In Sacramento, California a robbery suspect fled into a darkened movie theatre to escape pursuing police. He became so engrossed in the movie playing on screen, Robocop, that he failed to notice that police had evacuated all other patrons from the theatre. When the lights flipped on, the stunned man was taken into custody.
It was discovered that when in full RoboCop costume, Peter Weller could not fit properly into the police car as he was too bulky. That's why most shots of him show him exiting the car or preparing to get into it. For shots where he actually needed to be in the car, he only wore the top part of the costume and sat in his underwear. However, to maintain the illusion that RoboCop wears the entire suit while inside a car, most shots show his robotic feet exiting the car first.
Concerned that various police forces would object to the scene of the title character throwing Clarence Boddicker through glass while reading his rights, the producers had a preliminary screening for an audience of police officers. It turns out that they were delighted at the sight of the hero getting tough with a wanton murderer in a way that they couldn't.
The RoboCop suit was designed by Rob Bottin and his team. The production team wasn't satisfied with the initial design, and kept changing it and putting additions to it for months. Ultimately, nothing seemed to work and they went back to what was pretty much Bottin's original design. This caused considerable delays, and by the time the suit was completed, it was three weeks late and arrived at the studio on the day that the first RoboCop scene was scheduled to be shot. It took 11 hours for Bottin's people to fit Peter Weller into the suit, and when it was done Weller found that all his mime exercises were now useless because he needed time to get used to the suit and to perform as a robot in it. Production was halted so that Weller and his mime coach, Moni Yakim, could learn how to move in the suit.
In the attempted rape scene, writer Edward Neumeier originally had RoboCop shoot past the victim's cheek, hitting and killing the rapist. While getting ready to shoot the scene as scripted, Paul Verhoeven notice how Donna Keegan's (playing the rape victim) legs were spread apart, giving him the idea to have RoboCop shoot between her legs and shoot the rapist in the genitals. Neumeier loved the idea and that was how the scene was shot.
While filming Bob Morton's death scene, Miguel Ferrer and Kurtwood Smith began cracking up because while directing the scene, Paul Verhoeven referred to all the actors in-character. This meant he addressed the actresses playing the prostitutes as "bitches."
One unused idea for a scene was to have RoboCop going to his old house where his family would still live. He meets his son, but the boy does not recognize him; the only one who does is his old dog (similar to The Odyssey, where Odysseus returns home and isn't recognized by anyone except his dog). The producers liked the idea but Paul Verhoeven decided not to shoot the scene for being a bit too sentimental.
Realizing that the film was running behind schedule and over budget, director Paul Verhoeven and producer Jon Davison purposely didn't film one crucial scene: Officer Murphy's death. When production wrapped, they went back to Los Angeles and 'grimly' informed the execs that Murphy's death hadn't been filmed. So the execs gave them more money and they filmed the scene in a warehouse in Los Angeles.
When in full Robocop costume, Peter Weller would remain in character between takes, only responding to director Paul Verhoeven's instructions when properly addressed as "Robo". Verhoeven found this too funny to take seriously, and this was dropped after a couple of weeks.
The screenplay had been offered (and been rejected by) virtually every big director in Hollywood before Paul Verhoeven got hold of it. He threw it away after reading the first pages, convinced it was just a dumb action movie. However, his wife read it all the way through and convinced him that the story was layered with many satirical and allegorical elements, after which Verhoeven finally decided to direct the film.
Because the hands of the RoboCop suit were made of foam rubber, the car keys would bounce off of Peter Weller's hand every time he attempted to catch them. The production took up to 50 takes and an entire day's worth of filming before finally getting the shot right.
The scene where Boddicker's gang tortures and finally murders Murphy was heavily edited in order to avoid an X rating. In the theatrical version, it is clear that Boddicker has blown apart Murphy's right hand with a shotgun blast, and Emil then blows off his left arm at the shoulder with another shotgun blast, but the explicit gore is limited in those instances. There is also reduced gore when Boddicker blows Murphy's brains out with a handgun. The scene with all of the original dismemberment is included in the DVD.
