It has been 22 years since Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall hit the big screen with then box office draw Arnold Schwarzenegger. Director Len Wiseman (Underworld, Live Free or Die Hard) took a very different direction (some might say ‘riskier’) in casting seasoned Irish actor Colin Farrell to fill Arnie’s big shoes in the Total Recall remake (read our review). Don’t expect any quirky one-liners, Arnold-style. The remake has a more serious tone than the original tongue-in-cheek film.
Adapted from a classic short story by Philip K. Dick, the film strays quite a bit from the 1990 film – and the short story, for that matter – with no mention of Mars. (But don’t worry, Total Recall fans – Wiseman has retained the three-breasted hooker). He’s also upped his game yet again with the action sequences.
Screen Rant had the opportunity to interview the cast of the film – including Colin Farrell (Doug Quaid), Kate Beckinsale (Lori), and Jessica Biel (Melina) – along with director Len Wiseman.
Colin takes on Arnie’s role as Douglas Quaid. He’s a bored factory worker who loves his beautiful wife (Beckinsale) but needs an emotional escape from his monotonous lifestyle. He’s intrigued by Rekall, the company who promises to turn your dreams into real memories, and requests something of a ‘super-spy’ fantasy. And so, the games begins…
What do you look for in a script? And what’s your approach?
Colin Farrell: I personally just want to do as many different things as I can do, whether it’s comedy, drama, science fiction, horror, narrator… You’ve got a documentary, I’ve got a voice. Animated films. Big films, small films. At the end of the day, it’s all one version of telling a story. I treated this as if it was a two million dollar independent film. I did a lot more physical work than I’d probably have to do for a two million dollar independent film with four months of training and stuff. But as far as the character’s psychology or emotional life goes, I treat it just the same.
Did you think about this film being a remake?
CF: “I was well aware of that when I heard they were remaking ‘Total Recall.’ My first reaction was: ‘Ewww, really okay?’ And the director said you should really look at it, the script is good. I had already done a remake. I had just finished ‘Fright Night.’ When I heard about that being remade, I had a whole ego thing… remake?. ‘That is so uncool! I loved the original, I can’t possibly do that.’ When I read it, it was really different and everything that I loved about the original part was nowhere to be found in the modern version. So then this came along and I thought two remakes… ‘Oh Jesus. Uncool squared.’ I read the script and the same thing happened… cut to third time…(jokes) ‘Oh when I first saw the Goonies…’ (affecting Sloth’s voice) ‘Hey you guys!!’ And then I read the script and I liked it. It was very clear from the get go that Len wanted to make a different film that followed the same narrative thrust as the original with a lot of the same plot points and characters and it even had the same name. But in reading and talking to Len about what film he wanted to make, it was significantly different. I loved the original and the world that the film inhabited was totally different. Len showed me some artwork and it was just so engaging that I jumped on board.”
So no reservations about doing another remake then?
CF: “I do remember I was slower to attach myself as my agent was saying: ‘Are you kidding me? No, no, no.’ There was a part of me that felt afraid of people in Hollywood going: ‘**** Hollywood with their total lack of originality!’ I’m glad that this film does stand on its own and it’s not just a rehash.
This is the second Philip K. Dick adaptation you’ve starred in, the first being Minority Report with Tom Cruise. Is there something particular about his writing that draws you in?
CF: “He’s a man of brilliance. Brilliant intellect and he had one of the most potent imaginations I’ve seen ever to grace the literary world and the world of cinema. The concepts he explored and created and imagined on the page and then on the screen just seems so cinematic. This idea of implanting memories where by the implantee couldn’t tell the difference between a real experience and a fantasy experience was really cool. And his ideas of technology – do we control technology or does technology begin to control us? His work hasn’t aged a day it seems.”
You’ve said this role has been the most physical role you’ve ever done. Did you incorporate your training from your previous action movies?
