RoboCop creator: Detroit shows the film’s fictional future is upon us

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Released in 1987, RoboCop is set in a futuristic Detroit plagued by financial ruin and economic decay.

In 2012, Forbes named it the most dangerous U.S. city, and crowned it most miserable in 2013.

The U.S. government provided a $80 billion bailout for the automotive industry between 2008-2010.

CNN  — 

The script for Robocop, a futuristic tale of decline, had a note scribbled on the top of the first page. It read: “The future left Detroit behind.”

As screenwriter Ed Neumeirer recalls, it was a prescient message.

That statement has never been more relevant to the American city, after it filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history earlier this month with debts around $18 billion. Neumeier says that RoboCop was, and still is, a metaphor “to show the industrial decline in America.”

He told CNN: “The reason Detroit is important is because it’s facing an economic blight that you can imagine happening in a lot of places.”

Set in a futuristic Detroit plagued by financial ruin and economic decay, “RoboCop” – made in 1987 – relates how a no-nonsense cyborg law enforcer ends up policing the city’s crime-ridden streets.

Written by Neumeier, directed by Paul Verhoeven and mostly filmed in Pittsburgh and Dallas, the film paints Detroit as a once-great metropolis and manufacturing hub laid to waste by outsourcing and mass unemployment.

Read more: Detroit’s bankruptcy could spell good-bye for Howdy Doody

Neumeier told CNN he battled with producers to ensure Detroit remained the setting for the film, adding the fictional dystopia in “RoboCop” could easily become a reality when a city is stripped of the industry that ties its communities together.

“In retrospect, the idea of “RoboCop” really goes back to the car industry” he told CNN. “The sculpture of it is very much Detroit road-iron… having grown up in the sixties when the muscle car was so prominent, the notion of cars was very important to me then and ultimately to the formation of RoboCop.”

Read more: Why Obama won’t bailout Detroit

The cradle of auto manufacturing in the 1950s and home to the likes of Ford and General Motors, Detroit was once considered the engine of the U.S. economy. But production saw a sharp decline in the 1980s when Japan emerged as a global financial heavyweight and automakers like Nissan began to provide stern competition.