For the theatrical trailer, Orion used the music from their film The Terminator (1984) which is also a movie about a cyborg (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger). Schwarzenegger was briefly considered for the role of RoboCop, but those involved with the film were concerned he would be too bulky in the suit and end up looking like the Michelin Man.
In the hostage scene, as RoboCop is walking toward the room where the former councilman is holding the mayor hostage, the infrared heat vision mode was actually executed using fluorescent body paint on the (nude) actors and a black light. Paul Verhoeven says that he thought this technique would be cheaper than getting an actual infrared spectrometer camera.
When the RoboCop suit arrived on set, Peter Weller discovered that his movements had become very restrictive in the suit after Paul Verhoeven began watching the raw dailies. He and Moni Yakim had envisioned Robocop moving in a snake like fashion but the suit would not allow it. Moni then informed him that it would be best to slow down his movements so that he could gain the ability to move in the costume. Production was then halted for 3 days in order for Yakin, Verhoeven, and Weller to discuss the new approach. Tempers flew and arguments started over this decision, but in the end, Verhoeven thought Weller deserved the right to express his opinions and go forth with this decision. Verhoeven was happy with the end results.
The repeated line 'I'd buy that for a dollar!' comes from Cyril M. Kornbluth's short story 'The Marching Morons', which presents a similarly cynical view of an over-commercialized future that's desensitized to violence and war. A radio game show in that short story uses the line 'I'd buy that for a quarter.' as its signature phrase.
The steel mill scenes at the end of the movie became the more boring part of the shoot. Ray Wise and Kurtwood Smith along with the rest of the cast would regularly steal golf carts belonging to the crew and race around with them. The crew became very angry and told them they were not happy with their actions.
Paul Verhoeven and Rob Bottin clashed repeatedly before and during production over the design and make-up of the RoboCop character. What they argued most about was the scene where Murphy takes off his helmet. Bottin wanted the scene to be filmed in a darkened area, fearing that harsh light would reveal too much of the make-up effects; Verhoeven wanted the scene to be filmed as brightly as possible, citing that director of photography Jost Vacano would be able to light it properly without revealing anything. Verhoeven got his way and Bottin refused to talk to him any further for the remainder of production. However, at the premiere, both men were so impressed with how the scene had turned out, that they instantly forgave each other. Bottin, who had even vowed to never again work with Verhoeven, happily accepted the offer to work on Verhoeven's next project, Total Recall (1990).
Edward Neumeier came up with the idea for RoboCop after he had helped out on the set of Blade Runner (1982), which was about cops hunting robots that looked like humans in the future. Intrigued, Neumeier turned the scenario around into a future where a cop looking like a robot would be hunting human criminals.
Kurtwood Smith claims in the 20th Anniversary DVD release that the scene where he is taken into the precinct was the first scene he'd shot, and proposed the spitting of the blood and swearing to give the scene more punch. Paul Verhoeven, intrigued, decided to give it a shot. Smith mused that this may have simply been due to Verhoeven's love of bloodletting.
On the 20th anniversary disc, Peter Weller stated that the scariest moment came when he had to film the scene where he walked down the stairs in the dance club. This consisted of him only wearing the upper portion of the costume but having to walk down the stairs without being allowed to look where he was stepping. He said the situation became very dangerous as loud music was being played and smoke was everywhere. He ended up doing this sequence 3 times.
The hostage scene where a former city council member holds the mayor and his staff hostage was based on a real-life crisis where former San Francisco supervisor Dan White wanted his old job back. The character is also seen eating Twinkies - as homage to White's 1979 conviction of involuntary manslaughter where diminished capacity was used, known in legal terms as the Twinkie Defense.
The Desert Eagle Magnum that is in the OCP Board Room was originally intended to be Robocop's gun. There is even existing behind-the-scene photos and footage of Peter Weller practicing with the Desert Eagle. However, when they gave Weller the gun, they noticed that even the bulky Desert Eagle was too small in the hands of Robocop. So the film's armory supervisor, Randy E. Moore, brought in a Berretta Automatic Pistol to which a compensator and decorative dressing was added to increase the size of the gun.