CF: “Yeah, I know my way around some guns, which is weird because I have no time for them. I don’t like them at all but I can take apart guns and put them back together and stuff, so I didn’t have to go to the range. I don’t think I will ever to go ‘the range’ again! (Smiles.) I’ve done enough of that. For four months I went to the gym, six days a week and to the treadmill running three miles every day and then I did an hour of weights and an half an hour of boxing the mitt, then home and then went on a hike. I got really fit and I ate really well because I knew it was going to be a long shoot. Sometimes I have experienced at the start of a film you’re very excited and enthusiastic and you’ve done all your preparation internally and externally and you start the film and it’s all go….. Then your attention goes somewhere else. Your energy goes into telling the story, so you don’t have the same amount of energy to be objective, and that’s okay because sometimes you become a subject of the story and you’re inside it so much that you don’t need to keep on looking on the outside.”
So have you learned how to keep up your physical stamina for long shoots?
CF: “If you need to get in physical shape for a film and you have to maintain that for six months, at the start of the film, I was never able to do it. I’ve started films like Miami Vice where I’m in really good shape and I look back on that film and see the moustache is bigger as I’ve got a larger face. (Laughs.) If you do a fifteen hour day on a film, there’s a lot of time standing around but at the end of that, you want to go home to your hotel room and have a bite to eat, watch a movie and go to bed. But I didn’t this time, I went to the gym. That’s a ridiculous thing for me to do after a fifteen hour day on the set. I was grateful because I got very healthy.”
Any scrapes and bruises?
CF: “Yeah loads of bruises and welts, usually around the hip, arse, thigh region and elbows. Elbows got knocked up big time, but it was so much fun. (Laughs.) I hadn’t done a meaty action film in seven or eight years, so it was fun to explore that aspect of storytelling again.”
You have Seven Psychopaths the can and you’re shooting Dead Man Down. How long did it take before you got back on the horse?
CF: “I think there were six or eight weeks between ‘Total Recall’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths.’ I was at home in Los Angeles for ‘Seven Psychopaths,’ so it was the first time I had worked from my house here so it was great to be around the kids. That was directed by my good friend Marin McDonagh [who wrote and directed’In Bruges’]. So I did that and I think that’s out in November. I had a good bit of time between that and the next film. I had three months or something. I did ‘Dead Man Down,’ which we shot in Philadelphia and we just wrapped.
There’s a melancholy piano scene in this movie. Did you actually play the piano?
CF: “Yes it was me playing, just that one tune. Everyone in my house was so sick of hearing that. (Laughs.) I have a piano in my living room that I mess around on a little bit and when I asked Len if I could find a piece of music, I went through a **** load of classical music to find something that I felt had a certain urgency to it, but also with a hint of melancholia and maybe a sense of longing. I found that which is public domain and I had a piano teacher to go through it with me.”
The original movie has a huge fan base. Does it concern you that they could be sitting in judgment? So why do you think this film resonates with people?
CF: “A friend of min,e Craig, has two sons who are maybe 13 and 15. Craig showed them the original before I did Total Recall. I kind of expected them to go ‘That was crap’ or ‘The effects were silly,’ but they went: ‘That was awesome! It’s such a fun film.”’The original WAS a fun film. Verhoeven made a couple of ‘Robocops’ that were so great, too. I think the level of excitement is great and Arnie was particularly charismatic with that chopped up English, and the size of the man with his confidence and sense of humor. Nobody could deliver a one liner better than that fella. I think the effects were cool for its time and the fact that they went to Mars with all the mutants, I think it was really funny. It had such an absurd sense of humor. There was even a comedic sense to the violence, which was over the top. The film just works.It’s a really entertaining ride.”
So do you feel pressure to continue that ride?
CF: “No. I wanted to evaluate the concept of the original and what it meant to me doing this. The original is more in the presentation of things at the time and not the actual thing itself. Being a remake doesn’t make a film bad. I know I have made films that lack the originality that’s in this remake that are actually original films. So the whole concept is an easy target and it’s one I had to examine, because I would have been of the same mind: ‘**** Hollywood. It lacks originality. Remake sucks.’ But I had to look deeper into it from my own perspective. We are not trying to compete with the original at all and that’s what allowed me to pull the trigger without any hesitancy and attach myself to this film. I felt it was really different from the original. If there were more one-liners, or if it went to Mars, or if the script was the same, […] than I might not have done it. Whilehonoring the same conventions and concepts and narrative plot points of the original story, this story stands on it’s on.”
