RoboCop was ahead of its time in 1987, but MGM has decided to replace Paul Verhoeven’s landmark sci-fi film with a newer model. A reboot of the beloved property has been in the cards for several years, but the project really seemed to pick up traction once Darren Aronofsky began circling it. However, the studio’s well-publicized bankruptcy woes ultimately crippled that version of the material.
MGM’s financial troubles may finally be behind them, but they’re still in a very critical stage when it comes to rebuilding their company. The hope is that established brands with built-in audiences will help resuscitate the studio and put it firmly back on its feet. So like it or not, the RoboCop reboot has escaped development hell and is now on the fast track.
Although Aronofsky was reportedly still interested in directing the film at some point, MGM decided they didn’t want to wait for him. Earlier this month, they handed the reigns over to Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha instead. Rather than use the previous script by David Self (Road to Perdition, Old Man’s War), it was announced that Padilha would be searching for a new screenwriter to collaborate with.
According to Deadline, Josh Zetumer just landed the job. Don’t bother looking him up on IMDb, because he doesn’t have any produced credits to his name. So how exactly did a seemingly novice writer fall into a project as important as the RoboCop reboot?
You and I may have no idea who Zetumer is, but his star is rising within the industry. Every year, development executives and high-level assistants rank the best unproduced screenplays that they’ve read and the result is something known as “The Black List.” Scripts that have previously appeared on it include The Social Network, 47 Ronin, and Safe House.
In 2006, Zetumer’s script Infiltrator made the list and the project is currently set up at Warner Bros. with Leonardo DiCaprio attached to star. He also wrote several drafts for Peter Berg’s aborted Dune remake and took a shot at the fourth Jason Bourne movie before it was re-imagined as more of a spin-off.
It was important to Padilha that he be allowed to work very closely with whoever was chosen to write the RoboCop reboot. To me, that indicates two things: 1) Padilha already has strong and specific ideas for the film and 2) Zetumer’s sensibilities are very much in line with his own.
Zetumer’s Infiltrator script is a thriller about British intelligence operatives being placed inside the IRA to help thwart terrorist activities. Coupled with his efforts on the unmade Bourne film, he sounds like a logical match for Padilha, whose Elite Squad movies are also smart action films with a political bend.
It seems to me that their RoboCop reboot is likely going to take a gritty, no-nonsense approach. I haven’t been shy about my feelings regarding this project, but Padilha is a very competent director and I’m sure he’s found a completely different connection to this material than Verhoeven did. Honestly, I think that’s really the only way to go. They’ll never survive comparisons to the original film, so the best thing to do is craft something that’s significantly removed from the previous incarnation.
I love the original RoboCop, but I’ve always felt that it was a very average script that was elevated by rather brilliant filmmaking. So for me personally, I don’t think Zetumer has as arduous a task ahead of him as Padilha does.