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Colin Farrell gets ripped for ’Total Recall’ remake

by Jim Halterman
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Aug 1, 2012

Colin Farrell is well aware that when people hear that there is a remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic sci-fi film Total Recall, they may have an adverse reaction. The charismatic Irish actor shared his own during the recent press day in Beverly Hills for the Columbia Pictures release, opening nationwide this Friday.

Having just come off a successful remake of "Fright Night" last year, Farrell said of that experience, "it was actually different. I enjoyed the script as a read and I thought it was something I hadn't done." So, when "Total Recall" came into his life, "I thought two remakes? Talk about uncool squared!"

In the end, as with "Fright Night," the "Total Recall" script (by Kurt Wimmer and Mark Bomback) won him over and Farrell signed on along with co-stars Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel, Bryan Cranston, John Cho and Bill Nighy. "It felt so, so different from the original," Farrell said. "It was that and it was the world that the film inhabited was so significantly different from anything I had ever been a part of and from the original.

Intensive training

While the ’Ah-nold’ version comes to mind when the film is mentioned, many may have forgotten that the story of "Total Recall" is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick called "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale." Farrell himself is no stranger to movies based on Dick’s stories; He starred in Steven Spielberg’s "Minority Report" with Tom Cruise.

"There are very significant avenues that Phillip K. Dick seemed to explore like the idea of the advent and encroachment of technology being the most significant aspect of society," Farrell said. "Who controls what? Do we control technology or does technology control us? Where does the power lie in the system of government?"

The sexy actor, who shows off his ripped physique in the film’s opening sequence, is no stranger to stunts and action in his films; but "Total Recall" was an entirely different beast. "For four months I went to the gym six days a week and did the treadmill. I jogged three miles every day. I did an hour and a half of weights and a half an hour of boxing with mitts. I’d go home then go on a hike. I just got really fit. I just aimed really well because I knew it was going to be a long shoot."

Bruised up

Besides the challenge of getting in top shape, a part that people often forget about it is sustaining that regimen for the time it takes to shoot a film.

"At the start of the film," Farrell shared, "you get very excited. You’re very enthusiastic. You’ve done whatever preparations you feel you’ve done internally or externally. You start the film and it’s all go. Then your attention goes somewhere else. Your attention goes into telling the story. Your energy goes into telling the story so you don’t have the same amount of energy or the objectivity to look at it."

Even with all that preparation, did he still get some bumps and scrapes during the shoot? "Loads! I have loads of bruises and welts usually around the hip, ass, eye region and elbows. Elbows got a lot of big time bruises but it was so much fun. It really was."

Farrell also said that even though he was physically prepared for the shoot, he emphasizes that this isn’t just a CGI funhouse. He extolled the dramatic, character-driven scenes.

"The dramatic scenes were seven, eight or nine scenes that I was looking forward to where I had ideas. I was just looking forward to them. As the shoot was going on I think it got a bit top heavy where we got to a lot of the dramatic scenes early. We had two really nice chunky dialogue scenes left with seven weeks to go. Then it was just the domination of the action then but I enjoyed it though. That is what I signed up for."

Piano virtuoso?

Besides being able to do a lot of the stunts himself, one aspect of the film that Farrell also trained for was the one scene where his character, Doug Quaid, plays the piano. "It was me playing," he revealed thought fans should not expect a piano concert in the actor’s future.

"It was just that one tune. Everyone in my house is just so sick of hearing that. I have a piano in my living room that I mess around on a little bit."

He asked the producers if he could find the music myself: "So I went through a shit load of classical music and tried to find something that I felt had a certain urgency to it and a hit of melancholia and maybe a sense of longing. I found that and, of course, it’s public domain so I got a teacher to go through it."

Perhaps the biggest acting challenge on the set was convincingly kissing the director’s wife. Not from a drunken night during filming: Farrell’s co-star, Kate Beckinsale, is married to "Total Recall" director Len Wiseman. Even though Beckinsale and Wiseman have worked together before on a few of the "Underworld" films, Farrell still didn’t have an easy go of it locking lips with the woman’s husband in a room full of people including her husband --¬†also his boss.

Kissing the director’s wife

"I found it confusing. Kissing Len’s wife was unfortunately one of the more uncomfortable situations that I’ve found myself in in fifteen years of doing this racket."

Wiseman, he jokingly adds, "wasn’t even polite enough to leave the room. We did a very quick take and we only did two or three. That was it. It was ’got it, moving on.’"

While he also had several fight scenes with Beckinsale, who plays the same role Sharon Stone played in the original, he said the kissing was definitely more complicated.

Give the remake a chance

Looking back again at the original film and the story’s origins, To the question of why "Total Recall" is a film audiences remember with fondness, Farrell sites the strength of Dick’s storytelling, Schwarzenegger’s offbeat charm, and the funny-horrifying interplay of the action sequences.

"I just think the story is great," he said. "The level of excitement in it and Arnie was ridiculously charismatic with that chopped up English thing that he had. There was also the size of the man and his confidence. Nobody could deliver a one-liner better than that fellow. The effects were really cool...I think it was really funny [and] it was a comedic take on the violence. It was bizarre and over the top. It just worked as a film from start to finish. It’s just a really entertaining ride."

That said, Farrell is confident audiences will give this remake a chance. "I’m not trying to compete with the original at all," he explained.

"It really did feel different. If there [were] more one-liners in the film, if it went to Mars, if the script was pretty much the same and was just using the advent of certain technological gifts that have since presented themselves that we have for film, I might have balked at the idea. While honoring the same conventions and concepts, and narrative plot points of the story, this story seemed to stand on its own."

Total Recall opens in theaters on Friday, August 3, 2012. For more on the film, visit the film’s website.

Watch the trailer to Total Recall:

Jim Halterman lives in Los Angeles and also covers the TV/Film/Theater scene for www.FutonCritic.com, AfterElton, Vulture, CBS Watch magazine and, of course, www.jimhalterman.com. He is also a regular Tweeter and has a group site on Facebook.


  • , 2012-08-03 22:32:13

    What was the name of the song he played on the piano, does anyone know? Great movie by the way.

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