Colin Farrell on Total Recall

We speak to Irish actor about filling Arnie's shoes

Interview

There’s really no shortage of fresh Philip K Dick stories to adapt to the big screen. The American sci-fi writer’s works may have already inspired more than ten movies – Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, et al – but with 44 novels and more than 100 short stories to his name, there’s still a fare wad of material to be exploited by Hollywood.

Yet Underworld director Len Wiseman went for the jugular with a remake of ’80s action smash Total Recall, inspired by Dick’s short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. Filling in for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role of Douglas Quaid is a markedly less buff Colin Farrell. We heard from the 36-year-old Irish star.

What sort of man is your character, Quaid, in this version?
We were following the short story where he’s a working-class member of the proletariat, living a life that’s mundane enough for him to be having fantasies about going to Mars. He feels disconnected to his wife, his work, his friends, and decides to have a memory of an experience implanted.

View Time Out's review of Total Recall

Did you feel any pressure stepping into Schwarzenegger’s shoes?
No, honestly, I didn’t feel any pressure. And I’m not trying to give a rehearsed answer, but it really felt like a different film. I love his stuff, [but] thankfully I didn’t feel pressure to fill those shoes or compete with that ability to throw out a one-liner.

Your vision of Total Recall is darker and more serious than Arnie’s, presumably?
I wouldn’t like to say the original is cheesy, but it was a bit camp. It’s intended that way, it’s not an accident, but this film is tonally very different. I really approached it more as a drama, set against the backdrop of these magnificent cityscapes and these really elaborate action scenes.

It’s not your first movie based on a story by Philip K Dick…
No, I also did Minority Report. Minority Report and Total Recall are not dissimilar visions of the future. Sci-fi generally seems to be a fertile ground for drama. There’s a suspicion that the future is not so bright. Technology is making incredible leaps, but what we are doing to ourselves as human beings is quite alarming.

Did if feel unusual having to fight the director’s wife (Kate Beckinsale) on screen and, well, beat her up?
I loved it. [Laughs] Beating her up was okay; [being intimate with her] was a bit tricky. It was fine; they were all pros. Then there’s the fight between Jessica [Biel] and Kate and that fight was a bit [adopts posh female accent]: ‘Oh sorry, I caught your hair,’ which was funny.

You seemed to move away from blockbusters for a while before taking on Total Recall. Was it a conscious decision to stay away from them?
I had a few films that were big but that didn’t do so well, and I wasn’t getting offered that many big blockbusters either. Then this came along and I read the script. I was initially dubious when I heard that they were remaking Total Recall. I thought, ‘Is it worth it? What are they going to say about the original?’ But I read it and it was such an excellent script.

Did it feel good, returning to a huge movie like this?
Actually, Total Recall genuinely felt more intimate than some of the smaller films I’ve done. It just happened that way and it defies explanation.

Your next two films sound interesting as well…
I’ve just finished Seven Psychopaths, with Martin McDonagh. Martin’s stuff is always kind of absurd and dark, yet hopeful. This one was set in America and I’m the only Irish character in it. And then I’m just starting on Dead Man Down, directed by Niels Arden Oplev. It’s about a Hungarian immigrant who loses his family and decides to infiltrate a gang that was responsible for the death of his daughter. That script really is dark.
Total Recall is in UAE cinemas from Thursday August 30.

View Time Out's Total Recall review

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