more pleasant individual that he is in the movie.
11.  Howard Stern was offered an unspecified role in the film but he turned it down.
12.  Items of info regarding RoboCop's suit:
     * The RoboCop suit was designed by Rob Bottin and his team.  The production team wasn't satisfied with the initial design, and kept changing it and putting additions to it for months.  Ultimately, nothing seemed to work and they went back to what was pretty much Bottin's original design.  This caused considerable delays, and by the time the suit was completed, it was three weeks late and arrived at the studio on the day that the first RoboCop scene was scheduled to be shot.  It took 11 hours for Bottin's people to fit Peter Weller into the suit, and when it was done Weller found that all his mime exercises were now useless because he needed time to get used to the suit and to perform as a robot in it.  Production was halted so that Weller and his mime coach, Moni Yakim, could learn how to move in the suit.
     *  It was discovered that when in full RoboCop costume, Peter Weller could not fit properly into the police car as he was too bulky.  That's why most shots of him show him exiting the car or preparing to get into it.  For shots where he actually needed to be in the car, he only wore the top part of the costume and sat in his underwear.  However, to maintain the illusion that RoboCop wears the entire suit while inside a car, most shots show his robotic feet exiting the car first.
     *  When in full Robocop costume, Peter Weller would remain in character between takes, only responding to director Paul Verhoeven's instructions when properly addressed as "Robo".  Verhoeven found this too funny to take seriously, and this was dropped after a couple of weeks.
     *  The RoboCop suit was the most expensive item on set.  While the price range varies, the producers indicated that they spent anywhere between $500,000 to $1 million (US) for the suit.
     *  The RoboCop suit was so hot and heavy that Peter Weller was losing 3 lbs a day from water loss.  Eventually, an air conditioner was installed in the suit.
     *  Seven Robocop suits were used throughout of the movie.  Out of the seven, one of them had special safeguards and fireproof fiberglass to help the stuntman perform the gas station scene.  Another two were used exclusively during the third act of the movie where Robocop gets damaged from the ED-209 and the Detroit Police Department.  There was no 'one suit' as most people would think, but actually more than one as each one is fragile and easily destroyed during filming.
     *  RoboCop's spike, which emerges from his knuckles, and gun holster were actually two standalone separate pieces that were never integrated into the costume. The spiked hand was controlled by someone who just held up a fake arm towards the camera while he was off camera, and the gun holster was operated off screen since it was a stand alone piece.
13.  The entrance to the OCP building in the movie is actually the front entrance of Dallas City Hall with extensive matte work (by Rocco Gioffre) above to make the building appear to be a giant skyscraper.
14.  The scientist who introduces ED-209 in the beginning has a name tag of McNamara, a nod to Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson Administrations.  Production designer William Sandell based the ED-209 design on the BELL UH-1H-HUEY chopper used during the Vietnam war.
15.  Realizing that the film was running behind schedule and over budget, director Paul Verhoeven and producer Jon Davison purposely didn't film one crucial scene: Officer Murphy's death.  When production wrapped, they went back to Los Angeles and 'grimly' informed the execs that Murphy's death hadn't been filmed.  So the execs gave them more money and they filmed the scene in a warehouse in Los Angeles.  On that note...
16.  The scene where Boddicker's gang tortures and finally murders Murphy was heavily edited in order to avoid an X rating.  In the theatrical version, it is clear that Boddicker has blown apart Murphy's right hand with a shotgun blast, and Emil then blows off his left arm at the shoulder with another shotgun blast, but the explicit gore is limited in those instances.  There is also reduced gore when Boddicker blows Murphy's brains out with a handgun.  The scene with all of the original dismemberment is included in the DVD.  (Sidenote: The film was submitted to the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) 12 times before securing an R rating.
17.  The trauma team portrayed in the movie trying to save Murphy was a real hospital trauma team.  Their dialogue was mostly ad-libbed.
