10 Surprising Facts About RoboCop

RoboCop (by which we mean the original 1987 masterpiece and not the crappy 2014 reboot) is arguably the best movie ever made about a robotic police officer who backhands criminals through unconvincing looking brick walls. Join us as we explore 10 lesser known facts about this awesome movie. Facts like…

(Note: some of the videos linked have NSFW language and violence… because, well, this is RoboCop we’re talking about. Duh.)

10. RoboCop couldn’t walk up or down stairs

The film establishes that RoboCop is superior to a regular police officer in nearly every conceivable way. He never tires, has a literal photographic memory, and his robo-penis is probably all kinds of bulletproof. One thing RoboCop apparently can’t do, however, is walk down stairs.

Now you’re probably thinking, “Wait, RoboCop can walk down stairs because that’s how he beats ED-209,” which is true, so we should explain. As explained in the director’s commentary for the film, the RoboCop mask and suit restricted Peter Weller’s movements so much that he found it exceptionally difficult to walk down stairs without looking like an idiot. As a result, shots of RoboCop using stairs were kept to a minimum or cut where possible because Weller found it impossible to do so without looking like he’d crapped his pants.

If you don’t believe us, check out the the clip above of of ED-209 falling down the stairs and pay attention to the last few seconds. If you watch carefully you’ll see Weller very clearly break character and move in a very un-robot-like fashion down the stairs while holding onto the railing before the shot abruptly cuts. This means that just like ED-209, RoboCop also struggled with stairs.

9. Cops loved RoboCop beating criminals

Around halfway through RoboCop our hero finds and confronts the man responsible for turning him into a sick-awesome cyborg, Clarence Boddicker. After shooting his way through dozens of drug dealers with endless trickshots, RoboCop proceeds to beat the living crap out of his nemesis while reading him his rights. After throwing Boddicker through about 30 plate glass windows, RoboCop stops just short of beating him to death and, instead, opts to arrest him.

Now as badass as the scene is, the producers were worried that actual police officers would take offense to it. Why? Well, within the context of the movie, RoboCop is supposed to be a totally infallible bulwark of justice, which made the producers nervous about showing him flagrantly violating an unarmed man’s rights by beating him half to death while he begs for mercy.

As it turns out, their worry wasn’t necessary and actual, real police officers who saw an early cut of the movies reportedly loved the scene, openly cheering as RoboCop beat Boddicker with his meaty robo-fists. A fact that becomes super uncomfortable when you realize that what we’re talking about essentially boiled down to police officers celebrating fictional police brutality.

8. They painted a naked guy blue

Not content with ending his first day of real police work with only stopping a robbery and emasculating a rapist by burst-firing a high caliber handgun right at his sack, in the film RoboCop our hero additionally decides to singlehandedly save the mayor from a city councilman who’s gone postal.

During the scene you briefly see that RoboCop can see through walls using thermal imaging, an ability he uses to sneak up behind the city councilman and donkey punch him through a brick wall.

The crew was initially unsure of how exactly to achieve this effect, since actual thermal imaging cameras were expensive in the ’80s. Rather than cut the scene (which wouldn’t have been difficult since it’s the only time in the movie RoboCop uses the ability) they decided to use a rather novel and low-tech solution: stripping all of the actors naked, covering them in UV paint, and shining a blacklight on them. This was then filmed and superimposed on a shot of the wall RoboCop was on the other side of to give the illusion he could see through walls.

7. RoboCop was freeballing whenever he drove

The RoboCop suit was a horrible, bulky mess of a prop that cost more than virtually every scene in the movie combined. Peter Weller famously hated wearing it and complained constantly that it was too hot and took far too long to put on, with some involved in the film saying that it could take upwards of 10 hours to attach to Weller’s body.

One thing that especially frustrated Weller is that the suit greatly restricted his sight and movements. In fact, the only reason RoboCop walks the way he does is because Weller had to compensate for the bulk of the suit and come up with a more deliberate and robotic way of moving around. Originally, RoboCop was supposed to be far more agile than he appears in the final product we got to see, an idea that was scrapped when everyone realized Weller could barely walk in the damn thing.

The bulk of the suit made it difficult for Weller to perform even the most menial tasks, with one famous anecdote reporting that it took him dozens of takes just to catch a set of keys. Driving, in particular, was impossible in the suit because it would simply not bend enough to allow Weller to sit down comfortably. As a result, they decided to just let Weller freeball it and drive around wearing only the top half of the suit. This means that every time you see RoboCop driving around in the movie, he’s actually not wearing anything below the waist.

6. Everybody hated the name

According to most everyone involved with the production of RoboCop, it was passed over by numerous executives simply because of how stupid the name sounded. Director Paul Verhoeven even went as far to throw the script in the trash after reading the title, assuming it was a stupid action movie. It wasn’t until his wife read the script and explained to him that it was actually a movie about a man’s struggle for his own humanity that the director realized that the film’s name belied the depth found in its script.

