After a break to star in a string of indies, Colin Farrell returns to screens this summer in the kind of action blockbuster that made him a name during the early part of the millennium. Farrell leads the cast of Total Recall, an adaptation of the Philip K. Dick sci-fi short story previously brought to the screen as the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle. While Farrell may not pack the same muscled triceps as Mr. Schwarzenegger, Total Recall in turn is not much like its previous incarnation. Set in a future that strives for a semblance of reality, Farrell’s adventure keeps the action on Earth (sorry, Mars fans) and pairs him with one of today’s leading butt-kickers: Jessica Biel.
With fuzzy memories leading them and dozens of goons on their trail, Farrell and Biel’s Quaid and Melina go on a run, ending up in everything from hovercraft chases to fistfights atop Future Earth’s fanciest addition: China Fall, the elevator that takes people from one end of the planet to the other. While on the set of Total Recall, Farrell and Biel revealed the secrets behind their heady action flick, teasing the film’s big set pieces and explaining how they squeezed a little emotion into the entire endeavor. And Farrell even threw in a few digs at Jar Jar Binks for good measure. When we caught them, they had just filmed a scene in which Quaid and Melina reunite on board the China Fall shuttle…
The emotional scene between Colin and Jessica we witnessed on set:
Colin Farrell: That was rather… we flew through that disappointingly quick I must say. It doesn’t usually go so swimmingly. It must be the hangover.
Jessica Biel: It’s these little pockets of real passion, emotion, and connection in the midst of a big, huge, wild journey where we are running for our lives all of the time. Firing those big weapons are such bits of just deliciousness. It is a pleasure.
Farrell: There are not a lot of them. I mean, the film is…
Biel: There are only a few. It is pretty nice. I think I just always try to make everything into a love story. That is my problem. [laughs]
Farrell: I think you probably beat us to the punch there. I’m not even signed on for that very last scene you just saw. It is the only reason why I am doing the whole f**king picture. There is so much… this film is kind of extreme in its portrayal of the chaos of action and the cause and effect of violence. There are only these little pockets and windows, as Jessica was saying, where the emotional truth of each of the characters is allowed to creep in and make itself a home. Generally, in my experience, you treat Total Recall the same way you treat anything. It is the same way you treat a stage play, a piece of Greek theater, In Bruges, or whatever it may be. You approach it all the same regardless of the action. You really do. It is not just a lie. You approach it all from the standpoint of your character and just from a human being with whatever human being you are playing. You are just a human being and why are you there? What has them there? What do they want from the situation? So, with that in mind, it is the most fun part.
The violence and the action does get repetitive by its very nature, whereas human emotion and thought never get repetitive. It is very hard, as a human being I find in my 35 years, to experience the same thought in the same way twice. I’ve had the exact same thought about the exact same thing, but it is never the exact same. It is in a different container when it comes a second or third time. So, with that in mind, those scenes that we just did, each take is a little bit different and it continues to grow. I don’t think I would like to experience it but I understand some directors doing… you can get out of hand as a director and do 60, 70, 80, or 90 takes. People may say that is out of hand, but there will always be something new if the emotion and the intellect are engaged. The action does get repetitive. It is fun at the beginning, but it is f**king huge. You just saw 30 percent of my dialogue in the film. [laughs] No, it is not that bad. I take it back.
Biel: What Colin was saying about how you have to look at this particular type of material as if you were breaking down a drama with what emotion, thought, and feeling is behind everything — whether it is picking up your gun, pointing it, aiming it, or jumping off a building. We are always doing all these crazy things, but you really do have to implement all of these thoughts behind it. Otherwise, it really is just vacant. Your eyes are dead and you’re like, “I jumped, fell, and I made it.” Then you watch it later and you see it. I see it and I catch myself. I’ve done it before in films. I’ve seen my work and I’ve been really embarrassed. Nobody else can really tell, but I see little bits where I didn’t connect it.
Farrell: Because everyone else is going, “She jumped and she made it.” That is kind of only me, but for you inside it…
Biel: I see it in my own work. So I really work very hard to try and fill those moments where it is hard to connect to anything that you are really doing because we are in such a vacuum sometimes. One day I came on set and you said, “I’ve been doing seven seconds of screen time and I don’t even know what I am doing anymore.” It just gets to a point where it is so…
Farrell: It is so fragmented.
Matching the insanity of the first movie:
Farrell: I mean, the three-breasted lady is in there. I know you wanted to… she was on the tip of your tongue. [Laughs] I could see. But you have to at the same time I think consciously have a nod of the head when you can have a bit of fun based on something that was offered up from the original and take that in. But as far as new stuff goes… I don’t know. The whole thing felt… the fact that it doesn’t go to Mars. There might be a little less extremities. There is not the scene where the eyes are exploding.
Biel: I think the weapons, the hovercrafts, and the other ways of transportation. It feels to me more intellectually mind blowing than it is like, “Woah! We have never seen this particular kind of effect before!” It is not necessarily that anymore. That was such a specific time where it was really still a challenge to do those types of things. Now we have such an opportunity and possibility to create those kinds of things. So it is more about weapons and things. Some of the weapons that we shoot… my gun is a 9mm Beretta, but it is automatic. It doesn’t exist. It actually would explode if we shot real bullets out of it.
Farrell: She is like f**king RoboCop on set. It is ridiculous.
Biel: It is amazing. It is a incredibly sexy and beautiful 9mm that shoots like a machine gun. It is kind of intense.
Farrell: Then there is this futuristic Bolo weapon that shoots a Bolo web that wraps around the body. As soon as it makes impact it lights up in a white flair and it wraps around like an octopus taking a body. I was shooting someone and there is a magnetized system on it. So there are loads of stuff that are kind of cool.
Keeping track of all the mind-bending sci-fi storylines:
Biel: It is constantly confusing for us.
Farrell: This is a pretty good argument for none of this s**t being real. [laughs] This is like The Matrix, man. I am looking for grids above your head.
Biel: Now it is really getting creepy. What is happening now?
Farrell: Seriously. That is Laurence Fishburne.
Favorite high-tech gadgets from the movie:
Farrell: I can’t wait. There is stuff that I will literally watch the film and go, “Holy s**t!”
Biel: The glow tattoos are cool. But do they only glow…
Farrell: They only glow when the batteries are working, which found out on take three. It caused all sorts of brain damage for the crew that day, but they are under the skin. John Cho’s character has this really beautiful tattoo that is like LCD and is lit up and it is actually placed under the skin and it is consistent.
Biel: There is the palm phone.
Farrell: Oh, yeah! A palm phone in my palm.
[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]