The character of Bob Morton was originally conceived as a stereotypical corporate executive, arrogant, unpleasant and unlikeable. However, when Miguel Ferrer signed on and gave his performance as an amiable and charismatic individual, Edward Neumeier and Paul Verhoeven realised that the audience would likely start sympathising with the character, and Bob Morton was rewritten to become the more pleasant individual that he is in the movie.
Writers and producers were concerned that cops would be offended by their portrayal on the movie. On the contrary, they loved it. They especially enjoyed the scene where RoboCop throws Boddicker through three planes of glass window while concurrently reading Boddicker an abbreviated rendition of his Miranda rights.
On the DVD Ray Wise explains that he and Kurtwood Smith ended up being too close to an explosion which caused pieces of glass to be embedded into Ray's face. He received an additional stunt pay for this mishap as per the studio. Ray then jokingly states that he devised ways where he would be as close as to the explosions as possible to gain extra money.
The shoot-out at the cocaine factory was not originally intended to be so fast-paced. The automatic guns used in the scene kept malfunctioning during filming. Most camera shots didn't provide more than three seconds of usable footage, because most guns were usually jammed by that time. This necessitated quick cuts during editing, which proved to be advantageous for the scene.
After Peter Weller complained about the costume during the first few days of filming, the part of RoboCop was offered to Lance Henriksen, who turned it down due to time conflicts - Henriksen was also considered for the title part in The Terminator (1984) (before the cyborg was decided for to be large and bulky and Arnold Schwarzenegger was brought on), and finally got to play a robot in Aliens (1986) (see also trivia for The Terminator (1984)).
Writer Edward Neumeier was an executive at Universal and hated his job so he jacked it in to pursue his dream of writing a screenplay about a robot that became a cop. Coincidentally fellow scribe Michael Miner was working on a script about a human cop who becomes a robot. It was a natural progression for the two to join forces.
During the news footage when RoboCop throws the disgruntled city hall worker out the window during the hostage crisis, the dummy's legs fly up into the air in a comedic fashion as it hits the ground. This was a happy accident and the creators decided to keep it in the film.
For a while, Michael Ironside was attached to the role of RoboCop, but they had to give up on the idea when they realized that the actor would have to have a much smaller frame to fit into the costume envisaged.
When Lewis fires the Cobra Assault Cannon at the end of the final shootout at the foundry, the muzzle flash knocks the Lexan screen protecting the film crew and equipment off its mounting and into the shot.
Enforcement Droid 209's voice is that of producer Jon Davison, its growls are of a jaguar, and its squeals are of a pig. ED-209's body was based on the design of a Bell helicopter and the overall appearance is reminiscent of a line of toys named Robotech (1985) which were based on a 1980s Japanese anime series.
Seven Robocop suits were used throughout of the movie. Out of the seven, one of them had special safeguards and fireproof fiberglass to help the stuntman perform the gas station scene. Another two were used exclusively during the third act of the movie where Robocop gets damaged from the ED-209 and the Detroit Police Department. There was no 'one suit' as most people would think, but actually more than one as each one is fragile and easily destroyed during filming.
Stephanie Zimbalist was originally cast as Lewis, but had to give up the part when she was called back to film more episodes of Remington Steele (1982). Nancy Allen was then cast and Paul Verhoeven had her cut her hair shorter and shorter several times until it was short enough, as Verhoeven wanted to desexualize the character.
This movie along with Basic Instinct (1992), Starship Troopers (1997), and Hollow Man (2000) is one of four separate movie franchises in which the first movie of their respected series (directed by Paul Verhoeven) were successful, but their respected sequels (not directed by Verhoeven) all either bombed at the box office or were released 'Direct-to-VHS/DVD'.
Nancy Allen first arrived on set when Paul Verhoeven was shooting the deliberately cheesy sitcom "It's Not My Problem" which appears on TV screens throughout the film. Allen was initially horrified to think that she'd signed on to make a film with an incompetent director.
