By Matt Patches, Hollywood.com Staff
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.
Next: Violence, Zero Gravity and the 15-Day Hovercraft Chase[PAGEBREAK]
The physical demands of performing in a movie like Total Recall:
Farrell: I mean, the opening section of the film starts in a kind of pacifistic place. It is just going to work, the business of living, being on the treadmill, and something of a decent marriage, which isn't dealt into too deeply. Then I'm assuming 20 minutes in, as soon as I get into the chair, the proverbial hits the fan. Then there is a lot of violence in the film. There is a lot and it goes from one chase to another. Violence is I think people are propelled towards violence, and what propels them is much more interesting than the actual act of violence itself. The ante picks up and up and it gets more and more desperate as it reaches the end of the film and as you get closer to some inevitable truth that needs to be experienced, which is kind of the saving of the world I suppose. The world is in a bit of a bad place and Cohaagen is not the autonomous leader that he claims to be. But the violence is fun and it really is a part of it.
Biel: What we have been doing a lot lately is that we are in our harnesses doing wire work, but we are lifted on this big elevator that moves in all of these different directions and we are dropping onto it. I roll off by accident, he grabs me, I am dangling, lifting, and climbing back on to this box that is floating in space. Are we 30 feet up or so?
Farrell: Yeah, about 30 or 40 feet up.
Biel: It is that kind of physical stuff as well. There is a lot of hand-to-hand combat. Kate [Beckinsale] and I have a cool fight where we do that. Colin does a lot of that. Then we fire a lot of weapons and do a lot of running.
Farrell: She has a great fight with Kate. I was a bit jealous and had a bit of envy.
Biel: It is really cool because it is not a girly fight at all. It is quite a it's just like two warriors fighting. We are about to get into some really interesting wire work, which is all of our anti-gravity stuff when we are trying the China Fall, which is this amazing transporting system. So it will be lots of floating physical stuff, which I have never done before. I don't know if you have ever done it before.
Farrell: Me neither. Not even in my dreams.
Biel: I think the idea of moving in slow motion is.. .I'm trying to figure out how that goes exactly and if I can do it now.
Farrell: It was 50 people, myself, Bokeem Woodbine, and a bunch of day players trying to figure it out. It took awhile. Some people had their legs floating lovely, half of them had them like a child, and one guy was cycling. About two hours in there we were just saying, "Get ready!" and everyone was just doing it. It was so much fun. That kind of stuff after doing reams and reams of action, because we had just come off lots of action, was really fun. It was so pathetic and it was like, "I get to engage the brain and body a bit." It was a challenge and it was something to do. Then, of course, after awhile of doing that you're like, "Okay. Can we do something else?" This film is all of these little chapters. Some of these set pieces take 8 or 9 days to do. They are f**king huge!
The stunts they wouldn't let them do:
Biel: There is always something. There is always
Farrell: What is it? I want to do it now!
Biel: It is always plate glass or sugar glass. If you have to bust through glass they never let you bust through glass because someone always gets cut even though it is sugar. So we are always requesting to do that kind of thing. So there is that, but pretty much everything else. We were talking about rolling off the elevator and that was really cool because we got to do all of that stuff.
Farrell: The insurance costs must be huge on these kinds of things. It was a lot of wire work from pretty high up. But I feel pretty safe and there is a lot of fighting. Those cars, while they were slamming into each other, were about as unsafe as I have felt in the 15 years of doing this s**t. I am talking about 20 elephants, 80 horses, and 400 extras going on "Action!" and that was a bit safer.
Dealing with existential issues through action:
Farrell: [laughs] Someone once told me that in Japan there is a place or places where you can go and buy like a hundred plates and f**king throw them against the wall.
Biel: Really? That is a great idea.
Farrell: It is a great idea, whether it exists or not. I think that touches into what you are saying. I much prefer for people to go to shooting ranges and shoot at two-dimensional paper targets than to have to go out in the street or to foreign territories and do the same. I think, as human beings, we at times overvalue the intellect and we undermine the body. I don't mean a body externally and the shape of a body. I mean the intelligence of a body, the memories that a body can store, how a body feels emotion, and how a body processes emotion. So I think with that in mind, I think you are possibly right. I love a good bit of discourse myself. I love a good existential conversation when I don't get too in over my head and feel like a dips**t. At the end of the day, I think it is really good to get it on its feet. I had a really cool time talking about all of these scenes with you and with Len. At the end of the day, there is a literally a moment where I go, "Can we just get up now, talk about it, and move through it?" So, yeah, I think you are right.
Filming a 15-day hover craft chase sequence:
Biel: The hover cars were literally built on top of race cars.
Farrell: They really did customize it. It is like something from Mad Max. It is this fabricated thing with massive engines, cages, and then they mounted on top the hovercraft.
Biel: So we are actually moving and not just sitting there with four grips shaking the thing, which is kind of what I expected. [laughs] I'm not used to these big budget films anymore.
Farrell: Me neither.
Biel: So these things are literally massive adult series bumper cars. Kate is in one and we are in another one and these guys are slamming us. Our heads are rocking and it is so cool.
Farrell: It was an instantaneous response. It was a very immediate and very physical. It was kind of shocking a couple of times. Plus, these things were built and they took awhile to build to great expense up until time and time again. But the hover part at the top is a little bit plasticy, even though you will never see it in the film. So in the middle of a take a f**king screw would go. [laughs]
Biel: There is one point where we first got in and they said, "So the door doesn't shut so you can roll out. So you have to strap yourself extra in." I had to wrench my own door close at one point. [laughs]
Farrell: But it does so much of the work for us. I mean, with all of the green screen that is prevalent in the studios. If you have a look around, I am not feeling like I am stuck on this kind of inhuman island where I have to communicate with an idea. The practical sets are really f**king magnificent. Then, this greater notion of how the world is topographically different will be put in green screen. But while we are shooting, even if it's a lift, we are shooting in it and behind the lift outside you will see this big chasm. I saw the artwork that is going to be designed and put in post, but the lift is beautiful. That stuff is so you always bring your own imagination, of course, but the environment is helping me certainly do a lot of the work. So there is a lot of green screen, but I am not having to talk to Jar Jar Binks. I don't feel that I'm having to
Wait, Jar Jar Binks is not in this movie?
Farrell: Well, there might be just a cameo, but I don't want to ruin it for all of those many Jar Jar Binks fans that are out in the world.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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[Photo Credit: Sony Pictures]