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By Shandana Durrani

PETER WELLER (RoboCop 1-2)
Born June 24, 1947, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin

Peter Weller is best known for his role as the gunned down policeman turned crime fighting machine in RoboCop, and the sequel, RoboCop2. He has however been in several other movies like "Naked Lunch", "Leviathan", and "Screamers".

Many careers in Hollywood have had their ups and downs, and with a career spanning almost three decades, Weller has seen his share. It seems that he has often tottered on the brink of stardom, only to have it elude his grasp. He has been in only one blockbuster, RoboCop, and, although a majority of his films have garnered him critical praise and a contingent of loyal fans, his is not a household name. Now being behind the camera is a thrill for the actor, although his current predilection toward directing doesn't eliminate his thirst for acting.

Weller's passion for his craft is obvious. It is also apparent that he doesn't regret any of the choices he has made, and, in particular, the decision to play the title role in RoboCop.

"Robocop was the most incredible challenge I ever had. The makeup was the longest prosthetic process; it took six and a half hours just for the face, for 23 days. The artistic preparation, working with director Paul Verhoeven, was like climbing Mount Everest. The story was fantastic and it is a great film," he says. "Now, it just so happens that I haven't made as many great movies as Jack Nicholson, but he walks around and people say the Joker and he gets nailed for that. People say Peter Weller, RoboCop, but I have learned to live with it. I am grateful I did it and I am grateful I left it. It wasn't as if that was my defining role; it just so happens that it was the most popular. What can I say? The past is the past. I don't feel like it's an albatross. Do I get tired of hearing it sometimes? Yes. Do I feel like it's the mark of Cain? No. It was a contribution and a great film."

There isn't an actor alive who wants to be pigeonholed and Weller is no exception. He offers no excuses for taking roles in action-adventure films such as Robocop and Screamers. He is also comfortable in more serious films, under the direction of auteurs such as Antonioni. He is as quick to take a role in a drama or comedy as he is a role that has the requisite car chases and stunts; he likes to balance simple entertainment with serious art. "I was doing The New Age, a very upsetting film about the emotional and spiritual bankruptcy of a couple and how to survive in L.A. I finished it and I said, jeez, give me a car chase, give me something like Screamers. And as soon as I finished that, I had to get out of this mindless diatribe and I said give me some rich denouement of people's feelings," Weller says. "A friend of mine said, 'For a guy with your training, you should have been in more shoot-'em-ups.' [But] I don't feel that my talents have been wasted."

From stage to screen, the roles Weller has chosen have run the gamut of what a gifted actor's should be. He has performed in plays by Tennessee Williams, David Mamet and David Rabe, among others. On the silver screen, he has appeared in comedies, serious dramas and almost everything in between.

Some critics have called him "edgy," "an Eastwood on the verge of a nervous breakdown," and someone who brings "layers of angst and disbelief, much too much skill" to the characters he portrays. Even his peers have strong opinions.

"He is enormously talented, cool and great," says actor and friend Jeff Goldblum, whom Weller met in 1983 on the set of the cult classic The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension. The two have remained close friends ever since. Would Goldblum ever want to work under his friend's direction? "Anytime. I would read for him. I would be flattered to be considered working with him."

"Humphrey Bogart said that 'you are lucky if you make two [films] that outlive you.' Of course, Bogart made more than that. I think I have made three," Weller says. "Naked Lunch, for sure. I am happy that it is being studied at UCLA as an experience nonpareil. The experience was extraordinary. I think RoboCop will outlive me. I think that a movie that Michael Tolkin made, The New Age, will outlive me."

One of Weller's cigar smoking comrades is Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom he has known for some time. Once, the two actors were at a World Cup soccer match, and Schwarzenegger wanted to light up. "Arnold asked me for a cigar and I thought, man, you are only making $480 million a year. Not that I am broke. And I said, 'I will give you a cigar. What are you smoking?' and he said, 'Whatever is free, Peter.'"