ROBOCOP - REDUX
By: Phil Carpenter
When Orion completed filming on RoboCop 2, plans were already underway for yet a third installment. But RoboCop 3 -under new direction by Fred Dekker, who also co-authored the script -was to face countless obstacles before finally reaching the screen.
Working with a scaled-down budget, a tight shooting schedule and a new actor in the title role. Fred Dekker finished the project in 1991 only to see it shelved for two years as the beleaguered Orion struggled to extricate itself from mounting financial difficulties. Assuming the role of RoboCop from Peter Weller was actor Robert Burke- who also stepped into his predecessor's robo-suit. thanks to minor modifications and refurbishments by suit creator Rob Bottin.
In 1987, director Paul Verhoeven gave us RoboCop- a mythically proportioned, comic-book-styled film in which police officer
Alex J, Murphy suffered a horrific death and then arose, phoenix-like, as a half-man, half-machine. programmed with
computer precision to serve the public trust. protect the innocent and uphold the law, the cyborg law officer was
inevitably troubled by flashes of human emotion, especially when stirred by faint memories of his wife and son. The
dark and strangely poignant story offered a new kind of superhero -RoboCop- upon whom the near-future citizens of
Detroit pinned their last hopes against an evil corporate empire.
Five years and one sequel later, Orion Pictures has similarly pinned their hopes on RoboCop 3, the latest rendition of
the RoboCop fable. Although the
1990 sequel had performed less admirably than the original film, Orion's faith in the basic appeal of the character
had led the studio to move forward with a third installment, Tempering that faith with pecuniary caution, the studio
afforded the movie a budget that was significantly smaller than that enjoyed by RoboCop 2, and an atmosphere of
filmmaking on a shoestring pervaded the production. Rising above such limitations, RoboCop 3 was completed in 1991.
only to be shelved for two years -along with several other Orion pictures -as the troubled studio attempted to
extricate itself from the brink of bankruptcy, Finally emerging from the legal and financial melee, Orion announced
the release of the film in mid-summer, typically an ideal slot for the action-fantasy genre, But when theater bookings
proved less than impressive -especially against such heavy-hitters as Jurassic Park- Orion pulled RoboCop 3 from
its summer schedule and announced a new, late autumn release date.
Hired to direct the scaled-down production
was horror film alumnus Fred Dekker who, with Frank Miller- co-author of RoboCop 2- penned the script for RoboCop 3.
Dekker was motivated to take on the film, both as director and writer, because of his admiration for the original
story and for the RoboCop character.
"I loved the first picture, and I thought this was a character
who was ripe for exploration. I wanted to pay homage to Verhoeven and get back to the roots of what the character was
all about, RoboCop is the ultimate example of the endless conflict of man versus machine, with the added twist that
they are both in the same guy." While determined to return to the origins of the story and character.
I wanted this movie to be a much broader comic book action-adventure than the
previous two movies had been, I'm very heavily influenced by the early James Bond films, which I think were a
zenith for a certain kind of filmmaking; so I wanted to pay homage to that also, And because kids seem to love
this character, we were also aiming for a PQ-13 rating. RoboCop 3 is not as violent or brutal as the other two
Taking the character in a new direction, the writers proposed a story in which an outlaw RoboCop
would be driven to an all-out battle against Omni Consumer Products, the company which produced him.
In another twist, RoboCop's trusted friend and partner Alme Lewis ( Nancy Allen) would be brutally murdered,
In this movie, RoboCop meets new people and commits to helping
a group of renegades fight back against the corporation, created are a new nucleus of characters, with RoboCop
still the key element, RoboCop also get some new physical gags and weaponry.
While helmed bya director who was a newcomer to the series, RoboCop 3 saw the return of veterans Phil Tippett and
Rob Bot\-tin, both of whom had worked on the previous two films. As before, the character of RoboCop would be
portrayed primarily by an actor in the Bottin-created robo-suit, Augmenting the live-action scenes would be
stop-motion sequences realized by Tippett Studio, For Bottin, returning to the RoboCop fold was a natural and
logical step, "Since we had already done the sequel to the first picture, we had pretty much kept everything intact
in terms of materials and the suits. We were told at the end of the second picture that there would probably be
a third; so this was sort of a known subject matter, And I had no reticence about working on yet another sequel-we
created this character, so it would be kind of silly to say no, I'm proud of the character: and I'm proud of the fact
that my company built it."
