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14 Behind-The-Scenes Stories From 'Total Recall'

August 30, 2021 28k views14 items

In 1990, Arnold Schwarzenegger was already one of the biggest action stars in the world; he became an even bigger star when Total Recall started smashing box-office records. These behind-the-scenes stories from Total Recall prove that the seven-time Mr. Olympia was a lot more than just catchy one-liners and massive muscles. 

Schwarzenegger and Dutch director Paul Verhoeven should not have even been involved with the '90s classic. Find out which famous horror director and which hunky actor were originally attached. Why did it take over 40 failed screenplay drafts to finally nail down the tone of the genre mashup? How did the special-effects team get the deformed mutant Kuato attached to actor Marshall Bell?

Check out those Total Recall behind-the-scenes stories and more.

  • Paul Verhoeven Originally Wanted A Four-Breasted Woman, But Settled For Three

    Star Trek: The Next Generation actress Lycia Naff played mutant prostitute Mary in Total Recall. She said that Verhoeven originally had a different vision for her character, one with four breasts. However, that many breasts just didn't look right. "The feedback was that I looked too bovine, like a cow ready to be milked, and that wasn’t sexy," Naff said. 

    Where did the director get the idea for Mary? At least he learned something in college. Verhoeven explained:

    I know that some women had, let's say, not two nipples, but they have four nipples. Like a dog, whatever. That’s what they have. They exist, basically, and I’ve seen the medical photos when I was at university. And I knew that. I wanted four nipples and breasts, with big breasts and smaller breasts underneath. And Rob Bottin, I think, felt that it was too realistic for the film. And basically that three breasts would be more, let’s say, in the style of the whole movie.

    Mary went on to become one of the most memorably outrageous mutants in a film filled with interesting characters.

  • The Kuato Chest Plate Weighed 85 Pounds, And Marshall Bell Had To Cut A Hole In It So He Could Pee

    What is the identity of rebellion leader Kuato? It's a question that every character in the movie and every viewer asks. Quaid finally meets Kuato over an hour into Total Recall, and it's not a disappointment to anyone hoping for another strange Mars mutant. 

    George (Marshall Bell) unbuttons his shirt to show the deformed mutant emerging from his stomach. The psychic rebel leader is actually conjoined at the midsection to his freedom-fighting brother.

    Bell, who also voices Kuato, spent hours in the makeup chair with special effects master Rob Bottin. "I had to go to Bottin's torture chamber and have them sink me into all kinds of various goods all day," Bell said. "And that was fun, because working with somebody like that is just a treat because I think he’s the kind of Leonardo da Vinci of prosthetics and that was a [full] day’s work."

    The prosthetic used to create the ugly mutant forced Bell to sit through nine hours of prep. And because the shoot was in Mexico, there weren't the usual SAG time limits on how many hours a day an actor could be on set. Thankfully for Bell, Kuato is only on screen for a few minutes, and therefore he only spent one week attached to his movie conjoined twin.

    "By the time I was Kuato, I was gaga." Bell said the Kuato prosthetics “weighed about 85 pounds and I had to cut a hole in it so I could pee. It was just a long, interesting, unforgettable process."

  • 'Total Recall' Was A Passion Project For Schwarzenegger, Who Swooped In When The Existing Rights-Holder Went Into Bankruptcy

    Total Recall is a strange hybrid movie. It's science fiction, action, adventure, fantasy, mystery, and even comedy. The film is built on a solid foundation of false memories, but it's a difficult vision to put into a big blockbuster.

    In 1976, screenplay writers Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Schuett purchased the rights to Philip K. Dick's short story, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." The writing team started the long process of adapting Dick's short story into a feature-length motion picture. However, after years of development hell and a reported 40 failed screenplay drafts, producer Dino De Laurentiis took the reins of the adaptation with the idea that Richard Dreyfuss or Patrick Swayze would play the film's protagonist, Douglas Quaid.

    Schwarzenegger loved the story and wanted to star in the movie. However, De Laurentiis did not buy the Conan the Barbarian muscleman as the film's blue-collar hero. Then in 1988, Arnold got wind that the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group had gone bankrupt. He called up Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna over at Carolco Pictures.

    The Rambo producers purchased the rights to Dick's short story for $3 million. "Literally the next day,” Schwarzenegger said. "It was immediate action. That's the way those guys operated, Andy and Mario."

  • Early Producers Were Adamant That Schwarzenegger Was The Wrong Actor For The Job

    Photo: Conan the Barbarian / Universal Pictures

    It's easy to see Schwarzenegger as "The Terminator." There isn't a ton of dialogue in the film series, and Schwarzenegger can lean on his massive muscles and menacing glare.  Despite Total Recall being a blockbuster-type popcorn movie, the protagonist Quaid actually has a lot of speaking lines that could potentially trip up an Austrian actor with a heavy accent. The movie is also character-driven. 

    Dino De Laurentiis, who had produced Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbariandid not see the former world champion bodybuilder in the complicated role of a hero trying to figure out his dream world from his actual past. At the beginning of the film, Quaid is portrayed as a "regular Joe" construction worker who just happens to have a gorgeous wife (Sharon Stone).

    "I've been chasing for years, years, years," Schwarzenegger said. "Because Dino De Laurentiis had it. And he always felt, 'Schwarzenegger, I'd like you to be Conan. I don't like you to be in Total Recall. I have Jeff Bridges.'"

    The original producers considered Richard Dreyfuss, William Hurt, and Patrick Swayze instead for the role.