Abbie Cornish, beautiful, blond, and dressed all in black as she sat on the couch at the Dorchester Hotel in London to talk about her latest work, Robocop.
Starring in a remake of the 1987 cult classic may seem out of character for the award-winning actress, whose name has become synonymous with art house films and period dramas.
“I lean more toward a European, art house, independent, sensibility,” she admits.
“But I also love going to the movies. I love a big blockbuster. It’s been a while for me to find the right one. And I felt like this was the right one.” Despite calling Los Angeles home, her Australian accent has not faded.
Born in 1982 in the small town of Lochinvar, New South Wales, Abbie says she grew up watching films, instead of television, and remembers watching the VHS of Robocop over and over again with her siblings; some of whom will be travelling from Australia to attend the US premier of the film.
“It was a nostalgic film for me because it was part of my childhood. It was a film I watched with my brothers. I also felt it was time for a reboot of a film like this because of what’s happening in the world in regards to technology.”
She believes the developments in medical research and technology are wonderful, but as a fierce animal rights activist Abbie hopes they are doing it the right way. Asked if she thinks men would perform better if there were controlled by computers, she smiles and says “No. I like men just the way they are.”
The 2014 Robocop is more a reimaging, rather than a remake of the original. In the year 2028, military robots have replaced soldiers in warzones overseas. Now OmniCorp — the world’s leader in robot technology — want to develop drones to combat crime in the US. However America is too robophobic according to political commentator Pat Novak (Samuel L. Jackson), and the idea of having a robot pulling the trigger makes people very anxious.
Officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman) is a loving husband, father and a good cop trying to clean up the streets of crime-ridden Detroit. After his body is injured beyond repair OmniCorp transform him into a prototype of a half man, half robot crime-fighting machine. Mattox (Jackie Earle Haley) an ex-military operative responsible for testing the new machinery calls him ‘Tin Man’ and during a training sequence the soundtrack of ‘If I Only Had a Heart’ from The Wizard of Oz is heard in the background.
In the film Abbie stars as Clara Murphy, the devoted wife of Alex, who is faced with the decision whether to preserve her husband’s remains in this robotic form, or face a life without him.
“How do you make that choice? When you’re told that your husband will die without it, but if he goes forward with the procedure he will change entirely? What would you do?
“I did a lot of research talking to women who had husbands that had been off to war and came back injured. I also talked to men who had come back from the military with severe post-traumatic stress disorder,” Abbie says.
Once Clara makes the decision and her husband becomes Robocop, events unfold which test the bond of their relationship, and Clara finds herself fighting against OmniCorp to keep her family together.
“Because I’m single, I don’t have a child and I’m not married I had to do a lot of research on what it is to be married, what it is to have a child. Two things that every mother said, is that there’s nothing you would never do for your child, and you don’t know the love of anything until you know the love of your child. So for me that just drove every scene.”
There is a greater emphasis on Robocop’s family in this version, compared to the original film, where the role of Alex’s wife was a figment of his imagination, and was never seen in reality. Abbie says “I was lucky in that regard because I didn’t have the pressure of having to recreate. I was able to create.”
Clara’s role more closely resembles the character of Officer Anne Lewis — played by Nancy Allen in the original — who does not appear in this film. As a result Clara becomes the figure who helps remind Robocop of who he is, and the crime committed against his life.
“Rather than it just being a story of revenge, it was revenge with a reason, with a heartbeat. It was revenge, not just because of the damage it did to him, but because of the damage it did to his family, his wife and his child. And I think that’s a more powerful story for him. So my job was to facilitate his journey. Put a little pulse into Robocop’s story,” Abbie says.
2014 marks ten years since Abbie starred in Somersault, the breakthrough role which saw her win critical acclaim worldwide, and receive a number of accolades including the Australian Film Institute (AFI) award for Best Actress.
“To star in a film like Somersault is such a wonderful start, with a director like Cate Shortland, and in the role, that was quite a beautiful role to play. It was a real actors role,” she says.
Within a decade, the Australian actress has gone on to star alongside some of the most successful actors, including Robert De Niro, and feature in a number a major Hollywood pictures: Stop Loss, Sucker Punch and Limitless.
“I’m very blessed in my career in regards to the fact that I’ve been privileged to work with directors like Jane Campion, like José Padilha, with actors like Gary Oldman, Heath Ledger, and Geoffrey Rush. I think these people teach you without even knowing their teaching you. My school is the set,” Abbie says.
Her incredible education is set to continue in her next film, a psychological thriller called Solace, where she stars alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins and Colin Farrell.
“I play a special agent, who’s on the case of a serial killer, but he is performing the perfect murders. So myself and my partner played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, hire Anthony Hopkins, who’s an FBI retired psychic to help us crack the case.”
Unafraid to explore new creative territory, Abbie is also recording her own music. “I’ve wanted to make a solo album for a long time. So I’m working on that.”
She may be modest in predicting where she’ll be in ten years time — “I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m really happy where I am,” she says. But given the success Abbie has enjoyed already, and her ever-evolving talent, there is no doubt she has firmly cemented her place in the business for a long time to come.
Robocop is in cinemas now. Watch the trailer here: