EXCLUSIVE: Interview With TOTAL RECALL Director Len Wiseman
Total Recall director Len Wiseman has answered my questions about the remake, commenting on an Arnold Schwarzenegger cameo, the decision not to shoot the film in 3D, his interest in helming a sequel, the planned Director's Cut, his love of comic books and much, much more.
Len Wiseman is perhaps best known for his involvement with the popular Underworld franchise after helming the first two instalments (Underworld, Underworld: Evolution) and producing - as well as once again writing - the two sequels which followed (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Underworld: Awakening). He also directed Die Hard 4.0, but his latest film has received perhaps more buzz than all of those combined. A remake of the classic Paul Verhoeven 1990 film which starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, Total Recall was released in the US earlier this month and goes on general release in the UK tomorrow. Praised for its impressive visual effects and with a cast which includes the likes of Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston, it's well worth checking out if you haven't already. Below, Len Wiseman answers my questions about his take on Total Recall, and as I'm sure you will agree, it makes for a great read. Many thanks to Adelya Khasyanova for setting up the interview.
How much of a role did the Philip K. Dick story and original film play in your take on Total Recall?
A lot of both the original story and the original film were worked in in various forms into the original script that I read. In fact, the script itself was such a departure, that I wanted to bring in some of the elements that people would probably - like myself, being a fan of the original film - want to see just as some fun nods to the original. It's definitely it's own film. I think people will be very surprised at how different it really is, which is one of the reasons I was so interested in doing it, because I as a filmmaker wouldn't have that much interest in doing a replication of what had already been done. So the fact that it's so different is what interested me, but at the same time, I wanted to have some fun elements in there that were familiar.
Did you ever consider offering Arnold Schwarzenegger or any of the other original cast members a cameo?
It was honestly talked about very early on, and the teenager in me, the kind of geek, was tempted for a moment, but I think that the adult responsibility of having this be its own film thought it would detract too much. I wanted this to stand as its own movie and not get too gimmicky.
What made Colin Farrell and Bryan Cranston the right choices to play the hero and villain of the film?
You know, I've spoken about Colin a lot, so I rarely get a chance to speak about Bryan Cranston. I was watching Breaking Bad at the time when I happened to be sent the Total Recall script, and I was just so taken by his presence and his performance in Breaking Bad that I pictured him immediately when I was reading. I had no idea whether I had any chance on any level of hell to actually get the guy to sign up for it. It's a fairly small role for being the villain of the movie. He doesn't have that much screentime because of the nature of the movie all being from Colin's perspective. I was very fortunate and I thought he was brilliant.
How important was it for you to have two strong female characters like Lori and Melina in the film?
I think it's very important, especially nowadays. I've always been into bringing a very strong female into this kind of arena and this is the kind of film I grew up with. The Ripley's and the Sarah Connor's, and I've always admired the very strong female roles within these kind of films and often think they can be played a little bit too flirtatious, a little bit too overtly sexy, and I think you lose a little bit of the credibility then. So, I'm such an advocate of it and I enjoy movies that present characters like that, and it's fun creating them as well.
What were the biggest challenges in terms of visual effects, and why did you decide to not release the film in 3D?
I'm just not a huge fan of 3D. I haven't seen anything yet, or anything that I've been involved with, that could be increased or helped by 3D. I still have a disconnect with watching a 3D movie. I thought Avatar was amazing, but Avatar is also a different type of film. It's primarily CG and I think CG works very well in 3D. I think the Pixar movies and the animated films are fantastic in 3D, but some of the live action, I just feel like it's still too distracting to me. I'm so aware that it's 3D and if I'm taking off my glasses just one or two times while watching the movie, it's one or two times I'm taken away from the story.
It was very challenging because there was a lot of practical effects and I'm a huge proponent of doing things practically. At the same time, there were more visual effects than I've ever done on a film, and the scale overall was larger than anything that I've done. I think just the world itself; when you're creating a world from scratch, you're in charge of every little detail and my production designer Patrick Tatopoulos and I are really of a single mind. We do the same aesthetic and we think very much alike so that was wildly helpful. I think he's brilliant and he always takes an idea of mine and takes it even further. There's so much to create because like I said, from the railings to the windows, to everything in your world, you're creating it all. You have to have a passion for it because it's so immensely time consuming, but it's a lot of work and a lot of fun at the same time. It's what I have really wanted to do since I was a kid.
