ON THE SET
The city of Atlanta is under siege by the cast and crew of robocop3, as the metallic hero of a futuristic Detroit attempts to serve the public trust and protect the innocent by quitting the police department and joining a determined band of rebels.
[ Source: Starlog magazine 169 Aug 1991 ]
[ Thanx to Eva Dalila for the write-up. ]
A neighborhood street has been cleared for the evening’s filming, which includes a chase scene.
The evil McDaggett (John Castle) is fleeing in a sleek Omni Consumer Products Rehabilitation van while RoboCop has commandeered a purple Lincoln (referred to by the unit as the “Pimpmobile”) to follow him.
McDaggett has virtually shot RoboCop’s car into so many pieces that he is driving little more than a chassis, but the cyborg is still in pursuit.
In an attempt to get rid of the lawman, McDaggett rides through a group of boys playing street hockey and throws a handful of money out of the van; forced to skid a sudden stop, RoboCop narrowly avoids hitting the kids.
A crew with hoses and water truck wet down the street, while ten boys in hockey equipment stand on the sidelines. Preparing for a practice run at one end of the street is Russell Towery, who has served as Robocop stunt double for all the three films. With a man lying unseen in the back seat (in order to operate the steam coming from the auto´s engine), the car races down the street and skids into a broadside stop.
Dekker and his crew look on approvingly, and the camera rolls on the next attempt. The car races down the street once again, and as the brakes are applied, the stripped-down Pimpmobile fishtails 90 degrees and comes to a stop at the curb, while the wind blows fake money into the shot.
Several more takes are filmed, and as the stunt double steps out of the car, young hockey players stir excitedly. Flanked by his crew and in full costume, RoboCop himself walks onto the set.
Actually Burke is missing his helmet and jawpiece as he stands with one foot in and the other outside the smoking car A length of track is set down so the camera can move in for a close-up They rehearse the shot, in which four of the hockey players rush up to Robo admiringly, with fistfuls of dollars in their hands. Burke jokes with the boys, playfully sparring with one of them, until the crew is ready.
On cue, RoboCop takes a step out of the car and stands heroically, suddenly, before the hockey players can run to him, the wind shifts, RoboCop has been completely hidden in a dense cloud of prop smoke!
“Cut” says Dekker. And jokingly adds, “Bloody awful”! A conceptual disaster!”
Nevertheless, the scene is filmed in only a few more takes and Burke is released for the night. He steps into a nearby building being used by the film unit, where his costume crew, led by Roboveteran Dennis Pawlik, surrounds him and begins removing the Roboparts, with the efficiency of an Indy 500 pit crew, they unscrew, unlatch and have Burke stripped down to a black body suit in no time.
Several Splatterpunks are gathered around the coffee table while Dekker supervises some of the Molotov test explosions; one of the prop men test-fires a flaming arrow from a crossbow. As the final pyrotechnics are being set up, director of photography, Gary Kibble discusses their progress thus far.
“This is quite involved and very challenging,” he says, “We are having to light big areas under a short schedule and the ultimate endurance of everyone collectively is putting a good image on the screen. Up to this point, we’re doing exceptionally well.
We’re pretty much (striving for) reality, using the lights available in the city, and creating moods that tell the story of what’s happening in the scene”
Some of the cast and crew have compared Fred Dekker´s extensive movement of the camera in the new movie to Paul Verhoeven´s direction in the first RoboCop; Kibbes agrees that there’s some similarity.
“We’re moving it a little more than they did in the first one. The transitions may not be as great -I think they used the Panaglide more than we did- but certainly dolly moves and the angles we’ve using may have been much different. Robo´s color has been changed, and we’re trying to present him in a different manner. His overall look, colorwise, is much different than in the other two films.”
Even though RoboCop isn’t as shiny and reflective as in the second film, Kibbe says he’s still difficult to properly light.
“He is like a mirror,” he explains. “I have referred to him as a Porsche. We generally use a lot of soft light on him, We’ve tried to stay away from color, other than existing color that may be on the night exteriors, which you get from various neon signs, traffic lights and street lights, which have a tendency to give him a little more glitter.
We’re pretty much using soft white lights, bounce cards and in some cases, even fluorescent to highlight areas”
Shooting on so many locations can make it difficult to plan ahead, and Kibbe admits that they often have to improvise.
“We may have an idea about something, but when we get there and see something that works a little better, we change it. “Its good in some respects, because we’re looking at it from two points of view and two different times, so it’s always subject to change. We may not like something we discussed earlier, only because the set presents itself a manner that visually appears much more appropriate.
A Molotov Cocktail suddenly explodes, Dekker is satisfied, and the actors take their places, On cue, they begin shooting off camera at the Splatterpunks, as the gasoline bombs land all around them.
Jane Bartelme, co-producer of the movie explains: Frank Miller and Fred Dekker came up with a very good story. The second film dealt with cyborgs; in this one, we´re dealing with human beings”
One of the human beings is a 10 year old girl played by Remy Ryan, a member of the rebellion who befriends RoboCop. “She has been turned out of her home and lost her parents at the same time. As a Detroit resident, she has been a RoboCop fan, she’s a technical whiz kid, so she’s very interested in what makes him tick, -he is a hero to her-“
Bartelme has a high praise for Burke, the new RoboCop. “RoboCop is great- he has his own ideas and style,-he has become RoboCop! It was actually quite amazing to see this guy walk in, put on the suit and transform himself- that guy is RoboCop!
We knew right away, because we looked at several people and he fit the bill in spades!”
Although the first film was made primarily in Dallas and the follow-up in Houston, it was more than money at the locations that made them choose Atlanta as their futuristic Detroit this time around.
“When American audiences saw the Dallas skyline (in the first film), it set the tone for a futuristic picture that could create the character within that framework” she explains, “Now since RoboCop has been adopted into the American Language you can take him several steps further into the American society. We can revolve a story around him, rather than having the environment rule over what he can do. The environment is secondary to him, whereas on the first picture, it was very important. I think RoboCop could probably go anywhere- you may see him walking past the Eiffel Tower some day,” -she laughs-.
“We also utilize as much technology as we can in order to get a futuristic look. We’re using Phil Tippett´s stop-motion animation again for ED-209. We’re using a thermograph camera, which is basically a heat sensor, to pick up live objects in a room. They’re for Robovision -if he walks into a dark room he still has his vision”
Bartelme adds that the changes in RoboCop3 involve more than the technology. “We have targeted a wider audience, we find that children relate to RoboCop so, we’ve made him more accessible to children, and toned down the violence”
Despite changes in approach, RoboCop will remain a hero, which the co-producer says is the key to his popularity. “People are looking for new heroic figures in their lives, whether they be fictitious or real. This is a heroic figure who intermingles with real people in real life situations, that could happen to any of us”