IT’S not unusual for Hollywood actors to bulk up for the sake of a film. For his leading role in the new RoboCop remake, Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman had his own hefty load to deal with - a metallic robot suit weighing in at 45lbs.
Kinnaman, best known for playing detective Stephen Holder in the US version of The Killing, stars as Detroit policeman Alex Murphy in the reboot of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original.
Set in 2028, the film sees Murphy mortally wounded in the line of duty before a robotics company seizes the opportunity to create a futuristic Frankenstein’s monster to clean up the crime-ridden city.
Every day, Kinnaman was required to strip off and clamber into the restrictive, half-man half-robot armoured costume.
“The suit was constantly uncomfortable, constantly at the wrong temperature, either too hot or too cold. But that was very helpful,” the Stockholm-born 34-year-old reveals.
“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.”
The robot, created by scientist Dr Dennett Norton (Gary Oldman), has two main weapons, a Taser gun in his thigh and a pistol that comes out of his forearm. He also has a docking station - a bit like a giant mobile phone charger - which Kinnaman was strapped into for many of his character’s most traumatic scenes.
“I had to stay completely still. It took a lot of concentration and mental preparation to get there, but I also had the luxury of looking at Gary in many of those scenes,” he says, smiling.
“He always has truth in his eyes, so if my mind would wander for a second, I’d just look back at him.”
It’s Murphy’s wife Clara (played by Abbie Cornish) who signs the paperwork allowing robot-makers OmniCorp to transform her critically injured husband into RoboCop.
Asked how she would cope in Clara’s position, 31-year-old Cornish admits, “That’s really hard for me to go there.
“How do you make that choice?” she adds. “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?”
Money-grabbing OmniCorp are hoping to expand and create a RoboCop in every city, but problems occur when Alex comes into contact with Clara and their young son.
“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,” explains Kinnaman.
“When they realise 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.”
The original RoboCop, in which Peter Weller played the titular role, has already spawned two sequels and a raft of merchandise, comic books and TV series. Indeed, Sucker Punch star Cornish has revealed that it wasn’t until she landed the role of ‘Mrs RoboCop’ that her older brother finally sat up and took notice of her career.
But almost three decades after the original cult film, Brazilian film-maker Jose Padilha was convinced that now is the right time to resurrect the metal-clad hero. For the physics graduate-turned-director, the film’s theme of man vs machine is more relevant and pressing than ever.
“Back in the Eighties, the idea of a half-man, half-robot could only take place in the far future. But it’s actually happening now,” he says.
“We are getting close to a world in which warfare will be automated. We’re going to have robots replacing soldiers and policemen. Right now, we’re beginning an intense discussion about drones, which are not automated - there’s a human being, observing from a remote location, deciding when to pull the trigger.
“But what happens when software, an algorithm, makes that decision? Everything in the movie is going to be in the real world very soon, and we’re going to have discussions about whether this is OK or not.”
• Robocop goes on general release tomorrow