Joke all you want about the three-breasted woman in the original Total Recall starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, her appearances is one of the most memorable images from that 1990 film. And the 2012 version of Philip K. Dick's short story ("We Can Remember It for You Wholesale") hopes to leave audiences with scenes and images just as memorable. 2012's Total Recall finds Colin Farrell playing a factory worker named Douglas Quaid struggling to figure out what's real and what's an illusion implanted by a company claiming to be able to furnish memories of the perfect vacation.
The cast of Total Recall also includes Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston, all of whom joined Farrell and the film's director, Len Wiseman, to discuss this version of Dick's story while at the 2012 San Diego Comic Con.
Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston and Len Wiseman Total Recall Press Conference
How did you decide to approach this version and why did you keep the same characters?
Len Wiseman: "Well, part of that originated from the script that I read and those characters were in there. But, you know, there's things that are definitely drawn from the film as well as the short story. So I was just really intrigued by the way that the characters were dealt with in this one. It was a familiar character but done in a different context. So the short answer is they were alive in that first draft that was presented to me."
As actors, how difficult is it to grab onto the over-the-top subject matter?
Bryan Cranston: "Actually we took a very serious approach to the film. And so that was our approach to that. I didn't see it as over the top, really. I'm honest with you. Someone asked me just on the red carpet, they asked me, 'How did you prepare for this? Your character is in the future.' Huh? I don't know how I would do that. So I just approach it like any other character, personally, and justify [your] actions for what your character wants and how to behave. And that’s how I approach it."
Colin Farrell: "Same here. I think, honestly, you know, there's a whole canvas of extraordinary toys and effects, and huge concepts that are involved in telling this story and the realization of the film. And as an actor you just kind of approach it, honestly, you treat it the same as you treat an independent film. The character, basically, you find you work the same way. Only it's a little bit more physical."
Kate Beckinsale: "I, as well, didn't you think that we had really, as actors, that Len likes to do as much as he can practically. Whether that's building sets that look completely fully realized..."
Len Wiseman: "Yeah."
Kate Beckinsale: "I mean, you get to walk around and feel that they're real. We're never dealing with kind of, you know, a green screen and nothing. We've got these incredible sets. We've got hover cars that really are hovering and that feel dangerous and scary, that we're in. So all of that stuff I think really helped me. No, it didn't feel over the top. It felt terrifying, like it was really happening a lot of the time."
Jessica Biel: "Yeah, definitely. Also, emotionally speaking, I guess, because it felt like yes, we're existing in a world that's in the future and we don't have some of the technology that we have in this film now. But emotionally, and specifically for Colin and my character, it was just a human experience you're going through. Somebody that you can care about that, everyone understands that. And if they don't remember you or they don't know what happened, then that's like a heartbreaking thing. Everyone who has heartbreak feels it because it also felt extremely relatable and real and just very grounded. "
Kate, we're accustomed to seeing you kick ass as the good guy and the hero. How does it feel to be a bit more of an antagonist in this?
Kate Beckinsale: "Well, Len and I still are not really talking from the first conversation of, 'There's this part that's the b**ch where I'm really thinking of you for.' That's kind of still a prickly subject in our house. But, yeah, it's great. I think as the lead character you are actually requiring, as a character, you have to be sort of part of exposition and taking the plot forward. Really, as a villain, you just get to occupy your character and mess everybody up all the time. And as an actor kind of selfishly just sort of your motives and your own crazy psyche, whatever it is, is really all you're responsible for in the movie, which is kind of a nice break. And it's fun to open up the dark side that my husband spotted before I had the role."
What were each of you excited to see in the script that wasn't directly from the original?
Kate Beckinsale: "There's another movie called Total Recall? You're f**king kidding me."
Len Wiseman: "For me, personally, there were things that maybe in the original script that, you know, the [story] doesn't go to Mars, so that being a departure already. There were things that I actually brought into the script that I wanted to do and see in this version of it. I actually made a list and I just wanted to write down things that had stayed with me over the years - and I'd say for about 20 years. I put that list together and then watched the original again and made sure that some of those things that had stuck with me for a while made their way into the film. But it's always with a different kind of twist, and some things are more apparent and other things are so buried in there and done with a different twist on them that I'm actually very curious. I think some of the hard-core fans will be able to see what some of those are. But I'm excited to see if they actually pick up on them."
