Halt, Citizen! 15 Facts About RoboCop

MGM
MGM

People walking into Paul Verhoeven's bombastic action film RoboCop expecting an opera of exaggerated violence were not disappointed. But that’s not all audiences got: A sharp observation on militarized law enforcement and corporate excess, RoboCop—which hit theaters 30 years ago today—executed satire with as much skill as it had explosions. Check out these 15 facts (or there will be trouble).

1. ROBOCOP EXISTS BECAUSE A GUY NAMED ED HATED HIS JOB.

Ed Neumeier was so restless as a Universal Pictures story editor that he began to toy with an idea of his own about a robot police officer. Film student Michael Miner had a similar notion that he called SuperCop; the two brought their ideas together on a script, RoboCop: The Future of Law Enforcement. Despite its satirical bent, the title was so ludicrous they had trouble garnering interest until Orion Pictures—which had just had a hit with The Terminator in 1984—decided to run with it.

2. JUDGE DREDD WAS A MAJOR INFLUENCE.

While Neumeier has said that being on the set of Blade Runner gave him inspiration for the idea of robots in law enforcement, RoboCop’s stoic mannerisms and single-minded action owes a considerable debt to Judge Dredd, the British comic book cop who presides over a diseased urban landscape. Production artists even borrowed heavily from Dredd’s helmet (above) before settling on the sleek suit seen in the film.

3. STAN LEE TURNED IT DOWN.

In 1984, Neumeier decided to see if he could spin the RoboCop script into a comic book to use as a launching pad for a feature. He ran the idea by Stan Lee; before Lee could commit one way or the other, he and Neumeier attended an early screening of The Terminator, which also had a humanoid as the main character. An impressed Lee told the writer, “Boy, you’re never going to top that!” and passed.  

4. PETER WELLER BECAME A MIME FOR THE ROLE.

Knowing the suit (which was still being fabricated) would limit his facial expressions, Orion Pictures head Mike Medavoy suggested to lead actor Peter Weller that he seek out a mime coach in order to become more physically expressive. After interviewing several in what amounted to a mime-off, Weller settled on Moni Yakim, a performer who taught at Juilliard. The two worked for months on fluid, balletic movements that incorporated dance training; Weller even suited up in football gear and walked around Central Park to get a feel for moving with added bulk. Unfortunately …

5. WELLER COULD BARELY MOVE IN THE ROBOCOP SUIT.

After protracted design debates with director Paul Verhoeven, effects artist Rob Bottin was unable to deliver the suit until the day they were to begin shooting with it. It took Weller nearly 11 hours to squeeze himself into it, at which point he spent an hour trying to catch a set of car keys for a fleeting shot. Cumbersome beyond his expectations, all of Weller’s mime work had gone out the window; Yakim took the frustrated actor aside and told him to begin thinking of himself as a "beast." Production was halted for several days so that Weller could grow comfortable with his movements.

6. THE HEAT ON THE SET WAS EXCRUCIATING.


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While the film was set in Detroit, Michigan to reflect the industrial collapse of the city’s automobile industry, it didn’t do much shooting there, as location scouts determined the Motor City's skyline didn’t look appropriately futuristic. Instead, the production was based primarily in Dallas, where summer temperatures regularly exceeded 100 degrees. Weller could lose eight pounds in a day; much of his time between takes was spent re-hydrating or having cool air hoses stuffed into the suit.

7. WELLER REFUSED TO ANSWER TO HIS REAL NAME.  

According to co-star Miguel Ferrer, Weller instructed the producers to issue a memo to the cast and crew advising that no one should refer to him by his real name; he preferred to be called by his character’s name, Murphy, or “Robo.” Ferrer went on to say that, having known Weller for years prior to the film, he enjoyed greeting him with “Hey, Pete.” Weller ignored him.

8. ROBOCOP'S GUN NEEDED FBI APPROVAL.

According to Weller, the modified 9 millimeter Beretta automatic sidearm that RoboCop keeps in his thigh had to be approved by the FBI for entry into the United States. The actor, who had handled weapons as a teenager and was able to twirl handguns, said trying to spin the piece was like “trying to twirl half of a baseball bat.”

