What Happened to Darren Aronofsky’s RoboCop Movie?

The Big Picture

Director Darren Aronofsky was set to direct the RoboCop remake, but the project never got off the ground. MGM’s financial struggles and bankruptcy ultimately led to Aronofsky leaving the project. Aronofsky’s vision for the remake included setting the film 3,000 years into the future, a departure from the original.

Darren Aronofsky is a director known primarily for his directorial efforts that examine human beings in extreme physical duress. From The Whale to The Wrestler to Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky is fascinated by the human body being in turmoil. His grimy, often graphically violent, and deeply uncomfortable works have — somehow — made him a go-to candidate to direct major studio blockbusters. This man came super close to helming a Batman movie in the early 2000s (with Christian Bale in the lead role to boot!), was signed on to direct an early version of The Wolverine, and was even one of the finalists to direct Man of Steel. Hollywood’s obsession with gritty realism in blockbusters for a large part of the first 15 years of the 21st century meant that Aronofsky was a recurring pick to helm new visions of beloved characters for major studios. Case in point: Aronofsky was set to direct an early incarnation of the RoboCop remake.

First announced back in 2008, Aronofsky would’ve helmed the feature from a script by David Self, with the project once set to be released in 2010. This would’ve made RoboCop Aronofsky’s follow-up to The Wrestler and marked the director’s first foray into VFX-laden tentpole territory. However, like all of Aronofsky’s other major flirtations with tentpole directing, this version of the RoboCop remake never got off the ground. This director’s sensibilities don’t sound like they’d be a bad fit for the world of RoboCop, so why didn’t this remake ever get off the ground?

RoboCop

In a dystopic and crime-ridden Detroit, a terminally wounded cop returns to the force as a powerful cyborg haunted by submerged memories.

Release Date July 17, 1987

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Director Paul Verhoeven

Runtime 102

A ‘RoboCop’ Remake Was an Important Movie for MGM

MGM has existed since April 1924, has produced some of the most iconic movies of all time, and has a logo (fixated on the roar of Leo the Lion) that is still one of the most famous images in the world. By the late 2000s, though, this outfit was in dire straits. MGM had been struggling with cash problems for decades, but things had become truly dismal by the end of the 2000s. In August 2008 (just a month after this RoboCop remake was announced), MGM had to clarify to the public that it wasn’t for sale despite its financial woes. At the same time, plans to have Tom Cruise take over the United Artists label were crumbling and only bringing further negative publicity to a studio that was already drowning in bad headlines.

As MGM scrambled to just make it from one year to the next, the studio began exploiting a slew of titles in its dense library for remakes and sequels. This is where projects like Yours, Mine and Ours, Fame, or the Steve Martin Pink Panther remake came from. By the end of the 2010s, further remakes like Red Dawn were on the horizon to (in theory) supply MGM with reliable easy revenue. Inevitably, RoboCop (a title MGM inherited from purchasing Orion Pictures decades earlier) was a prime candidate for a remake, especially after the box office success of The Dark Knight in July 2008. Darker takes on crime fighters were in with general moviegoers. Who better to bring RoboCop into this cinematic landscape than the man behind Requiem for a Dream?

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Related Here’s What Paul Verhoeven Cut From ‘RoboCop’ To Get It Back Down to an R-Rating ‘RoboCop’ is already a deeply violent movie, that wasn’t always rated R… what on Earth got cut from this motion picture to satisfy the MPAA?

Even with the persistent financial woes plaguing MGM, though, the RoboCop remake marched on. Aronofsky excitedly spoke to MTV about his vision for the project in 2009 as one being influenced by how everyone was connected to technology in the modern world. The human body and machines were more intertwined than ever, which would influence his vision for RoboCop. Additionally, Aronofsky felt like he had more flexibility to try new things and add his own stamp to RoboCop compared to remakes of other movies. That freedom made this distinctive auteur extra excited to pursue a new vision of RoboCop for the modern age.

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By June 2009, the future of Aronofsky’s RoboCop was already looking murkier thanks to the director signing on to helm Black Swan. That 2010 feature ensured that Aronofsky couldn’t immediately focus his post-The Wrestler exploits on RoboCop, but at the time, it didn’t seem like the director had left the project. An MGM spokesperson informed IGN in June 2009 that the script for this feature was still being written and that there were hopes of getting this remake finished by 2011. Publicly, all seemed fine for RoboCop, but behind the scenes, turmoil was already brewing. Specifically, MGM was just months away from declaring bankruptcy. With that development, every upcoming movie on its slate would be put in a tailspin…including this RoboCop remake.

Why Did Darren Aronofsky Leave ‘RoboCop’?

During the summer of 2010, just months after MGM had to declare bankruptcy, Arfonosky officially left RoboCop. A few months later, the filmmaker would become attached to The Wolverine, a project that would reunite the filmmaker with The Fountain leading man Hugh Jackman as well as take over all his priorities for blockbuster filmmaking. By September 2010, Aronofsky took to the press to clarify why he’d left RoboCop. Rumors had swirled that MGM’s demands that this remake be made in digital 3D (a format Avatar had just made a must for any new blockbuster) had led to this auteur leaving RoboCop.

Instead, Aronofsky simply said that MGM’s financial turmoil had led to him departing the project. He didn’t want to wait around for the cash-strapped studio and let other projects pass him by, so he opted to bow out of RoboCop. It was a reasonable enough excuse for departing the production and similar to the explanations given by filmmakers like Guillermo del Toro over why they left other projects affected by MGM’s bankruptcy, such as The Hobbit. MGM had once hoped a remake of a hit movie like RoboCop could stave off bankruptcy. Now, that dismal financial fate had doomed this version of the reboot to the scrap heap.

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Eventually, MGM would get revived and make a RoboCop remake one of its first priorities as a resurrected movie studio. Filmmaker Jose Padilha would now be the one tackling the modernized RoboCop, though, with Aronofsky moving on to endeavors like Noah. In an interview with Den of Geek, Padilha nonchalantly dropped a bombshell about Aronofsky’s RoboCop remake: it was set in the deep future. Specifically, it was supposed to kick off 3,000 years into the future, a sharp contrast to the original RoboCop which was set in a grimy reality only slightly detached from the then-modern 1980s. When Aronofsky said he wanted to put his own spin on RoboCop, he wasn’t fooling around!

Padilha ditched that distant future setting in favor of something more contemporary. Still, the prospect of a filmmaker as idiosyncratic as Aronofsky getting to make a RoboCop movie that overhauled the original feature from the ground up so drastically sounds far more promising than the lighthearted retread of the original RoboCop audiences eventually got. Still, if moviegoers and studio executives alike learned anything from the 2000s, it’s that, if Aronofsky gets attached to a blockbuster property, he won’t stay on it for long. Even if the director likes characters like RoboCop, it’s clear Aronofsky is just not meant for the world of franchise filmmaking.

RoboCop is available to stream on Max in the U.S.

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