So what can audiences expect from this film?
CF: “Audiences will see what they want to see. Some will come out, hopefully enjoying two hours of action. Some people will find themselves gravitating towards the emotional dilemma that the characters find themselves in. Other people will see that there is some layer of subversions to the storytelling aspect of poking a finger of judgment at certain governments to the idea of foreign invasion, others maybe false pretenses. I mean you can go wherever you want with it really. No matter what story you’re telling you’re always representing some reality. You are always representing human beings, their fears, their shortcomings, their braveries, their doubts, their loves, their abilities, their brilliance and those things inevitably lead to bigger political systems, foreign policy and crime and religion. It’s an action film. We are not taking a stance about big government.”
What do you interpret Len’s intentions behind this film?
CF: “Len’s particular concern with the whole film I think was to have it as an argument between the world of emotion versus the world of the intellect. It’s the idea that you can suppress a person’s mind and a person’s experiences, mentally, psychologically and intellectually, but you can’t completely quiet them to the point of dormancy and the emotionally life a person. You still have the heart and what the heart remembers and what the heart experiences. And even that isn’t important that that comes across. If Quaid can’t figure out anything but begins through his love for Melina be awakened to the person that he was or the person that he’s becoming, well, then that’s cool.”
On a lighter note, how did you feel kissing the director’s wife?
CF: “Kissing Len’s wife was unfortunately more of the uncomfortable situations I’ve found myself in during the fifteen years of doing this racket. I told him that he wasn’t even polite enough to leave the room. We did a very quick take (snaps fingers) and we only did two or three, and he shouted: “Moving on. Got it. Check the gate.” (Jokes) Well, that was just a rehearsal boss? We haven’t even shot yet! It was fine because we didn’t even tip first base. It was a very sweet little good morning kiss-ish.
How did it feel fighting female actors?
CF: “(Laughs.) You seem very happy with that! I found it all very confusing. I’ve been getting my arse kicked by girls for the last fifteen years! Kate is tough. She’s been killing vampires for centuries so a mere mortal like me was a small catch for her. She was great to work with. I’ve hit a lot of women in films, I just recently realized. It’s very strange. But doing fight scenes with Kate, I was little bit more cautious. You can go harder with a guy, which I don’t mean as an insult. Genetically, as a man, you don’t mind hitting men as much as you mind hitting a woman. I think that’s okay, I hope I’m not being sexiest. Both Jessica and Kate were really tough. I wouldn’t like to meet them in a dark alley.”
So Len is directing you beating the hell out of his wife, what’s that like for you as an actor when he’s saying I need you go harder?
CF: “It’s so technical. It’s nothing personal. You’re not fighting really, you’re missing each other by a half of foot at least, ideally more and you get a few knocks and bruises. But with the kissing, you do kiss someone. Its lips on lips. They’ve worked together before. They have a really good shorthand, which I think was born more from a relationship between a director and his actor than bedroom talk. They have a really good creative shorthand.
Kate Beckinsale portrays Quaid’s seemingly loving wife Lori, (but who turns ruthless killer). Beckinsale, best known for her Underworld persona, has been married to the director for eight years.
How did you approach this character and playing a villain?
Kate Beckinsale: “I think you approach a part the same way and just find out in what’s making them tick and who they are. In a movie like this you may have a little less time and few dialogue scenes and exposition scenes for your character to really get that across, and so I wanted to be able to convey that she’s not somebody who’s just punching a clock but she has this weird emotional investment in her job to where she does get quite myopic and that’s what makes her relentless. That’s what makes her seem a bit unhinged. I also feel it’s mandatory for people to play a British villain on an American movie. I can now check that one off.”
This isn’t new territory for you as far as the action goes, but were there things you didn’t think you were capable of?
