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Joel Kinnaman, New Action Hero in ‘Robocop’

Man and machine unite in Columbia Pictures' “RoboCop,” a reimagining of the 1980s cult classic, starring actor-on-the-rise Joel Kinnaman (TV's “The Killing,” “The Darkest Hour”).

Man and machine unite in Columbia Pictures' “RoboCop,” a reimagining of the 1980s cult classic, starring actor-on-the-rise Joel Kinnaman (TV's “The Killing,” “The Darkest Hour”).

In the film, police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) becomes the star product of OmniCorp, the world’s leading robotics defense company. In a Detroit ravaged by crime, OmniCorp sees an opening for the perfect policeman – a robot that can clean up the city, without putting police lives at risk. Trouble is, the idea of a robot pulling the trigger makes people anxious. To get it done, they compromise: after Murphy is mortally wounded, he wakes up in the hospital mostly a robot, barely a man at all – but all cop.

“OmniCorp’s idea is that they need a man inside the machine, a man who makes the decisions so the corporation won’t be held liable if something goes wrong,” says Kinnaman. “They leave his emotions intact in social situations, but when facing a threat or when a crime is committed, the computer takes over. When they realize his emotions make the system vulnerable, they completely shut them off. But when Alex comes in contact with his family, his emotions find a way back and override the computer system. He starts making his own decisions again.”

Kinnaman says he was attracted to play the role of Alex Murphy after meeting with director José Padilha. “José described his vision – his philosophical and political ideas that could fit inside the concept of RoboCop,” says Kinnaman. “You could use that concept to talk about a lot of other interesting things. He wanted to make a fun action movie that discusses philosophical dilemmas that we will face in the very near future. And I wanted to be a part of that.”

The issues aren’t just ethical or moral, but also very personal for Alex Murphy. “In the movie, people have to believe that the machine knows what it feels like to be human, so they keep Alex Murphy’s brain intact. He has all his emotions. He has all his memories. He has cognitive capabilities. However, he can’t hold his son or have sex with his wife,” says Padilha. “It’s a nightmare being Robocop. The movie is very much about the drama of this man facing the existential question – how am I going to go forward like this? Is Alex a machine or a human being?”


“We’re talking about a plausible future, but one that doesn’t exist yet,” says the actor. “Jose 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 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.”

Opening across the Philippines in Feb. 05, 2014, “RoboCop” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

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