Comic-Con 2012: 'Total Recall' Star Jessica Biel Calls the Remake a 'Human Experience That's Brutal and Hard'

The actress tells THR that Len Wiseman's upcoming remake isn't just a rehash of the original's visceral thrills, but "an action-drama love story."
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With the shadow of Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 classic looming large over it, Len Wiseman’s remake of Total Recall arrives in theaters with huge expectations from fans of hardcore, visually-stunning action. But co-star Jessica Biel tells The Hollywood Reporter that the upcoming film is much different than its predecessor, not the least of which because audiences will feel moved by it, not simply thrilled.

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“It definitely is an action-thriller film, but to me, it’s an action-drama love story,” Biel said in an interview Friday in San Diego. “We really wanted to tie this movie down to the ground in an emotional way, so you could go away feeling everything, not just excited by what it looks like.”

Although much of its story is still shrouded in mystery, Total Recall follows at least some of the beats of Verhoeven’s film, which was a futuristic action-adventure about a man (played then by Arnold Schwarzenegger, here by Colin Farrell) who discovers that everything in his life might be a lie. But Biel says that Wiseman’s emphasis on the sad truth about the main character’s relationships in the film – many forgotten or erased despite their intensity – gives the narrative a deeper emotional quality than its predecessor possessed.

“It’s this heartbreaking thing if you think about it in a real sense,” she explains. “Like, your girlfriend doesn’t remember you, but this is the love of your life. That’s heartbreaking. So that’s what we were continuing to maintain – this human experience is so brutal and hard to deal with, and that’s what special little thing we wanted to keep infusing so that at times it feels like this love story.”

Biel indicated that as a rule, she and the other filmmakers made a concerted effort to differentiate one film from the other, including in the characterization of Milena, the woman who mysteriously re-enters the main character’s life after he discovers he’s been duped.

“We just separated it completely,” she says. “We weren’t trying to do what Paul Verhoeven had done or steal any thing or try to force a square peg into a circle. So that character doesn’t exist in this movie. This character is just a complete creation of Len [Wiseman’s] mind and our collaboration.”

Wiseman’s Recall, she argues, isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but it’s trying to find emotional notes that the first film didn’t have – not because they were poorly executed, mind you, but because that film prioritized visceral thrills over emotional payoffs. “I think it was really important to add that element, which was missing in the original,” she observes.

“It wasn’t supposed to be that kind of a film, so it’s not like it was missing. But in our mind, we wanted to add that bit of extra meat to the story.”

Total Recall opens nationwide August 3, 2012.

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