Although in many respects Bottin would be treading familiar ground in RoboCop 3, there was one dramatic change in the production: the title role was to be played bya new actor, Peter Weller, who had portrayed the cyborg character in the series' first two installments, was caught in a scheduling dilemma when RoboCop 3 was set to film at the same time David Cronenberg was to shoot "Naked Lunch", his adaptation of the novel by beat era author William S, Burroughs, An avid Burroughs fan, Weller had actively campaigned for the lead in the Cronenberg picture, and when shooting schedules collided, the actor bowed out of RoboCop 3.
Badly burned in the Splattering skirmish, Robocop is transferred to his high-tech robochamber where he is cared for and maintained by Dr. Marie Lazarus, Among the repairs is extensive facial reconstruction - a story device that conveniently explains why Robocop no longer resembles Peter Weller. For the scene, which featured Robocop without his metallic helmet, Rob Bottin and company devised an entirely new set of prosthetics to be worn by Robert Burke. None of the prosthetic pieces that were used on Peter Weller could be used on Robert, prosthetics made for one person usually won't work on someone else. 0ne of the reasons Peter was cast in the first picture was because he had a kind of futuristic, mannequin-like face - which Robert does not. So they really had to rethink the makeup, because it had originally been inspired by the particular look of Peter Weller's face. Rob Bottin hoped that they would avoid the whole issue in the third movie, but they really wanted to show him with his helmet off So Bottin resculpted all the pieces for Robert.
The loss of Weller presented the budget-conscious filmmakers with the problem of finding a new actor who could step into Weller's shoes- both figuratively and literally. "They wanted to be able to save money by using the old suits from the second picture," Bottin recalled, "So they were on the hunt for an actor who would fit into the suit we had -it was the 'Cinderella Syndrome.' They didn't have the money to create a whole new body cast and a whole new sculpture just to basically get what they had before, Also, they didn't want
to have to change the look of the character at all, So they went searching for Cinderella. We gave them Peter
Weller's measurements -ridiculously precise measurements, like from wrist to elbow, elbow to shoulder joint,
center of rib cage to the outside of rib cage, et cetera, They found two actors they liked, and the one that
fit into the suit the best was Robert Burke. But it wasn't as if he was cast merely because he fit the suit;
Robert had had mime training, so he was able to do really good robotic moves," Even with the close size match,
the suit still had to be tailored to Burke's physique, "The upper chest didn't fit him exactly, Also, Robert's neck
was much longer than Weller's, and his head was a different shape, So we did have to cast some new parts, cut
them, make them wider or longer, shorten them or refit them by remolding. But, all in all, Robert fit into
the suit very well.
In addition to modifying the suit to better fit the new actor, Bottin was required
to refurbish the existing suits which had been heavily damaged by the rigors of shooting the previous film.
"We would have preferred to make all new suits, just to make it more comfortable for the actor. Anytime you have
to patch up holes or fix things up, it adds to the weight of the thing. A hand-sized bit of bondo here and there,
a little wire and a little metal reinforcement -it all adds up, By the time you distribute all the little fix-ups
over the suit, it can add ten to fifteen pounds to the weight -and that's a problem when people are already
complaining that the suit is too heavy. But much to Robert's credit, he pretty much made it to the end of the
film before he started complaining about how heavy the suit was"
With the production team, cast and
effects personnel assembled, the filmmakers went in search of a suitable location for filming. The first
picture had been shot in Dallas, while the second had chosen Houston as its site. Maintaining the tradition
of filming in southern cities, the producers chose to shoot RoboCop3 in Atlanta. "Atlanta has become a
really important film\-making center," Crowley asserted. "There are film crews there that work on all the
movies shot on the eastern seaboard, from Florida to the Carolinas. Another advantage was that Atlanta still
had old sections of town that looked like a northern city."
As the movie ends, the future looks brights indeed for the cyborg law enforcer. The future of the film series, however, remains in doubt.
"RoboCop could go on and on, just as the james Bond series has," Pat Crowely commented, " but for that to happen, I personally think that RoboCop will have to evolve
as a character. There will have to be changes in his design so that he will have more flexibility in what he can do. If RoboCop4 does happen and RoboCop is able to
run a hundred miles an hour or jump across streets, that will be a great step forward for the character. It will be costly; but it will also be necessary, because we've
run out of things for him to do as he is."