Colin Farrell gained some muscle and grabbed a gun to kick ass in Total Recall. The Irish actor has big shoes to fill in the Len Wiseman remake. The original starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and was directed by Paul Verhoeven. It’s been 22 years since their adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” hit theaters. ScreenCrave recently spoke to Farrell about tackling Doug Quaid and stepping out of Schwarzenegger’s shadow.
Did you go back and look at the original Total Recall?
Colin Farrell: I did but for no other reason than just boldness. Probably more to annoy myself and give myself a dose of the nerves really. I only looked at the film again after I signed on to do it. I’ve probably seen the original four or five times in my life. I wasn’t waned on Arnie’s stuff but I remember all of his films growing up. You know from Commando to Red Heat to Terminator, Running Man, Predator, which still stands to this day as one of the great action films made I think. I had an idea of what I was getting into. I also knew there was a corner of the film fanatical society of the world that really, really loved that film. And would probably feel strongly against anyone revisiting the material. But it was different enough. Tonally when I read the script. It felt so different. Even though the plot points are the same.
This is the second Philip K. Dick adaptation you’ve done (the first being Minority Report). Did you read the short story from which Total Recall is based?
Colin Farrell: I did read it. I did read the original story… It did such a number on me, the short story. I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was brilliant and nothing like either of the films. There’s the concept of the implantation of a memory and of an experience — that’s a fantastic concept. But how that is then fleshed out into a feature length story in both films I think it’s incredibly different from the short story. I think maybe I read [somewhere] ‘This film goes back to the short story.’ And I thought, ‘No it doesn’t. That’s bogus.’ But I think on reflection that maybe it’s a little bit closer to the short story just because there is slightly more attention paid to the psychological journey and the existential crisis that Quaid finds himself in.
Were you surprised the film didn’t have more zingers from the original like “Consider this a divorce?”
Colin Farrell: If you’re trying to be different for the sake of being different, as a general rule in life you’ll probably get yourself in a bit of trouble personally. I think the same rule holds for the idea of a remake. If you’re just trying to be different for the sake of being different. But if you can somehow manage to find a away to have some level of unique storytelling in filmmaking when something is being revisited, while honoring the context and the story of that thing that you want to remake in the first place, that’s probably a really smart move. I think that’s what the writers on Total Recall seem to manage. Certainly, I felt that way when I read it.
What about the missing elements, specifically Mars?
Colin Farrell: I like that there was no Mars in the third act. Even though I was annoyed as a film fan that there was no Mars in the third act. I was like, ‘Oh, no Mars. No mutants? No little person with a fully automatic machine gun on the bar shooting people?”But that was the fan in me. He’s a nice guy and stuff, but he’s 10. And I say that without any judgement. But I didn’t want him to be making the creative decisions in the film. There was literally probably a couple more things in the original that I would have liked to have in the remake. Then I kind of went, ‘No. Trust what this is. Trust that it’s different. Trust that it is a new vision of a story already told.’ And that was it really.
The story often bounces between real and fake memories. As an actor, did you get confused?
Colin Farrell: No. The amount of choices you have. It’s like a Rubik’s Cube. It’s like throwing even just a pebble in a stream. It will change the dynamic of the stream even if it was imperceptible to the human eye. The amount of combinations that you could do as far as performance. And what other actors would bring in if they interpreted it, and wherever my mood was that day. So Colin wasn’t confused about what he was doing. You always have that third eye that’s allowed to be somewhat objective although silent when you’re in a scene.
Was it uncomfortable to kiss Kate Beckinsale in front of Len Wiseman, considering that’s his wife?
Colin Farrell: It was one of the more unfortunate positions I’ve found myself in in the 15 years of doing this racket. And Len wasn’t even polite enough to leave the room. Thank God it barely touched first base.
Total Recall is currently playing in theaters everywhere.