Robocop And The Hellish Suit Of Armor That Led To Success
The ‘80s loved sci-fi flicks. Coming off the incredibly lucrative heels of “Terminator” and “Alien”, Hollywood took a big swing with 1987’s “Robocop”. Originally the brainchild of story editor Ed Neumeier and film student Michael Miner, most executives passed on “Robocop” and even eventual director Paul Verhoeven threw the script in the trash before his wife talked him into it. Thankfully for Robo-heads everywhere, Orion Pictures made a mint off of “Terminator” and were willing to go back to the murderous robot well. Here are some incredible behind-the-scenes tidbits from “Robocop”.
Drawing On Inspiration From The Greats
While “Robocop” might seem like a straightforward sci-fi action film, those in charge drew inspiration from some of the all-time great films. Neumeier worked on “Blade Runner” which informed many of his decisions about a city in decline requiring robots to clean up a society gone wrong. Robocop's stoic mannerism came from the comic book “Judge Dredd”, which Sylvester Stallone played years later. They also took note of “Iron Man” and the “Lone Ranger” among other western classics.
Peter Weller Goes Full Method
To prepare for “Robocop” actor Peter Weller pulled out all the stops but assuredly, the actor had no idea of the world of pain and frustration coming to him. At the behest of studio executive Mike Medavoy, it was suggested that he train with a mime as the suit would limit his ability to express himself facially.
After auditioning multiple mimes, Weller spent months working on his movements, even incorporating balletic training before walking around Central Park in football gear! As if that wasn’t enough, Weller went full De Niro, refusing to answer to any name other than his character for the duration of filming. Sadly, all that work went to pot when he finally got into the suit.
The Iconic Robocop Suit
Undoubtedly, the most iconic aspect of “Robocop” was his suit of armor, on which the studio spared no expense. Costume Designer Rob Bottin built six suits for $1 million (over $2.5 million adjusted for inflation). Unfortunately, Bottin didn’t finish any until the day of shooting, which meant Weller never got a chance to practice in it. As the actor reported, “It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and — wanna know the truth? — it was the most difficult thing anyone’s ever done. They had to have air-conditioning ducts pointed at me, blowing out freezing air every 20 minutes.”
It took an unbelievable 11 hours for Weller to get into the suit and when he did finally get into it, there would be nothing resembling balletic movements. To make matters worse, they filmed many of the scenes in the heat of a Texas summer and Weller lost up to eight pounds of sweat daily! Eventually, they were forced to stick air hoses into his suit to cool him down while constantly rehydrating the struggling actor. Naturally, the actor’s favorite scenes involved Robocop driving, allowing him to film with his lower half in boxer shorts. The suit also limited Weller’s movements to a comical degree. The scene where Robocop catches the keys took an excruciating 50 takes! Apparently, twirling Robocop’s massive modified handgun was like “trying to twirl half of a baseball bat.”
Almost An X Rating
Another staple of the “Robocop” films was the incredibly gory violence. One can thank the director for that; he also directed “Basic Instinct” and “Starship Troopers”. Supposedly, it was Verhoeven’s idea for Robocop to shoot the testicles off the rapist rather than just hit his cheek.
Obviously, Verhoeven loved to push the envelope and “Robocop” was no different. The first seven tries submitting the film to the MPAA received an X rating. Apparently, the director found the scene where another law enforcement robot glitches and tears an employee to pieces “comedic.” Evidently, the MPAA did not agree.