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It's your move, Robocop


Make my day:Robocop

Make my day:Robocop

Gary Oldman is “robophobic”

Gary Oldman is “robophobic”

Australian beauty: Cornish earns her siblings admiration for latest role

Australian beauty: Cornish earns her siblings admiration for latest role

Robocop: What is the ethical line we draw as we move closer and closer to an automated future?

Robocop: What is the ethical line we draw as we move closer and closer to an automated future?

Chemistry: Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish portray a happily married couple — until a critical injury and drastic surgery change their relationship forever

Chemistry: Joel Kinnaman and Abbie Cornish portray a happily married couple — until a critical injury and drastic surgery change their relationship forever


Make my day:Robocop

Abbie Cornish grew up on a farm in the Australian Outback. The nearest town was many miles away and trips to the cinema were a treasured, almost hallowed experience. The homestead's VCR was a constant companion, a whirring metal friend that brought exciting stories into the family's life.

Videotapes were rented, some were bought, and films from the television were recorded with regularity. The most treasured tape of all featured RoboCop, director Paul Verhoeven's satiric action adventure in which a murdered human law enforcer is brought back to duty as part man, part machine. The original ranks as one of the best sci-fi films of the 1980s.

"I think the first time we went to the cinema I was probably six-years-old," recalls the actress. "When you live on 170 acres, you get a cool VHS and it just goes on repeat. And Robocop was one of those. I think my brothers played it until it wouldn't play anymore. I saw it at least five times myself."

Nowadays, it's all Blu-Ray and movie downloads – the VCR has been consigned to the rubbish bin – but you can be sure that the Cornish family will be watching RoboCop more closely than ever.

Brazilian director José Padilha, who earned critical plaudits for his documentary film Bus 193 and his two Elite Squad action films, has remade the iconic movie. The titular, futuristic law enforcement officer is brought to life on screen by actor Joel Kinnaman, best known for the TV show The Killing, a US remake of the celebrated Danish show; Cornish plays his long-suffering wife.

"My brothers were more excited about my casting in this movie than they have been about any other gig," adds Cornish, "and I have worked since I was 15. I am now 31, so 16 years."

Her breakout role came with 2004's Cate Shortland drama Somersault and she has gone on to feature in the likes of Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Stop-Loss, A Good Year, Bright Star, Sucker Punch and Madonna's W.E.

"My older brother wanted to hear all about RoboCop," she continues, "what character I am playing and what was going to happen. His interest was really cool."

Despite mixed reviews, and claims that the film bears no resemblance to the orignial material, Cornish is proud of the film.

"When you do watch the film, it is a world that doesn't feel too far away," she says. "It feels very contemporary, even though some of the action sequences will blow you away.

"The concepts and the robots themselves, though, they don't look that far out of place. Robots as the police force, it doesn't feel too foreign. It's interesting to me."

Alongside Kinnaman and Cornish, movie heavy-weights Samuel L Jackson and Gary Oldman round out the cast, the latter taking a prominent role as the scientist responsible for RoboCop's creation, like a latter-day Dr Frankenstein.

Oldman, like Cornish, believes that the future shown on screen is just around the corner. "When the first film was made it was science fiction," he opines. "Now, it feels like science fact.

"With robotics, people can now control limbs with their mind. It's not such a crazy thing. These things you see in the film, they are very doable, very plausible."

The actor, Oscar-nominated for 2011's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, was a fan of Dick Tracy as a child and grew up enamoured with the fictional detective's two-way wrist radio, worn as a watch. It was upgraded to a wrist-mounted TV in the 1960s.

"I remember watching Dick Tracy as a kid thinking, 'God, I'd like a watch like that.' Now the world has gone totally Dick Tracy; now you have got a watch as your computer and you can see people, you can call them.

"But all this does beg the question, 'What is the ethical line we draw as we move closer and closer to an automated future?'"

This is a concern articulated by Oldman's character in the movie once he has brought RoboCop to life and let him loose on the streets. "What they don't calculate is the soul, the man blended with the machine," explains the actor, 55, "and when it starts to malfunction, they have to make this thing work.

"My character has to sedate him to get him out there on the street. There's a debate about the head and the heart and the soul and God. Nowadays, the word 'drone' is on everyone's lips – there's that whole issue of sending things out there, that have no feeling, that don't have a conscience.

"Rather than send a guy to diffuse a bomb, if you could send a robot in there or a machine to do it for you, then I would rather that, than risk a life. But you can't give a machine intuition. If a robot kills a kid, what is it going to feel? Absolutely nothing."

Oldman is a self-confessed, real-life "robo-phobe" (a term that pops in the film, incidentally, on the lips of Samuel L Jackson's character). He says that his two sons, with whom he lives in California, tease him about his lack of technical ability.

"An iPhone I can manage, but I have got a 16-year-old and a 14-year-old and if I have any problems, they can work it out for me," he says. "They take the mickey a little, when I am trying to operate the television. I mean, why do we have to have four controls to work the telly. One should be enough!

"My sons spend a great deal of their time around technology," he continues. "They can intuitively interact with the technology. I have to look at the manual. I am old school. It was textbooks; there was no visual, no interactive when I was growing up in South London.

"You are conditioned. I am programmed in a certain way. I want to read a book in my hand. My kids can watch a movie on an iPhone. I can't. I miss the cinema and the collective experience. Their minds don't work that way, though."

His co-star, on the other hand, being 20 years his junior, is technically savvy. "I love technology, and so it was kind of cool to see how they designed the phones and stuff in this movie," says Cornish.

"And I love computers because I am into music, so sit me in front of a nice Mac Pro with a microphone and a pre-amp, some headphones, and I'm very happy."

Indeed, Cornish harboured dreams of musicianship before she considered acting. "I did want to be a musician when I was a kid. I just wanted to be on stage, playing music and making albums. I also wanted to be a vet."

Growing up on a farm, she had plenty of opportunities to play with animals. "Even now, I have four rescue cats and I have a puppy dog who I also rescued and I have a parakeet!"

Did she rescue the parakeet? "No," she laughs. "I didn't rescue him. I bought him from a pet store."

It sounds like a noisy house? "No, it's actually pretty quiet," she says. "The parakeet is noisy when I come home and when I go, or if he really wants to get out of his cage, but apart from that, he's pretty cool.

"His name is Hendrix, so he's allowed to make a few screams."

  • RoboCop is out now



Some choice morsels from our interview with the acclaimed English actor ...

"I was happy to be nominated for the Oscar. We all thought they'd give it to the Frenchman [The Artist's Jean Dujardin] anyway. It wasn't expected."

"When I was in that seat at the Oscars I was as relaxed as I am now. I thought, 'You know what? I could win this.' It could be an unexpected thing. I was completely ready to get up and get it, or to stay in my seat. It was a great journey really. You've got to surrender to that experience."

"There's nothing to complain about in this job – it's not like you're working down a coalmine."

"My sons are at a certain age. I can start to introduce them to certain things. Next week I'm going to show them Raging Bull, because they only know De Niro from Meet the Fockers!"

"To my kids' credit though, they are anti-3D."

"My hobby is photography. What do I like shooting? Pornography? No, I started taking pictures on set of my films. The last time was on the new Planet of the Apes, and I have some great shots from the set of Child 44."

"I want to make this movie called Flying Horse with Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Amanda Seyfried, but it's still not enough to get it made. I would need to have Leo DiCaprio in it to get it off the ground."

Irish Independent