The Movie Languished In Development For Over A Decade
It took years to adapt Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Newbie screenwriters Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon bought the rights to the story in 1976 but had a lot of issues translating the sci-fi tale into a movie. The pair decided they needed to take a break which ended up being a total blessing – they ended up writing what would become 1979’s “Alien”.
“Total Recall” would undergo more than 40 revisions over the years to get to the final filmed product.
It Was Almost Directed By David Cronenberg
Canadian horror-directing icon David Cronenberg was the first director hired for the film. After spending a year developing it, Cronenberg left the project over “creative differences” and the opportunity to direct Jeff Goldblum sci-fi horror remake of “The Fly”. While Cronenberg’s version was faithful to Dick’s story, producers wanted what he later described as “Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars”.
Some of Cronenberg’s creations remain in the film, including Martian mutants and the character Kuato.
Arnold Schwarzenegger Was Not The First Choice
Arnold Schwarzenegger was initially turned down when he expressed interest in playing Douglas Quaid/Carl Hauser because he was considered too buff and manly for the role of a secret agent on Mars. Powerhouse producer Dino De Laurentiis balked at the casting suggestion but Schwarzenegger saw his chance when Di Laurentiis’ production company went bankrupt. He convinced Carolco Pictures whom he had just worked with on “Red Heat” to purchase the rights and cast him in the lead.
Schwarzenegger Called The Shots
After bringing Carolco Pictures on board, Schwarzenegger had a lot of say when it came to “Total Recall”. He handpicked director Paul Verhoeven because he was such a big fan of his previous work, “RoboCop”. He also had creative input on the finished script, production and distribution, including marketing, which he was initially unhappy with. Schwarzenegger wasn’t pleased with the amount of public awareness of the film before its release so he had the production company sink even more money into marketing until there was no escaping “Total Recall” ads and tie-ins.
It Was Almost X-Rated
“Total Recall” might have been one of the final movies to earn a notorious “X” rating. The rating classification was in use from 1968 to 1990 when it was turned into the NC-17 rating. The final cut ditched some of the more graphic violence to squeak by with an R rating. In light of all that on-screen violence, Schwarzenegger inevitably broke a finger on his right hand during a fight scene and required a cast. In later scenes, he does his best to keep his injured hand out of sight.
Cola Wars Go Galactic
Humans and Martians have different pop preferences. Coca-Cola is the only soft drink advertised on Earth. On Mars, only Pepsi adverts are seen.
Welcome To Mexico
Though set in 2084, the futuristic transportation system was actually Mexico in the late 1980s. The futuristic-looking train station and trains were part of Mexico City’s transportation system with a little silver paint and TV monitors added.
There Was Almost A Sequel
After the blockbuster success of “Total Recall” a sequel was developed with Schwarzenegger expected to return. The film floated around in development for years with a script loosely based on another Philip K. Dick story, Minority Report, but with the pre-crime clairvoyants written as Martian mutants. Eventually, the script was drastically modified to more closely resemble Dick’s original ideas instead of the “Total Recall” sequel. That script would later be made into the Steven Spielberg movie “Minority Report” with Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell. Coincidentally, Farrell would later take on the role originated by Schwarzenegger in the 2012 remake of “Total Recall”.
Everyone On Set Got Food Poisoning
Just about every cast and crew member got food poisoning during the Mexico shoot, thanks to a foul-up by the on-set catering company. The only person who didn’t get sick was Schwarzenegger who insisted on having his own meals privately catered. Director Verhoeven was so sick but refused to take a break. In order to keep working, he reportedly had paramedics administer fluids during breaks and kept an ambulance on standby.
Cutting Edge Visual Effects
The film would go on to win a Special Achievement Award for Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, thanks in part to its cutting edge technolgly. “Total Recall” was one of the first films to utilize computer generated effects as well as miniature models. The scene in which Schwarzenegger passes through an X-ray machine is the only CGI effect in the movie.
“Total Recall” is the last live-action movie to be awarded the special Oscar and the only winner since is “Toy Story” which was recognized for computer animation advances.