Part 1 - EXCLUSIVE: ROBOCOP Designers Eddie Yang, Vitaly Bulgarov & Fausto De Martini Share Information & Artwork
Conceptual designers Eddie Yang, Fausto De Martini and Vitaly Bulgarov share information and artwork for Jose Padilha's RoboCop reboot. Including designs for RoboCop's new armor, weapons, props, and even ED-209. Click here for "Part 2."
Eddie Yang (left), Fausto De Martini (center) and Vitaly Bulgarov (right)
How did you get involved with Jose Padilha's RoboCop?
Eddie Yang: Peter Oillataguerre at MGM, called us up for a meeting and to do some initial sketches to help with the writing of the script. I went and met with Jose Padilha and some of the producers, apparently, Jose’s idea for how Alex Murphy integrated with the suit was very complex and he wanted it illustrated to clarify what he was thinking. Along with that they wanted a few initial attempts at the suit.
Conceptual design for me is a very exploratory process where you start with the director’s notes and then you collaborate with other artists and eventually narrow down a design. At the time RoboCop was pretty much an open field design-wise. The story was focused on the creation of RoboCop much like how a real corporation would create him with focus groups and so on. There was a social version and a combat version that he would transform into and then later two other more crude versions were added, one being more an homage to the original suit. In addition there was a drone robot and ED-209.
Were you a fan of the original?
Eddie Yang: Without sounding too cliché I want to say that I was a huge fan of RoboCop. I was already a big Rob Bottin fan and I was blown away that a guy known for creating incredible organic creatures could also design such a cool robotic hard surface character! Most of my vocabulary at the time, were lines from the movie. “I’ll buy that for a dollar!”, “I Like it!”, “Does it hurt?” were a part of my normal everyday speech! I also made a RoboCop mask for myself right after the film came out!
In the film, Joel Kinnaman is seen wearing variations of the RoboCop armor. Could you walk us through the different stages of those designs?
Eddie Yang: Yes what you saw in the final film was basically the R1 and R4 versions as we called them. Originally there were to be 4 different suits. R1 was going to be an homage to the original Rob Bottin suit, R2 was a desert storm version slightly more modern features, then R3, the final new version that was blue and more public friendly and that could transform into the final R4 black combat version.
Vitaly Bulgarov: After Eddie Yang with his team did the first couple rounds of concepts I was brought in to continue developing one of the ideas for the suit. Particularly my task was to explore the sleek aesthetics of a dark robo-suit idea further. The elements from Eddie's concepts that the director Jose Padilha liked were preserved in the final suit design as well. Unlike the tank-like heavy original robocop with exposed hardware and pistons, one of the tasks for the new suit was to give him a slimmer, faster and overall more hightech and commercial appeal without too much of exposed hardware. This resulted in a more aerodynamicc look with some automotive shape language influence. Initially I used a larger variety of materials and surface finishes like black chrome, silver metallic, satin metallic and carbon fiber but eventually after the design was approved it was decided to make a matte black finish as the primary color. (click here for more info & images)
The original RoboCop suit that Peter Weller wore was modeled on hockey gear and designed to be large and bulky, yet the main 2014 RoboCop suit is a sleek and aerodynamic design. Did the advancement of modern technology influence the upgraded designs?
Eddie Yang: The sleek design was Jose’s idea. He wanted some really fast paced action scenes and felt that the original suit couldn’t handle the swift movements that he wanted. I had never thought about the fact that Robocop never ran until that moment! Lol!
Were there any upgrades to the new suit that didn't end up in the final version, but you wish they had?
Eddie Yang: I wish that an homage to the first helmet-less head would have made it into the film. Jose wanted to see his full face with the bella clava, which was a really tough thing to accomplish without making it look cheesy.
I thought a revisit to the original helmet-less make-up look would have been cool.
Fausto De Martini: On the R1 suit, we tried some versions where his mechanical hand would look very raw and obviously mechanical, almost like a prosthetic. I thought it was a nice touch since it would indicate the fact this was OmniCorp first stab at a more complex robotic design.
Exoskeleton Suit Designs:
Vitaly Bulgarov: Maddox played by Jackie Earle Haley is the man who gives RoboCop his military training. Maddox wears an exoskeleton that I had a task to design. Working with Dave and Martin we used real world exoskeletons as inspiration but went with a styling similar to other modernized OmniCorp products done for the film. Below are some images of the final concept art. (click here for more images)
What was the process that led to the final RoboCop design?
Eddie Yang: The first thing I did was watch Jose’s films Elite Squad and Bus 174. I loved those films and thought this is going to be really cool! I started with what every fan/designer would have done and started making something similar to the original suit and then some crazier versions to explore what else could be done and to see what Jose’s reaction was and what he responded to. Everything was big and heavy much like the original. He kept telling me to make it thinner but it was such a hard thing to do, but eventually I had to just start from a different point of view and look at it as a completely different film. It was cool because at this time there were no other creatives involved. It was literally me and Jose! He even wrote me into the script! After this short period, production shut down and they looked for a production designer while they finished the script. Everything moved very fast and at the start of 2012 Martin Whist got the job and he extended an invitation for me to join the team! I in turn had some people helping me including Sean Yoo, Mike Jensen, and Maury Ruiz to try and keep the pace going. We tried a ton of designs and started narrowing it down to a few. That’s when Vitaly and Fausto showed up! They did amazing work and pushed it through the finish line into what you finally see on screen!
You mentioned at one point that director Jose Padilha planned to include you in the film, but the scene was nixed before shooting. How did that even come about? (Script page on right)
Eddie Yang: Lol! Yes so close to launching my acting career ! I had started working on the film already and it was just myself & Sean Yoo, Jose, the writer, and the producers working on it. So it was a pretty intimate group. I get a call to go to MGM for a meeting, Jose and the producers, Adam, and Peter are looking at me and tell me to read these two pages from the script. So I’m reading and extremely nervous because I have never had two studio execs and a director stare at me while I read something, I wasn’t comprehending what the scene was even about and then I saw my name and was blown away! It was a very kind gesture whether it made it into the film or not and one of the most surreal moments in my life. Jose said they were trying to think of a name and he thought my name just fit. He also said for me to make sure I am available for a couple days of filming!
In RoboCop, the year is 2028 and multinational conglomerate OmniCorp is at the center of robot technology. Their drones are winning American wars around the globe and now they want to bring this technology to the home front. Alex Murphy (Kinnaman) is a loving husband, father and good cop doing his best to stem the tide of crime and corruption in Detroit. After he is critically injured in the line of duty, OmniCorp utilizes their remarkable science of robotics to save Alex's life. He returns to the streets of his beloved city with amazing new abilities, but with issues a regular man has never had to face before.
RoboCop will be directed by Jose Padilha and star Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) in the lead role of Alex Murphy/Robocop. The film also stars: Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jennifer Ehle, Jay Baruchel and Abbie Cornish. It's now playing at your local theater.
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