Bryan Cranston: "Well, you were a young man when that happened, right? So I mean I think the thing that stayed with you, the three-breasted woman, perhaps?
Colin Farrell: "It's hard to avoid."
Bryan Cranston: "Top of the list."
Len Wiseman: "Yeah, there were a lot of things that also you can't have a Total Recall that doesn’t have that. Too many fans out there, I'm one of them, I was 13 at the time. Yes, I remember that."
Bryan Cranston: "And by the way, anyone who shows up with an implanted three breast gets into the movie for free. So, pass that around."
Who's the better ask kicker: Biel or Beckinsale? And did anyone get injured during training or during filming?
Colin Farrell: "Biel or Beckinsale?"
Jessica Biel: "Smack down!"
Colin Farrell: "Celebrity death match."
Bryan Cranston: "WWE."
Colin Farrell: "Right now. Let's do it. Comic-Con exclusive."
Bryan Cranston: "Yeah, nose to nose."
Kate Beckinsale: "I have to say I would say Biel because I think she might have been born at a sprint and I was really more sitting down and reading books."
Jessica Biel: "I would have to say Beckinsale."
Kate Beckinsale: "Nice move."
Bryan Cranston: "There's only one way to settle it."
Jessica Biel: "It's that neck crotch chop thing. She didn't do it to me, but yeah..."
Kate Beckinsale: "I learned that in the Brownies in Chiswick, England."
Jessica Biel: "So it was in Brownies. Not even Girl Scouts."
Kate Beckinsale: "Did anyone get injured? I didn't."
Len Wiseman: "Did anybody? I don't think anybody got injured."
Bryan Cranston: "I did."
Kate Beckinsale: "You did."
Len Wiseman: "I got injured."
Colin Farrell: "What's the definition of injury?"
Len Wiseman: "Injury? Internal injury?"
Bryan Cranston: "I got pink eye in both eyes."
Colin Farrell: "You got such bad pink eye."
Kate Beckinsale: "That wasn't pink eye. That was herpes."
Bryan Cranston: "In both eyes."
Colin Farrell: "He looked like he'd been on a three-day adventure in Saigon in 1972. He was dying."
Bryan Cranston: "Such horrible, horrible pink eye in both eyes."
Jessica Biel: "From the water?"
Bryan Cranston: "Yeah, from the water. We were fighting. We had these fight scenes in about eight inches of water. And lovely people that they are, the crew heated up the water so that we weren't cold all the time. But it then became like a Petri dish with all these crew members coming in."
A lot of Philip K. Dick's writing dealt with paranoia about the invasion of technology in our society, in our minds. That's in all of his works. Was it important for you to keep some of that kind of technology paranoia?
Len Wiseman: "It really is. It really was so far ahead of his time. And it was very important to me. I'm also just fascinated by it. Anything that, you know, just the paranoid science fiction, I really love. And I love science fiction because it's an extension of what possibly science can actually - where it can possibly bring us, and that's not always a good thing. And so that paranoia, the 'what if', was very important to me."
"Also, just from a character point of view, it's about how you really process something like that. And just imagining if you were being told that you are somebody else, and not only being told, you're being shown proof that you are that person, what that would actually do to you and how you deal with that. That's apparent in a lot of his work, [and] I'm just really interested in it. So to answer the question, it was very important to me."
The original film is just so quotable. Do any of you have any favorite quotes from the first film? And who did the best Arnold impression on set?
Kate Beckinsale: "Colin."
Len Wiseman: "Colin, by far."
Colin Farrell: You're all just hanging me. That's all you're doing. You're just hanging me."
Len Wiseman: "You channeled most of [him] in the grunts within the action. I swear to God, you close your eyes and there would be Arnold right there."
Colin Farrell: "In grunts? Really?"
Len Wiseman: "In grunts."
Len Wiseman: "In grunts, you were the closest to Arnold."