KB: “I never think I’m capable of any of it! I’m always terrified, but luckily on this one it was directed by my husband. ‘I can’t possibly do it. I’m too scared, I can’t do it.’ He says: ‘Go on. DO it!’ So it is shocking as I’m not one of those people who finds that stuff easy and then when I watch it back, I go: ‘Okay.’ I buy it. But it doesn’t feel as cool as it looks. It feels like you’re trying to keep up with the dance that you don’t know the steps to a little bit. (Laughs.)”
Do you and Len have a certain way of communicating on set so people don’t read into what’s wrong?
KB: “Bryan Cranston (Cohaagen) saw us holding hands and he came rushing back onto the set and whispered: ‘Kate and Len are doing it!’ He didn’t realize that we were married. And everyone was like: ‘I hope so.’ And that was three weeks in. It can be a bit annoying if another actor is trying to talk to the director and the wife is sitting on his lap. You try to tone things down a bit. And certainly if we were ever to have a disagreement, I find texting much more civilized than actually shouting.”
Are you now more comfortable doing the heavy action scenes and using guns since the first Underworld?
KB: “It’s funny, yes and no. Now I have that added terror of going, I still feel like the person who shouldn’t be doing this and everyone is acting around me as if I’m a badass all the time. And this still feels like a stretch. I realize this is something that is incredible. I get to do this and I get wonderful teachers to help me and it’s amazing. But it still feels like it’s a reach for me. I am more comfortable doing a drama. I feel like I know what I’m doing a bit better there. But it’s good to be scared.”
Was there any specific style for the fighting in this movie?
KB: “It is very different. I mean, it was immediately different because it’s a human being and it’s not a vampire and it’s not fighting monsters. This isn’t the kind of movie that’s got the comic book style of fighting to it. It was a bit more gritty.”
Do you do your own stunts? Because they were very convincing.
KB: “Ah, thanks. (Smiles.) Where possible, if there’s something that is highly likely to kill you, the studios won’t insure us to do [the stunts]. But where we are insurable, Len likes to make us do that. He likes to see actors’ faces and have everybody know that that is them doing it. Yeah, I definitely got some bruises on this one.”
You had such little downtime between the latest installment of Underworld and Total Recall. Did you find that physically and mentally challenging?
KB: “Yes, in some ways, I suppose. Quite often on a movie like this you have this training period of two or three months where, like on the first ‘Underworld’ I was doing gymnastics and trampolining and all this stuff which I don’t do in the movie necessarily, but mentally it helps. You come home and you go: ‘Well, I’ve done all that. I must be an action star now!’ So it helps you focus a little bit and gets you fit, but I didn’t get to do that on this one because there was only four days. I count ‘Underworld 4’ as my training period for ‘Total Recall.’ I do think it was hard because I didn’t realize how tired I was. It is quite a lot to sustain that kind of physical work over nine months altogether and by the end of it, I definitely felt like I had aged quite a bit in that year. (Laughs.)”
Is there a future aspect of the movie that you’re particularly drawn to?
KB: “Well, I quite fancy having a hover car, but I don’t fancy everyone having one. Because I feel like I spend quite a lot of time stuck in traffic on the 405 but if everybody had one then they’d be scared and we’d crash, but if it was just me, then I think I would zoom home quite fast. I also quite fancy a phone attached to my hand but then I don’t know if I fancy it being stuck to my body.”
What are you favorite films to watch?
KB: When [Len Wiseman and I] first met, I was a huge fan of the ‘Alien’ movies. I was a huge ‘Die Hard’ fan until it ate my husband for two years. We sit and watch movies all the time. One of my favorite movies is ‘Dog’s Day Afternoon.’ Len loves that movie.
Do you have to tell your male co-star that it’s okay to kiss you seeing as your husband is behind the lens? Do you find that they might feel a little nervous?
KB: ‘Yeah, it is much worse for the boy. I just think if you’ve got a movable part you can’t have a poker face in the same way…that would be annoying. It’s awkward for them and for [Colin Farrell and I], I think that it was the first day of shooting. I hadn’t really met Colin. It’s really weird to say: ‘Oh, hello, I’m Kate…I’m Colin.. shall we?’ That’s a bit strange. Len was fine with it. We’ve gone through this experience with Scott Speedman before on the first Underworld move. It was our little version of swinging. We survived that.”
