Peter Weller will, for most people, always be remembered for his role as the half human, half robot super police officer in the first two Robocop movies. Keri Allan chats to him about the movies as well as finding out what he is currently working on...
Keri Allan: Does it bother you that you are mainly remembered as Robocop, and not for any of the other long list of films you have been involved with?
PW: I just roll with it. There was a time in the early nineties where I got a bit sick of it, but I just roll with it.
KA: Were you involved with recording any of the extras on the Robocop DVD boxset? Did you provide a commentary or anything?
PW: No, I was shooting a movie when they did that. They wanted me to come and do a thing, but I was shooting in South Africa, so was totally unavailable for it.
KA: How does it feel to see something that you did so long ago become so popular again?
PW: It's very strange. A lot of itís been made more cogent now because of this whole idea of progress, stomping on the small man, and you know, killing the guy in order to make a cop that will protect people. But why protect people when you have to kill a guy to do it?
And it's a whole World Trade Organisation, you got to empathise with the small businesses in the third world, small farms and the like where technology globalisation is really stomping on them. And thatís the theme in Robocop, well it's one of them anyway. It's the corporate world and greed, while it's nullifying the dignity of the common Joe.
KA: When you first got the script did you have any idea what you were letting yourself in for?
PW: I knew I was making a good movie, but I didnít know it would be a great success. It's all dependent on marketing.
KA: So what were your reasons for coming back for a second movie, but not for the third?
PW: Well they offered me a price tag, and I have to say it didnít quite have the third great act that Robocop 1 had, but by the time I was into the second one I knew I was tired of it, plus which David Cronenberg had asked me to do Naked Lunch with him, so I was happy to do it, and was happy to be gone.
KA: How did you prepare for your role?
PW: I had six months of movement with a guy named Moni Yochin and that was rigorous, and then we had to do a lot of work on the suit, and that was it! I just approached the role like he was a guy who could compute mathematics, but could not handle discussions about feelings and people.
That was essentially the preparation - and the voice (lowers voice). I lowered my voice. I had to sing but I canít do that now - I have to practice it. The make-up was tough. Before I could even start filming there was around six and a half hours of prosthetic make-up to be applied, and then an hour and half of putting on the suit. I had already worked an eight hour day by the time we actually started shooting. I had to go through that for 23 days. But what we had to do was have two days on, and then two days off, because taking the make-up off, youíd end up with these big blisters on your face, theyíd just ruin your face.
Also most of the movie was shot in Dallas, Texas, where it was a hundred and something degrees outside, and it was about 120 degrees Fahrenheit inside the suit so there were two guys with industrial air conditioning tubes standing around me all the time.
KA: Did they make the suit to fit you then? I heard they changed it for the second film?
PW: Yes, it was made to fit me. They changed the suit (for 2), it was a lot lighter, it wasnít as much fun, but it was a lot lighter, it wasnít necessarily more mobile though.
KA: So was it fun overall though?
PW: Oh yeah, it was a great challenge. I was also training for the New York Marathon at the same time, so I was running 8-10 miles in the morning. It was a discipline that I donít know if I could crank that up again. I mean I could if I had to, but I hope I donít have to.
KA: Do you think it would be much different if it had been filmed now, as to then?
PW: Well thatís something to say. I mean, because even stop motion animation has like gone the way of computers and Phil Tippet this genius guy, was the stop animation guy, heís Lucasí guy, all of those great talents are like falling at the expense of computer graphics. Working with Verhoeven was wild. He is a very dynamic guy, heís a driven guy. He knows what he wants and I learnt a lot from him.
KA: Your also well known for starring in Naked Lunch.
PW: Well I was contracted to Naked Lunch, but then I had some time, and actually I did this film in Malaysia called Fifty Fifty, it was a little move that came and went but it was a fun movie. So, I had a debriefing period before I went into Naked Lunch which was good, so by the time I got into Naked Lunch, I'd left Robocop behind me for a year or two.
KA: You also moved into directing. What prompted that?
PW: Iíve directed some short films, Iíve directed a couple of episodes of Homicide, a film for Paramount, lots of other stuff. Yeah I like it a lot, more than acting. I think I always wanted to be the story teller. I just always wanted to be the storyteller rather than the performer. I find more satisfaction in it. I just did this massive mini-series for Columbia Tristar called Odyssey five, about the discovery pilots, and I love doing it, that was good, it was great fun.
KA: What are you up to at the moment?
PW: Well at the moment Iím finishing a Masters Degree in Renaissance Italian art history, in Florence, I do my thesis in two weeks. Its crazy. Iíve been doing it in pieces, and now its the end of it, but it all adds up to about a year and a half. Its hard. Harder than making a movie. You get up, you write, you go to classes, you write, you go to wherever, you write! The good thing was for the last three months that Iím just finishing I got to teach undergrads and that was really a hoot.
I got interested in it because I go to Italy a lot, I took a summer course for Masters credit with no intention of ever going to university and finishing it, but there was a programme where you could do almost everything in Florence, so I said OK Iíll do that, and I did! Its a killer, but amazing.
So whatís next when you have your Masters under your sleeve?
Well Iím going to go back to Venice where I spend every Christmas, and then Iím gonna go back and finish this mini-series and then Iím directing a movie for Paramount