While creating the world, what made you decide to take inspiration from countries like Russia for example?
It's because our world is now just these two zones which are everyone just has to live in, so the colony was a hodgepodge of all different societies. There's actually a lot of Russian people throughout in the crowd and living environments, and if you listen really closely, there's a lot of Russian being spoken on the grounds of the colony and around the waterfront.
Would you be interested in returning to the world of Total Recall for a sequel?
I really would love to if I could do one of my own screenplays in-between, as I really do have an itch to get back to creating my own work. With being a sequel and the Hawaii Five-0 pilot a year or so ago, I do have a passion to get back to my own original work and then after that...you try and kind of foresee your future of what you're going to do and it never really works out the way that you planned!
What should we expect to see in terms of deleted scenes on the DVD and Blu-ray?
There's deleted scenes, but there's also a Director's Cut that incorporates a lot of that together and it's not just a cheat Director's Cut. There's actually quite a bit in there that I personally find very interesting that travelled a little bit further into the mind game and chess game of this existential courtroom battle. There's quite a few scenes that...I like to experiment while I'm shooting. I've leaned now that I don't just stick to the script because there are ideas that I just come up with that I just want to experiment with and try. I talked to Ethan Hawke, asked him if he'd do me a favour and come in for a day just to try something that wasn't really part of the script, but I thought it would be a fun addition. We did that scene, shot it in a day, he was very cool about coming in and doing that part and overall, it didn't make the cut, but I'm still very, very proud of it and that will be one of the deleted scenes. I did the same thing with an actor in Toronto who you won't be as familiar with as Ethan, but he did a brilliant job in another scene that again I wanted to experiment with which will be on there as well.
Are there any superheroes you would be interested in bringing to the big screen?
Oh man, superheroes. You know, I think a lot of the superheroes that I would be interested in, a lot of them have been done. I was involved with Iron Man for about seven months after Underworld 2. I was involved with Marvel and Iron Man, and I was really excited about that one and honestly, I think at that time, there was a concern that I was too dark of a director because I had only directed a few movies, and at that time, I'd only directed Underworld and Underworld 2. And Underworld 2 was very violent, very gory, very dark and I think it freaked them out a little bit that I was too dark of a director. It wasn't until after Die Hard 4.0 came out, which is a much lighter tone, much more fun, that Marvel called me up again...
Is there anything else you would like to tell ComicBookMovie.com’s readers?
I think that if you're a fan of comic books, as I am, I grew up with comic books, we just feed this stuff into our veins, it's a world which we can escape to. Also, because I grew up in a comic book world, I started as an illustrator and one of the things when I was looking at my path at which way I was going to go, I was going to pursue being a comic book illustrator for a little while. I'm very connected to it. One thing in comic books we're used to are reboots or re-imaginings. Often with some of our most beloved superheroes we're used to seeing their origin stories retold or, in a new era, what are those new characters like today? And I think it's embraced actually moreso than even films are, and so I would think that the comic book community, and fans of comic books, may enter into Total Recall not wanting to see the same thing all over again, but excited to see something different!
Total Recall is an action thriller about reality and memory, inspired anew by the famous short story "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale" by Philip K. Dick. Welcome to Rekall, the company that can turn your dreams into real memories. For a factory worker named Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell), even though he's got a beautiful wife (Kate Beckinsale) who he loves, the mind-trip sounds like the perfect vacation from his frustrating life - real memories of life as a super-spy might be just what he needs. But when the procedure goes horribly wrong, Quaid becomes a hunted man. Finding himself on the run from the police - controlled by Chancellor Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston), the leader of the free world - Quaid teams up with a rebel fighter (Jessica Biel) to find the head of the underground resistance (Bill Nighy) and stop Cohaagen. The line between fantasy and reality gets blurred and the fate of his world hangs in the balance as Quaid discovers his true identity, his true love, and his true fate.
Colin Farrell as Douglas Quaid
Jessica Biel as Melina
Kate Beckinsale as Lori
Bill Nighy as Kuato
Bryan Cranston as Vilos Cohaagen
John Cho as McClane
RELEASE DATE: Out Now (US) August 29th, 2012 (UK)
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