Two scenes were storyboarded, but never filmed. The drawings are shown on the DVD. The first was a scene where RoboCop visits his grave. The second was a long car chase, an alternate scene that got them to the old steel mill (where Murphy died). This car chase was to be set after RoboCop removed his helmet and had RoboCop and Lewis break up a riot, followed by a shootout with Joe and Emil with the Cobra Assault Cannons. Eventually, they retreated to their cars then the car chase to the old steel mill began. There was also an alternate opening scene, showing Clarence Boddicker wounding the officer who is announced dead later in the movie, but this scene was scrapped as being unnecessary.
RoboCop's spike, which emerges from his knuckles, and gun holster were actually two standalone separate pieces that were never integrated into the costume. The spiked hand was controlled by someone who just held up a fake arm towards the camera while he was off camera, and the gun holster was operated off screen since it was a stand alone piece.
RoboCop's three Prime Directives ("Serve the public trust; Protect the innocent; Uphold the law") are reminiscent of the Three Laws of Robotics as devised by sci-fi author Isaac Asimov and first published in his short story "Runaround".
Kurtwood Smith originally auditioned for the role of Dick Jones, and when he first learned he had been cast, he thought that was the role he had gotten. Not until later did he find out he would be playing Clarence Boddicker. Later still, he discovered the reason: being Dutch, director Paul Verhoeven had grown up near the Holocaust, and thought that, when wearing glasses, Smith resembled Heinrich Himmler. Smith apparently agreed with the idea, stating that a bigger, more menacing villain would come across as someone who could merely be outsmarted, while his character's glasses made him look smarter and therefore more of a threat.
Before Peter Weller was cast, Rutger Hauer was another actor in line to play RoboCop. However, it was decided that he was too large to fit into the costume. Weller won the role because of his slender frame and the expressiveness of his lower face.
RoboCop's gun, referred to in the script as an Auto-9, was a modified Beretta M93R: The barrel was extended and modified to resemble a casket. The weapon has a selectable fire mode switch, semi-automatic and three-round burst which also is full auto with the trigger held. The basic design of the Beretta 93R machine pistol is based on the famous Beretta 92 pistol. The trigger mechanism, however, is somewhat different from Beretta 92, as it is a single action only, with non-ambidextrous frame mounted safety and additional fire mode selector.
The entrance to the OCP building in the movie is actually the front entrance of Dallas City Hall with extensive matte work (by Rocco Gioffre) above to make the building appear to be a giant skyscraper.
In 1988, brake and muffler shop Meineke used a RoboCop-like customer in a commercial. For legal reasons, the armor was completely orange in color, whereas everything else - even the voice - was similar.
In addition to Iron Man (1966), the comic book 'ROM' is also seen in the mom-and-pop store, the storyline of which involves a hero sacrificing his human body and having his mind placed into a robot in order to save his people.
The police cars were modified Ford Tauruses. One of the main competitors of the Taurus at the time was the Pontiac 6000. The car the villains use is the 6000 SUX, a not-so-subtle jab at the Pontiac 6000. Ford did manufacture the Taurus as a police vehicle between 1989 to 1995 - the 1989-91 models had a modified front grille with eight openings which was not available on the civilian models including the Taurus SHO. The 2013 model year officially reintroduces the Taurus Police Interceptor replacing the Crown Victoria, which was phased out in 2011.
Peter Weller said one of his favorite memories of his film career was filming the drug bust sequence in Robocop. While filming the sequence, Weller was listening to Peter Gabriel's song "Red Rain" on his Walkman inside his Robocop helmet as he exchanged gunfire with various bad guys.
Prominent Dallas landmarks seen in the film include Dallas City Hall (the exterior of the OCP headquarters), the Plaza of the Americas (where the glass elevator that Robocop rides in are located), the Fountain Place building (the chisel-shaped skyscraper seen in the background of the OCP boardroom scenes) and the Reunion Tower (the tall tower in the background while Murphy and Lewis are chasing the Van in the beginning of the movie). The underground parking garage where RoboCop is shooting out with the police is the Crescent Building parking garage. Another garage used was the Dallas Public Library's, across the street from City Hall.
