When Ethan Hawke was cast in Len Wiseman's remake of Total Recall over a year ago - with the lead role already occupied by Colin Farrell - speculation commenced on what possible character he would be bringing to life once more. For those who have since seen the finished product, Hawke's absence was as notable as the film's improved anatomical... effects over the 1990 original.
Now Jessica Biel has explained the scenes that would have been filmed between her character and Hawke's, and while it may have been an interesting idea and spin on the original, the decision to remove it might have been for the best.
The interview comes courtesy of ClickOnline, for those who were avoiding spoilers months ago when we revealed that the cast and crew let Ethan Hawke's role slip during our own Rob Keyes' set visit. At the time, Biel and Farrell had both confirmed that Hawke would be portraying the titular character of Quaid before having his memory wiped and face reconstructed to that of the Irish lead. The lack of any concrete details or plans for communicating those points to the audience during filming implied that Hawke's inclusion was more of an interesting concept than a well-plotted thread.
As Biel explains in the interview, the main problems centered around the emotional connection that she and Hawke were to exhibit, apparently from the very first scene. Biel's connection to Quaid before and after his transformation would certainly have been interesting to see if orchestrated well, but the drawbacks ultimately outweighed the impact.
Nothing against Ethan Hawke (seriously, the guy deserves more credit for Gattaca than he receives) but creating a strong romantic through-line in a movie as action-packed and fast-paced as Total Recall is a hard enough task, let alone making it seem convincing twice in one film. It's hard to disagree with Biel's assertion that starting the film on that loaded a premise would be demanding quite a bit from the audience.
It's unfortunate that the only solution was to remove Ethan Hawke's work entirely, as it's been more than a few years since he appeared in a bonafide big-budget film. Hopefully Hawke's scenes will be released at some point, if for no other reason than to see what affectations of Farrell's Hawke attempted to recreate, if any. While it's fair to say that Hawke's role would have added an inspired extra layer of suspicion and transformation that the original Arnold Schwarzenegger version lacked, it's hard to know if it would really have worked.
Switching faces or identities is a plot twist that is hard to take seriously in the best cases (Face-Off, Freaky Friday), and as our Total Recall review pointed out, Len Wiseman's take on the story has little sense of humor where the science fiction is concerned. Even if the tone or treatment was successful, it would still add confusion to a plot that was already more focused on satisfying action than existential navel-gazing. With one of the main questions of the film - is Quaid's adventure reality, or merely an illusion? - already making every character a potential threat and liar, having Quaid's history explained by someone other than a past version of himself would just be inviting droves of moviegoers to lose track of the plot entirely.
That may be giving too little credit to the average viewer, but Biel's explanation shows that the idea was one that even the film's producers and director soon found just wasn't working. Fans of Hawke will likely need to wait for the Blu-ray or DVD release to get a taste of the actor's performance, but with some of his proposed scenes not even confirmed as existing on celluloid, even that might be a pipe dream.
What's the consensus out there: would Ethan Hawke and Colin Farrell playing the same character have been a welcome addition to the 2012 version of Total Recall or were the filmmakers right in scrapping the idea? Sound off in the comments.
Total Recall is now playing in theaters.