|Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Total Recall|
Total Recall was a mind-bending action movie from the nineties that still resonates today. The story of a construction worker who goes to get false memories implanted and ends up on an adventure from Earth to Mars is still a roller coaster to watch, and had an update in 2012. Even though it’s been remade, let’s take a look at the original movie, and some things you probably didn’t know about the production.
1. The Original Story – Total Recall is based on a short story by Philip K Dick. “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” was first published in the April 1966 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. The original story had the same basis structure of a man implanted with false memories who discovers he’s really a secret agent. Originally the character was Douglas Quail, a mild mannered accountant, not a construction worker named Quaid.
The original story was also wildly different in the ending. In the original story, Quail doesn’t end up saving the world with alien technology. The government wants to kill him, but they discover that (as a child) aliens came to Earth to destroy the world. The aliens end up loving him so much that they agree not to destroy the world as long as he’s alive. If Quail is killed, the world will end, so the government has to let him go.
2. The Screenplay Was a Nightmare – The first screenplay for Total Recall was written by the writers of Alien, Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. However, the script went through over forty drafts. David Cronenberg, one of the project’s directors, went through twelve drafts alone. At the fortieth draft, the script didn’t have a workable third act.
3. Indiana Jones on Mars – When Cronenberg was working on the project, he explained how many different directions it went. He says: “I worked on it for a year and did about 12 drafts. Eventually we got to a point where Ron Shusett said, ‘You know what you’ve done? You’ve done the Philip K. Dick version.’ I said, ‘Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?’ He said, ‘No, no, we want to do Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars.'”
4. The Four Quaids – Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t the first pick to play the lead role in Total Recall. At one point, Christopher Reeve, Richard Dreyfuss, William Hurt, and Patrick Swayze were all lined up to play Quaid. In the 1980’s, Dino De Laurentiis owned the property and Schwarzenegger approached De Laurentiis to play Quaid, but got turned down. The only reason Schwarzenegger got the part is that, when Dino De Laurentiis dropped the option, Schwarzenegger convinced the studio Carolco to purchase the script with himself attached as the star. He also got unprecedented control over the production, including the option to approve the producer, director, screenplay, co-stars and promotion.
5. The Doctor is Johnny Cab – “Please state the nature of the driving emergency.” That’s what the robot taxi should have said, because it was played by the Doctor from Star Trek Voyager. Robert Picardo played the voice and his face was used as the model for Johnny Cab.
By the way, the song Johnny Cab is whistling is the Norwegian national anthem…for no reason.
6. From Robocop to Total Recall – Schwarzenegger was up for the title role of RoboCop, but lost the part to Peter Weller. That seems to have made an impression on Arnie, because Dutch director Paul Verhoeven was Schwarzenegger’s first choice to direct Total Recall. They even brought some of the cast and crew from Robocop to work on Total Recall.
7. The Three Breasts – One of the most iconic moments in the movie is when Quaid meets Mary, more popularly known as the Three-Breasted Prostitute.
|Mary (Lycia Naff), Total Recall|
The hooker was originally supposed to have four breasts, but they thought it looked too much like a cow. The actress Lycia Naff says she found the experience humiliating, as if she exposed her real breasts. If you look closely in the scene, she says her smile was only surface and she was near tears during the shoot. She found the whole thing so degrading that she refused to do any publicity for the movie, even turning down a shot on Johnny Carson. But the character became so popular that they brought Mary back (with a new actress) for the Total Recall remake.
8. Total Recall was Rated X – The movie was originally rated X due to its excessive violence. In order to get an R rating, several shots were removed like a shot of the drill impaling Benny, and some were shortened including Richter’s arms being cut off. Even with the changes, critics trashed the film for its excessive violence. Janet Maslin of The New York Times, considered the film excessively violent. Rita Kempley of The Washington Post gave it a negative review, saying that director Paul Verhoeven “disappoints with this appalling onslaught of blood and boredom.” Feminist cultural critic Susan Faludi called it one of “an endless stream of war and action movies.”
9. The Martian Adventure is All a Dream – The movie ends with Quaid and Milena standing on Mars, speculating on whether it was all a dream, and fading into white light. On the DVD, both Verhoeven and Schwarzenegger stated the ending is a dream; that Rekall did in fact plant false memories into Quaid, and we’ve been watching his fantasy world instead of reality.
There’s plenty of evidence to support that, including the fact that everything Bob the salesman at Rekall told him would happen on Mars (like becoming a secret agent and falling in love with a hot brunette) actually happened. The program they implant is called “Blue Skies on Mars,” which perfectly fits the ending where the alien machine created an atmosphere (blue sky) on Mars. Later on, the Dr. Edgemar of Rekall also predicted everything that would happen in the end, including that he would become a savior and discover an alien civilization. It also answers questions like how the alien device could create an atmosphere over the entire planet in minutes. The white light we see in the end is symbolic of Quaid’s lobotomy.
10. Total Recall 2: Minority Report – 2002’s Minority Report was originally intended to be a sequel to Total Recall. Adapted from another short story by Philip K Dick, the original script about a future where crimes are solved before they happen would have brought back Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid. The psychics who predicted the future would have been mutants from Mars. When the project fell through, it was re-written and eventually produced by Steven Spielberg, starring Tom Cruise.
Did you learn anything new about Total Recall? What did you think of the movie?