Director Len Wiseman is probably best known for his contribution to the Underworld series, which stars his wife Kate Beckinsale. Now, the director is teaming up with his wife again and this time it’s for Sony’s Total Recall remake, which stars Colin Farrell in the lead role.
Opening to mixed reviews last Friday, the film is a remake of the 90′s action flick that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. Though Wiseman has decided to do away with some of the key plot elements from the original film, he has still created a rather enjoyable and entertaining sci-fi flick that I, for one, enjoyed watching.
At the film’s recent LA press day, we had the chance to sit down with Wiseman who talked with us about a number of things, including how he came up with the look for the film, what it’s like directing his wife, changes he made from the original film and more.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: I noticed that while some parts resembled Blade Runner, other parts looked more contemporary. How did you come up with the look of the film?
Len Wiseman: I definitely wanted something that felt relatable. It’s set many years in the future, but if you travel down to the base of that world, it’s very relatable and not too different from our own world. It never makes sense to me when you’re presented with a futuristic city that it’s somehow as though they’ve taken everything we know about our world, bulldozed it and put it into some kind of world storage and started from scratch. I thought we’d never do that.
We have buildings that are hundreds of years old that still stand and you’d build from that. So, that kind of started the design of things. I wanted to be very fun and kind of fantastical, but very relatable. Even the way we designed the world, my production team, I didn’t want the buildings themselves or even the world itself to look that different. It’s more of how it’s built out and how the layers are literally plateaus of other layers of city, not necessarily what the buildings look like. The buildings still look like buildings of today. Otherwise, you get into a Jetsons kind of environment.
The same thing with the wardrobe. It doesn’t make sense to go to the future and suddenly everyone has horrendous taste and they start wearing these silver and gold lamé jackets and things I never quite grasped. I wanted it to be relatable.
We Got This Covered: The original Total Recall won awards for its special effects. Was there pressure to make the new version bigger and bolder?
Len Wiseman: There’s always that hope. But in terms of the pressure, if it were something that came out two years ago, maybe, but it’s so different now. The movie is 20 years old, so the video effects and graphics are so much more advanced, it’s not even the same process anymore. Just because of the time difference, it’s already in such different atmospheres, I think.
We Got This Covered: How is the tightrope creatively between acknowledging parts of the original movie to establishing the fact that this is a new take on the story?
Len Wiseman: It’s a delicate balance. It’s a weird thing, because you want to be able to have fun with what is familiar so you don’t have “Well, why are they calling it Total Recall if it’s completely different?” I had a bit of this on Die Hard, even though it wasn’t a reboot. Still, there are moments and elements that people associate with the Die Hard franchise. If you don’t include them, they don’t feel like it’s a Die Hard film, because they’re so attached to it, but if you include too much of them or do things that are too similar, then they’re too similar. The script for this film though was such a departure from the original. Our film doesn’t even go to Mars.
We Got This Covered: Not having the characters go to Mars is probably what stands out the most in the reboot. What went into the decision to keep the story earthbound?
Len Wiseman: I would say it’s the thing that attracted me to the script. Honestly, I actually read it with a bit of hesitation. I got a call from Neal Moritz. He told me they had a script. I’d always wanted to work with Neal and I really read it because of him. I had just come off of Die Hard a while ago and had a Hawaii Five-O pilot that I’d done and I didn’t want to do a known title.
So, I really went into it with some trepidation and really convincing myself why I shouldn’t do it. I read it and it was one of those scripts that as I’m not wanting to like it, I’m getting drawn in thinking “Oh (expletive), this is pretty good.” When it reaches the part where it didn’t go to Mars, I remember thinking “That’s odd. Why aren’t we going to Mars?” but immediately I was hooked.
I had no idea where this is going, no idea what this adventure is. That kept me turning the pages thinking “Where are they going now?” That was exciting to me. That’s what got me invested in it. If it had gone to Mars, it seems like it’s so much of the same film. Hopefully, a lot of people feel the same.
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We Got This Covered: Is it harder or easier to direct your wife?
Len Wiseman: Both. (laughs) The easy part is the shorthand that when you know someone that intimately, you can get right to a conversation and the details very easily. On the other hand, I always find it harder for me to push further if I know that she has done a stunt and banged her elbow or something and she’s saying “Oh, it’s fine.” She’s always like “I’ll be alright.” You can’t help it. You’re like “Are you sure? Are you ok?” If it’s Colin, Jessica or Bryan, you’re like “Oh, you’ll be alright.” (laughs)
We Got This Covered: Taking it a step further, how weird is it to direct her in a kissing scene in her underwear?
Len Wiseman: It’s weird and it helps, thank god, that I’ve gone through that experience twice and both Scott Speedman in the Underworld series and Colin are so fun. If you could make it more of a joke then those scenes, in between the cuts, are really more about trying to get them to stop laughing. That helps, but it’s amazing how much your blood boils immediately if you call “Cut” and it doesn’t stop right away. (laughs) That’s something that nobody can explain to you though.
I made that mistake on Underworld where I was very quiet. Whenever you have a love scene or someone’s taking their clothes off in any fashion, it’s a very quiet set. On “Underworld”, I was being very polite and saying “Cut” and they didn’t hear me. Now, I make a point of having a megaphone during a love scene (laughs).
We Got This Covered: Part of the fun of Total Recall is where you guess at what’s real and what may not be. Did you need a chart to stay on track?
Len Wiseman: It’s funny you say chart, because I literally had a white board in my office. I wanted every single scene to be able to be analyzed and add up on both sides of the argument. That’s what fascinates me about the concept. People talk about how different it is and how we don’t go to mars, but the core thing is, the most important part of the movie is “Is it fantasy or is it reality?” I wanted to make sure that the movie, in every scene, that you can watch it from both perspectives and ask “Does it really add up if this is all real?”
We Got This Covered: Was there any thought of making this in 3D?
Len Wiseman: Oh yes, but not on my part. Just everybody else’s. (laughs) At one point, I was the only one who was against going 3D with it. I’m not crazy against 3D as a general blanket rule, but I’m also not a huge fan of it, but I thought for this, I wanted it to be a grounded future. I thought that it’s such a futuristic world that if you put 3D on top of that, it almost becomes overtly futuristic and just starts to feel like a video game.
I wanted it to be grittier than that. For the longest time, there was a lot of conversation about it. I let the studio know up front that I had no intention and no interest whatsoever to do 3D. I think you throw your hands up and go “I have no idea on how to shoot 3D. I’m going to go way over schedule. I can try it, but I can’t promise that I’ll stay on schedule.” Here’s the thing: I haven’t met that many people that love 3D. I’ve never come across a situation where I’ve announced we’re not doing 3D and people go “Oh s-it!”
We Got This Covered: Did you get a break from Underworld to do Total Recall?
Len Wiseman: I had to produce Underworld while I was prepping Total Recall which I will never, ever do again. It was so exhausting. I would literally go from a production meeting and then we’d do a lunch break. I’d run in my office, close the door, lock it, get on my laptop and do Skype sessions with Vancouver with the director and producers there. I’d be watching the dailies. Plenty of times where I would sneak away and be on my laptop in a meeting and go as if I’m doing something with Recall and I’m having to watch wardrobe selects to do something. It was a lot of overlapping.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Len very much for talking with us. Be sure to check out Total Recall, now in theatres.Previous