This weekend, director Len Wiseman’s science-fiction actioneer Total Recall opens in theaters. The film is said to be, in some ways, a more faithful adaptation of We Can Remember It For You Wholesale - the Philip K. Dick short story that inspired it - than Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall from 1990.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Wiseman to talk about what he wanted to bring forward in his depiction of the world of Douglas Quaid and Rekall, Colin Farrell as a modern day action hero, his commitment to practical effects and the possibility of a Total Recall 2.
You said that you wanted to stay a bit closer to the Philip K. Dick story. How do you think you’ve done that with this film?
“It’s a combination of more of a tone that I’d say is familiar with with the short story. Our biggest difference with the Verhoeven film is that we don’t travel to Mars. Which – the book never goes to Mars, as well. They talk about it, but it all takes place on Earth, and it’s actually, for those who know the book, the imminent threat is actually about invasion on Earth. And so we incorporated a lot of those ideas. But I really think it’s a fun combination of a lot of things that are familiar from the story, things that are familiar from Verhoeven, and things that are entirely original to our own film.”
What are some of the shout outs to the Verhoeven film? I’m curious about that because one of our writers, Rob Keyes, was on the set visit where he learned about the Ethan Hawke portion of the film in which he was playing the early version of Quaid (Farrell) prior to the character having his face changed and his memory wiped. We’ve heard that that scene has since been pulled out. Why did you decide to change that and will that be on the DVD?
“That will be on the DVD. You know there were many things that I wanted to try, and it was simply a sub-plot that got really complex for people. I personally really love as many layers as you can possibly put into a movie and sometimes those layers are just too complex for the majority of audiences, and that’s just the truth of it. I would definitely love to see what we did together still alive in some form.”
We have the short story, the Verhoeven film, and now your film, and in general terms, science fiction has a tradition of kind of hitting on cultural themes that are relevant in the present. I feel like Verhoeven’s version was really dealing with things that were of that time…in a fun way. I’m imagining that this version of Total Recall is going to be a good action film but, in addition to that, what are you tapping into thematically?
“I think that we are, maybe even in a different way, because we are staying on Earth – I think it’s even more relevant. You know, sci-fi has always fascinated me because it’s all about ‘what if.’ It’s a possibility, it’s an extension of if science could possibly take us somewhere, right? But it’s also if our society could possibly take us somewhere in a very dangerous way, as well. And so in terms of the political structure and how we work as a society, there are themes in there that I think it’s like the expanded version of things that are going on today and what they could possibly break into. And so it ties into a bit of plot that I don’t want to give away, but it was something I thought was, you could say, fun, because it’s—I hope it doesn’t happen to our society—but it’s fun to imagine the ‘what if’ scenario within a science fiction world.”
Do you want to sort of say what some of those things are in broad terms? I know you don’t want to give a plot point away and I don’t want to give a plot away either.
“Yeah, it’s very tied into the plot of the twisted plot.”
I won’t spoil that for audiences.