Do you ever get frightened by your fan base, especially when you attend Comic-Con and other conventions of that nature?
KB: “(Laughs.) I must say, I am thrilled with my fan base. For some reason some of them are quite young, so they are quite frightened. I remember when I did ‘Click’ and I’d see Adam Sandler’s fan base. He’s the guy that people feel that he’s their best friend, so he’s walking down the street and people sort of high five him and want to tell him a joke or invite him to come home and have a sandwich with them. Mine are not like that. Mine tend to go: ‘Argh,’ and look horrified. They shake and take a picture from a really long way away. I do feel I’ve got quite good, respectful ones though.”
The stunts on this movie were more physical than working with CGI. Did that change the tune a bit for you?
KB: “Yes, because it’s Len’s obsession with practical. I’ve never really had that experience that I hear people having of being on an empty soundstage painted green talking to a tennis ball on a stick. I find it amazingly impressive that they can get a performance out of doing that. I’ve always been very lucky, I’ve never been fighting a pretend werewolf. I’ve always had some poor sweating bastard in a werewolf suit who’s dying of thirst. (Laughs.) On this, the sets were absolutely real. The hover cars were terrifying. I manage to make it even more terrifying by having food poisoning on that day as well. Hover cars you can’t get out of very easily or quickly, so that held a whole extra element of risk for me.”
What do you like about Sharon Stone’s take in the original movie?
KB: “I didn’t really watch it before I did the movie. I had certainly seen it as a kid, I think she’s great. She’s gorgeous. She’s got a lovely, violent, crazy quality. But you can’t really compare the performances. The movies’ tones are so different. If you transplanted her performance and put it in our movie, it would be very peculiar and the same way if you put mine into theirs. It would just feel wrong. I didn’t really watch that before we did ours.”
What was it like fighting with Jessica? She said she was new to fighting a female in a film.
KB: “I don’t think either of us had fought with another female actor before. It’s frightening enough with a male actor and not a stunt person. If you accidently punch him with the wrong hand, then you’ve cost them a week’s work and they’ve got a black eye or a lot of money goes on CG to get rid of it. That was nerve wracking, but it was very civilized. Women tend to immediately take responsibility if somebody messes up with both of us saying it’s our fault. Men are quite happy for it to be your fault it seems like. ‘That was you. Yeah, better luck next time.'”
So was it easier or harder fighting Colin?
KB: “I fought both of them at the same time. So I never really had the experience of one of them on their own and that sort of intimidated me because every time around, there was another one there. I did manage to chop Colin quite hard in the windpipe and I was glad it wasn’t Jessica. Not that I wanted to hurt Colin.”
Did you feel bad when you hit him in the neck?
KB: “Well, I said: ‘I’m so sorry I touched your neck.’ He went (affects thick Irish accent), “Touched it? You blasted it!’ He said it in this kind of raspy voice and unfortunately that was on camera, we have it as proof.”
Jessica Biel (The A-Team) portrays Melina, who first appears in Quaid’s nightmares, then later – in the flesh – helps him rediscover his previous life.
Did you watch the original before you were on board on this project?
Jessica Biel: “Yeah, I did see it as a teenager, but I don’t really have a strong memory of seeing it the first time. It was one of those films that I didn’t grow up dying over but I obviously saw it before we did this film. And it’s so good…it’s so much fun.”
What were the cool things that struck you about the film that you hoped could be incorporated into the new version?
JB: “I think it was pretty clear that we didn’t want to steal or have anything from that film besides maybe those few iconic bits, like the girl with the three boobs. (Laughs.) You know, those iconic things we wanted to throw in for fun, but I think the point to see it was to see how totally different it was from what Len wanted to do with it. It’s a different beast completely. Colin and I would watch bits of pieces of it during filming whenever we would have minutes of downtime on the set and we would just laugh through the whole movie. It has a really joyful spirit to it.”
Was the remake of Total Recall what you expected when you signed on?
JB: “I did not expect this film to be as much fun as it was.”
What attracted you to this film?