Although Peter Weller is solely credited as playing Robocop, he did in fact have a stunt double for certain scenes. During the making of the crack house scene, Peter Weller, Paul Verhoeven, and the stunt double can be seen discussing Robocop's movements.
The "Cobra Assault Cannons" are working Barrett M82A1s, long-range anti-material .50 caliber sniper rifles with some plastic molding added to the frame and scopes originally meant to have CGI incorporated with them. That idea was scrapped due to budgetary constraints.
David Cronenberg was one of many directors who was offered and subsequently turned down the position. Ironically, Peter Weller played the lead in Cronenberg's Naked Lunch (1991), in which Weller appeared in lieu of reprising his role in RoboCop 3 (1993).
The name of Murphy's wife is not mentioned in the film. In the closing credits they are referred to as "Murphy's wife" and "Murphy's son". In the closing credits of the sequel RoboCop 2 (1990), their names are revealed as Ellen and Jimmy.
The song 'Show Me Your Spine' by PTP is playing in the club when RoboCop arrests Leon. This song, which features vocals by Nivek Ogre of Skinny Puppy, was unavailable in any format until October 2004, when it was included on the CD 'Ministry: Side Trax' released by Rykodisc.
The scientist who introduces ED-209 in the beginning has a name tag of McNamara, a nod to Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense during the John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson Administrations. Production designer William Sandell based the ED-209 design on the BELL UH-1H-HUEY chopper used during the Vietnam war.
In the scene where Murphy is practicing his gun twirling while Lewis is getting the coffee, if you look in the background of the side shot (where both are in the scene) the low brown building behind them with the antennae tower is the TV station KDFW Channel 4, the Dallas/Fort Worth affiliate of the FOX Network (at the time it was the CBS affiliate). Also of an interesting note, the parking lot behind Murphy in the shots facing him is no longer there. It is now a city bus terminal.
[in-movie fake commercials]
Several fake advertisements are featured throughout the movie: The Family Heart Center (a medical center specializing in artificial heart transplants), Nukem (a futuristic Battleship-like board game), and the 6000 SUX - the primary vehicle that Clarence Boddicker and his gang use.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The climactic "Melting Man" scene with Emil (Paul McCrane) melting after being soaked in acid was heavily objected by the MPAA and they demanded to have it removed. However, they eventually backed down when they found out that in most test screenings, the scene elicited the most positive reaction from the test audience such that it was eventually passed without any cuts.
Director Paul Verhoeven originally wanted RoboCop to kill Clarence Boddicker by stabbing him through the eyeball. Realizing that the censors would balk, he changed his mind and envisioned Clarence having the interface spike shoved through his chin, mouth, and upper jaw. Again, for the sake of placating the censors, he settled on the filmed version, which was also altered slightly (see the "Alternate Versions" section for more information).
According to Paul Verhoeven's commentary on the Criterion Edition DVD, an additional Media Break was filmed and completed for the film. Most notably, it featured footage of Lewis hospitalized and recovering; assuring the audience that she did not die, nor would she become "Bride Of Robocop", as many speculated.
One scene that was scripted, but not featured in the film is a fourth Media Break sequence in which Brixby Snyder, a parody of Benny Hill whose running line is 'I'd buy that for a dollar!', is forcibly arrested on allegations of receiving sexual favors from under-aged co-stars. The scene would have taken place after RoboCop's reply to The Old Man's question, but the decision was made to instead end the film after Murphy's reply. As a result, there is no dialog mentioning the names of Brixby Snyder or his program 'It's Not My Problem' in the film.
RoboCop is seen walking on water near the end of the film. Verhoeven has stated that he sees the character as a futuristic version of Christ. Additional references include the gunshot blast to Murphy's hand as Jesus' hands being nailed to the cross, the bullet to Murphy's head seen as the Crown Of Thorns, and Boddicker's blood at the climax of the film turning the water red, like wine.
Originally, Clarence Bodicker was the lone villain in the movie, but the filmmakers decided to capitalize on the political commentary by making Dick Jones (as played by Ronny Cox) the arch villain pulling the strings. As a result, the two central storylines (Robocop hunting Bodicker/the politics of OCP) converge into the finale.