It's not easy delivering a nuanced performance when you're cracking skulls in a 45-pound cyborg costume. But on the set of the remake of RoboCop, Joel Kinnaman, who grew up in Stockholm, Sweden, watching (and rewatching) the 1987 camp-action classic, managed it without grousing. At least, he says, when costar Michael Keaton was in earshot. "He'd say, 'Oh, shut up. My back is still hurting from that Batman suit.'"
Best known to American audiences as The Killing's Detective Holder, a recovering addict with homeboy-guru wisdom, the 34-year-old Kinnaman plays another lawman, Alex Murphy, the undercover cop blown to smithereens and re-built as a robot crime fighter. When Gary Oldman, the architect of Alex's transformation, strips him of his suit to reveal what little flesh and blood remains, Kinnaman expertly conveys the horror of a man who realizes he's barely more than a head connected to tubes and wires—and does so with steely indie grit rather than big-screen mugging. That acumen has landed him projects alongside fellow unconventional leading men: Christian Bale in Terrence Malick's Knight of Cups, Tom Hardy in the Stalin-era thriller Child 44, and Liam Neeson in the father-son shoot-'em-up Run All Night. Kinnaman embraces that mix of high octane and highbrow: "Some big movies are more like cartoons, and I'm not such a big fan of cartoons. I like when it's not just fun and games."