JB: “I was interested in working with Len and Colin for sure and Kate. And the character was really developed surprisingly for a film like this. Len cares about character; cares about the relationship; cares about this sort of love story what we tried to infuse through this wild ride. It just seemed like a cool opportunity to do something that had a lot of good elements to be great. You never know it could have been a complete disaster, it’s totally possible. It really isn’t though. I’m really pleased with the way it turned out.”
Can you talk about preparing for the role physically?
JB: “So obviously there was a lot of physical preparation. We were training with these incredible martial artists. For me specifically lots of boxing and kicking boxing. Colin and I did a lot of French parkour. It was really his thing he had to do and I was just tagging along because it looked super cool to learn. And then the normal things that I consistently do for films, yoga, weight training and boring these like that. But it was the boxing that I focused on because my character who is very different from Kate’s is not a trained professional. She’s more of a street fighter. She probably got taught in some weird alley by some buddies in how to protect herself. She has more of an animalistic primal kind of style. So we wanted to keep the two very different.”
And what about your emotional preparation?
JB: “It’s the same kind of preparation you do for something like this you do for anything. It doesn’t matter if it’s a drama or a comedy, the need to get the emotion and the character arc across is way harder in something like this so was more of a preparation. We talked about where she came from; what’s her childhood like; what’s her situation with her mother; what’s her situation with her father; is she a daddy’s girl; did her mother die; why is she in this business; why is her father in this business. And it sounds crazy to go back that far, but it actually informs so much of who she is and what she is doing now.”
Did you have any injuries on set?
JB: “Not really. I actually got really lucky on this one. You know, the normal bumps and bruises, scratches, bloodied fingernails – the little stuff like that but nothing serious.”
Were you scared of Kate? Can you talk about your big fight against her character?
JB: “I wasn’t scared of her, I was just nervous that I wasn’t going to be up to par. Obviously she’s an expert at these films and she does this like it’s nothing. I wanted to be a very worthy adversary for her. So it was more inspiring for me. It was like okay, cool. So to put on my A game, I have to show up and do this thing. I’ve got to get it together. So it was a motivating factor.”
One of the great things about Total Recall is the ambiguity. Is it real or not? How much did that play into your performance with the possibility that maybe your character wasn’t real?
JB: “It didn’t really play that much into my performance because if I was playing a figment of someone’s imagination, for sure one hundred per cent I would have prepared for that figment of the imagination the exact same way I would prepare for somebody who is absolutely real. From a creative standpoint that wasn’t different but the conversations that Len and Colin and I had on a daily basis about well, what is real? Who are you? What do you remember? Who do you trust? Do I even trust you? I would ask Len all the time: ‘How do I trust this guy?’ It was hard to walk that line. Are we confusing everybody? We were confused constantly about what the hell we were doing! (Laughs.) Luckily, Len figured it out.”
What do you love about the highly disciplined physical roles and what do you absolutely hate about them?
JB: “I think I love and hate the same thing. I love the discipline. I love the schedule of pushing your body to an extreme and getting it to a particular type of physical shape. Learning a new self defense or some kind of martial art that I didn’t know before and the loving of that is also hating that at the same time. Five, six weeks or two months into the diet and the absolute crazy training regimen is a brutal nightmare sometimes. But in the same breath, that’s what is so wonderful about it because it’s so structured and your body is changing and you’re able to do things that you’ve never done before. You’re stronger than you’ve ever been before. You have the upmost amount of energy because you’re not just having a cocktail at the end of the night. You’re actually not drinking alcohol and you’re keeping your body really clean and it’s an amazing feeling to be getting out all the toxins. It’s incredible, but it can also be really boring and you feel like you have no life. All you dream about is cakes and pasta. Like, you get crazy about food and what you want to eat because you just don’t allow yourself to have those things anymore so it’s a double-edged sword.”
So what was your food choice when you were all done?
JB: “I probably had some fried chicken or something. I think I just went for it. (Laughs.) Something fried and disgusting for sure!”
You’re a major Hollywood player now. Did you have to audition for the new Hitchcock film?
