RoboCop (1987)

R | 103 mins | Adventure, Science fiction | 17 July 1987

Producer:

Arne Schmidt

Cinematographer:

Jost Vacano

Production Designer:

William Sandell

Production Company:

Orion Pictures Corporation
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HISTORY

RoboCop was Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s debut American film. He had previously directed several acclaimed European films, including Soldier of Orange, (1977), Spetters, (1980) and The Fourth Man (1983). Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate that Verhoeven was a science fiction fan, but had never attempted the genre in his early films because the technology was not available in Europe. When RoboCop was offered, he immediately accepted.
       RoboCop marked the film debut of screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Neumeier had worked as a script reader, while Miner was a short film and music video director. Together, they crafted a comic-book tale of a super-hero cop dealing with a violent world. The 1 Sep 1987 LAT reported that the pair received offers for their screenplay from Atlantic Releasing Corporation and producer Jon Davison. They took Davison’s offer. Although they were initially paid only a few thousand dollars for the option, their contract gave them the right to do the first rewrite for an additional $25,000 fee. Producers were happy with their first rewrite and shot from that script.
       Jon Davison formed his own production company, Tobor (“robot” spelled backward) Productions to do the film. The 31 Jul 1987 LA Weekly reported that after Orion Pictures Corporation agreed to finance the project, Davison brought in director Jonathan Kaplan, but Kaplan soon left to direct Project X (1987, see entry) instead. Several American directors turned Davison down before he offered the film to Verhoeven. A few actors also turned down the lead role before Peter Weller accepted. The 6 Jan 1988 ... More Less