9. WELLER WAS WEARING A WALKMAN UNDER THE ROBO-HELMET.

In addition to having a very narrow field of vision and practically sautéing in his own sweat, Weller also had trouble hearing in the suit. For a shootout with drug dealers, Weller decided to set the mood by putting on headphones attached to a Walkman and playing Peter Gabriel’s “Red Rain.” Weller called the moment “wildly, psychotically enjoyable.”  

10. IT RECEIVED AN X-RATING—EIGHT TIMES.

Verhoeven thought he had sensationalized the violence to a comedic degree, particularly in a scene where an office executive is the victim of a “glitch” in law enforcement machine ED-209. The robot essentially tears him to shreds by firing high-caliber ballistics, at which point someone asks for a medic. The MPAA did not find this as amusing as Verhoeven did and asked him to cut down the scene, as well as the murder of Weller’s Officer Murphy. In all, Verhoeven submitted the film eight times before finally receiving an R rating.

11. SOME OF THE ACTORS GOT UNSOLICITED STUNT PAY.

Kurtwood Smith and Ray Wise had been standing in such close proximity to a building explosion that the production—without any sense of humor—paid both men for “stunt work,” which amounted to roughly $400 apiece for the scene. But the actors didn’t feel their pay justified the risk to their lives; neither was aware the explosion would be that big, and Smith’s coat ended up catching on fire.  

12. IT BESTED SNOW WHITE AND JAWS AT THE BOX OFFICE. BARELY.

RoboCop opened in theaters on July 17, 1987, with the only other new release being Jaws: The Revenge, the fourth entry in the shark franchise. RoboCop won the weekend with just over $8 million, slightly more than third-place Jaws and Disney’s reissue of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When all tickets were counted, the film made roughly $53 million—enough to crack the top 20 for the year, coming in at number 16, but still not enough to topple the 15th highest-grossing movie of the year: La Bamba.  

13. ROBOCOP SOLD FRIED CHICKEN IN KOREA.

While he may not actually possess a stomach, there’s just no killing RoboCop's appetite for chicken: RoboCop shilled for a Korean frozen food company in the 1980s, terrorizing a housewife before making off with the entire refrigerator. In a noodle commercial, RoboCop can be seen exercising his nonexistent abdominal muscles on a beach.

14. ROBOCOP ALSO DID A LITTLE PRO WRESTLING.

As the years went on, RoboCop’s place as social satirist gave way to a more one-dimensional portrayal of the character as a shellacked action hero in sequels, animation, and television. His nadir probably came in 1990, when an actor in the outfit emerged from backstage to assist professional wrestler Sting for a World Championship Wrestling pay per view event. Fortunately, he was able to restore order without opening fire.

15. A ROBOCOP STATUE WILL BE ERECTED IN DETROIT. SOMEDAY.

In 2012, word began to spread about a campaign to erect a RoboCop statue in Detroit—this despite the fact that the city was not exactly portrayed in the most flattering way in the films. A Kickstarter campaign was successful, and work on the statue has begun, but there’s still no ETA for the unveiling.

Additional Sources:
“On the Beat with RoboCop,” Starlog #117; “RoboCop: The Strong Arm of the Law,” Starlog #123; Flesh + Steel: The Making of RoboCop.

10 Forgotten Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
Rankin/Bass Productions

If you're prone to picturing your favorite Christmas characters as stop-motion puppets, you can thank Rankin/Bass. The production company founded by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass found success in transforming holiday songs and myths into fully-developed television specials in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Their most popular specials, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, are still staples of holiday programming decades after they first aired.

But not every holiday film that played under the Rankin/Bass banner was an instant success. After adapting the most beloved Christmas stories, the company broadened its definition of holiday material, with varying degrees of success. Some films were forgettable, and others were so strange and unsettling that young viewers forced themselves to forget. Here are some Rankin/Bass specials that may be missing from holiday television marathons this year.

1. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)

Scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year.
Rankin/Bass Productions

After the stressful events of his 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph deserved a vacation. In Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976), the red-nosed reindeer barely has a day to rest before being sent on his next adventure. When Santa Claus and his reindeer return home to the North Pole after delivering presents on Christmas, they learn that Happy the Baby New Year is missing. It’s up to Rudolph to bring him home before midnight on New Year’s Eve or else the calendar will be stuck at December 31. And because it wouldn’t be a Rankin/Bass cartoon without a terrifying villain, a vulture named Eon the Terrible is racing to catch Happy first so he can live forever. Thankfully, Rudolph has a caveman, a Medieval knight, and Benjamin Franklin on his side.

2. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976)

Scene from The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The Little Drummer Boy from 1968 ends with the birth of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. the events of Christmas. This meant that Rankin/Bass’s most overtly religious Christmas special wasn’t an obvious choice for a follow-up, but the studio still released one in 1976. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II is inspired by "Silver Bells"—a song whose lyrics have nothing to do with the first Christmas at Bethlehem. In the sequel, the drummer boy Aaron and the wise man Melchior join forces to protect silver bells made for baby Jesus from the Roman soldiers plotting to steal them.

3. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

Scene from Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.
Rankin/Bass Productions

By the late 1970s, it was apparent that Rankin/Bass was running out of Christmas myths to expand into television specials. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, their 1977 stop motion film, tells the story of an outcast donkey who experiences a series of traumatic events during the Roman Empire. After being bullied by other animals, left for dead by his owner, and suffering the loss of his mother, Nestor becomes a hero by carrying a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem, where she gives birth to Jesus. Needless to say, Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey didn’t have the same cultural impact as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

4. The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975)

Scene from The First Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

It may have a happy ending, but The First Christmas (1975) is the bleakest movie on this list. An orphaned shepherd named Lucas is taken in by a group of nuns after he’s blinded by lightning. When snow falls during the abbey’s Christmas pageant, Lucas miraculously regains his eyesight and sees snow for the first time. The story swaps Rankin/Bass's signature humor and fantasy for heavy-handed sentimentality, which may be why it didn’t land as well with kids as the company’s other holiday specials. One highlight is a voice performance by Angela Lansbury as the narrator.

5. Jack Frost (1979)

Scene from Jack Frost.
Rankin/Bass Productions

So this film from 1979 is technically a Groundhog Day special, but its connection to winter means it’s usually lumped in with the rest of Rankin/Bass’s Christmas programming. A groundhog named Pardon-Me-Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) narrates the story of Jack Frost. After Jack Frost falls in love with a woman on Earth, Father Winter agrees to make him human, with the catch that Jack will turn back into a sprite if he fails to obtain a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by the first sign of spring. The special is notable for its weird characters, including a villain with a clockwork horse and henchmen. And—spoiler alert!—because Jack doesn’t get the girl at the end, it’s one of the few Rankin/Bass films that doesn’t have a happy ending.

6. Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

Scene from Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1979, Rankin/Bass gave two of its most iconic Christmas characters—Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—their own movie. The studio was so confident in the product that Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July even had a brief theatrical release overseas. But the film has failed to take the place of the original specials in the public consciousness—maybe because seeing snow snakes terrorize Rudolph and watching an evil wizard transform into a tree were too much for younger viewers to handle.

7. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)

Scene from Pinocchio's Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The story of Pinocchio may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmas, but that didn’t stop Rankin/Bass from turning the classic Italian fairytale into a holiday special. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980) features many of the same themes and characters as The Adventures of Pinocchio—only this version of the tale centers around the puppet’s first Christmas. Santa Claus even makes a cameo appearance.

8. The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)

Scene from The Stingiest Man in Town.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of the most widely adapted stories of all time, so of course it shows up in Rankin/Bass’s filmography. An insect named B.A.H. Humbug narrates this musical retelling from 1978, with Walter Matthau starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge. The Stingiest Man in Town joins Frosty the Snowman as one of the few Rankin/Bass Christmas productions made with traditional 2D animation instead of stop-motion.

9. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold (1981)

Scene from The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Rankin/Bass’s streak of mashing up Christmas with other holidays reached peak weirdness in 1981. That’s when the studio released The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold—a story that follows a young Irish sailor who helps a clan of leprechauns protect their gold from an evil banshee named Old Mag the Hag. By trying to create a special that could air around Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day, the filmmakers ended up with something that made little sense at any time of year.

10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)

Scene from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1970, Rankin/Bass explored how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus with Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Fifteen years later, the studio produced a film that provided an alternate origin story for the character, based on L. Frank Baum's 1902 children's book of the same name. This second special wasn’t as well-received as the first. It starts with an antler-sporting sorcerer called the Great Ak finding an abandoned baby in the forest. The child is taken in and raised by wood nymphs, eventually growing up to become a jolly man who delivers toys to children—all while fighting monsters called Awgwas on the side. It ends with a council of mythical beings granting Santa Claus immortality. What was arguably Rankin/Bass’s most unusual Christmas special was also the last to use stop-motion animation.