JB: “I had to audition for that movie twice! It was not handed to me. I turned up dressed from head to toe in 1961 wardrobe in my version of who Vera Miles was, who I thought she could be in my imagination. I worked for it. It didn’t get handed to me.”
Director, Len Wiseman reveals his inspirations for constructing the futuristic world; his reasons for casting Colin Farrell in the Arnie role and why he absolutely had to have the three-breasted hooker in the remake.
So how did this project come about?
LW: “It started with a phone call from [producer] Neal Moritz and I wasn’t even aware that there was a ‘Total Recall’ script. Neal asked me to read it. I went in with quite a bit of hesitation, first off, for being a fan of the first film. I had done ‘Die Hard’ and it was somebody’s franchise. I actually just got done with the ‘Hawaii Five-O’ pilot and I was developing some things of my own. So it’s one of those projects that I read wanting more not to like it. I felt like I should read it and I’ve been wanting to work with Neal for a long time and as I’m going through the script, I’m thinking, ‘This is actually pretty good!’ Then I got hooked.”
You stayed away from wiseracking, which was one of the trademarks of the original. But you kept in some of the great lines. Can you explain this choice?
LW: “Yeah, we kind of mixed it up with versions of certain lines. It’s a tough mix to bring in things that are familiar. This film does not go to Mars. The second and third act of the original is on Mars. Since it deviates so much, there were things that I wanted to bring in that were familiar. The lines that we have [are] slightly skewed in a different tone.”
As you started to work with the production team to develop a futuristic look of the world, what were your influences? How did you make it feel like its own world?
LW: “It’s always a hard question to answer because there are so many influences growing up. Being a fan of science fiction, I collect a lot of science fiction art work and so if you go to my house there’s like a library and you just geek out on science fiction material. A lot of the colony worlds specifically are built as a melting pot of different societies, because the world is at a point where there are only two zones that are left inhabitable. So I was drawing in a lot of the habit district in Brazil, put that together with an Asian influence, so there are a lot of different things in terms of architecture which assisted in the construction. Then every sci-fi movie I’ve grown up with from ‘Blade Runner’ to ‘Aliens’ and ‘Star Wars.'”
How was it working with Kate? Was she ever considered for the role of Melina?
LW: “She was never considered for the other role. I had considered her for the Lori role early on. The combination of what I was wanting Lori to be which was not exactly what was on the page. I knew what Kate could bring this. Schedules changed and they pulled up the ‘Underworld’ movie and so she took off to do ‘Underworld,’ which cancelled out her being in this and we started a long casting process. Then my movie got pushed. Luckily, I was behind by about three weeks. (Laughs.) And that created literally a two-day window. She finished up on ‘Underworld’ and we put her on a plane to come to do this. I was excited that our schedules changed and it all worked out.”
You’ve collaborated with your wife on the Underworld films and now this one. Will you be working on another project together in the future?
LW: “There are plenty of directors who work with the same actors over and over, many more times than I have. Like I have worked with Bill Nighy more times than I have worked with Kate, but I’m not married to Bill Nighy. (Laughs.) So the question never comes up. I love to work with actors who I feel really confident in knowing what I’m going to get from them. And making a movie is such a risk that it’s comforting to build up a good support team in production as well as cast.”
This movie is even more physical and full of action sequences than your Underworld movies. Is it hard to push the envelope to create better fight sequences?
LW: “I think it’s always different. Just movies in general. It’s such a wonderful business as much as you feel, you are fine tuning your craft, every movie is a completely different challenge. Every fight sequence is different. Every action set piece. I enjoy that. Luckily with Kate, for example, she has done enough of these movies that she’s not starting from ground up like we did on ‘Underworld’ where she was terrified to throw a punch. She’s not event the same girl now! (Laughs.)”
There’s this idea of an underclass society which is in both Philip K. Dick’s story and the original movie. How did you incorporate this class warfare aspect into your version?
LW: “The class warfare was in the script as well. It establishes what the world is like and what would happen if we really had two zones that were left and everybody had to survive using these two areas. What would our society to do with that set up? I wanted the state of world, in my mind, how it would actually realistically unfold. I drew that from what was in the script.”
