The writer and director of 1980s science fiction classic RoboCop have been speaking to SFX/GamesRadar about making the beloved film and how close it came to turning out very differently, as Paul Verhoeven almost passed on directing it.
As with most Verhoeven movies, the tone and underlying messages are more complex than they initially appear and writer Ed Neumeier knew it would be a hard sell; “It was nice when audiences were in on the joke. Paul [Verhoeven, director] identified it in the script and made it even clearer.” The script found its way to producer Jon Davison. “He’d had success with Airplane! so he wasn’t afraid of the humour,” Neumeier says. “Everybody was iffy about it, but not Jon. He understood you could make something funny, political, dramatic and exciting at the same time.”
However even Verhoeven didn’t initially get it. And in fact, he threw the script in the bin after reading just some of it. “I read about 15 pages and threw it away. It was so far away from the films I’d made. They were much more based in reality and certainly not science fiction. That subtitle, ‘the future of law enforcement’, seemed completely alien to me.”
So Verhoeven passed… until his wife caused him to reconsider. “She read it in a completely different way: she felt there were elements that weren’t so far away from me, like [main character Murphy] losing his past, and the philosophy of losing your memory.”
A quick phone call to his US agent and history was written. “Even my films in Holland, if they were about a war, none of them were action movies. I was more interested in the philosophical underpinnings of the script. I saw RoboCop a bit like a futuristic Jesus.”
Verhoeven would of course go onto to make more science fiction movies which also had elements of philosophy and memory (Total Recall) and which were funny and political (Starship Troopers).