RoboCop has everything going for it: an evil corporation, a hero turned into a part-man, part-robot police officer, and a surprising amount of heart for a story that could come across as metallic and cold. But while man and machine unite in 2014, fans of the 1987 original wonder if actor Joel Kinnaman can fill in the metallic boots of Peter Weller in 's campy, clever classic.
is aware of this. He's also aware that we aren't living in a time when 2028 Detroit felt far off. His movie contemplates the ethics of tech in warfare and the choice of being an active participant in OmniCorp's plans or standing up for justice. In the interview below, Kinnaman talks about his personal association with that kind of free will, the suit, remakes, and binge watching crime scenes.
How many questions have you been asked about...
Remakes. And Wearing the suit.
The suit is the number question and the remake might be number two.
When you're asked about the suit, how do you balance complaining versus how much you have to be grateful?
I had a lot of different kinds of jobs before I became an actor - working construction, factories, and restaurants for a big portion of my life. Whenever I get a little pissy, I remind myself how it is to have a real job and how extremely fortunate I am to get to do this for a living. That kind of wipes away any complaints.
This movie presents the idea of free will and actually being a machine. One of the things I find interesting about your upbringing is that your dad was drafted and made the choice to leave.
He deserted from the Vietnam War. He was stationed in Bankok and he was just a kid in California, hanging out, eating mushrooms, surfing, and having the time of his life. He got drafted and was stationed in Thailand. He was just a kid. He didn't have any macroeconomic perspective of the conflict. He didn't know anything about the war. He started spending a lot of time with European backpackers and started to form a lot of opinions about the war and that it might not be the right thing. He got into a lot of trouble with his superiors and at one point he decided he wasn't going to participate in this. One night he got out of the military barracks and some of his friends had arranged for him to hitchhike on a truck, so he got on a truck and hitchhiked his way to northern Thailand into Laos. He lived on the run in Laos for five years living in monasteries, doing carpentry work for food. Then he got to the capital of Laos, which is called Vientiane, where he lived and met my sister's mother, who's this crazy American girl backpacking through Laos during the middle of the Vietnam war, and she got pregnant. At the time, he had been quiet, but then he started showing these journalists all these bomb sites in Laos - because officially the war was not in Laos, but in the Vietnam War 200,000 Laotians were killed. It's a population of 2 mllion, so 10 percent of the population got killed. The US was bombing villages in Laos with napalm and Agent Orange because they were afraid there were Viet Cong supply chains going through these villages. He was taking these journalists to these bomb sites and suddenly there was a presence of military intelligence in Vientiane. Some of these journalists that my father had become friends with told him that he should get out of there. They pooled together some money and got him his passport, so he and the future mother of my sister flew to Sweden via the Soviet Union.
The passport they got was like this short, chubby Jewish guy who was about 5'4" and my day was 6'1". In the Soviet Union, this military official looked at the passport and looked at my dad and was like, "Nyet, nyet, nyet," and started slamming the passport on the counter and threw the passport in my dad's face while he was waiting for the verdict. The guy was looking at him and then said, "Da, da, da."
It just struck me as interesting because of Alex Murphy's choices.
You got a story!
I think that's the greatest homage you can pay to the original one. It was an intelligent film that had a strong social and political commentary. The greatest homage you can pay to it is by making an intelligent film and that's what we set to do to make an exciting, big scale action movie that also deals with some interesting philosophical and political questions.
What's the difference between waiting to hear back about whether a TV show like The Killing has been picked up for another season and waiting to hear back about a sequel to RoboCop?
You know, it's all up to the audience. If the audience wants a sequel and they love the movie, then I'd love to continue the story. I think that comes with anything that you do. If there's a good story to continue, then you should continue. But that's not up to me. I've done it in theater and film where you get to play a character, take a break, and then you come back to the character. It's always a rich experience when you've taken a break and come back to it. You get a deeper understanding of the character. It's that time in between where you haven't thought about it that's actually enriched you. The feeling I get when playing in those situations is you express more by doing less.
I thought it was funny seeing Alex Murphy download clips of crimes taking place into his brain. It's reminded me of binge-watching something or going on a trippy YouTube journey.
Where do you end up, yeah, yeah. How can you not be interested in internet culture? The internet is our newspaper. It's the first thing most of us do in the morning. We check out mail, our news sites, and our entertainment sites, our social media sites. We have transported a large part of our social beings and input into the web. That's just how it is.
If you could download a sequel, how would you differentiate your RoboCop from the other sequels?
I don't know. I don't know yet what that story would be. We'll see.