RoboCop was Dutch director Paul Verhoeven’s debut American film. He had previously directed several acclaimed European films, including Soldier of Orange, (1977), Spetters, (1980) and The Fourth Man (1983). Promotional materials in AMPAS library files indicate that Verhoeven was a science fiction fan, but had never attempted the genre in his early films because the technology was not available in Europe. When RoboCop was offered, he immediately accepted.
       RoboCop marked the film debut of screenwriters Edward Neumeier and Michael Miner. Neumeier had worked as a script reader, while Miner was a short film and music video director. Together, they crafted a comic-book tale of a super-hero cop dealing with a violent world. The 1 Sep 1987 LAT reported that the pair received offers for their screenplay from Atlantic Releasing Corporation and producer Jon Davison. They took Davison’s offer. Although they were initially paid only a few thousand dollars for the option, their contract gave them the right to do the first rewrite for an additional $25,000 fee. Producers were happy with their first rewrite and shot from that script.
       Jon Davison formed his own production company, Tobor (“robot” spelled backward) Productions to do the film. The 31 Jul 1987 LA Weekly reported that after Orion Pictures Corporation agreed to finance the project, Davison brought in director Jonathan Kaplan, but Kaplan soon left to direct Project X (1987, see entry) instead. Several American directors turned Davison down before he offered the film to Verhoeven. A few actors also turned down the lead role before Peter Weller accepted. The 6 Jan 1988 issue of London, England’s Time Out magazine suggested that since the RoboCop helmet completely covered Weller’s face except for his mouth and chin, he was perhaps cast for his “photogenic lips.”
       Actress Stephanie Zimbalist was initially cast in the role of “Officer Anne Lewis,” the 4 Aug 1986 DV reported, but had to drop out when NBC (National Broadcasting Company) ordered more episodes of the television detective series Remington Steele, in which she played the character “Laura Holt.” Although NBC had cancelled the series, the network exercised an option for more episodes when news came that series star Pierce Brosnan had been cast to play James Bond in the movie The Living Daylights (1987, see entry), an offer that Bond producers rescinded after NBC ordered more Remington Steele episodes.
       Principal photography began on 6 Aug 1986, according to the 15 Aug 1986 DV production chart. Although RoboCop is set in Detroit, MI, filming was done in Dallas, TX, because the city had a more modern skyline. Dallas City Hall was used for exteriors of the Omni Consumer Products (OCP) headquarters. Other Dallas locations included the Plaza of the Americas, the Renaissance Tower, and the Stark Club. The 14 Aug 1987 HR reported that filming took place on soundstages at the city’s Studios at Las Colinas.
       The production was initially set to shoot eight to nine weeks in Dallas, the 12 Aug 1986 HR announced, but the 31 Jul 1987 LA Weekly stated that after the first week, Jon Davison realized that filming would take longer than scheduled. Orion production head Mike Medavoy approved his request based on the dailies he saw. The film’s budget increased from $11 million to $13.1 million. Orion also approved an additional $600,000 during postproduction for high-tech sound effects and a symphonic score. The 17 Oct 1986 Backstage reported that filming in Dallas was complete. The company moved to the abandoned Wheeling-Pittsburgh steel mill outside of Pittsburgh, PA, to shoot a climactic battle scene for three weeks, the 6 Nov 1986 HR noted.
       The twenty-five-pound RoboCop suit was created by special effects supervisor Rob Bottin. The 26 Jul 1987 issue of Long Beach, CA’s Press-Telegram reported that actor Peter Weller worked four months with mime coach Moni Yakim to develop a “Robomovement” style that allowed him to move mechanically like a robot, but also to express the “humanity” of the man trapped inside.
       The Enforcement Droid (ED-209) was created by Phil Tippet, who built both a seven-foot-tall, full-size droid controlled by puppeteers for scenes with other actors, and a miniature droid for stop-motion photography.
       Because of its graphic violence, RoboCop initially received an X rating from the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA). The 13 May 1987 DV reported that Orion Pictures planned to appeal the rating, but then asked for a last-minute postponement. According to the 20 May 1987 LAT, Orion resubmitted the film several times before receiving an R. Pointing out that the film was a black comedy, Davison told the 18 Jul 1987 LAT that the violence in the X-rated version was “so excessive that it became comic,” and no one would have taken it seriously. Davison added that the cuts for the R-rated version brought the violence to a more realistic level, but also made the film more disturbing to some viewers.
       Since RoboCop had a low promotional budget, Orion Pictures tried several unusual tactics to create awareness and positive word of mouth. The 21 Jul 1987 LAT reported that critics, who were fans of Verhoeven’s European films, were shown a work print before it was fully edited and scored. Additionally, actors wearing replicas of the RoboCop costume appeared at shopping malls and events across the country, including an auto race in Florida. Sneak previews were held on 711 screens nationwide on 10 Jul 1987, a week before the official opening.
       RoboCop opened on 1,580 screens on 17 Jul 1987, taking in $8 million in its first three days, the 21 Jul 1987 DV noted. By six weeks, the film had grossed $44.6 million, according to the 1 Sep 1987 DV box office report.
       The film’s success spawned two sequels: 1990’s RoboCop 2 and 1993’s RoboCop 3 (see entries). A twelve-episode animated television series based on the characters aired in 1988. A twenty-one episode, live-action Canadian-produced television series also aired in 1994-1995. In 2014, a remake of the original movie was produced starring actor Joel Kinnman as “Alex Murphy/RoboCop” (see entry).
