Although the idea of remaking director Paul Verhoeven's classic 1987 sci-fi satire "RoboCop" may seem blasphemous to some, its ideas about technology, man-vs.-machine, ruthless corporate greed and the militarization of civil society are just as relevant today as they were more than a quarter-century ago. Wisely, Brazilian director Jose Padilha ("Elite Squad") has adapted the original's concepts to a modern setting and, most importantly, found Joel Kinnaman to make the role of Alex Murphy/RoboCop his own while honoring the legendary portrayal by Peter Weller.
ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
The Swedish-American Kinnaman toiled in Swedish TV, theater and films before landing a breakout role in "Easy Money" (known in Sweden as "Snabba Cash"), the first of several collaborations with director and fellow Swede Daniel Espinosa ("Safe House"). But what put him on the map for U.S. audiences was his portrayal of Detective Stephen Holder in the AMC series "The Killing," which will end its run with six final episodes this year on Netflix. He's currently working with Espinosa again, along with Tom Hardy, on "Child 44," a thriller about a series of child murders in the Stalin-era Soviet Union.
Along the way, he's also been a finalist to play both Thor and Mad Max, which may have helped pave the way for his first Hollywood leading role in "RoboCop." Moviefone sat down with Kinnaman to discuss why he didn't want the iconic role at first, working 14 hours a day in the costume, and which superhero he might like to play one day.
Moviefone: You said earlier today that when you first heard about this, you didn't think it was the right fit for you. Why not?
Joel Kinnaman: Well, I think when you first hear of the idea of a remake being made of "RoboCop," there's a lot of bad ways to remake a movie and a lot of wrong reasons why. And I hadn't heard anything more about than they were going to remake it. That didn't appeal to me in any way. But then I heard that it was Jose that was going to do this film, and I was very familiar with his work, I had seen his documentary "Bus 174" and I saw both of his "Elite Squad" movies in the theater in Sweden so I was a huge fan of his work and I thought that he was one of the most interesting directors out there, who always had a very strong social and political commentary and point of view in his films and always top notch acting and a very, in my opinion, very interesting and beautiful visual style that was both poetic and very gritty.
So when I heard that they chose this guy to remake "RoboCop." I knew that he was going to have a very interesting take on it. I also knew that he made a lot of money on "Elite Squad 2," so he doesn't have to take a job because of money or anything, he wants to take it because he has a passion for filmmaking and telling stories that he feels has value for our society, and of course also great entertainment.
When I heard that he wanted to sit down with me, first I was amazed that he even knew who I was and I was so honored that he wanted to meet me. I was just kind of blown away by his vision of the story that he wanted to tell using the concept of "RoboCop." I just thought it was brilliant.
Did you watch the original again at any time during casting or production, or did you purposely try and stay away from it?
No, no. I mean, I was a huge fan of the original movie. And that's also why I was a little hesitant or it didn't appeal to me at first because I thought the first film was -- I'd seen it probably 20 to 25 times before I even heard of this remake. But after I read the script too and after Jose was telling me what he wanted to do with it, it was very obvious that Alex Murphy's journey was completely different. He was going through a very different thing and that he was sort of a different person in this one than he was in the first Verhoeven one. And they're also two filmmakers that have such different tones so I didn't feel the need to stay away from the original and all.
Have you ever met or had a chance to talk with Peter Weller?
I haven't. I'd love to meet him though. I think he's a phenomenal actor and still putting out really interesting and great work. I was such a fan of both when he did this and in "Naked Lunch." He's a great actor.
This is the first time you've had to really work with effects and this kind of intensive costuming. How does it affect you when you're inside this thing for 14 hours a day?
It's both very taxing and it's limiting in a sense but that was also sort of the gift that came with it. I would sit on set and kind of become a little introvert and I wouldn't feel as loose and wanting to talk with other people, because I was in this big constricted thing and I couldn't really turn around. I also didn't have any other clothes on underneath really. I had this sort of unitard underneath so I'd feel a bit naked. And that became sort of a pathway to a train of thought that led me to understand some of Alex's vulnerability that he felt after he became RoboCop. I thought that was interesting because he had such a new powerful body but the vulnerability and the nakedness that he would feel without a real body, that was key to my performance in a way. I was surprised that the ideas of how that would feel would come through wearing the suit.
Most of your work has been really character driven, but you also auditioned for "Thor" and for the new "Mad Max." So those larger-than-life franchise characters have an appeal to you as well, right?
Yeah. I was living in Sweden and working in Sweden in theater and doing small Swedish movies, and then all of a sudden they threw a wide casting net for Thor and they asked pretty much everyone that had ever been onstage to put himself on tape, which I didn't even know what that was when they asked me to do that. Put myself on tape, what does that mean? Oh, film myself -- I'd never done that before. So I did that and I sort of got into the running of Thor. Actually I put myself on tape and sent it off and didn't hear anything about it.
And then two or three weeks later my sister tells me, "Hey, we just had (British newspaper) The Guardian in our office and there's a picture of you and three other guys they said are the runners-up to play Thor. I was like, "Oh really? nobody told me about it." So Thor and Mad Max where the two first American projects that I auditioned for and I got pretty far on both of them. Then this manager called -- Shelly Browning -- she came to Sweden and wanted to sit down with me and thought it would be a really good idea for me to come to the States. I trusted her and came over here.
It's also kind of funny that there are all these Batman connections to you and this film. You're working with a Batman, Michael Keaton, and Commissioner Gordon, Gary Oldman. And in your next film, "Child 44," you're working with Tom Hardy.
They've already got their Batman for the next movie but is there a superhero you might want to play?
There are a couple. Constantine is a cool character. I prefer the darker ones that you could kind of shoot in a gritty way where it's very realistic. That would appeal to me more -- to play a superhero that has no flaws, that's the most boring thing there is. But if it's somebody that is sort of torn apart then it becomes a metaphor for some psychological dilemma. Daredevil was one that could be an interesting character. But also some of these suits are hard to get around. You know, it becomes too much of a cartoon. So it would have to have a very strong idea behind it.
What can you say about the final season of "The Killing" that will appear on Netflix?
We start shooting at the end of February, I just sat down with Veena Sud, the show runner, and she told me the story line for the concluding six episodes and I'm so excited. It's such a good feeling, because I know that maybe there weren't that many fans of the show, but the fans that did like the show really liked it. And it just feels so good to be able to give them this conclusion of the relationship between Holder and Linden. It feels very worthy.
"RoboCop" is in theaters everywhere. Get movie times.