18.  RoboCop's first Directive, "Serve the Public Trust," was inspired by a fortune cookie.
19.  RoboCop's gun, referred to in the script as an Auto-9, was a modified Beretta M93R: The barrel was extended and modified to resemble a casket.  The weapon has a selectable fire mode switch, semi-automatic and three-round burst which also is full auto with the trigger held.  The basic design of the Beretta 93R machine pistol is based on the famous Beretta 92 pistol.  The trigger mechanism, however, is somewhat different from Beretta 92, as it is a single action only, with non-ambidextrous frame mounted safety and additional fire mode selector.
20.  Because the hands of the RoboCop suit were made of foam rubber, the car keys would bounce off of Peter Weller's hand every time he attempted to catch them.  The production took up to 50 takes and an entire day's worth of filming before finally getting the shot right.
21.  The police cars were modified Ford Tauruses.  One of the main competitors of the Taurus at the time was the Pontiac 6000.  The car the villains use is the 6000 SUX, a not-so-subtle jab at the Pontiac 6000 (you'll see the joke in a television commercial segment in the film).  Ford did manufacture the Taurus as a police vehicle between 1989 to 1995 - the 1989-91 models had a modified front grille with eight openings which was not available on the civilian models including the Taurus SHO.  The 2013 model year officially reintroduces the Taurus Police Interceptor replacing the Crown Victoria, which was phased out in 2011.
22.  In the attempted rape scene, writer Edward Neumeier originally had RoboCop shoot past the victim's cheek, hitting and killing the rapist.  While getting ready to shoot the scene as scripted, Paul Verhoeven noticed how Donna Keegan's (playing the rape victim) legs were spread apart, giving him the idea to have RoboCop shoot between her legs and shoot the rapist in the genitals.  Neumeier loved the idea and that was how the scene was shot.
23.  The hostage scene where a former city council member holds the mayor and his staff hostage was based on a real-life crisis where former San Francisco supervisor Dan White wanted his old job back. The character is also seen eating Twinkies - as homage to White's 1979 conviction of involuntary manslaughter where diminished capacity was used, known in legal terms as the Twinkie Defense.
24.  In the hostage scene, as RoboCop is walking toward the room where the former councilman is holding the mayor hostage, the infrared heat vision mode was actually executed using fluorescent body paint on the (nude) actors and a black light.  Director Paul Verhoeven says that he thought this technique would be cheaper than getting an actual infrared spectrometer camera.
25.  During the news footage when RoboCop throws the disgruntled city hall worker out the window during the hostage crisis, the dummy's legs fly up into the air in a comedic fashion as it hits the ground.  This was a happy accident and the creators decided to keep it in the film.
26.  The female anchorman you see during the news scenes was Leeza Gibbons who would eventually become host of TVs "Entertainment Tonight".
27.  One unused idea for a scene was to have RoboCop going to his old house where his family would still live.  He meets his son, but the boy does not recognize him; the only one who does is his old dog (similar to the story "The Odyssey", where Odysseus returns home and isn't recognized by anyone except his dog).  The producers liked the idea but Paul Verhoeven decided not to shoot the scene for being a bit too sentimental.
28.  While filming Bob Morton's death scene, Miguel Ferrer and Kurtwood Smith began cracking up because while directing the scene, Paul Verhoeven referred to all the actors in-character.  This meant he addressed the actresses playing the prostitutes as "bitches."
29.  The young gas station attendant with the glasses and the geometry book is a reference to a young Paul Verhoeven himself, who wears spectacles and studied Math in the Netherlands.
30.  The shoot-out at the cocaine factory was not originally intended to be so fast-paced.  The automatic guns used in the scene kept malfunctioning during filming.  Most camera shots didn't provide more than three seconds of usable footage, because most guns were usually jammed by that time.  This necessitated quick cuts during editing, which proved to be advantageous for the scene.
31.  On the DVD Ray Wise explains that he and Kurtwood Smith ended up being too close to an explosion which caused pieces of glass to be embedded into Ray's face.  He received an additional stunt pay for this mishap as per the studio.  Ray then jokingly states that he devised ways where he would be as close as to the explosions as possible to gain extra money.