Luckily the name eventually grew on executives and they decided to leave it the way it was, which is why we can now say with a completely straight face that a movie about a robotic police officer solving his own murder called RoboCop is one of the best movies of the ’80s.

5. They brought that guy who gets blown away by ED-209 back in for reshoots just to kill him some more

RoboCop is a movie where people die super hard. Clarence Boddicker gets punched in the throat with a fist-knife, some guy gets his dong shot off, and even Alex Murphy gets his hand blown off with a shotgun before he gets turned into the titular RoboCop. However, arguably the person who dies the hardest is Mr. Kinney – a.k.a. the guy ED-209 blows away in front a boardroom of wholly unimpressed of OCP executives.

The actor who played Kinney, Kevin Page, would later report that after filming his death scene for three straight days, he left production and assumed that would be the end of his involvement with the film. However, Verhoeven wasn’t happy with the way the shot of him being murdered by ED-209 looked, so toward the end of production he called the actor back in and rebuilt the entire boardroom set just to shoot him some more. The gore was evidently too much for the MPAA, who ordered that it be cut to secure an R-rating, because they didn’t realize that the movie was supposed to be satire.

4. RoboCop’s gun was specially made for RoboCop’s giant hands

RoboCop’s signature sidearm, the Auto 9, is one of the most iconic guns in cinema history. Packing enough of a punch to blow a man’s penis off from 300 yards (if you haven’t guessed yet, we’re using every opportunity to reference that scene) with a 50-round magazine, the Auto 9 is the perfect weapon for the RoboCop on the go.

Initially, though, the Auto 9 was never in script and was built by the prop department out of necessity when they realized all other guns looked hilariously small in RoboCop’s giant manimal paws. Specifically, RoboCop was initially supposed to carry a Desert Eagle (the same guns used by Agents in The Matrix films) until the prop department saw that it looked like a toy in Peter Weller’s hand in full RoboCop costume.

As a result, the prop department decided to just make a gun from scratch by heavily modifying a Beretta 93R to such an extent that they had to fill in special paperwork just to get permission to have it in the country. This is because although the gun was supposed to be a pistol, it was “for all intents and purposes a high-caliber near-automatic weapon” – meaning RoboCop was wielding a gun that would rip most people’s arms off.

3. RoboCop’s face is bulletproof

RoboCop firmly establishes that the eponymous justice-lovin’ cyborg is wholly immune to the effects of gunfire, with RoboCop being shot literally thousands of times in one scene and walking away relatively unscathed. Now, a common question posed by fans is to wonder aloud what would happen if one of those bullets hit RoboCop in his face. Apparently the answer to his question is… well, nothing. You see, although it looks like RoboCop has a human face below his mask, below that face is robotic skull that’s just as bulletproof as the rest of his body.

To be clear, the face RoboCop has is Alex Murphy’s original face and it’s presumed it was cut from his body and attached to RoboCop’s robo-skull both as a tribute to Alex Murphy (something RoboCop himself admits in RoboCop 2) and to give him a trace of humanity. That way it won’t weird out members of the public who’d naturally be wary of a faceless, robotic avatar with a massive gun.

2. The melting man scene was so popular the MPAA couldn’t cut it

There’s a scene in RoboCop where a criminal named Emil crashes into a vat of toxic waste while trying to run over RoboCop. The toxic waste washes over Emil causing his flesh to melt from his bones. Emil’s day then somehow gets worse when he’s hit by a car travelling at what looks like Mach 3, causing him to explode like a balloon filled with pus being thrown against a wall.

The MPAA hated the scene and fought incredibly hard to have it cut wholesale from the movie, citing that it was neither artistically justified or entertaining due to its excessive gore. This came as news to the producers who had tasked a research group with seeing what test audiences liked best about the movie and found that they near universally cited “the melting man” as their favourite part of the entire film.

Faced with evidence that audiences not only objectively found the scene entertaining but considered it the most entertaining part of the film the MPAA quietly backed down and let remain in the film uncut.

1. RoboCop was specifically designed to look like a “guy in a suit”

Despite being 30 years old at the time this article was written, most of the effects in RoboCop hold up pretty well today. In particular, the RoboCop suit (while dated in its design) somehow manages to look more robotic than the one featured in the 2014 reboot, which just looks like Joel Kinnaman is wearing a dumb Iron Man suit or something.  

This is partly because the special effects artist responsible for designing the suit, Rob Bottin, designed it specifically to look like a man in a suit. His idea was always for RoboCop to very clearly be a man and to avoid over-complicating the design, ignoring prompts to make it look more robotic, feeling it would rob the character of his essential humanity. In his own words:

“RoboCop looks the way he does because that’s the way a man’s body works! Although we went through fifty different variations, developing his character, everything came back to man-like. It’s definitely a guy in the suit, which doesn’t belittle it any.”

And to think, this is something we learned from half an afternoon of Googling “RoboCop.” Which begs the question: what the hell were the people responsible for the reboot doing?

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