       End credits include the following Acknowledgements: “Tim Boxell; Howard Chaykin; Troy Dungan—WFAA; Samuel Eskenazi; Ran Halpern; Joel Marrow; AT&T; Belgian American Investment Inc.; Bell Northern Research; FAA Technical Center; Friendly Furniture; Hyatt Regency; Jay Ohberg Show Cars; La Salle Partners Inc.; Mag-Lite; Modern Props; Visual Eyes; Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel Corporation—Monessen; Effects Slides by Alex Pietersen; Production services provided by FPS.” More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
[Long Beach, CA] Press-Telegram
26 Jul 1987.
---
Backstage
17 Oct 1986.
---
Daily Variety
4 Aug 1986.
---
Daily Variety
15 Aug 1986.
---
Daily Variety
13 May 1987.
---
Daily Variety
8 Jul 1987
p. 3, 34.
Daily Variety
21 Jul 1987.
---
Daily Variety
1 Sep 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
12 Aug 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
6 Nov 1986.
---
Hollywood Reporter
8 Jul 1987
p. 3, 37.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jul 1987.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 Aug 1987.
---
LA Weekly
31 Jul 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 May 1987.
---
Los Angeles Times
17 Jul 1987
Calendar, p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
18 Jul 1987
Section E, p. 1, 5.
Los Angeles Times
21 Jul 1987.
Section G, p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
1 Sep 1987.
Section H, p. 1, 9.
New York Times
17 Jul 1987
Section C, p. 10.
Time Out [London]
6 Jan 1988
---
Variety
8 Jul 1987
p. 10.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
An Orion® Pictures Release
A Jon Davison Production
A Paul Verhoeven Film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir, The 2d unit
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Asst dir, The 2d unit
Asst dir, The 2d unit
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Dir of photog, The 2d unit
Cam op, The 2d unit
Cam op, The 2d unit
Gaffer, The 2d unit
Best boy
Key grip
Key grip
Grip
Video tech
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Robocop des and created by
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
2d asst ed
2d asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Set des
Leadman
Leadman
Leadman
Set dresser
Prop master
Asst props
Const coord
Const foreman
Const foreman
Head painter
COSTUMES
MUSIC
Mus ed, Segue Music
Mus ed
Mus mixer
SOUND
Sd mixer
Sd ed
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Sd mixer
Foley
Foley
Sd eff, Ed
Sd eff, Ed
1st asst ed, Sd Eff
Video ed, Sd Eff
Dial supv, Sd Eff
Dolby Stereo consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec photog eff by
Visual Concept Engineering
Matte paintings by
Opt supv by
Opt supv by
Spec eff
Spec eff
Spec eff
Prosthetics applied by, The Effects
Robocop const, The Effects
Robocop const, The Effects
Robocop const, The Effects
Robocop const, The Effects
Robocop const, The Effects
Robocop const, The Effects
Roboteam, The Effects
Roboteam, The Effects
Roboteam, The Effects
Roboteam, The Effects
Spec makeup eff, The Effects
Opt eff, Visual concept eng crew
Opt eff, Visual concept eng crew
Opt eff, Visual concept eng crew
Opt eff, Visual concept eng crew
Admin, Visual concept eng crew
Opt cam, Praxis Film Works crew
Matte cam, Praxis Film Works crew
Matte cam, Praxis Film Works crew
Opticals, Freeze Frame
Opticals
DANCE
Robomovement
MAKEUP
Makeup
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Casting
Local casting, Central Casting
Local casting
Prod coord
Asst coord
Prod auditor
Weapons master
Asst weapons
Loc mgr
Loc mgr
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Caterer, Gala Enterprises
Financial services
Asst to Mr. Verhoeven
Asst to Mr. Weller
Prod personnel
Prod personnel
Video seq created by, Homer & Associates
Video seq created by
6000 Sux commercial by
T.J. Lazer crew
T.J. Lazer crew
T.J. Lazer crew
T.J. Lazer crew
6000 Sux by, Rod & Custom
6000 Sux by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
Stunt player
ANIMATION
ED-209 seq by
Des and created by, ED 209 Crew
Des and created by, ED 209 Crew
Visual eff, ED 209 Crew
Stop motion anim, ED 209 Crew
Plate photog, ED 209 Crew
FX ed, ED 209 Crew
FX crew, ED 209 Crew
FX crew, ED 209 Crew
FX crew, ED 209 Crew
FX const, ED 209 Crew
FX const, ED 209 Crew
Anim eff, Visual concept eng crew
Anim eff, Visual concept eng crew
COLOR PERSONNEL
SOURCES
SONGS
"Show Me Your Spine," written by Alain Jourgensen, music by P.T.P.
DETAILS
Series:
Release Date:
17 July 1987
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 17 July 1987
Production Date:
6 August--early November 1986
Copyright Claimant:
Orion Pictures Corporation
Copyright Date:
25 September 1987
Copyright Number:
PA339894
Physical Properties:
Sound
Spectral Recording Dolby Stereo ® in selected theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Prints by DeLuxe®
Duration(in mins):
103
Length(in feet):
9,215
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
28646
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1991, Detroit, Michigan is on the verge of bankruptcy and overrun with crime. The City Council has entered into an agreement with multinational corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to fund and run the police force. OCP plans to demolish the slums of Old Detroit and build a glamorous, modern “Delta City,” where two million people will be employed. However, it must first address Old Detroit’s rampant crime. OCP senior president Richard “Dick” Jones has developed a seven-foot-tall, four-ton enforcement droid, ED-209, to clean up the streets. During a demonstration, the prototype of ED-209 malfunctions and accidentally kills a board member, so the OCP CEO decides to back the alternate plan of Dick Jones’s rival, the much younger Bob Morton, who is developing a cyborg police officer called “RoboCop.” Meanwhile, police officer Alex Murphy is transferred from suburban Detroit to Old Detroit and paired with female police officer Anne Lewis. Morale is low on the force since it was privatized, and some officers talk of a strike. Nonetheless, Murphy is anxious to start his new assignment and impress his young son, Jimmy. When crime boss Clarence Boddicker and his gang rob a bank, Murphy and Lewis track them to an old mill. Boddicker’s men trap Murphy, shoot off his arm, fire bullets into his body, and finally kill him with a shot to the head. Bob Morton’s crew takes Murphy’s body and transforms him into RoboCop. He is outfitted with new titanium limbs covered with a Kevlar “skin.” Murphy’s chest and head are the only human portions remaining, but his memory is wiped clean. He is programmed with three prime directives: serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and ... +


