Remakes of cult sci-fi movies don't have a great track record, but Joel Kinnaman tells Chris Schulz this Robocop will be different.

Another day, another remake. That was the first thought to cross Joel Kinnaman's mind when he heard a new Robocop film was in the works.

"I thought to myself: 'Maybe I'll see that sometime down the line but it's nothing I'm interested in pursuing myself'."

It's understandable why Kinnaman dismissed it because Paul Verhoeven's original 1987 film - about seriously injured cop Alex Murphy, who wakes up with a robotic body - is a cult classic.

It's fondly remembered by millions of fans who fell in love with Verhoeven's mix of sci-fi action, brutal violence, sadistic humour, and criticism of corporate culture and government links with big business.


Adding to that is the 2012 remake of Total Recall, a similarly loved Verhoeven sci-fi film from the same era, was savaged by the critics and failed to fire at the box-office.

When it came to the Robocop remake, Kinnaman had all those thoughts in his head. But then he heard who was directing the film - Jose Padilha, the Brazilian director who helmed 2007's Elite Squad, about the drug wars in Rio de Janeiro - and changed his mind.

"Jose was the big reason I wanted to do this movie," Kinnaman tells TimeOut.

"I became very interested because I realised with a director like this they were really trying to make something interesting. "Then I met Padilha over lunch, and after that I became desperate to do this movie. I did everything I could to convince him and the studio that I was the right person for the job."

Kinnaman was made to fight hard for the role, flying to Los Angeles from Vancouver - where he was shooting season two of The Killing - on his weekends off for three auditions.

The actor believes his efforts paid off. He understands the concerns of fans worried the remake will sully memories of the original. But he wants to allay those fears.

"It's a great responsibility especially in a world where there are a lot of remakes being made, and a lot of them are remade for cynical economic reasons ... they just want to take advantage of the branding of the original and that fanbase.

"Having Jose as a director and hearing his take on what he wanted to do with this movie immediately washed away those fears.


"The biggest respect you can pay to the original Robocop movie is acknowledge it as a very intelligent movie and try to make something intelligent to follow it up with - not just replay the same catchphrases.

"We did not try to remake the movie. If anything you can call it a reboot."

Unfortunately, publicity for the new Robocop has not been good, with a series of controversies causing fans of the original to dive headfirst into internet message boards. The first was over the colour of Robocop's suit, which has been changed from a shiny silver to a sleek black.

Kinnaman says the suit was "very heavy and uncomfortable" but believes Robocop's new look improved his performance.

"I could feel powerful but also weird and awkward and a little naked, and that's one-hundreth of what Alex Murphy was feeling, what he would have felt in that moment, to have your body removed [and replaced by a robot]."

The second controversy was over Robocop's helmet.

In the original, Robocop's helmet was fixed over his eyes, but Kinnaman's version has a movable visor which only comes down when danger is imminent.

The change was to help make Robocop become more likable, Kinnaman says.

"For the drama of the movie it was important that the face was visible. The reason for it is that Robocop is the pilot product for Omnicorp to repeal a law that has forbidden automated law enforcement and this is a huge loss in revenue for the company manufacturing this product.

"The public is afraid and the politicians are afraid of having somebody that is not accountable for their actions. As a segue for changing public opinion they put a man inside this machine - it has to be someone they can relate to."

But the biggest outcry was over the film's rating. Verhoeven, known for his outrageous love of gore and eyewatering violence, earned an R18 rating for the original. In New Zealand the remake has an M rating.

Many fans saw this as a slight on the original, but Kinnaman believes it was important they didn't try to copy Verhoeven's style.

"I think it's very violent. It doesn't have the goriness to it but there's a lot of action in this movie, a lot of people are getting killed, hurt and injured.

"A lot of people say Verhoeven's portrayal of violence was very gratuitous but it was the absolute opposite. He had a very clear idea of portraying violence - that's why the original was so violent. The idea was to go over the top to make it comedic.

"We're not carrying Verhoeven's tone or ideas."

Despite the criticism, interest is still high. About 23 million people watched the most recent trailer on YouTube, Padilha has a reputation as a capable director on the up, and there's plenty of star power involved, including Kinnaman's co-stars Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Abbie Cornish and a rare appearance from Michael Keaton.

Kinnaman believes that despite its age, Robocop's story contains messages that relate to our times.

"It's definitely a corrupt future where big companies are running foreign policy and the military has been automated and unmanned drones are making their own decisions," he says.

"We're reaching a point where we are going to have manufactured hearts and organs that need to be maintained by a company. The whole question of ownership - 'Will you always have ownership of your own life?' - is an important philosophical question in this movie.

"Jose has fought very hard and succeeded in making something that has a point of view, that has a political perspective, a philosophical perspective and something that's intelligent and wants to be a real film even though it's a big-budget blockbuster."

Only time will tell whether the fans agree.

Who: Joel Kinnaman
What: Robocop, also starring Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Abbie Cornish, is directed by Jose Padilha
Where and when: In cinemas from February 6

- TimeOut