Was there any talk of the original cast doing cameos?
LW: “There was talk about it. I was tempted because I was a fan of the original. I watched the first ‘Total Recall’ as an Arnold movie. I wasn’t really aware of Philip K. Dick at that time. I was fourteen. I wanted to see the ‘Arnold film.’ There was talk about Sharon Stone coming on, but I am not even sure if she was contacted. As we developed the film, I didn’t want to distract too much and be gimmicky. As much as it’s a fun idea because I am a fan, every time I’ve seen it happen in a movie and Lou Ferrigno shows up in ‘The Hulk,’ it does take me out of it for a second. I didn’t want the distraction.”
What iconic moments from the original did you insist be included in your version? There’s obviously the three-breasted hooker which is very memorable. Were there any others?
LW: “The first one I absolutely wanted in there because it’s one of the things I loved most about the original film was the scene where the representative from Rekall comes back in and sets the stage and tells Quaid that he’s actually living out a fantasy. It’s that great core battle of fantasy versus reality. That was one of the scenes that I wanted to make sure that was really fleshed out and that we pushed it further in this one. And then more on the fun, superficial stuff to put in, I had made a list of about ten things that I remembered from the original before I went back and watched. It had been about twenty years. I wanted to write it out before I watched it again. And I felt if those things stayed with me long enough, those are the things that I wanted to highlight.”
What were they?
LW: “The three-breasted woman was very much at the top of my list. Like I said, I was fourteen! I remember Arnold pulling that big tracker out of his nose and freaking out about that. I remember going through the immigration booth where their face splits open with that heavyset redheaded lady. So there were a lot of these little moments that I remember. I thought it would be fun to put them in [with] a different twist.”
Can you talk about casting Colin Farrell? He’s a real actor compared to an Arnie figure.
LW: “I had no intention of replacing Arnold. There were a few things that made me want to do the movie. They were the script which had a different direction to it, and it was a chance to do a very different Quaid. I didn’t read the short story until I went to college and I remember thinking: ‘Oh, that’s that Arnold movie I watched in high school.’ Reading the story had a different effect on me of how I pictured him to be and the tone of the story was different. In the story, he’s a bit more of an everyman. I wanted someone you could relate to a bit more, that the whole idea of that story, [it had] a strong wish fulfillment element to it of a man who wishes he could be more and turns into a superspy versus my recollection of the original ‘Total Recall’ movie. So I wanted more of an everyman. (Laughs.) I say everyman, but my sister-in-law says: ‘If Colin Farrell is the everyman, than I’m living in the wrong city.’ He’s the Hollwyood everyman, I guess.”
How did fans from the original react to Farrell’s casting?
LW: “When news of the remake first came out, there was so much talk of who is going to replace Arnold. And then The Rock came up, and all these wrestlers – a whole list of people I was very unaware of actually. This was all over the internet. I thought when I announce who the next Quaid is going to be and not the next Arnold, I’m going to receive quite a reaction. But it was very well received. And it also helped to set a tone of what we’re trying to achieve here.”
There’s a scene where Quaid opens his safety deposit box and there are piles of bills. Obama’s face is on some of money. Did you have input on who was on those bills?
LW: “Yes, because one of those bills is my dad! Right by Obama, the next one over is my dad, Lauren. I thought that’s perfect to put him as one of the Presidents. I figured Obama would definitely make a bill.”
Do you have an original project coming out next?
LW: “I have a lot. Some people think I took three years off after ‘Die Hard,’ but the reality is I haven’t taken one day off since ‘Die Hard.’ I have been actively developing projects that didn’t go through for budget reasons. It’s really difficult getting an original idea which is not attached to a comic book or a book of some known awareness that’s over a hundred million dollars. I got into this industry since I was a kid to do build worlds. Three of those projects were ones that I had written, and I spent seven months with Tom Cruise incessantly at his house, focusing on [if this was] going to happen but ultimately the budget didn’t add up.”
And lastly – what is your Rekall fantasy?
LW: “I would love to travel to the future to plot out some things so there’s no more guess work.”
Total Recall is in theaters everywhere.