Tuesday, May 21, 2013

24 Hours: Robocop by WeSpark

As if seeing 4 movies in 24 hours wasn't enough, a random Facebook link told me that a screening of 1987's Robocop was happening at Noon on Saturday.  Big deal, I saw Robocop with Peter Weller last year during Hero Complex.  Then I got a little more enlightened, Cancer Support Center WeSpark was hosting this shindig and they weren't fooling about.

In addition to Buckaroo Banzai himself, the final line up would include co-stars Nancy Allen, Paul McCrane, Jesse Goins and Felton Perry.  AND director Paul Verhoeven, writers Ed Neumeier and Michael Miner as well as producer Jon Davison!  Seeing that stacked a line up for charity seemed like the right thing to do.

10:43 AM, Saturday, 5.18...

The Gold Coast Theater on Sunset, a quaint little theater next to the Samuel French Bookshop, home to a million movie and theater related tomes.  WeSpark's Robocop special event was in full swing with raffles, silent auctions and multiple signed posters around the lobby up for grabs.  The crowd was an interesting mix of hardcore fans in their late 30's and 40's, cast and crew family members and a guy in full Robocop cosplay.  Slightly admirable and very dubious was the amount of children in the audience.  Sure, movies can have a lot more sex, violence and gore nowadays but Robocop is still pretty intense.

A bespectacled fellow took the stage and regaled us with his love for Robocop and co-star Nancy Allen.  A love that prompted him to move to the United States from France and retrace shooting locations used in Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill.  His name?  Laurent Bouzereau.  Don't recognize the name?  Go watch the DVD/Blu-Ray special features on Indiana Jones, The Warriors, Jaws, Conan, The Untouchables, Jurassic Park and Raging Bull among dozens more and get back to me.

Ms. Allen gave a quick introduction and explained the genesis of today's special event.  WeSpark is a non-profit organization that assists cancer patients and survivors.  Ms. Allen has been involved with them for years and after a successful 25th Anniversary screening of Robocop last year in Texas, she thought she could bring it to LA for a good cause.  A few e-mails later and everyone appearing today agreed.

We got the Director's Cut today, i.e. the version where people get shot A LOT more.

Robocop is one of my favorite films and it was great seeing it on the big screen again.  It still plays flawlessly as a social satire, an action film, a tech noir western, whatever you want to call it.  Oh yeah, Robocop is the story of Officer Murphy (Weller), a new transfer to a crumbling precinct in future Detroit.  A gang of sadistic goons, led by Kurtwood Smith, empty shotguns into poor Murphy and leave him for dead.  Miraculously Murphy survives and becomes the guinea pig for Omni Consumer Products' new "urban pacification" program and is transformed into cyborg Robocop!  Robo battles crime, crooked corporations and the police force itself in a quest to retain his former identity while bringing to justice those who killed him the first time.

Post credits the line up was brought out.  So you have the director of Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers and Showgirls sitting next to the guy who produced a couple of those titles sitting next to the guys who wrote some of them sitting next to Murphy next to Lewis next to Emil the melting villain next to the OCP lackey who likes baby food and played a cop in Magnum Force AND Dumb and Dumber next to the villain who you remember for peeing and cackling.

I've seen Peter Weller in person twice before and he's a force of nature.  One guy called him crazy, I call him intelligent, fascinating and hilarious.

- Part of Ed Neumeir's inspiration came after visiting set of Blade Runner and being told Sean Young was playing a robot.  He thought that was ridiculous and felt you needed to see the machinery.
- Verhoeven thought the original script was a piece of shit.  Credits his wife for seeing the potential.
- Didn't want to leave Holland, especially at age 47 as he was more or less comfortable working there with his own crew.
- Weller was immediately interested as he'd seen everything Verhoeven had done and started talking about Prussian art and how Robocop is an example of a certain kind of art that can be enjoyed in any time period.
- Prolific producer Dino De Laurentiis offered Weller the lead role in his King Kong remake and asked "how much money you want not to make fucking robot movie?".
- Nancy Allen auditioned for Verhoeven and thought it went well but heard they cast someone else who didn't work out and she got the gig.
- Verhoeven had Metropolis and Blade Runner in mind but producer Jon Davison said he could either have great sets or a great Robocop suit, they didn't have money for both.
- Made for $13 million which made them be more creative without a money hose to cover.
- Everyone applauds the genius of suit designer Rob Bottin who along with the studio was adamant the costumes and props stay with him which is why Weller has no souvenirs from the shoot except a painting made by a local artist.
- Verhoeven is lauded for his fast shooting style and Weller compares it to having a Formula One Team of expert technicians.
- The first three audience "questions" were basically awkward verbal love letters to the panel, people LOVE Robocop which is fine but ask a god damned question.
- The writers drafted a scene where the villains blow up a pet store, the studio balked and demanded they remove it.  So it was fine to kill 30 henchmen in the drug lab shootout but they couldn't kill a puppy.
- Verhoeven didn't know anybody in the movie business in America besides producer Davison and composer Basil Poledouris who worked on his last feature in Holland.

The panel lasted for at least an hour so you can imagine how much more was talked about that isn't coming to mind right away.  I also paid the equivalent of three tickets to Tango & Cash for the event so I think this is a pretty good value for what you're paying.

2 movies down with 3 to go!  Bring it on Back to the Future trilogy!

Stay out of trouble!

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