Editor's note: On the 30th anniversary of RoboCop, we asked Dallas actor Kevin Page, who appeared in the film, to reflect on its lingering significance.
It was the summer of 1986, and I had just been hired for my first speaking role in a feature film. A little-known Dutch director, Paul Verhoeven, cast me in a small but significant part in his first American film, RoboCop, which was shooting on location in Dallas.
I was 26 and still a graduate student studying theatre at SMU. Although I had big dreams of becoming a working actor, I had little idea of how to accomplish my goals.
In the movie, I was to play a young executive who confronts an oversized robotic police droid named "ED-209." Consequently, my character gets splattered all over the screen in one of the grizzliest and over-the-top movie deaths of all time.
My first day on the set, I was rushed into makeup and introduced to some of the actors I would be working with. These included, Miguel Ferrer and Ronnie Cox, both of whom had burgeoning Hollywood careers that would be accelerated by their appearances in RoboCop. However, the majority of the cast that day consisted of local actors, including the legendary Dallas personality Jerry Haynes. Haynes played Mr. Peppermint on the local WFAA-TV show produced from 1961 to 1996.
As the shooting day progressed, the special effects guys fitted me for a costume rigged with several dozen "squibs" sewn into the fabric. Squibs are like small one-way firecrackers that explode away from your body when triggered. When the squibs are fired through condoms filled with fake blood, they create the familiar movie effect of being shot. It is common place in films to be "shot" with three or four squibs at a time; however, it is not common to be wired with nearly 100 of these fake bullet hits at once!
I didn't know it at the time, but that one scene would launch a 30-year screen career. In one way or another, that brief and bloody scene from RoboCop helped me get cast on Seinfeld, where I invited Jerry to pitch his show about nothing, as a regular on Wishbone (also shot in Dallas), and as Bum on the re-boot of Dallas where my character ultimately shoots and kills the iconic J. R. Ewing.
I learned three important things on the set of RoboCop, which will celebrate its 30th year of release this month.
First, never agree to let the special-effects guys wire you with as many squibs as they like because those things hurt! Second, there is an active film community in Texas and, third, if one is dedicated and scrappy, an actor can make a living right here in Dallas instead of moving to L.A. or New York.
After spending a few years doing television shows in Hollywood, I took Jerry Haynes' example and moved back to Texas where I have continued to work as an actor for over two decades.
The film industry in Texas in general, and in Dallas in particular, has remained mostly viable since the late 1970s, when the TV show Dallas first put our great state on the map as a significant "3rd Coast" filming location.
Over the years, films and TV series like RoboCop, Terms of Endearment, The Alamo, Friday Night Lights (both the movie and the TV series), Prison Break, The Good Guys, and most recently Queen of the South have continued to perpetuate that reputation.
Many other states have tried to get into the act by offering filming incentives to Hollywood companies that want to shoot outside of the major film centers like L.A. and New York. Texas has recently restored its own film incentives program to keep the industry working here, which is an effort I hope all of you readers will support by letting your state representatives know you like having the film and TV business here.
So, thanks, RoboCop (and Jerry Haynes), for helping to launch my career as a proud Texas-based actor. Happy 30th anniversary!
Dallas: Always the futuristic bridesmaid, never the futuristic bride. In an example of the town cast in the role of another major metropolitan area, the still-popular RoboCop is a vision of run-down Detroit, played by Dallas. The nerve. One could hardly imagine this film working in the pedestrian-minded fate that awaited us: DART's light-rail is still too new and underutilized to appear dangerous, and RoboCop fighting criminals in Klyde Warren Park sounds like a bit of a yawn. The film made use of Dallas' 1980s grit: The suburban gun ranges and bulletproof-glassed gas stations are the perfect counter to the gratuitous shots of I.M. Pei's still-controversial city hall and the singular Reunion Tower, both opened in 1978. Robocop could spot a criminal from a mile away, but he never catches on that he's in the wrong city. —Christopher Mosley