In 1991, Detroit, Michigan is on the verge of bankruptcy and overrun with crime. The City Council has entered into an agreement with multinational corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to fund and run the police force. OCP plans to demolish the slums of Old Detroit and build a glamorous, modern “Delta City,” where two million people will be employed. However, it must first address Old Detroit’s rampant crime. OCP senior president Richard “Dick” Jones has developed a seven-foot-tall, four-ton enforcement droid, ED-209, to clean up the streets. During a demonstration, the prototype of ED-209 malfunctions and accidentally kills a board member, so the OCP CEO decides to back the alternate plan of Dick Jones’s rival, the much younger Bob Morton, who is developing a cyborg police officer called “RoboCop.” Meanwhile, police officer Alex Murphy is transferred from suburban Detroit to Old Detroit and paired with female police officer Anne Lewis. Morale is low on the force since it was privatized, and some officers talk of a strike. Nonetheless, Murphy is anxious to start his new assignment and impress his young son, Jimmy. When crime boss Clarence Boddicker and his gang rob a bank, Murphy and Lewis track them to an old mill. Boddicker’s men trap Murphy, shoot off his arm, fire bullets into his body, and finally kill him with a shot to the head. Bob Morton’s crew takes Murphy’s body and transforms him into RoboCop. He is outfitted with new titanium limbs covered with a Kevlar “skin.” Murphy’s chest and head are the only human portions remaining, but his memory is wiped clean. He is programmed with three prime directives: serve the public trust, protect the innocent, and uphold the law. RoboCop makes his debut on the streets of Old Detroit by stopping a liquor store robbery, preventing the rape of a woman, and ending a hostage standoff at City Hall. RoboCop is hailed as a hero, and school kids love him. The City Council approves the construction of Delta City, and Bob Morton, promoted to vice president of OCP, promises that in forty days, RoboCop will have put an end to crime in Old Detroit. Dick Jones confronts Morton over what he believes to be a guaranteed military contract for ED-209, which will provide OCP with twenty-five years’ worth of service contracts and spare parts orders. Jones warns Morton that the CEO will not live forever, so he had better be careful. While RoboCop is “asleep,” he goes into a REM (Rapid Eye Movement) state and dreams of Murphy’s family and death. After awakening, he runs into Murphy’s partner, Anne Lewis. Although a helmet covers RoboCop’s face except his mouth, Lewis recognizes him because of the unique way he twirls his gun before holstering it. She calls him “Murphy,” but RoboCop does not respond. Emil, one of Boddicker’s men, robs a gas station, and when RoboCop tries to stop the robbery. Emil also recognizes him as Murphy because of a particular phrase he uses. Crying, “We killed you,” Emil sets the gas station on fire and tries to escape, but RoboCop captures him. Accessing police computer records on Emil and Boddicker, he sees that the crime boss is responsible for killing Alex Murphy. RoboCop goes to the empty Murphy house on Primrose Lane, where squatters are living. Memories of Murphy’s life with his wife and son come back to him as he walks through the house. Meanwhile, Bob Morton hires two prostitutes, and takes them to his house to snort cocaine. Clarence Boddicker breaks in, shoots Morton in both legs, and puts on a video recording of Dick Jones, who says that Morton must pay for not playing the game properly. Boddicker sets off a grenade that kills Morton. Boddicker goes to an abandoned mill converted to an illegal drug factory and buys a large quantity of cocaine. When RoboCop breaks in, he kills several of the drug lord’s men and arrests the others. Boddicker tells RoboCop that he is protected from arrest because he works for Dick Jones. At OCP headquarters, RoboCop tries to arrest Jones, but his robotic parts begin shutting down. Jones explains that he installed a fourth prime directive in RoboCop’s programming: “Any attempt to arrest a senior officer of OCP results in shutdown.” RoboCop is a product of OCP and they cannot have their products rebelling. Bringing out ED-209, he orders the droid to attack RoboCop. Clearly out-classed in size and armament, RoboCop lures the ED-209 in a chase down a set of stairs, whose steps are too small for the android’s feet and make it fall down. Under orders from OCP, police fire on RoboCop as he leaves the building, but he escapes into the parking garage, where Anne Lewis is waiting. She drives him to an abandoned steel mill. The next day, Dick Jones gives Clarence Boddicker a tracking device to find RoboCop and military weapons to kill him. Unhappy with OCP policies, the police union calls a strike. Without police, criminals loot stores and runs rampant through the streets. Boddicker and his men go to the abandoned steel mill, but during a shootout, RoboCop kills him. At OCP headquarters, Dick Jones tells the board they should use the police strike to their advantage and introduce ED-209, suggesting the public are more likely to accept the android when it’s the only law they have. When RoboCop goes to headquarters, ED-209 tries to stop him, but during a battle RoboCop destroys the larger machine. In the OCP boardroom, he tries to arrest Dick Jones, but again is stopped by Directive Four in his programming. Instead, he plays the tape of Dick Jones confessing to having Bob Morton killed. Jones grabs the CEO at gunpoint and uses him as a hostage, demanding a helicopter for his escape. The OCP boss immediately fires Jones, thereby freeing RoboCop from the directive. RoboCop shoots at Jones, knocking him through a window to his death ninety-five stories below. The head of OCP compliments RoboCop on his shooting, and asks his name. RoboCop responds, “Murphy.” +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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