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.