“RoboCop” is returning to Dallas.
The 1987 sci-fi classic about a cyborg cop cleaning up the crime-ridden city of New Detroit was shot largely in Dallas and stars an alum of North Texas State (now the University of North Texas).
To commemorate the film’s 30th anniversary, the Alamo Drafthouse will hold a special screening of the film at Dallas City Hall — know to fans as the fictional, but nonetheless evil, headquarters of Omni Consumer Products. Actor Peter Weller — Officer Alex J. Murphy himself — will be there for the party.
While “RoboCop” turned 30 on Monday, the anniversary screening isn’t until Sept. 10. Tickets go on sale Aug. 1. There will be “RoboCop” screenings across the country, but none will likely compare with the one in Dallas.
Here’s what the team from Birth. Movies. Death. is promising:
Get ready for the ultimate ROBOCOP experience, with OCP-approved photo ops, food trucks (in case you didn’t have your rudimentary paste), full bars with robo-cocktails, and the opportunity to watch the film at the site of RoboCop and ED-209’s final showdown. Oh yeah, and PETER WELLER will be there!
Now, that you know the news, let’s reacquaint ourselves with the film, the star and the reason director Paul Verhoeven thought Dallas fit the bill for a futuristic version of Detroit.
‘Serve the public trust. Protect the innocent. Uphold the law’
In the film, New Detroit is a dystopian city on the verge of collapse because of crime and financial ruin. Evil mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products strikes a deal with the city government, giving it control of the underfunded police department.
After Officer Alex Murphy is shot and killed by a gang led by criminal Clarence Boddicker, the corporation uses Murphy to test its “RoboCop” prototype and transforms him into a cyborg cop.
Depending on if you’ve seen the film or not, here are three viewing options: the original trailer, a “making of” feature from the early 2000s and a preview of a forthcoming documentary.
‘Part man. Part machine. All cop.’
Locally, he’s known best for “RoboCop,” but Weller has acted in dozens of television and film roles and has directing credits on the shows “Monk,” “Sons of Anarchy,” “Hawaii 5-0” and others.
But he’s happy to talk about his iconic role. He did just that at the Hero Complex Film Festival for the film’s 25th anniversary in 2012.
New Detroit = Dallas in the ‘80s
I.M. Pei’s Dallas City Hall isn’t the only building featured in New Detroit.
Sons of Hermann Hall serves as the interior of the Detroit Police Headquarters. RoboCop rescues a woman in a parking lot at Cesar Chavez and Main Streets. And Deep Ellum storefronts are the backdrop for New Detroit’s gang members.
So why Dallas?
“RoboCop” director Paul Verhoeven told the Dallas Observer that there wasn’t money in the film’s $13 million budget to pull out the stops like in “Blade Runner.” So, the crew focused the funds on the RoboCop costume and decided to film in a city that already had futuristic architecture.
Here’s what he told the Observer.
We went to Detroit and that didn't look like anything really. We went to Chicago and we didn’t find it there. Ultimately, we reduced our search to Houston and Dallas, and ultimately after discussing and going to both towns and returning, we felt that Dallas would give us more possibilities also to do, let’s say, streets that weren’t modernistic but that we could blow up [laughs] and we decided to do it in Dallas. The whole movie is shot in Dallas with the exception of the ending, the steel factory that was shot in Pittsburgh.
Ultimately, we felt that Dallas would give us that, let’s say, that Old Detroit that’s mentioned in the movie. We felt that Dallas would give us the possibility to show streets that were in disarray and also falling apart or whatever, and there were enough skyscrapers to give us a modernistic look. That was the reason to go to Dallas, which was perfect. We had a great time there. Everything went very smoothly. There was a lot of cooperation. We never got in any problems. Everything we wanted to do was possible and we found all the locations there.
So, there you have it. The film grossed $53.4 million, won a handful of awards and grew into a large franchise with a recent reboot in 2014.
- Take a deeper dive into the architecture of Dallas and New Detroit in this article from the Dallas chapter of the American Institute of Architects.