Len Wiseman on the ‘Total Recall’ Remake

The director talks about what inspired him from Paul Verhoeven's original film, Colin Farrell's performance and why he didn't get his ass to Mars.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

At Comic-Con I had a chance to interview Len Wiseman as the producer of Underworld: Awakening. Of course I planned to throw in some Total Recall questions, since he was at Con for that film too. I was pleasantly surprised that we bonded so much over Total Recall, I got a full scoop out of him for that.



CraveOnline: To make your version of ‘Total Recall’ stand out, will you have to make it less awesome?

Len Wiseman: Am I going to make it less awesome? That’s not the way that I would like to separate my film, no. I will do a different kind of awesome.


I just don’t know how you can make anything more awesome than ‘Total Recall.’

I love Total Recall. I think of that era it was one of Arnold’s best films. How old were you when you saw it?



I was 15 and it was just cool and it’s funny the things people remember from it. I had no idea they were working on a Total Recallscript. They kind of came at me really fast. I had the same kind of concerns or worries when it was even brought up. Should this be something that should be remade? Reading the script I really just got gripped at how different the take was too. In a way for me, it’s not really so much of a remake as a different experience of it.


I still watch the original and it blows my mind. How could Hauser want Quaid’s body? How could Quaid refuse to let his own mind back in? That’s why it still holds up for me.

It’s a fantastic struggle and concept. I just gravitate to movies where the mystery is the character himself. Any time you see a trailer of something where somebody is questioning “Who am I?” I’m hooked.


Can you have any crazy action like the Mack truck vs. the fighter jet in ‘Live Free or Die Hard?’

Not so much. It’s a slightly different kind of tone for me. I mean, we have a ton of action in Total Recallbut the tone is slightly more serious than a Die Hard?


How is Colin Farrell at doing the Quaid and Hauser characters?

He’s great and absolutely invested in struggling with these two personalities. That was one of the reasons too why I really thought there’s a different kind of take on the story which is deeper into the character’s struggle of what if you just inherently feel in your heart that you’re a good guy. You just know you’re a good guy but everyone around you is telling you you’re a bad guy. What do you do with that? You just accept it based off of proof that you’re being shown or you go off on a feeling? What does that do to a person’s internal struggle? He’s a fantastic actor and the guy to be struggling with that dilemma.


Can it still end on an ambiguous note?

Sure. I’ve got to say, I loved Philip K. Dick’s original story as well as a lot of his other work. I feel he questions reality a lot but doesn’t necessarily answer it and I think that’s what’s fascinating about sci-fi. I do love the what if and you talk amongst yourselves about what you think is real or not. Like Inception, I’m not the type that needs it to be sewn up at the end and wrapped up for me.


I always believed ‘Total Recall’was the implant he bought, until I realized why are we seeing scenes Arnold is not in? He wouldn’t remember the bad guys talking about their plans or the mutants suffocating while he’s at the reactor.

That’s awesome. That’s great that you bring that up because you’ll be very interested in how I approach this film then. I have the same exact question. I actually had a little bit of a problem with that being a fantasy then? What is he saying by cutting away from those POVs? Do you dream with cutaways to other people’s POVs? It’s interesting you bring that up because it actually played into a lot of the way I’m structuring this film.


I still like the idea that it’s his implant and I can think of some other artistic reasons why maybe the Rekall company had those scenes in.

But as a kid you didn’t even think about that.


No, it was when I learned more about film and realized that scenes from another character’s point of view mean something else in a movie.

See, I hope others are thinking the way you’re thinking because I did. When I watched Verhoeven’s film once I got this script, it had been a good 16 years since I’d watched it. And I’m watching going, “What does this actually mean by cutting away to a different perspective?” It’s interesting, that’s great and these are the kind of conversations I love. This is what I love about science fiction. This is what I love about really analyzing a film. I have so many little things in there, Colin and I have been fascinated with going through the script and there is the experience of the film, then there’s going through and really all those little bits and pieces that if you really want to go in and dive into it, there’s all these other levels that play into the what if? What side are we on?


Would Mars have just not been exotic anymore?

I’m sure it could be amazingly exotic. The script that had come to me, it was a choice not to go to Mars which is one of the things I was interested in. It is a whole different experience. Rekall is a company that offers many different experiences and this is another experience. The thing that I really loved about the concept was this really f***ed up journey that this guy has to go on, not necessarily the destination he goes to but just the personal journey that he has to battle through. Like you said, is he a good guy, is he a bad guy, who is he? You’ll see, there’s references to certain things that play into Mars.


By the way, I still believe it’s Quaid’s implant, and he doesn’t have an embolism. That was just part of the memory adventure. He wakes up fine in the chair.

You think he’s still in the chair. As a kid did you fantasize the idea of him waking up in the chair at all? I almost created a scene in my own head because when I was a kid I took the position that it was an implant.


Yes, I imagined him waking up and he remembers killing his wife. His wife will be at home waiting for him, so that’s going to be confusing but I still believe he wakes up from the memory he paid for.

This is why I did the movie. These are the kind of conversations I dig.


Did you have an option to do the fifth ‘Die Hard?’

I didn’t have any kind of options, no.


Because when they started looking for directors I wondered why you wouldn’t come back.

Yeah, I was just getting involved with this one and Bruce [Willis] and I were talking about that, but timing-wise I’ll be on this for ages.