About The Characters
Joining Joel Kinnaman as Alex Murphy is an all-star cast, including Gary Oldman
as Dr. Dennett Norton, head of the Omni Foundation, who creates RoboCop; Michael
Keaton as Raymond Sellars, OmniCorp's CEO; Abbie Cornish as Alex Murphy's wife,
Clara Murphy; Jackie Earle Haley as Mattox, who trains Murphy after his
transformation; Michael K. Williams as Alex Murphy's partner, Officer Jack
Lewis; Jennifer Ehle as Liz Kline, OmniCorp's Chief Legal Counsel; Jay Baruchel
as Tom Pope, head of marketing for OmniCorp; Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Detroit
Police Chief Karen Dean; and Samuel L. Jackson as Pat Novak, a television
Kinnaman says he was excited to work with Padilha. "We're talking about a
plausible future, but one that doesn't exist yet," says the actor. "He makes it
very believable - not too outrageous or farfetched. We're close to the world of
this movie - we have bionic limbs, they're attempting fake hearts. It's still
science fiction, but it's a realistic leap in the future."
Kinnaman was especially interested in exploring the ways that Murphy regains his
humanity after it is stripped away from him. "Later in the film, Alex is
supposed to have no emotions - Norton has reduced his dopamine levels to zero.
But something compels him - he starts to search through all of the camera
memories he has in his brain. He has access to all of the CCTV cameras in the
entire city going back 20 years, and he starts searching for images of his son,
his wife, himself, to remind him of who he is. And when he does that, his
emotions start coming back. He goes back and recreates the assassination attempt
on his life, he starts investigating his own murder. These components start
bringing him back to life - it brings the humanity back inside of him. His
family is the reason that he starts to regain his humanity."
Kinnaman says that, like many actors, being in costume helped him to portray the
role - even if this costume was by far a greater challenge than he'd ever faced
before. "The suit weighs about 45 pounds. It was constantly uncomfortable,
constantly at the wrong temperature, either too hot or too cold. But that was
very helpful. As awkward as I felt being in there, I realized that it paled in
comparison to what Alex Murphy was feeling. I might have felt insecure and
naked - because, weirdly, you don't wear clothes in the suit - but Alex would
have felt 100 times that weirdness. It completely helped my character."
Despite the physical discomfort of the suit, Kinnaman sought to express the way
that RoboCop represents the cutting edge in robotics through his character's
movements. Gone are the days of the clunky and jerky robotics. "They are getting
very good at making humanoid droids move very realistically - for example, in
Japan, they have nursing droids with very soft movements that give comfort to
old people," Kinnaman notes. "So the idea we had for RoboCop's movement was that
it would be superhuman: everything would work exactly as it should on a human
body. He walks perfectly, extremely fluid." Still, they couldn't resist making
a small nod to the past. "We also did want to make a small homage to the way
Peter Weller moved - for example, when I was walking, I'd turn my head first and
then the shoulders afterward."
Kinnaman did extensive research before taking on the part. "Alex Murphy is a
seasoned SWAT cop - he knows his stuff. So I had to know my stuff, too, to make
it look accurate," he says. "I had to learn how to handle a gun better than I
could before. For some of my previous projects, I had worked for a couple of
days with Swedish special forces, so I continued working with them for another
two weeks. I also worked with Uncle Scottie, who was an LA Metro cop for 25
years and 10 years in SWAT."
In many ways, the key relationship in the film is that between Alex Murphy and
Dr. Norton, the scientist who creates RoboCop. "The relationship between Alex
and Dr. Norton is very complicated - in some ways, it's very much like Dr.
Frankenstein and the monster," says Kinnaman. "There's trust - that trust is
broken - and the trust is rebuilt. It almost becomes a strange father-son
"Their relationship is complicated - it's like a father and son at times," says
Oscar nominee Gary Oldman, who plays Norton. "Alex is an experiment that Norton
becomes emotionally attached to. And for someone as obsessive as Norton, he's a
challenge that can't be overlooked. Every parent has the moment when they prove
to be a disappointment to their child - and that's what Alex experiences with
"Norton is a bionic engineer - a scientist, a brain surgeon on steroids," says
Oldman. "He's very clever, very smart - maybe too smart for his own good. He's
pioneering technology for amputees and veterans - giving them a second chance, a
new lease on life."
But his work takes a turn when he takes on his greatest challenge - Alex Murphy.
"He's under a lot of pressure to get RoboCop out on the streets - even though he
might not be ready," says Oldman. "Norton is in a real pickle. He has to go
against everything he believes in as a doctor - that's where all of the ethical
and moral problems start."
Like Kinnaman, Oldman was persuaded to join the project when he heard Padilha's
take on a new vision for RoboCop. "Jose's work is both original and subversive,"
says Oldman. "For all intents and purposes, he's an indie filmmaker coming to
pop culture - dipping his toe in that, and making it smart, too."
Michael Keaton plays Raymond Sellars, the CEO of OmniCorp. Padilha says that
though Sellars is ostensibly the film's villain, he wanted to portray a fully
human character - one who is almost right. "There's a very good case for using
robots at war, or for law enforcement: robots are not corruptible, they don't
get tired, they don't have prejudice, they're not racist," he explains. "Sellars
makes that case brilliantly. He's not the usual bad guy - he goes wrong, but he
makes total sense."
"Raymond Sellars wants to be part of changing the world," notes Keaton, "so he
becomes the linchpin in this whole conversation - the question of whether this
use of this technology is correct or incorrect, moral or immoral. He's a bright
guy who is extraordinarily ambitious, a big thinker, an amateur futurist but
also very practical. He manipulates Norton, but not because he's evil or a liar
- he has an agenda, and he tells Norton exactly what he wants done and how he
wants Norton to do it. He's so convinced that he's right."
