Calgary Expo guest Peter Weller denies reports he’s turned down a role in Neill Blomkamp’s RoboCop sequel

“That’s horseshit.”

Peter Weller couldn’t be more clear.

The actor-director-professor is in Italy on a golf vacation with friends before he heads to town for the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo, and we’re talking about widely circulated rumours that he’s flat-out turned down a role in the upcoming RoboCop sequel from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp.

“That’s not true, that’s not true, no. I’ve not turned that down. I’ve not been made the offer yet,” he says of Blomkamp’s film, which would ignore the uneven sequel which the actor also starred in and the third film which he declined and, of course, the 2014 reboot.

“That’s absolutely dead wrong, I love him, he’s great. It’s wrong.”

Weller continues. “The thing with RoboCop is, I don’t do interviews for free on RoboCop,” he says alluding to his declining to participate in RoboDoc: The Creation of RoboCop. “I don’t talk about the movie unless somebody’s willing to pay me. And I don’t do anything about it unless I’m making money on it, so it’s misunderstood that I won’t talk about RoboCop. I’m not going to be part of anybody’s documentary or anybody’s on-camera video or anything like that unless it’s  serious (money). That’s it.

“But Neill Blomkamp’s film is great. He’s got a great idea, we’ve talked about it, but it’s not sealed yet, it’s not done … so I can’t say that I’m doing it until the ink’s dry on the paper.

“The conversations are ongoing right now.”

So there you go. There is hope despite what you may have heard.

It’s actually part of a false narrative that has emerged that Weller has attempted to distance himself from the iconic role in Paul Verhoeven’s brilliant 1987 satirical sci-fi classic about a cop in future Detroit who, after being shot and near death, is turned into a robotic version of himself by a corporation that’s attempting to privatize the police force.

That narrative was challenged last year when the actor reprised that RoboCop role in some delightfully batty commercials for KFC — something he admits he certainly wasn’t reticent to do.

“Not after the money was settled, no,” he says simply.

Of course, that role is only part of the long and impressive career of the 71-year-old Weller. Acting wise, he got his start in theatre before moving on to Hollywood. And there, for the past four decades, he’s had varied roles in such remarkable films as David Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Just Tell Me What You Want, Shoot the Moon, Mighty Aphrodite and Star Trek Into Darkness.

Those are only the first and second act of a life well led, with Weller also earning a Master’s degree in Roman and Renaissance Art at Syracuse University more than a decade ago, before completing a PhD in Italian Renaissance art history at UCLA. And now he teaches art history at Syracuse.

On the Hollywood side of things — and in the non-Robo realm — lately he’s been spending much of his time behind the camera directing, keeping his foot in the door and his name in the conversation — something that he’s thankful for.

“I’m very fortunate,” he says. “I consider myself very fortunate to have a great family and to be working for 50 years nonstop in a business, in a craft that I fell in love with.

“So, yeah, I consider myself very fortunate.”

As for that recent move to directing, all of that has been in the TV realm, with Weller shooting  episodes of such series as Sons of Anarchy, MacGyver, Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-O.

It is a path, he says, that was influenced by a pretty phenomenal group of people and a number of different factors.

“I realized that I was more interested in telling a story than performing it,” he says, noting that growing up some his heroes were directors.

“And I was looking at guys I got to work with, because Elia Kazan got me into the Actors Studio, and i got to work with Mike Nichols and Sidney Lumet and Woody Allen … and J.J. Abrams were just constantly inspiring me to direct. Eastwood was a friend who inspired me to direct, Billy Friedkin another who inspired me to direct. So the guys I was bumping into that were saying, ‘You should direct,’ made me go and direct.”

Yet he still keeps a foot in the door on the acting side of things, with roles in some of those series and others such as Dexter and 24.

As to what his real passion is these days, well, that’s a list that’s almost as diverse as his IMDB entry and which makes him something of a renaissance man in his own right.

“Directing is my passion, career-wise, and if the gig is right I will act in anything if it’s challenging and wonderful and what have you, so those are my passions essentially.

“But aside from that my passions are my family and Renaissance art and jazz.”

Peter Weller appears at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo Saturday and Sunday.