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Interview: Actress Abbie Cornish talks ‘RoboCop’

He’s half-man, half-machine, and his mission is to protect the people of Detroit. He’s “RoboCop,” and he’ll be making his way to Blu-ray for the first time this Tuesday, June 3.

'RoboCop' premiere-slide0
Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Joel Kinnaman (left) and Abbie Cornish (right)
Courtesy of MGM, used with permission

Joel Kinnaman plays Alex Murphy/RoboCop in this remake of the 1987 Paul Verhoeven film. Murphy is a Detroit-based cop who gets critically injured in the line of duty. Technological corporation OmniCorp jumps in with the opportunity to save Murphy’s life and also turn him into a crime-fighting machine. Their drones are already being used overseas, and they see this as a way to begin integrating their work in the U.S. market.

OmniCorp sees a RoboCop being used in every major city. But the one thing that they didn’t expect was deep down inside that machine was a human being. And Murphy tries to continue his new life inside the machine, while he looks to reconnect with his wife, Clara (Abbie Cornish) and son, David (John Paul Ruttan).

The Chico Movie Examiner recently conducted an over-the-phone interview with Cornish about her role as Clara and how she wanted to join the project, after she heard that Jose Padhila was going to direct it. Check it out below.

David Wangberg: I was reading another article, and I came across a quote from you about “RoboCop.” The quote said that you had watched the original one, when you were five years old.

Abbie Cornish: Yeah, I watched it a lot, when I was a kid.

DW: When you first watched it at that age, was it something you just came across, or did your parents allow you to watch it?

AC: My parents allowed me to watch it. I was allowed to watch pretty much anything, when I was a kid. I grew up on 170 acres. There wasn’t really much impish that could happen. I grew up with four other brothers and sisters – there are five of us, in total. To monitor every single kid, at the time, was a lot. I mean, 170 acres is massive. I don’t really ever remember being told that I couldn’t watch anything or couldn’t do anything. My parents are very cool like that.

DW: When they announced “RoboCop” was being remade, I know a lot of people who said, “There’s no way they can remake it.” Looking at the films you’ve done in the past, what is one in which you think there’s no way it can be remade?

AC: “Somersault.” It was my first lead role in a film; it was my first feature film in Australia. I just don’t think anybody should touch that. And I think, at this point, you can’t touch “Bright Star” – the Jane Campion film. I mean, some things just have this uniqueness to them. And I might be wrong, too – that’s the thing. I mean, people felt that way about “RoboCop.” They might be wrong, they might be right. It’s really an opinion, I think, at the end of the day, isn’t it?

DW: Yeah, it is. And when you heard about them remaking “RoboCop,” did you think that way, too, or did you think, “Oh, this is a great idea.”?

AC: I had it pitched to me as, “They’re remaking ‘RoboCop,’ and Jose Padhila is directing it.” So, I kind of got pumped. I didn’t really get a chance to go into that way of thinking, because Jose Padhila was going to direct it. And it sort of came to me like, “Jose Padhila’s directing…” “Stop! Stop! I’m already in!” [laughs]

I think he’s an incredible director. When you look at “Elite Squad,” “Elite Squad 2,” and “Bus 174” – I mean, these are great films. I knew he would bring a different sensibility and an awareness to that film.

And it would really be more of a reboot than a remake. I mean, you can’t really remake that film right now. You can’t remake the 80s version of “RoboCop”; you have to, sort of, reboot it in a contemporary way. And I believe that’s what they did.

DW: One of the differences between Jose’s version and Paul Verhoeven’s version is that, in this one, they focus more on the family and the connection his character has with his wife and his kid. If the original had that element to where it focused on the wife and the kid more, would this role be more of a challenge for you, since it had already been explored?

AC: I’m not sure. That’s a hard one to answer, because it’s hypothetical.

To be honest, I’m really not sure. I definitely had a lot of freedom with the character, which I really enjoyed. And in the last few years, rather than worrying about honoring or dishonoring anything, I just used a new, fresh canvas, so that was cool. Sorry, that wasn’t a very good answer. [laughs]

DW: [laughs] Oh, that’s OK. I mean, an answer’s an answer.

AC: Yeah, OK.

DW: If they had kept your role minimal, like they did in the original where she only comes in for a brief appearance, would you have still taken on the role?

AC: No, I don’t think I’d be interested in a non-speaking role, or one where I just had a line. I need to do something. “RoboCop” was the least I’ve been able to do as an actor in a long time. But still, I thought there was enough that had me able to do something. And [Clara] was the heartbeat – the heart and soul – of the man inside of the machine. I thought that was worth playing.

DW: When you were pitched the project, they didn’t have a script for the film at the time. If, for some reason, the role of Clara was not written or not available, which other character could you see yourself playing in this film?

AC: I would have totally been Gary Oldman’s assistant, for sure. I would have rocked that role. That’s the role that Aimee Garcia plays.

I mean, I think Clara was a great role to play, but it was pretty heavy. I mean, how do you inject so much happiness and life into that story? I only have two moments to do it. One was a flashback, and one was the moment right before he gets blown up.

It was pretty heavy. I didn’t feel heavy doing it; I actually had an amazing time. But, I guess, between “Action” and “Cut,” those scenes turned out to be very impacting for the story, you know.

DW: You had mentioned in another interview that a lot of your previous films were indie and arthouse films. In the past four years, you’ve done “Legend of the Guardians,” “Limitless,” “Sucker Punch,” and now “RoboCop.” Are films like these, which are more accessible, more of your style or do you have plans to keep doing films in the indie and arthouse categories?

AC: I actually really love all genres. And, also, I really love all types of films in regards to arthouse; independent; European; American; Australian; mainstream; commercial; big budgets; and low budgets. I’m really open to everything. I think it’s really nice to have a mix. I have just as much fun playing just as much as a creative, collaborative experience on a smaller, independent film as I do on a big blockbuster movie.

I do love the idea of sharing movies with people. However that movie needs to be shared, if there’s a cult to that film that I feel is worthwhile telling, is worthwhile being a part of, that I hope the audience is really drawn to, I’m in.

DW: I came across a quote from Paul Verhoeven, the director of the original “RoboCop.” He said, “People seem to have this strange idea that films can influence people to be violent. But, in my sincere opinion, film only reflects the violence of society.” When you were working on a film like “RoboCop” or “Sucker Punch,” even though they’re both PG-13, do you think about how the film’s violence is going to be interpreted by the audience that watches it?

AC: Yes, definitely. I think about it to a certain degree. If I ever feel uncomfortable with something on a piece of paper, to the extent that I’m not interested in playing it, then they make the role [suitable] for me. On some of the films where the subject matter is about human actions, reactions, addiction, abuse, violence – I think these are all parts of humanity. I think it’s good to be honest about them.

That doesn’t mean they should be padded down. I think creativity should have a total license of freedom, and films are in that category. You want them to be free. I think a filmmaker would love to make a film as free as they can be.

And I say as free as they can be, because there is always so many people involved in the process in making a film. You would love to be able for something to be 100 percent free, but that’s almost like saying you want someone to be 100 percent happy, you know. [laughs]

This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Abbie Cornish for taking the time to talk about her role in “RoboCop.”

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