Colin Farrell: "I never actually used language when I was impersonating Arnold."
What are your favorite future worlds? What was it like building a future?
Len Wiseman: "Man, I have been wanting to build a future world for a long time. Probably since I was 14. So in terms of how fun that was for me, it's something I really enjoy doing and fantasize about what a future reality would be. And so that was really fun. And being able to put together a future world that felt relatable...you know, I've seen a lot of future worlds put together in films. Some extremely well. Others that I was questioning what they did with our world that some future environment, say it's a hundred years, fifty years in the future, as though we've taken the entire world as we know it and putting it in one big world storage and started over. And that's never made any sense to me. So I wanted to make sure that as fantastic and otherworldly as this future world looked, if you traveled down to the base level it's still something familiar, it's still the same buildings that have existed for a hundred years, and that is something that's still real. So that part was [important] for me. And in terms of inspiration, it's since I was a kid."
Do you more look forward to or more dread the kind of physical preparation that goes into doing a film like this?
Colin Farrell: "I was really excited about it. I hadn't done something that was this physical in probably six or seven years. I knew it was going to be a long shoot, as well. The shoot was five or six months long. And every day I'm either running, jumping, falling, fighting, shouting, screaming, getting hit, punching, shooting."
Bryan Cranston: "And then he went to work."
Colin Farrell: "So I was really looking forward to it because it was just the first time I got to work physically for that long again."
What other profession would you take? Sitting in a chair, what would you do?
Bryan Cranston: "Baseball player."
Colin Farrell: "Soccer."
Kate Beckinsale: "I would like to be Freddie Mercury."
Colin Farrell: "Freddie Mercury? At what phase and where? Doing what?"
Kate Beckinsale: "I would be at Wembley."
Colin Farrell: "Oh, that day? Live Aid?"
Kate Beckinsale: "No, not Live Aid. Because [he wasn't] very well that day, right? I think I'd do it when I was well."
Colin Farrell: "I don't know. But there was such an emotional attachment when he did that day."
Kate Beckinsale: "Yeah, I'd be that day. I'm glad it meant a lot to you. It meant a lot to me."
Colin Farrell: "It meant so much to me. I remember sitting in my neighborhood and watching Freddie. You know, 120,000 people are doing 'Radio Gaga'."
Can you talk about being both Quaid and Hauser?
Colin Farrell: "Quaid and Hauser. Yeah. I mean you're paying two sides of the same coin. It begs the question what's in a name? Really, what's in a name and what is the foundation from which a man is born? It's the age-old question of nature versus nurture and all that type of stuff. Basically, I'm playing somebody who very early on in the film finds out that everything that he thought was real and was true in his life was a fallacy, was an absolute fabrication. And so in one sense he thinks he's cursed by not having a past because we all use our pasts as some kind of effective board by which to judge where we are in our present. And in one sense he feels cursed by not having a past, by not having memories. He feels like a man alone, adrift on an ocean of lack of self-awareness and lack of self-knowledge. But I think it comes to pass that he's actually blessed in a way because he gets to really be immersed in the present in a way that he may never have experienced."
"Playing both characters, by the end of the film I don't know which one exists. I don't know who exists. Either Quaid or Hauser or some kind of amalgam of both men by the end of the film, I think."
Is there still a lower level of respect for this genre in entertainment?
Len Wiseman: "I wish they would separate it out, [have] categories like I think they do with the Emmys, right, because the movies are very different genres. But, for me, this genre, I take it as serious as when I'm watching movies that are nominated. So I think that comes from being a fan of the genre, that hopefully the filmmakers that are involved are taking it as serious as anything else."
Colin Farrell: "Well, it's designed to entertain, man. That’s the bottom line. If we can provoke thought or if there is some element of subversive commentary in the film or some idea of having an opinion about big brother or government, the small population, the few ruling in a brutal and very self-serving way, the majority of the people they're supposed to be protecting and the idea of human beings not having as much control in our lives as we think because there are decisions made for us and there are very clear parameters by which we can exist, and those parameters are protected by law, religion, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Any of that comes across, that's cool. But that's not why the film was made."
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Total Recall hits theaters on August 3, 2012.