32.  Concerned that various police forces would object to the scene of the title character throwing Clarence Boddicker through glass while reading his rights, the producers had a preliminary screening for an audience of police officers.  It turns out that they were delighted at the sight of the hero getting tough with a wanton murderer in a way that they couldn't.
33.  Kurtwood Smith's wife, Joan Pirkle, has a small role as Dick Jones' secretary, Barbara.  It was her first feature film debut.
34.  The repeated line "I'd buy that for a dollar!" comes from Cyril M. Kornbluth's short story "The Marching Morons", which presents a similarly cynical view of an over-commercialized future that's desensitized to violence and war.  A radio game show in that short story uses the line "I'd buy that for a quarter" as its signature phrase.
35.  As RoboCop approaches Dick Jones's office in his first attempt to arrest him, Jones is tapping his fingers in time to the incidental music.
36.  To shoot the scene where ED-209 falls down the stairs, Phil Tippett and his team made a small replica of the stairs and pushed the model down.
37.  Paul Verhoeven and Rob Bottin clashed repeatedly before and during production over the design and make-up of the RoboCop character.  What they argued most about was the scene where Murphy takes off his helmet.  Bottin wanted the scene to be filmed in a darkened area, fearing that harsh light would reveal too much of the make-up effects; Verhoeven wanted the scene to be filmed as brightly as possible, citing that director of photography Jost Vacano would be able to light it properly without revealing anything.  Verhoeven got his way and Bottin refused to talk to him any further for the remainder of production.  However, at the premiere, both men were so impressed with how the scene had turned out, that they instantly forgave each other.  Bottin, who had even vowed to never again work with Verhoeven, happily accepted the offer to work on Verhoeven's next project, "Total Recall" (1990).
38.  Peter Weller wore a bald cap so that the RoboCop helmet could be removed more easily.
39.  The steel mill scenes at the end of the movie became the more boring part of the shoot.  Ray Wise and Kurtwood Smith along with the rest of the cast would regularly steal golf carts belonging to the crew and race around with them.  The crew became very angry and told them they were not happy with their actions.
40.  The climactic "Melting Man" scene with Emil (Paul McCrane) melting after being soaked in acid was heavily objected by the MPAA and they demanded to have it removed.  However, they eventually backed down when they found out that in most test screenings, the scene elicited the most positive reaction from the test audience such that it was eventually passed without any cuts.
41.  When Lewis fires the Cobra Assault Cannon at the end of the final shootout at the foundry, the muzzle flash knocks the lens-hood off of the camera.
42.  Director Paul Verhoeven originally wanted RoboCop to kill Clarence Boddicker by stabbing him through the eyeball.  Realizing that the censors would balk, he changed his mind and envisioned Clarence having the interface spike shoved through his chin, mouth, and upper jaw.  Again, for the sake of placating the censors, he settled on the filmed version, which was also altered slightly.
43.  A puppet of Ronny Cox was used when he is shot out of the building window by Robocop as he's falling to his death.
44.  Director Paul Verhoeven has a cameo in this film: he's the wildly gesticulating guy in the dance club immediately after Leon tries to kick RoboCop in the crotch.
45.  Peter Weller and Nancy Allen actually share the same birthday - June 24.
46.  The special-effects were generated with an Commodore Amiga computer.
And now you know.
A funny story ties into this film... In Sacramento, California a robbery suspect fled into a darkened movie theatre to escape pursuing police.  He became so engrossed in the movie playing on screen, "RoboCop", that he failed to notice that police had evacuated all other patrons from the theatre.  When the lights flipped on, the stunned man was taken into custody.
One last thing... Ironically, 27 years after this film came out, Detroit did actually file for bankruptcy.
The following are picture stills of the key characters in "RoboCop" as well as others from the film itself.  Here are the key characters in the film...

And now over 200 pictures arranged in chronological order to that of the film itself.  Enjoy!



The Old Man: Nice shooting, son. What's your name?
RoboCop: Murphy. 






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