The latest re-imagining of Philip K Dick’s sci-fi classic, Total Recall, comes to Blu-ray and DVD this week, with the strapping Colin Farrell in the lead. Harrison Pierce talks to him about accents, dystopia, cocaine and yoga.
Harrison Pierce: If you could go on an alternate reality trip, where would you go?
Colin Farrell: I think I’d like to hand glide over Mount Everest. That would be fun slash terrifying slash very removed from any experience I’ve ever had.
Are you a science fiction fan?
Not at all. My brother’s a massive science fiction fan. Massive fan of Doctor Who and all the Alien films and Star Trek. He’s really excited about this. But no, I’m not particularly a fan of science fiction. I’m a fan of a good story. Whatever form it comes in, whatever suit it’s wearing, I’m cool with it.
Do you think the future will look more like Total Recall or Minority Report?
I don’t want to say they’re the same thing, because they’re not, but they’re not dissimilar visions of the future. They both have been inspired by the same pen, that of Philip K Dick. While his stories in literature form are open to interpretation and expansion, based on each director’s individual taste, obviously he inspired a certain kind of world format that is not dissimilar in both films, I think. What’s the future going to look like? I have no idea. I can’t tell you what tomorrow’s going to look like. The weather could kick up tonight and make shit of us all.
Why do you think the future is often depicted so bleakly in films?
The only science fiction film I can think of where a utopian environment is dealt with is The Lost Horizon. Dystopian worlds seem to be more interesting. They seem to create greater drama: A world where people are living in some form of recognised or unrecognised sense of discontent and disconnect with their environment. The idea of the police state is something that has really come into being and is almost shamelessly bearing itself now so that seems to be potent, fertile ground for drama. I think maybe it plays into the suspicions of all of us that the future is maybe not so bright. Yes, technology is making incredible leaps and advancements but what are we doing to each other as human beings? It’s a bit disconcerting.
A few years back, you expressed exhaustion with the business and took a break. How do you prevent that from happening again?
It would probably help if I stay away from cocaine and whiskey. Life comes in cycles and chapters and my life is different now. I just do different things. I enjoy the work more. I enjoy being a Dad more and doing things I never thought I’d do, like yoga.
This movie deals with future technology. Are you a fan of the latest gadgets and devices, like the iPad or the 3D TVs or Blu-ray players?
Haven’t got much place for them. I got this [iPhone] two months ago and I’m still trying to figure out all I can do with it. I do have a projector system at home that I bought. It’s a thing that has a little screen which comes down and is kind of wicked. It’s the best toy I’ve ever bought myself. That’s about as technologically advanced as it gets in my house.
Speaking of future technology, how did you feel about not making this movie in 3D?
If I heard this film was going to be 3D, I don’t know that I would have done it. I remember asking the question at the time. I remember saying to Len, “Are you doing 3D?” He said there was talk of it but they’re not doing it. It might have been kind of a deal breaker for me. Avatar is spectacular in 3D but personally I just don’t need it. I don’t need it if a story’s good enough. Maybe my kids will need it and want it, but I don’t need it to come out. People are like, “It’s a better representation of how you see things in the world.” Not really. There’s something so inconsistent about what comes out and what has depth. I don’t really buy it. But it was cool for the Werner Herzog documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I really liked it in that.
Did you do any physical training for this movie?
I worked out fairly consistency for three or four months, five or six days a week, with weights and running a lot. There’s a certain background to the character that’s touched on in the film. He might have some military training that he didn’t know about so I just wanted to make sure I was in shape. I knew it was going to be a physical shoot as well so I worked out a good bit.
What was it like having to fight the director’s wife [Kate Beckinsale]?
Easier than kissing her. It was okay, though. The two women had the biggest fight of the film.
What was it like working with Jessica Biel?
Jessica was a dream to work with. Really, really easy. From Len on down, all of us were really doggedly pursuing as much dramatic integrity as we could in the film. We rehearsed more than you would typically get to rehearse on the majority of one hundred and fifty million dollar films. We spent time talking about character and backstory. There’s a lot of complicated plot points in the film, as well, that we had to be kind of clear on. Knowing where you come from in this film is not as clear as it usually is. Knowing where you come from in relation to each other, too. Particularly in terms of my character and Jessica’s character, who have a deep backstory but one that I’m not aware of and one she’s aware I’m not aware of, so there’s tension in that. She was a dream to work with. She’s funny. I had a laugh working with her. And she’s tough. I came into the studio one day and I heard someone hitting the mitts in the corner like they were giving it an unmerciful beating. I looked over and it was Biel. She’s tough.
You have a good American accent in the movie, does it come easily?
A really bad American accent comes easily. I had a dialect coach on the film. I think it’s easier to go [east] across the Atlantic than the other direction. I think part of the reason is a lot of Irish and English people grow up watching American television. The accent was constantly in my life as a kid. But I always work with a dialect coach. I loved working with an Irish accent on In Bruges. With accents it’s either one or two things: it’s either a barrier that keeps you away from the character or it’s another avenue into the character. It’s either one or the other. There’s no middle ground.
What was the most challenging stunt you had to perform in the movie?
There were a couple of good jumps. There was one jump I did with Jess. It was a drop, really. It’s a bit weird when you’re maybe seventy or eighty feet in the air on a wire over a car park with a hundred and fifty people beneath you and they’re going to drop you in three, two, one, panic the first time. And there has to be a first time. The first time you do it you don’t know how it’s going to go and you actually get quite terrified. Then I got various cuts and bruises and scrapes which were all fun.
Do you have any rituals or things you do to prepare for a role?
I have my own ways of preparing. It’s mostly thought. It’s mostly imagination.