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'RoboCop' roars into theaters on a RoboSaki motorcycle

The remake of the 1980s thriller "RoboCop" roars into theaters this weekend, and the title character roars into action on a motorcycle.

Except he doesn't roar.

The filmmakers behind the MGM remake were determined that the futuristic robocycle underneath their RoboCop be authentic. So it's electric.

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Production designer Martin Whist, working closely with director Jose Padilha, started with a Kawasaki Z-1000. They stripped it down to the frame, extended the swing arm to increase the overall length of the bike, and clad it with a fiberglass-like shell.

Then they hid the exhaust, did post-production special effects work to remove the sound of the motor and replaced that sound with a beefy electric whirr -- quieter than the roar of a Kawasaki Ninja 1000 but far noisier than, say, an electric Zero DS.

"We wanted a robust sound -- not a Prius sound," Whist said from his office in Vancouver, where some of the film was shot.

The stunt riding was done by David Castillo, but Robocop himself, Joel Kinnaman, put in some saddle time too.

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It doesn't sound like it was much fun. In extending the swingarm, raising the seat and pushing the rider far forward, the filmmakers made the bike almost impossible to maneuver.

"It was actually hard to ride," Whist said. "It wasn't as agile and responsive as a regular motorcycle. But we didn't want to go to [computer-generated images] every time RoboCop rode the bike. So for most of the scenes it's an actual rider on the actual bike."

Or bikes. Whist said the production used four separate Kawasaki 1000s to make their movie.

The filmmakers had originally intended to build something more futuristic and strange-looking, Whist said. In the end, though, they decided to use a motorcycle that was more realistic.

"Our bump into the future is very little," Whist said. "We didn't want to have elements in there that were purely sci-fi."

In addition to Kinnaman, "RoboCop" stars Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton and Samuel L. Jackson. It opened this week.

What became of the four Kawasakis? Whist said he didn't know.

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