According to director Len Wiseman, there'll be some familiar moments in his new version of "Total Recall," but rememberances of Schwarzenegger's trip to Mars in the original shoud be left at the candy bar.
Wiseman, best known for helming the initial “Underworld” films, has also done his share of rethinking established properties – he directed the sequel “Live Free and Die Hard” and the “Hawaii Five-0” reboot pilot. So when it came to spearheading the remake of “Total Recall,” the 1990 camp-action sci-fi thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, he took on the self-imposed task of veering away from much of the original film’s established landscape in favor of fresh world-building, while still hewing close to the high-concept and tipping his hat to some iconic imagery (yes, the three-breasted hooker makes an appearance).
An avowed fanboy, Wiseman reveals his approach to PopcornBiz, along with the reasoning behind his casting choices (including Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Wiseman’s wife Kate Beckinsale) and a near-miss at a major superhero franchise.
You've got a few different versions of this film's original source material to draw from: the original 1966 Phillip K. Dick story and the Paul Verhoeven movie. How do you choose what to keep or omit?
As selfish as it sounds, I start with myself, in terms of being a fan of both the movie and the book. So knowing there's just the comfort and the confidence of being a fan of the material, that's where I first draw what I want to see. I figure if maybe people think it's the wrong approach, it's the only way that I can really do it – that what would I want to see from a 'Total Recall' movie if I were to just walk into the theater and experience it myself, so that's where I really come from.
I think it's slightly a wrong direction to try and cherry-pick through things that you think people would like to see. There are certain things that people would really love to see. I know that people were very pissed off that it doesn't go to Mars, but other people are very upset that it's too similar in certain areas. I wouldn't have done the movie if it went to Mars; Mars doesn't excite me that much, in terms of creating that world. I feel like over the course of the years we've seen a lot of Mars movies since then.
Tonally, where is 'Total Recall'?
Tonally it's a little bit darker than the original, but it is still a lot of fun. It doesn't take itself immensely serious to where it's no longer fun. I will always want to make sure that it's still wildly entertaining. But I do that with taking the material seriously.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is a singular type of leading man, then and now. In which ways do you think Colin Farrell is the right leading man for this modern incarnation?
I think one of the main things is that Colin has not done a movie like this before. Right away that sets you apart. He's not associated with action sci-fi. It's not really what he's known for. I'm always really interested in that. When I was casting for 'Underworld,' I was so excited about the idea of Kate because she had never done anything like that before, and at the time when we announced Kate Beckinsale was going to be in a vampire/werewolf movie, people were like, 'What?' Now people are like, 'Oh, yeah – she kicks ass.' But at that time it was very weird and I think there's an intrigue about that. I remember when Angelina Jolie was cast as Tomb Raider I immediately go, ‘I haven’t seen that.' I think Robert Downey Jr. [as Iron Man], the same thing. I love when it goes against what you'd immediately think.
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When 'Recall' was first announced there was a lot of talk about who was going to replace Arnold. Every bodybuilder, every wrestler was on the sites as who they thought would be the best replacement for Arnold, and I had no intention of doing that. I think if you're trying to replace Arnold, you're an idiot anyway. It was never that. Imagine if 'Total Recall' was coming out right now and the person was as big as Arnold, trying to kind of take over that baton from him. It's ridiculous. I love Arnold's movies. I grew up with him. I would never want to touch his image of that.
Even though she’s your wife, does Kate still surprise you as an actress?
A hundred percent – and also, if this makes sense, she surprises me and I'm looking for it and hoping for it because I know her personality and know what she can bring. Kate has a very sharp, slanted, knotty sense of humor about her anyway, as a person – a lot of people don't really realize that, and that I really wanted that to come through in Lori's character.
And Jessica Biel?
I've always thought that Jessica would be great in a strong role like this. She has been in a few action films, but I'm not sure if people really distinguish the action films from the role that she's playing. She hasn't really played the action star. She's been in a lot of action movies, but actually being the strong lead within that movie…I just felt that she really had that sort of energy and the believability to be really in charge and be one of those very strong female roles.
I think 'The Avengers' cemented that we're deep into the era of the superhero movie. You've been saying for years how much you love that genre. Is there a character that's close to your heart that you'd love to get a shot at bringing to the big screen?
A lot of them have been done. So close to my heart, there are many – billions – out there, like Batman. I'll tell you, one of the ones that got away from me was 'Iron Man.' I was involved with 'Iron Man' for a while and it was at a time when it was Tom Cruise that was being talked about. I was involved in that and I was in post of 'Underworld 2' at the time. I was super-excited about that one, and at the time I know that I was perceived as being ‘too dark’ as a director. And it wasn't until after 'Die Hard' came out that the conversations were, 'Hey, "Die Hard" wasn't dark. In "Die Hard," you actually have scenes during the daytime.' It was like, 'Of course, because it's "Die Hard".' It's supposed to be a comic book.