Christopher Reeve Goes to Israel to Star in Robocop Sequel
Above: Christopher Reeve plays a cyborg conscripted by the Israeli Army
RAMALLAH, West Bank (SP) — Christopher Reeve achieved fame and fortune by playing Superman on the big screen. He now hopes that his film career will take flight once again by playing another famous man of steel in Robocop 4: Holy War.
The first Robocop film told the story of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), an honest, hard-working Detroit Police Officer who is apparently killed in the line of duty, only to be resurrected as a cybernetic crime-fighters by a team of scientists. His bullet-proof exo-skeleton and superhuman strength help him to prevail over the forces of evil in a city riddled with corruption.
Robocop was originally programmed to comply with three prime directives: (1) Serve the public trust; (2) Protect the innocent; and (3) Uphold the law. In the new film, he is sent to Israel with a slightly revised set of directives: (1) Serve the Israeli Armed Forces; (2) Protect civilians from suicide bombers; and (3) Uphold the peace process.
Through the course of the film, Robocop works undercover as an Orthodox Rabbi, leading services and delivering sermons by day, while hunting down members of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Movement by night. Reeve learned how to play the shofar, a ceremonial Jewish horn, for scenes that take place in a synagogue. “It was very fortunate that I happened to take up the tuba during my days at Julliard,” said Reeve. “It turns out that the shofar is a remarkably similar instrument.”
Robocop’s principal adversary in the new film is a pesky Palestinian protocol droid named C-PLO, who purports to be familiar with over six millions forms of martyrdom.
Above: Palestinian Protocol Droid C-3PLO [left] confers with a member of the Islamic Jihad in the Arabian Desert
The film was directed by Paul Verhoven, who also helmed the first installment in the series. Verhoven admits that production of the new film was far more challenging than the original, given that it was shot entirely on location in the West Bank and occupied territories along the Gaza Strip. “There’s no question, attempting to shoot the film in the middle of a war zone was a lot trickier than if it had been shot in the back lot of a studio in Burbank,” he said. “We even had to close the set after an unfortunate incident involving a Palestinian militant posing as a caterer. However, I’m pleased to report that we only had three casualties among the cast and crew during principal photography.
One of the casualties was actor Haley Joel Osmost, who played Reeve’s estranged teenage son Billy in the film. “Unfortunately, he stepped on a landmine while on a walking tour of Bethlehem,” said Verhoven. “Everyone involved in the making of Robocop 4 is deeply saddened by Haley’s untimely passing, but the good news is that his work on the film had already been completed. I’m certain that he would have had a very long and successful acting career if not for this incident. Now, I guess he really can see dead people.”
Reeve was able to meet the considerable physical demands of the Robocop role by undergoing a radical new surgical procedure, whereby his head and spinal column were attached to a synthetic, mechanized body. Actor Ricardo Montalban, who had also been confined to a wheelchair in recent years, underwent a similar procedure last spring, which enabled him to appear in Spykids 3.
“There was never any doubt in my mind that I would walk again,” said Reeve. “I’ll admit that until recently, I thought that it would be due to a breakthrough in spinal chord research, but the cybernetic option simply presented itself as a quicker means of achieving the same end.”
Reeve says that he expected to live a very normal life in his new bionic body, although he admits that he still needs to make a few adjustments. For example, he cites a recent visit to the White House in which he lobbied President Bush to sign a bill that would increase the amount of funding available for stem cell research. “When he greeted me in the Oval Office, I went to shake his hand, forgetting that I now possess a grip strength of 500 pounds per square inch,” said Reeve. “I’m lucky that I didn’t end up crushing every bone in his hand. As it turned out, nothing was broken, and the swelling went down after a few days.”
Reeve also had to deal with the fact that his metallic limbs and torso were constantly setting off metal detectors throughout Israel. “Unfortunately, I happened to be in a place where metal detectors are more prevalent than fast food restaurants are in America,” he said.
However, there are distinct advantages to Reeve’s new hardware. “I heard that Peter Weller had to spend three to four hours in the makeup chair every day to look the way I do when I rotate out of bed in the morning,” he said.
Above: Peter Weller and Christopher Reeve each found ways to humanize Robocop, despite the character's steely exterior
As for Reeve’s future film plans, he’s currently in talks with George Lucas about playing Darth Vader in Star Wars: Episode III. “If that happens, things would really have come full circle for me, since David Prowse [a former professional body builder who played the original Darth Vader] served as my personal trainer when I was preparing for the role of Superman,” he said.
Reeve will also be waiting in the wings if Arnold Schwarzenegger is successful in his bid to become the next Governor of California and is therefore unavailable to star in the next Terminator film.
Meanwhile, the producers of Robocop 4 are so confident that the film is going to be a hit, they’re already planning a pair of sequels, also starring Reeve. The films, which will again be set in Israel and shot simultaneously in order to save production costs, are tentatively titled Episode V: The Zionists Strike Back, and Episode VI: Return of the Jihad.
Above: Christopher Reeve as Robocop, on location in front of Jerusalem's Wailing Wall