One of the most incredible things about Robocop is how it managed to capture the public’s imagination back in the ’90s. It was, and still is, one of the most recognizable movie icons of all time. As of 2018, Robocop is the most watched Netflix show of all time, and its third season is the biggest yet. With an original cast that includes Michael Keaton, Richard Simmons, and Patricia Clarkson, it’s no wonder why fans have been captivated by this story of a cop who dons a robotic exoskeleton and vows to take revenge on those who wronged him.
This is a story of how one of the most recognizable stars of our time decided to put his spin on it, and quite frankly, it’s one that’s worth telling. What follows is an in-depth look into the making of Robocop, from how it came to be to what went into the casting process. It will also discuss some of the challenges surrounding the production and how they were overcome, as well as take a peak into Robocop’s impressive legacy.
The Idea For Robocop Came From A ‘Real-Life’ Incident
The original idea for Robocop came from an incident that took place in the real-life New York City. As Clarkson explained in a Vulture interview, the inspiration for the movie came from her character Grace, who she plays in the movie: “She was describing this really weird experience she had where she was following a cab driver who seemed like a normal person and then all of a sudden, he starts pulling this gun on her. She’s trying to figure out what’s going on, and he’s yelling at her to take off her clothes. When she tells the other passengers what’s happening, they all start laughing at her. That’s when she realizes that it must be a practical joke and she’s the butt of the joke. And the cabdriver is actually a robot…I mean, it was really bizarre. And I wanted to do something with that story because it seemed to me that something like that could happen and that no one would believe [Grace].”
Now, it’s important to note here that Robocop is not an exact adaptation of Clarkson’s character. She does serve as a creative consultant on the project, however, and her input was invaluable. It was also important that the storytellers behind the movie understood the source material, something that wasn’t entirely clear when the series first premiered.
It Wasn’t Easy Catching The Scene-Stealing Comedian
Before Robocop, Robert Pattinson had only been in a handful of films. He mostly did supporting roles in fairly big movies, but had never really stood out. It wasn’t immediately clear that he was the ideal choice to play the lead in such a complex and intense movie. After all, he had very little experience with anything resembling a dramatic role. Indeed, most of his previous work had been on the comedic side, albeit very, very funny comedies such as One Night In Paris and The Lost City, which is considered a masterpiece.
Then, in 2010, he stole the show in the film Tristram Shandy: A Cocktail Mixing Adventure. In it, he plays a fictionalized version of writer Laurence Sterne opposite Hugh Laurie and Sally Field. Not your usual Hollywood fare, but it’s safe to say Tristram Shandy will be the career breakthrough that the actor has been looking for. Since then, he’s been all over the place, appearing in major movies like The Lost City alongside Benicio Del Toro, and doing voiceovers for video games such as Hearthstone and Overwatch.
They Hired A Special Effects Genius To Work On Robocop
The filmmakers behind Robocop initially sought to find a regular director who could handle the complex action scenes, but were unable to find anyone willing to commit. So, they turned to one of the best special effects technicians in the business, Rob Bottina, who previously worked on films such as Predator, The Lord of the Rings, and Starship Troopers. Bottina’s work, which includes the creation of the incredibly detailed and realistic looking robot called ED-209, is something that fans of the movie will not soon forget.
In an interview with CinemaBlend, Bottina recalled the difficulty of working on the film because of the scale of it: “We had to find a way to make the movie work. It’s a really big movie, and there were a lot of challenges. One, there were a lot of practical effects which needed to be done. So many details needed to be worked out. At one point, I had over one hundred people working on the movie, and it was a lot of fun, but there were a lot of challenges.”
The Art Department Spent A Lot Of Time Locking Themselves In A Room
Part of what made Robocop so memorable was the attention to detail in the art department. The entire movie was filmed in New York City, which gives the production its unique look. Director Tim Burton, who also worked on the project as an artistic consultant, had a hand in every aspect of it, from the costumes to the set decoration, and he wanted to ensure that everything looked impeccable. He assembled an amazing art department that consisted of over 80 individuals from across the country and employed them to work on the movie for a week. He mostly worked from early morning to late at night, often spending 12-16 hour days, and many nights, putting the finishing touches on the film. It was, without a doubt, a very long and tiring process, but one that was definitely worth it.
Bringing ED-209 To Life
The look of ED-209, the menacing robot antagonist in Robocop, is, without question, one of the most recognizable images from the film. When fans think of Robocop now, they’ll probably think of ED-209 first. It was certainly an intimidating sight to behold, and it still is. Bottina, who worked on the movie for over a year, said that he and his team made a concerted effort to ensure that the robot was as realistic as possible: “We tried to stay as close to reality as possible, and when I say reality, I mean the real robot. We based it on the A.R.M.S. robot from [the 1968 film] Minority Report. We also looked at the animatronics from [Battlestar Galactica].”
They started by scanning the real-life robot head that Bottina had built for the film. Next came the heavy lifting, which consisted of taking several 3D printed parts and putting them together. As a result, they were able to create a working robot that, despite its incredible complexity, weighs less than 40 pounds. Thanks to all of that engineering, they were then able to bring ED-209 to life with flawless movement. It’s amazing to think about the amount of work that went into creating the most recognizable robot in cinematic history.
The Full Cast Was Searched For Years
Before Robocop, there hadn’t been a single major movie or TV show in which all of the main characters were played by non-western actors. Since then, it’s become commonplace for movies and TV shows to feature large casts made up of people of color, and it’s often seen as a positive step forward.
Many fans were worried that the absence of a western accent from the cast would take away from the film’s international appeal. According to Bottina, the filmmakers had to search for years to find a Caucasian man who could act. Even then, the role of the police robot was given to an Asian actor, which led to another round of anxiety from concerned white viewers.
Everyone Hopes Their Character Will Live
Another thing that makes Robocop stand out from other films is its incredible character development. Each one of the main characters is multi-dimensional and incredibly intricate in their design. This enabled the filmmakers to do amazing things with the script, which makes it one of the most compelling narratives to ever hit the big screen. It’s also one of the reasons why Robocop continues to be relevant almost 20 years after its initial release.
As with any great work of fiction, there are a lot of layers and nuances to unpack, but for the most part, viewers will enjoy seeing these complex characters brought to life on the big screen.
Robocop is available to stream on Netflix now.