Colin Farrell gets dark in Total Recall
BEVERLY HILLS—Colin Farrell admits that on some deeply personal level, he was disappointed at how director Len Wiseman’s Total Recall reboot went out of its way to be different from the iconic 1990 version starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Unshaven and dressed casually in a T-shirt and jeans in a hotel suite, the 36-year-old former bad boy cops to being a huge childhood fan of Schwarzenegger, who was one of the most bankable action stars of the ’80s and ’90s. As he notes, the Total Recall remake, which opens on Friday (August 3), has little in common with the Paul Verhoeven–directed original. The sets are considerably darker and gloomier, the story more angst-ridden and complex, and the comic one-liners that were Schwarzenegger’s trademark nonexistent.
“The fan in me was kind of going, at times, that there were things I wanted from the original more in the film,” a relaxed Farrell says in his charming Irish lilt. “But that was the fan in me: he’s a nice guy and stuff, but he’s 10. And I say that without any judgment. But I didn’t want him to be making the creative decision on the film. So there was, literally, a couple of more things from the original that I would have liked to have seen in the remake, but then I kind of went, ‘No. Trust what this is. Trust that it’s different, that it’s a new vision of a story already told.’ ”
Based on the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, Total Recall has Farrell playing Douglas Quaid, a factory worker in a future where the former England and Australia are the only two inhabitable places left on Earth. Looking for an escape from day-to-day drudgery, Quaid heads to a back-alley operation known as Rekall, which specializes in implanting fantasies in the memories of its customers. His dream is to be a double secret agent, working for both the government and a rebel resistance, and this soon becomes what may—or may not—be a reality.
Farrell has a theory as to why the movie’s theme of wanting something more out of life will resonate with audiences.
“There’s no doubt that all of us are, daily, looking for meaning in our lives, every single one of us,” he says. “And I think that starts very young. You’re looking at your parents, if you’re fortunate enough to have both parents, or one parent…or whatever may be the environment you might find yourself in: your fellow toddlers, when you’re crawling around. You’re constantly looking for meaning and where you fit in in the grand scheme of things, whatever the society that you find yourself in.”
Farrell suggests that by raising questions about identity and one’s place on the planet, Total Recall has something more to offer than elaborate chase sequences and mammoth explosions set in a future where technology is so out of control that cellphones are, literally, embedded in people’s hands.
“Even though it’s first and foremost a big action film, there was plenty of existential questioning,” he argues.
Perhaps the biggest question that Total Recall raises is why the future looks so relentlessly bleak. The remake has humans stacked on each other like factory-farmed animals, thanks to filthy concrete tenements that stretch into the sky. The added indignity for those living in the former Australia is that the sun never shines. Consider that a comment, Farrell offers, on the path mankind is going down today.
“Sometimes, the best way to show a person where they are is to show them where they are headed,” he opines. “Sometimes, people are too close to something to see how it is, but if they are given a concept of how it might become, maybe they can somehow, through the reference of that concept, have a clearer picture of what stares them straight in the face.”
Watch the trailer for Total Recall.