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ROBOCOP

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 pundit.

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 relationship."

"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."

"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 do?"

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 suit."

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 she's well-respected."

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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