This weekend Hero Complex in association with The Los Angeles Times hosted the third annual Hero Complex Film Festival. Highlights to which included a screening of Shaun of the Dead with Edgar Wright, Wall-E with director Andrew Stanton and A Clockwork Orange with star Malcolm McDowell.
I was on hand Saturday for the fest at a midday screening of Paul Verhoeven’s seminal satirical ultraviolent masterpiece RoboCop. Star Peter Weller appeared after the screening for a lengthy and animated Q&A wherein he discussed prepping for RoboCop, learning to appreciate the satirical bend of the film and his thoughts on a hypothetical remake, among many other topics of conversation. For highlights from the Q&A, hit the jump.
Weller recounted three weeks prior in Dallas, he sat down and watched RoboCop for the first time in twenty so odd years. “For the first time” he stated, “I was able to get past all the hoopla of the film.” Weller informed he was “really proud” of RoboCop – noting the “anthropological” concerns of the film will continue to make it “relevant even a hundred years hence”.
Weller prefers the uncut director’s cut to the theatrical rendition, observing that the extra violence in the former makes the movie funnier. The first over-the-top death sequence featuring an employee getting shredded by the malfunctioning ED-209 goes on quite a bit longer in Verhoeven’s X-rated cut. Weller informed that it took “seventeen times” for the MPAA to let the scene pass, by which time the number of shots the employee endures had been cut way down. But Weller was quick to point out that the lessened run-time only makes the violence starker and more horrifying. Whereas the longer the poor unfortunate subservient employee is riddled with bullets, the more absurd and by proxy humorous the scene becomes.
On prepping for RoboCop: Weller stated it was “one of the most judiciously disciplined” acting preps he’s ever undergone. He worked six months with his Julliard acting coach just to perfect RoboCop’s singular walk. He wanted to avoid playing into the “sentimentality of the film” – in particular when RoboCop returns to his abandoned home and then when he finally takes off his helmet. “I didn’t want to fall into the cry-baby thing… Let the audience make the emotional connection for themselves.” He also noted that Rob Bottin’s stellar makeup for RoboCop took about six and a half hours to put on and then another hour and fifty minutes to take off. “My face would look like a giant zit for seventy two hours afterwards.”
Weller admitted he has “no flair or interest” in science fiction despite his film roles. Philip K. Dick is the only exception. (Of interest: Weller seems particularly fond of his film Screamers, which is itself based on the Dick novella ‘Second Variety’). “There’s something very Zen… Buddhist [about Dick]… this theme that if you build something – that’s you, that these objects have a real life.”
Weller briefly touched upon his time working with Michelangelo Antonioni (on the little seen Beyond the Clouds) – saying that it was “great experience”. Antonioni – Weller opined – was profoundly invested in the void between man and woman and the impossibility of ever fully understanding your significant other. “His films” – he stated yet – “are only beautiful if you leave them alone.”
On Buckaroo Banzai: Weller related an exchange he and John Lithgow had backstage before an honoring of the film at the Lincoln Center years prior. Kevin Smith was on stage extolling their virtues of the film and hyping up the eager crowd; Weller, listening in, turned to Lithgow, shrugging – “Do you understand anything that happens in the film?” Lithgow: “No… You?” Weller: “Not a clue.”
Weller on a hypothetical RoboCop remake: “I could give a shit… Good luck to them but they’ll never [equal] the original.”
Here’s the original Robocop trailer if you’ve never seen it: