LOS ANGELES — "Robo-Cop" star Joel Kinnaman heard America calling.
The Swedish actor had established himself as one of the top actors in his home country through stage work and nine feature films in 16 months. That's a dominating performance when you consider there's only about 35 movies made in Sweden each year.
"Everything happened so quickly, it led me to believe I should try my wings in a bigger market," Kinnaman says. "Since my dad is an American, I felt confident I could play an American character."
Ironically, his first big move to break in American films was to audition to play the Norse god, Thor. Then he tried out for the latest offering in the Australian "Mad Max" series. He didn't get either role. But the process went so well that Kinnaman was certain he would eventually find a role on an American TV show or film that would establish him in the larger market.
He was introduced to American viewers in the film "Safe House" and the cable series "The Killing." But it was landing the lead role in the remake of the 1987 sci-fi favorite "Robo-Cop" that has put Kinnaman in the brightest spotlight of his career.
Earning the role of Alex Murphy, the cop in near-future Detroit who's put inside a robot suit to become the mechanical crime fighter with a soul, came with a lot of bumps, bruises and a dangerous drop in weight.
Kinnaman knew trying to handle action scenes while in a costume that covered him from head-to-toe — except for his jaw — was going to take a lot of energy. That's why he started getting into shape long before filming started.
He had to be able to move as if he was part of a Special Forces team. To prepare, Kinnaman trained with the Swedish Special Forces and Los Angeles S.W.A.T. team.
Most of the early rehearsals were done without the suit. Once Kinnaman slipped into the RoboCop outfit, everything changed for him — a lot of changes were unexpected.
During the first week of filming, Kinnaman lost 12 pounds. He noticed the weight loss when the suit began to feel loose on his face.
After the first week, far more attention was paid to how much Kinnaman ate and drank.
Wearing the suit also changed how Kinnaman played the role.
"If I disregard how uncomfortable the suit was, I felt this sense of power. My frame was so enhanced, I was towering over people. But what surprised me about the suit was the feeling of vulnerability because I was naked underneath the suit. That became the seed for my performance as that kind of feeling — times 1,000 — is what Alex Murphy would have been feeling because he doesn't even have his own body."
The new "RoboCop" has more family elements than the original. The new Robo-Cop remembers his life before he became more machine than man, which was one of the reasons Kinnaman wanted to play the role.
"What made this material so strong was that his loss was so pronounced," Kinnaman says.
"We get to spend some extra time with him as a family man, so we understood his relationship to his wife and his son. When he wakes up, he realizes he's lost everything that means anything to him. He can't make love to his wife. He can't fully embrace his son. That's why he wants to die. So the arc of the story was interesting as he finds a meaning to live."
Bee movie critic Rick Bentley's review of "RoboCop" (Grade: B) was published Wednesday to coincide with the release of the movie. You can find a copy of it at www.fresnobee.com/moviereviews