With director Jose Padilha’s new take on RoboCop opening in theaters and IMAX on February 12th, the other day I landed an exclusive phone interview with Joel Kinnaman. He talked about working with Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman, the PG-13 rating and why his opinion has changed (I asked about this because before filming began, he expressed to us his reservations about a PG-13 take on RoboCop), director Daniel Espinosa’s Child 44, Run All Night, future projects, what he wants to do in 2014, his opinion on casting Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor in Batman vs. Superman, and a lot more.
For those unfamiliar, the film takes place in the near future where a company called OmniCorp has pushed drone technology to new levels, and they now want to mix the technology with a human operator. When police officer Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is gravely injured, OmniCorp takes the opportunity to use him as their prototype cyborg police officer. The experiment on Murphy is meant to be the first of many RoboCops the company hopes to put in every U.S. city. The film also stars Abbie Cornish, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, and Samuel L. Jackson. Hit the jump for the interview.
Collider: So I’m talking to you about a week or so before the movie’s coming out and we’re on the phone to talk about the most important thing: what is your opinion of the Batman Vs. Superman casting of Jesse Eisenberg playing Lex Luther?
JOEL KINNAMAN: [Laughs] Genius, just complete genius.
Were you a fan of Man of Steel? Was that a thing with you?
KINNAMAN: Yeah, it was great. I liked that they made it a little darker.
I loved the movie completely. I think Zack Snyder did a phenomenal job and the casting that’s been announced thus far has been pretty cool.
KINNAMAN: Yeah, they seem to be doing something really fantastic with that. I saw it the day after it opened. I was very intrigued and they grounded it and it was an exciting movie. I liked it.
So next important question. If you had the RoboCop suit on The Killing would your cases have ended differently?
KINNAMAN: [Laughs] Yes they would have. I would have liked to see him battle his meth addiction, like how would the RoboCop suit get high? Would he have gotten as high? I’d like to see RoboCop on meth that would be interesting.
A year or two ago, I think you were getting ready to start filming, it was in the upcoming future, you talked to Christina on my site about the rating. One of the questions we asked you was about PG-13 or R. I’ve seen the movie, and it’s pretty violent for PG-13. Talk a little bit about the whole rating thing.
KINNAMAN: I think that was the first time I opened my mouth about RoboCop and I had a couple of brief conversations with Jose about what he wanted to do with the film, but I hadn’t gone into depth with it, and I didn’t really know that The Dark Knight was PG-13 as well, I didn’t know what you could get away with with PG-13. You know I haven’t been in the States that long, I haven’t done that many films on the US market. It was the first thing that popped out of my mind, but after seeing what we got away with with PG-13 that battle became quite irrelevant. And the original RoboCop by Verhoeven, he has a very specific idea when it comes to violence and how you portray violence. I mean, he grew up in the whirlpool of WWII and was very affected by that, and he had this idea that when you treat violence way over the top it becomes comedic.
The original RoboCop was X-rated and then they had to cut it down so it became R-rated and Verhoeven claimed that actually made the movie more violent, because it’s what you don’t see that actually scares you. And the violence of the of the original RoboCop was so much aligned with Verhoeven’s cinematic tone and his comedic tone, and our film is carrying Jose’s tone which he’s a completely different filmmaker, so the violence that we have in our movie completely makes sense in terms of who Jose is.
A hundred percent, and also let me jut say this since you can’t: The MPAA is full of shit. You can do crazy shit in a PG-13 movie, but the minute you have any bit of sex it’s rated R, but you can literally blow off people’s heads and it’s still PG-13.
[Laughs] No, I think we can agree. No but listen, again I’ve seen the film and you guys show a lot of stuff. A lot.
KINNAMAN: Some of the infrared stuff, that’s also an interesting thing that Jose experimented with in the movie and how you can show violence through infrared. It’s interesting.
Totally, and the other thing is if you don’t show crazy blood you can get away with a lot. I believe you’re a fan of Starship Troopers. That’s another movie that I love that Verhoeven did.
KINNAMAN: I love Starship Troopers. I’ve seen it ten times. I think it’s a fucking smart movie.
I think it’s another level of genius. I love that film…love, I want to stress that word. It’s a shame that Verhoeven sort of lost- you know what I mean, there was a bit of time when he was just nailing it.
KINNAMAN: Yeah, for sure. That trio of films RoboCop, Starship Troopers and Total Recall, they were an integral part of my childhood.
We’re on the exact same page. While I have you on the phone I definitely have to ask you… I’m a huge fan of Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman, obviously you got to work with both of them. You’ve obviously given the safe answers to everybody, but were there ever any times where you got to geek out with these guys on set or do anything really cool where as a film fan you can’t believe you got to do?
