During the production of Total Recall, I drove down to Toronto’s Pinewood Studios to spend a full day with the cast and crew of the remake based on the classic Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.”
While on set, I spent some time in the trailer of producers Toby Jaffe and Neal Moritz who shared details on the motivation and ideas behind the upcoming re-imagining of Total Recall, differences between it and the original, and much, much more.
List of topics discussed in this interview:
- Getting the rights to remake Total Recall.
- Why there’s no Mars storyline or mutants.
- Casting Colin Farrell as the new Hauser and choosing Len Wiseman to direct.
- Living up to the original Total Recall, but remaining grounded.
- Ethan Hawke’s character explained.
- Three-breasted women.
- Reflecting on the original Total Recall & cheese factor.
- Sequel aspirations.
- Why Kuato was renamed “Matthias.”
- Why Total Recall isn’t in 3D.
- Updates on Preacher and The 8th Voyage of Sinbad.
What was the greatest challenge of adapting a story that’s been done before?
Neal: Luckily the source material was so good that it had such a great idea and jumping off point of being able to walk in a place and have these fantastic vacations, a mental holiday… It was just such an intriguing idea to us. You know, you work these jobs and you go into the corner or walk into one of these places, get this thing done and feel like you’ve been on vacation for two weeks or had some incredible experience, whether you’re a thrill junkie or whatever it is. That to me was just such a fantastic idea whether it had already been made or not.
How did this project originate and tell us about the obstacles in getting the rights to remake Total Recall?
Toby: It started with us reading the original story again and realizing how rich it was and how great it was and we set out to find out where the movie rights were and it turned out that was sort of a complicated situation. It took us about six months to actually get the rights and I think our initial instinct really was just to start from scratch and go from the short story, but also going back and looking at the film, there were certain touchstone moments that for the segment of the audience that knows it, you want to find some way to reference them, but the challenge was to reinvent them in a fresh way, but at the same time not be bound by that movie at all.
And I think one of the big things that we decided early on was to try and tell a more grounded version of the story, something that feels, in terms of the world, is relatable as possible. And so I think part of that was not to go to Mars and not put yourself in a position where you have to kind of create a pure fantasy world which that would require. And given the cinematic era we’re in right now with visual effects with movies like Avatar and stuff like that, you’re going to Mars and all of a sudden you’ve got that bar to kind of measure up to. And so it just seemed like if we wanted to do a futuristic action movie that you felt as an audience member that you could put yourself in, that would be my fantasy of being a spy to try and keep it within a futuristic version of Earth seemed like tonally the right way to go.
So that was a goal right from the beginning?
Toby: Right from the beginning. Kurt Wimmer, who pitched us his take, that was his take. ‘Let’s keep it on Earth and it’ll be very futuristic, but it’ll be an extension of our world today.’
Avoiding any conflicts with other Mars-based films like John Carter?
Toby: That wasn’t on our mind at the time, but it just turned out that way.
What were your first impressions on the tech and designs of this version of the future?
Neal: Luckily we had seen so many evolutions of this as the pre-production period was going on, seeing different variations of the China Fall, different variations of weapons, robot suits and cars. We were impressed by the vision of Len [Wiseman] and Pat [Tatopoulos] had of what the future would be.
Toby: You can actually see right up there [pointing to wall in trailer featuring concept art], that’s one of the first images Len developed with Patrick and his team of what he saw this futuristic world looking like.
The original Total Recall won an Oscar for effects…
Neal: That’s our aspirations, to be as good or better than the last one. This is kind of a wholly original version of Recall, even though we have touched on moments that touch back to the original, but this is a movie we’re trying to make that stands on its own.
Can you tell us about the casting process in selecting Colin?
Neal: Colin was the first person involved. He was somebody I had worked with in the past who I loved. We really wanted a ‘real man’ and we went to him first and luckily he wanted to do it and we were off to the races after that. And then we added Jessica and Kate, and then Bryan Cranston and Bill Nighy and Ethan Hawke. It was just one of these things where people were really interested in doing the movie so it wasn’t that hard.