In playing the role, Keaton went to the highest sources to get some background
into the cutting edge of the technology. "I learned a lot, because I had to know
a lot about Sellars' world in order to be honest on screen," says Keaton. "I
talked to some roboticists from MIT and a friend of mine who had written a book
- a guy I've known 20 years. It's extraordinary what they're doing with
robotics - how we're going to live. One of the men I spoke with was a mountain
climber who years ago got lost in a snowdrift and lost his legs to frostbite;
well, he still climbs and he helped create the technology that lets him do
that. There's technology in which the brain sends a message to a nerve, and the
nerve reacts as though a prosthetic leg were a real leg; I talked to a veteran
who has one of these prostheses and he said he thinks about his prosthesis as
being part of him. Jose is way deep into this stuff - these areas that have
more questions than answers."
The role of Clara, Alex's wife, is played by Abbie Cornish. "Clara's a very
grounded, strong and intelligent woman - a loving wife and mother," says
Cornish. "Her family epitomizes a happy working middle class family, whose
lives are then torn apart by the events that unfold in the film. However, the
bond and connection between the Murphy's holds strong, and provides a very human
and emotional through line to Alex's journey after he becomes RoboCop."
Cornish says that Clara is placed in the position of a particularly grim
choice. "Sellars and Norton are looking for the most likely candidate to be
transformed into RoboCop, and when they select Alex, it's Clara who has to make
the ultimate decision and sign the documentation," she explains. "How do you
make that choice? When you're told that your husband will die without it, but
if he goes forward with the procedure he will change entirely? What would you
Jackie Earle Haley, an Oscar nominee for his role in Little Children, takes on
the role of Mattox, an ex-military operative now working for OmniCorp, charged
with making sure that all robotic technology passes military-level muster - and
that includes RoboCop. "He has a serious military background, but finds himself
in a privatized world working for OmniCorp," Haley explains. "He's definitely a
button-down guy, but he's also a little snarky, with an attitude. He really
loves his robots - and in fact, he thinks of his robots as minimizing risk. He
knows exactly what the robots are going to do. That's why he's got a problem
with RoboCop - he thinks if you put organics into the system, it just increases
the uncertainty and the risk."
Haley says he has been training for this role for many years - in a manner of
speaking. "I moved to Texas about 13 years ago. With a friend there, I've been
shooting different kinds of guns nearly that entire time," Haley explains. "We
do it just for fun - we hunt a bit - but the main reason we do it is so I can
apply that knowledge to my work. When I got on the set of RoboCop, I was able to
ask questions about the specific weapons I'd be firing and how they might be
similar to guns I'd already shot. That kind of background is incredibly useful."
Michael K. Williams, who brought to life the memorable character of Omar Little
in the HBO series "The Wire," joins the cast of RoboCop as Murphy's partner,
Jack Lewis. Williams says he was excited to be part of the cast - and physically
acting opposite Kinnaman was an unusual experience. Williams' role was split
into two: first, he shot his scenes with Kinnaman before Murphy's transformation
into RoboCop; then, a short while later, Williams rejoined the production to
shoot his scenes with Kinnaman in the RoboCop suit. "As we were wrapping one
night, it struck me - this was the last time I would see Joel as Joel - as a
human being. So I gave him a pound - see ya later. And sure enough, next time I
saw him, he was RoboCop. I gave him a pound - it hit him on the shoulder and I
almost broke my hand!"
Two-time Tony Award-winner Jennifer Ehle, who most recently co-starred opposite
Jessica Chastain in the acclaimed film Zero Dark Thirty, plays Liz Kline,
OmniCorp's corporate lawyer. She notes that in a story that is so much about the
ethical and moral choices we all will face in the near future, her character is
one whose worldview is not all that different from ours in the present. She
says, "Liz Kline is functioning in a world that is fully of technology, but the
nuts and bolts of her work aren't that different than what a lawyer would be
doing today. That's interesting - everyone else is pushing boundaries and
creating new worlds, and she's dealing with the black-and-white of the law."
Jay Baruchel plays Tom Pope, the superficial head of marketing for OmniCorp - a
man who sees RoboCop as much as a consumer product as a law enforcement tool
protecting and serving the people of Detroit. "Pope is a marketing guy, too
slick for his own good," says Baruchel.
It was important to Baruchel and the filmmakers that the audience would
immediately take in where the character was coming from - and much of that could
come from Baruchel's costume. "The costume designer, April Ferry, decided that
he would be something of a label hound," Baruchel explains. "So I've got her
favorite wardrobe in the movie. Every day, I was dressed to the nines in super
fashionable stuff - stuff that I normally wouldn't be caught dead in. But I know
it looks nice, and I'm happy that my mother finally gets to see me dressed in a
Marianne Jean-Baptiste takes on the role of Karen Dean, Detroit's chief of
police. "She's a very powerful go-getter," says the Oscar-nominated actress.
"She's worked her way up the ranks in the police department. She wields a lot
of power - and she enjoys doing that. But I think she's fair with her staff and
Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson rounds out the cast as Pat Novak, a political
commentator. "Sam Jackson described his character as Rush Sharpton!" laughs
Kinnaman. "He's very opinionated, very pro-robotics and pro-OmniCorp."
"We got Samuel L. Jackson, who is a great actor - he has such a presence and
charisma - but the thing that surprised me was how prepared he was," says
Padilha. "We gave him these long monologues, so many lines, and he just nailed
them, first take, no mistakes."
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