Colin Farrell talks about how a remake of Total Recall got him back in the action saddle and the challenge of living up to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1990 original.
It was a mixture of fun and fear that convinced Colin Farrell to take on his first big-budget action movie in years, in a role made famous by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
This year’s version of Total Recall casts the Irish actor as Douglas Quaid, an everyman living in the future after a chemical war has destroyed most of the earth.
Unsatisfied with life he pays a visit to “Rekall”, a company that specializes in implanting exciting false memories into people’s brains.
But as those who have seen the original will know – and those who haven’t may be able to guess – nothing is straightforward.
“I was a little bit skeptical, as one tends to get reading about remakes of films that people are very passionate about,” admits Colin Farrell.
“Total Recall is like Life of Brian for some people.”
But after finding the script “loads of fun” and falling in love with the “really beautiful world” director Len Wiseman had created, he jumped on board.
“It wasn’t like, <<I’m a serious actor, tell me why I need to be in this film>>,” he explains.
“I got the whole package and presentation.
“It’s a really big canvas, made for a much bigger audience, as opposed to the smaller films I’ve done in the last few years.
“I had an element of fear as well, because it had been so long since I’d done a big action film. So that kind of drew me towards it as well.”
Len Wiseman relocates the action from Mars back to Earth, with Kate Beckinsale taking the role of Quaid’s wife Lori that Sharon Stone took in the original.
So does Colin Farrell think they have pulled it off?
“Oh, I don’t know,” he sighs.
“It’s not a $125 million exercise in nostalgia, so I think there’s some people that made up their minds before a frame was shot.
“It wasn’t made for the purpose of trying to get away as far as possible. It just happened to tonally feel like a very different film, so I felt that it wasn’t repeating.”
Colin Farrell is full of Irish charm and light-hearted banter. But it seems he might still bear a few scars from his previous remake effort, horror movie Fright Night.
“You can’t do right for doing wrong with remakes,” he explains.
“I learned that the first time.
“You either rip something off too closely or you don’t put something in and people are like, <<I can’t believe they left that out!>>”
The actor says he can understand why movie-goers sometimes get frustrated with remakes.
“Film is a very nostalgic thing,” he said.
“If I heard one of the Indiana Jones or even The Goonies was being remade, I’d feel like someone was poking a finger of criticism at my youth in a way.
“It’s a strange one; it goes deep. I mean, it must go deep for the reaction sometimes.”
There are not many bigger action shoes to fill than those of Arnold Schwarzenegger. But Colin Farrell was in the frame from day one as far as Len Wiseman was concerned.
“I can’t help but picture somebody when I’m reading a screenplay. I have to put a face and a person to that voice and Colin was that person,” he explains.
“It was probably some of Colin’s bad-boy persona, mixed with the vulnerable side of him,” the director continues.
“There’s not that many people that have those together.”
These days Colin Farrell’s “bad-boy persona” seems to have been put to bed, with the actor now concentrating on being a father to his two sons and living a yoga-fuelled life in Los Angeles.
Co-star Jessica Biel, too, found solace in the discipline.
“We were so bruised up all the time,” says the actress, currently planning her wedding to singer Justin Timberlake.
“You really needed that kind of release after days of being strapped in a harness and hung from the ceiling and jumping across chasms.”
It was the “darker, more emotional” take on the story that persuaded Biel to play resistance fighter Melina, the woman Douglas Quaid sees in his dreams.
“The female characters are equally as strong, as intelligent and as capable as our main male character,” she says.
“Which is just kind of rare, honestly.”
“But unusual’s good, isn’t it?” comments Colin Farrell on the prominence of his female co-stars, while admitting it is “less nerve-wracking” to be fighting men.
“If I’m gonna miss my cue and connect with somebody’s face, I’d prefer it to be a dude than a woman,” he shrugs.