Hugh Laurie picked up two Golden Globes and the adoration of a generation with his recurring role as the crotchety namesake on House, M.D. Laurie devoted the past eight years of his life to playing television’s most irascible doctor, offsetting his work on the show with the occasional film acting (Flight of the Phoenix, Street Kings) and voice-over jobs (Monsters vs Aliens, Arthur Christmas).

MGM’s RoboCop franchise do-over was poised to become Laurie’s first major post-House project, with the actor playing the money-grubbing CEO of fictional company OmniCorp in the year 2029. However, the latest word from Hollywood insiders is that Laurie has decided to pass on the opportunity, some two months after initial reports of his possible involvement emerged.

This news comes as a relatively minor blow to the RoboCop remake, given that Laurie was never going to be involved in any major capacity. Moreover, the controversy-steeped project has managed to amass a strong cast that includes rising star Joel Kinnaman (The Killing) as the titular human cop-turned-cyborg protagonist, along with such people as Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jackie Earle Haley in significant supporting roles.

Variety‘s Jeff Sneider reported yesterday that (according to his sources) Laurie has concluded his RoboCop talks, and later confirmed that the actor is “definitely out of ROBOCOP reboot, not that he was ever ‘in’.” Sneider’s latter comment alludes to the fact that Laurie never progressed beyond the negotiations stage. We assumed he had already inked a deal to appear in the sci-fi film, as did most of the blogosphere (despite the lack of confirmation).

The situation recalls what Marvel experienced during pre-production on Iron Man 3, when Jessica Chastain passed on the female lead (due to a scheduling conflict) – only to be officially “replaced” by Rebecca Hall a matter of days later. Expect a similarly short turnaround between today’s announcement concerning Laurie, and a followup report about a different actor snagging the antagonist role in RoboCop.

MGM shelved the RoboCop remake when it declared bankruptcy, following years of rumors that Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) would be directing. Once the studio’s financial woes had been resolved, José Padilha (Elite Squad) was instead hired on, working from a fresh script draft penned by newcomer Josh Zetumer. Nick Schenk (Gran Torino) did some script polishing thereafter, followed by James Vanderbilt (Amazing Spider-Man).

Padilha has been outspoken about his interest in updating the political subtext and social satire of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 film with his remake, while delving further into the psychology of RoboCop. A leaked script draft featured numerous heavy-handed references to contemporary issues (outsourcing to China, battling al-Qaeda, tensions with Iran), with several ideas seemingly lifted from such films as Iron Man and Transformers.

It also contained a handful of references to modern Hollywood attitudes about how to properly recycle older content – where films must somehow be darker and edgier, yet still qualify as non-offensive and manage to snag a consumer-friendly PG-13 Rating. That self-awareness served the 21 Jump Street reboot well (note: it was actually Rated R), but the RoboCop script does not seem so clever as to likewise have its cake and eat it too.

RoboCop opens in U.S. theaters on August 9th, 2013.

Source: Jeff Sneider