2020 Golden Globes: The Full List of Nominees

Andrew Scott stars in Fleabag.
Andrew Scott stars in Fleabag.
Steve Schofield/Amazon Studios

Awards season is officially upon us and we're all rushing out to the movie theater—or, more frequently, our own couches—to load up on some of the year's biggest movie and television titles.

Now that the 2020 Golden Globe nominations have been announced, it's clear that Netflix's investment in original content like Martin Scorsese's The Irishman and Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story, which scored the most nominations with six, was a wise decision.

On the television side, streaming emerged victorious as well; The Crown landed a total of four nominations while Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Amazon hit Fleabag earned three, including one for "Hot Priest" Andrew Scott, who was a notable Emmy snub. Amazingly, Game of Thrones was nominated for just a single award: a Best Actor in a Drama Series nomination for Kit Harington.

Below is the full list of nominees for the 77th annual Golden Globe Awards, which will take place on January 5, 2020.

Best Motion Picture, Drama

1917
The Irishman
Joker
Marriage Story
The Two Popes

Best Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Jojo Rabbit
Knives Out
Rocketman
Dolemite Is My Name

Best Motion Picture—Foreign Language

The Farewell
Pain and Glory
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Parasite
Les Misérables

Best Director, Motion Picture

Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
Sam Mendes, 1917
Todd Phillips, Joker
Martin Scorsese, The Irishman
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood

Best Screenplay—Motion Picture

Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story
Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won, Parasite
Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Steven Zaillian, The Irishman

Best Original Score, Motion Picture

Alexandre Desplat, Little Women
Hildur Gudnadottir, Joker
Randy Newman, Marriage Story
Thomas Newman, 1917
Daniel Pemberton, Motherless Brooklyn

Best Original Song—Motion Picture

Beautiful Ghosts, Cats
I'm Gonna Love Me Again, Rocketman
Into the Unknown, Frozen II
Spirit, The Lion King
Stand Up, Harriet

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes
Al Pacino, The Irishman
Joe Pesci, The Irishman
Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell
Annette Bening, The Report
Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
Margot Robbie, Bombshell

Best Actor in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy

Daniel Craig, Knives Out
Roman Griffin Davis, Jojo Rabbit
Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Taron Egerton, Rocketman
Eddie Murphy, Dolemite Is My Name

Best Motion Picture—Animated

Frozen II
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Missing Link
Toy Story 4
Lion King

Best Actor in a Motion Picture—Drama

Christian Bale, Ford v Ferrari
Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory
Adam Driver, Marriage Story
Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes

Best Actress in a Motion Picture—Drama

Cynthia Erivo, Harriet
Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
Charlize Theron, Bombshell
Renée Zellweger, Judy

Best Actress in a Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy

Awkwafina, The Farewell
Ana de Armas, Knives Out
Cate Blanchett, Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Beanie Feldstein, Booksmart
Emma Thompson, Late Night

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Christopher Abbott, Catch-22
Sacha Baron Cohen, The Spy
Russell Crowe, The Loudest Voice
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Kaitlyn Dever, Unbelievable
Joey King, The Act
Helen Mirren, Catherine the Great
Merritt Wever, Unbelievable
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Catch-22, Hulu
Chernobyl, HBO
Fosse/Verdon, FX
The Loudest Voice, Showtime
Unbelievable, Netflix

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Patricia Arquette, The Act
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
Toni Collette, Unbelievable
Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
Emily Watson, Chernobyl

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series, Drama

Brian Cox, Succession
Kit Harington, Game of Thrones
Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
Tobias Menzies, The Crown
Billy Porter, Pose

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Alan Arkin, The Kominsky Method
Kieran Culkin, Succession
Andrew Scott, Fleabag
Stellan Skarsgård, Chernobyl
Henry Winkler, Barry

Best Television Series—Drama

Big Little Lies, HBO
The Crown, Netflix
Killing Eve, AMC
The Morning Show, Apple TV+
Succession, HBO

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Drama

Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Olivia Colman, The Crown
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Reese Witherspoon, The Morning Show

Best Television Series—Musical or Comedy

Barry, HBO
Fleabag, Amazon
The Kominsky Method, Netflix
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Amazon
The Politician, Netflix

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