THE FACES OF MURPHY
PETER WELLER (RoboCop 1-2)
So far four actors have portraid Murphy and RoboCop. Two in the movies and two for the TV series.
Born June 24, 1947, in Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Peter Weller is best known for his role as the crime fighting machine in RoboCop, and the sequel, RoboCop2. He has however been in several other movies like "Naked Lunch", "Leviathan", and "Screamers". He's also been seen in several TV shows such as Odyssey5 and 24.
Many careers in Hollywood have had their ups and downs, and with a career spanning almost three decades, Weller has seen his share. It seems that he has often tottered on the brink of stardom, only to have it elude his grasp. He has been in only one blockbuster, RoboCop, and, although a majority of his films have garnered him critical praise and a contingent of loyal fans, his is not a household name.
Weller didn't have to audition for the part, it was a meeting of minds, not formal auditions that landed him the role of Robo: Weller knew director Paul Verhoeven's work, and he knew Weller's.
Working on RoboCop during the early stages of production was personally frustrating, physically taxing, and emotionally exhausting for Weller. The ink had scarcely dried on Weller's contract before he plunged headlong into a grueling four-month preparation for his role; he worked with a mime for several months. They wanted to take a human being and transform him into a robot, walking in a suit in such a way that was stylized, attractive, yet computerized and the mechanical without being "mimelike." In essence, they wanted to have some humanity breathe through this robotic thing.
ROBERT JOHN BURKE (RoboCop 3)
When RoboCop 3 was rushed into production soon after RoboCop 2, Peter Weller chose to leave the Alex Murphy character behind and stared in the David Cronenberg movie "Naked Lunch" instead. The loss of Weller presented the budget-conscious filmmakers with the problem of finding a new actor who could step into Weller's shoes- both figuratively and literally.
The movie company wanted to be able to save money by using the old suits from the second picture, so they were on the hunt for an actor who would fit into the suit they already had -it was the 'Cinderella Syndrome.' They didn't have the money to create a whole new body cast and a whole new sculpture just too basically get what they had before. At the time they also had no interest in changing the look of the character. They found two actors they liked, and the one that fit into the suit the best was Robert Burke. But it wasn't as if he was cast merely because he fit the suit; Robert had had mime training, so he was able to do really good robotic moves. Even with the close size match, the suit still had to be tailored to Burke's physique. For example, the upper chest didn't fit him exactly, Robert's neck was much longer than Weller's and his head was a different shape, So some new parts were made, cut or made wider or longer. But, all in all, Robert fit into the suit very well.
Early on in RoboCop3, Murphy is badly burned in the Splattering skirmish, Robo is transferred to his high-tech robochamber where he is cared for and maintained by Dr. Marie Lazarus. Among the repairs is extensive facial reconstruction - a story device that conveniently explains why Robocop no longer resembles Peter Weller. For the scene, which featured Robocop without his metallic helmet, Rob Bottin and company devised an entirely new set of prosthetics to be worn by Robert Burke. None of the prosthetic pieces that were used on Peter Weller could be used on Robert; prosthetics made for one person usually won't work on someone else. One of the reasons Peter was cast in the first picture was because he had a kind of futuristic, mannequin-like face - which Robert does not. So they really had to rethink the makeup, because it had originally been inspired by the particular look of Peter Weller's face. Rob Bottin hoped that they would avoid the whole issue in the third movie, but they really wanted to show him with his helmet off so Bottin re-sculpted all the pieces for Robert.
To this day Robocop 3 is regarded as the point where the Robocop franchise became irredeemable and has affected the previous films' status significantly. And while it would be easy to blame some of the movie's problems on Burke, it wouldn't be appropriate in this case. Robert Burke does a great portrayal of Murphy while doing Robo movements that well stands up to the high bar set by Weller.
RICHARD EDEN (RoboCop:The Series)
Eden is the third actor to don the Robo-suit, but the Alex Murphy of the series only appears on-screen during the credits sequence which shows Robo's origins, and in one other short flashback scene, the rest of the time he wears the suit. Eden loved his role as RoboCop, although Eden previously had little interest in science fiction.
The main problem with Eden, although he had a similar body type and looks of Weller, is that he never really looked menacing or "kick ass" in the role of RoboCop. With his helmet removed Eden looked strange and awkward, and his soft robo voice left a lot to be desired. Eden did however shine briefly in a couple of emotional scenes and displayed some dedicated robo moves but overall his performance felt watered down and dull compared to Peter Weller.
With a pretty dull heavily armed cyborg that never killed anyone, the non-violence themed series got a short life and got canceled after the first season. Eden was approached to return as RoboCop for the 2000 TV series RoboCop: Prime Directives but for various reasons the negotiations never worked out.
PAGE FLETCHER(RoboCop:Prime Directives)
Fletcher is best when he plays Alex Murphy before he becomes RoboCop. In fact Fletcher has more screen time as plays Alex Murphy than any other robo actor before him. And it is as Murphy that Fletcher does the best job, resulting in some very nice emotional scenes. But while Fletcher is certainly a very fine actor, he’s physically wrong for the part.
Most everyone else in PD’s cast towers over him, which proves to be a fundamental problem. RoboCop is supposed to be a physically imposing character. In fact, he’s supposed to be the most physically imposing character in the story, period. However, since most of Fletcher’s fellow cast members can easily gaze right over the top of his shiny RoboHelmet, it creates a kind of psychological dissonance for the viewer: We know that RoboCop is supposed to be intimidating and even fearsome; however, here he looks like little more than an outsized, metal-plated yard gnome!
Fletcher’s high is however not the biggest problem, because Fletcher’s Robo movements in the miniseries are downright awful. Fletcher spends most of his time in PD stumbling and bumbling about in the RoboSuit, fists eternally and inexplicably clenched, wildly swinging his arms to and fro in a bizarre echo of Rock'em Sock'em Robots.