KINNAMAN: [Laughs] I mean, I can’t think of any specific thing, but it was pretty much every day, especially with Gary. We were always joking around, he’s a really funny guy and he’s the kind of actor that turns it on and off. You’d be in the middle of a really intense scene and then we’d be joking around and then they’d say “rolling” and it’s just on. I didn’t have that many scenes with Michel Keaton I had maybe three scenes with him in the entire movie, and they were kind of brief interactions. So with Michael I kind of hung out with more in between the takes. He’s also a funny, funny guy. I think I said it in the last interview we did, but he was always giving me shit about me complaining about my suit and then how his Batman suit was- ” You know, back in the old days they had to glue the suit on”, He was always fucking around with me like that. But just the fact that I got to play around with these guys and they knew who I was [laughs], and when I said things to them they actually said things back. I know they had to because there was a script, but still that was an amazing feeling.
I definitely want to touch on the fact that you’re working or worked on, with your friend Daniel Espinosa, on Child 44 and you got to work with Tom Hardy. You got to work with a lot of people, and Gary again. What was that experience like?
KINNAMAN: It was great. Working with Daniel was like coming home in a sense. He’s one of my closest friend outside of work and we have a very special relationship. We would always be bickering and getting into fights on set and the whole crew is just standing there wondering what the fuck is going on and then were standing there wondering what the fuck is going on. We’ll stand there and yell at each other for two minutes in Swedish and nobody understands what we’re saying and then all the sudden we’re like “Oh, beautiful!” Then we’re both super happy and we go shoot this scene. And it was also a bunch of other Swedish actors that are also close friends of mine on the movie. It was a cool experience. I mean Safe House was that as well, but I was in that movie so little, in the end it was four days of shooting, but on this one it was a much longer haul and we got to take our Swedish playground- that’s what Daniel does, he takes our little Swedish playground and takes it on to the big stage. It’s a place where we can all reconnect. It’s also this thing when you’re working a lot on the international market, or the Anglo-Saxon international market, I’m always 90-95% of the time I’m away from everybody that I care about, so when Daniel makes a movie it becomes one of those two and half, three month periods where you just get to hang out with all your boys and that in itself has value.
KINNAMAN: Yeah, I’m very director driven. I want to find and interesting character, but it’s got to be one of the great director and the great directors attract a great cast. It’s the same thing with Jose that it is with Daniel- people want to work with them, because when you sit down and talk to them and they tell you the vision that they have, but also you see their previous work and you know what kind of taste they have and you know this director is going to be fun to be around, but is also going to challenge you. Also, the great directors pick the great material, so that’s why they cast the actors that have a lot of options and can choose between a lot of projects, that’s why they migrate towards these directors.
Also you did Run All Night where you got to work with Liam Neeson and Ed Harris.
KINNAMAN: And Nick Nolte.
Believe me the casts that you’ve been working with are preposterous, you know?
KINNAMAN: Yeah, it’s been an incredible year in that regard, just getting to work with all these people that I look up to and actors that I’ve studied their work all the sudden I get to work with them, it’s an incredible blessing.
What are you thinking about for 2014? When you’re in a movie like Robocop, you’ve obviously already done these other movies but when you’re in a big, mainstream movie like that all the sudden are you taking more meetings? Are you getting more scripts? What are you thinking about for the future?
KINNAMAN: Yeah, I mean the options- when you only have one choice and you need to put food on the table its easy to make a decision and your personal taste is kind of on the sideline, but when you finally start getting to the position where you dream of being that’s when your taste and your perception of filmmakers really come into play. As actors we’re like these vagabond artists, we have to be invited to perform so if you don’t have a choice of options its very hard to define yourself. So that’s why there’s a real reason to try to climb the ladder as an actor, because you want to reach that position where you have a variety of choices, and then you can define yourself, what kind of stories you want be a part of and what kind of characters you want to play. So I’m looking forward to doing that in 2014.
KINNAMAN: I’m looking around. I’ve also had such an intense two year period where I’ve been working. I’ve been overlapping projects, the whole last year I didn’t have a beat between the movies. The movie would start shooting without me and then I’d come right into it. I’d wrap one movie or The Killing, then I’d get on a plane, fly, land and then the next day I’d be shooting the next project. So I’d have to kind of prepare a new character while I was shooting the previous one, and even though I’m used to that now and that works the ideal situation is to have a month and half to really dive into it and I haven’t really had the opportunity to prepare the way I want to prepare. I’m determined to do that this year. To be a little more careful with what I choose and make sure that I’ve got time to really prepare for it.
I completely get it and you’re gong to have to promote these movies that are coming out.
KINNAMAN: Yeah, that’s a big part of the job.
A hundred percent, I’ve spoken to actors that say that that is what they get the money for. The acting is free, the promotion is what you pay me for.
KINNAMAN: That is actually true, and any actor that tries to get in the contract that they don’t do promotion, that actor probably also doesn’t get paid that much or paid at all.