In the re-imagined version of the 1987 classic sci-fi hit RoboCop, Abbie Cornish stars as Clara, devoted wife of the ill-fated Officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman). In dealing with the aftermath of her husband’s transformation from a regular Detroit cop into a crime-fighting Cyborg (after he sustains fatal injuries from a bomb explosion), she makes the best of an unusually difficult situation.
Cornish, 31, in contrast to her brazen Hollywood peers, comes across as quietly-spoken and unpretentious. Born and raised in Lochinvar, New South Wales on a 170-acre farm, she’s called Los Angeles home for the last several years. Her breakout role, Sommersault, in 2004, led to such career-defining roles in movies such as Candy, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Bright Star, Limitless, W.E. and Seven Psychopaths.
Q: How does your role compare to the original RoboCop?
This is quite different. I think fans will be happy in regards to the fact it really does hold true to the original, which I loved, but as for the wife, Clara Murphy, she’s much more integrated into the story. In the original she was in flashbacks or appeared in his memory; now she’s in real time and she’s a part of the process in him becoming RoboCop. She helps him put his heart, soul and who he is into his new life. She’s his connection to wanting to be present.
Q: Does that mean they have sex?
That’s the secret topic. It’s under debate (laughs)
Q: Given the subject matter – technology versus humanity – how do you weigh in on that argument?
It scares me. I am by nature much more about natural man and all that sort of stuff, but I do like technology, though I don’t have any interest in the idea of robots running around doing our jobs for us or making us coffee, it’s just not my thing. I like my iPhone, that kind of thing.
Q: I know your three brothers were very impressed when you told them you were starring in their favourite childhood movie. How would you describe your relationship with them?
(laughs). They’re very protective of me. My older brother still lives on the farm. He fishes; he has his land and his dogs. The brother who is two years younger is living with me, and with his fiancée, and we are incredibly close. My 21-year-old brother is an angel and he is the calm one. Growing up with them, they taught me how to fix cars and motorbikes and I can repair stuff around the house if necessary. They all call me Mrs RoboCop now.
Q: It used to be that coming from Australia was a distinct disadvantage in Hollywood, but these days you almost need to be Australian to get work. Can you sense a change from when you first arrived here years ago?
Yes, everything is so connected and accessible now. But even when I was starting out, my mentors – Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Heath Ledger – all of whom I worked with, they were already Academy award-winners or nominated actors. That path was already carved. Now it’s just the way it is.
Q: You’ve worked with, Madonna when she directed you in W.E. What did you learn from her?
She’s a very strong woman. She gave me books on other strong women who carved their own paths, like Frida Kahlo and Leni Riefensthal. Women who did their own thing, made their own mark in history, much like she has done.
Q: Last time we spoke you talked about backpacking through Europe when you were a teenager. How does it feel now when you go to the Venice or Cannes Film Festival as a glamorous movie star?
It’s very surreal. The first time I was in Cannes I was on the red carpet where all the fans stand. I was 17-years-old and I watched Cate Blanchett walk the red carpet. She looked so beautiful and she had this spark to her; she was a movie star. I remember thinking how beautiful and elegant she was, and the fact she was Australian in the south of France at the Cannes Film Festival was incredible. And then years later I was walking the red carpet for Bright Star with Jane Campion. And I felt so grateful and amazed that I was walking the path I’d seen Cate Blanchett walk years before. That is one of my favourite moments of my career.
RoboCop currently showing in cinemas nationally.