Alongside comedy pieces like “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve,” Biel’s filmography is peppered with physical roles, from the remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” through “Blade: Trinity” to her recent outing in “The A-Team.” And now she’s at it again with a physically enervating role in “Total Recall,” a high-intensity, futuristic action-thriller.
“It’s rare being a woman to be able to use your body in the way that we can use our body in these kinds of film,” says Biel. “I don’t do that kind of thing on an everyday basis but I find it really fulfilling to work like that on screen. It’s amazing; you get to learn so much, about different martial arts, or boxing or whatever it is, which is great.”
Biel’s latest role is that of a Resistance fighter called Melina in a reboot of “Total Recall.” The new film is drawn from the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”, which also inspired the 1990 “Total Recall” movie, shot by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leading role; Rachel Ticotin, meanwhile, played the Melina character.
“In our movie, Melina’s profession is a bit different,” says Biel, “but then the tone is so different that it is actually quite difficult to compare any of these characters in the two movies. She is really a reinvention of the original character that Rachel had created. She is still a warrior and still a survivor and she is quite ballsy, I guess. In the original she didn’t take any crap from Arnold and I don’t think this character takes any crap either!”
The character in this movie plays an integral role in the journey of the main hero, Quaid (Colin Farrell), a seemingly normal guy who’s living an existence that is not quite his own. Len Wiseman, who helmed “Underworld,” “Underworld Evolution” and “Live Free or Die Hard,” directs.
“When I heard about Total Recall and read the script it sounded really fun and also very different from the first movie,” explains Biel. “At the time that the first movie was made it was such a feat of computer-generated imagery; it was amazing cutting-edge CGI. Now, to look back at it, it doesn’t necessarily hold up in that way, but the tone and the fun of it is still there.”
Biel says that she and Farrell would on occasion watch scenes from the original. “Sometimes Colin and I would wonder whether we should be making something that’s more fun and light-hearted like that movie, but then I know that we definitely made the right choice [in going a little darker].
“Len Wiseman made the right choice by really rebooting the idea, and not trying to copy the first movie with the same tone,” continues the actress, “because that really was a moment, that film at that time, and I don’t think you want to mess with it. It was perfect the way that it was. Our film feels very different and very cool.”
While the film offers an essentially dystopian vision of the future, Biel says that some of the futuristic gadgets are mind-bogglingly fun. “I figure I wouldn’t mind a hover car,” she says of the film’s primary form of transport. “There’s also a really cool gun that Colin uses and when it fires all these crazy legs come out, and you can wrap people up!”
She says that were she, like Quaid in the movie, to enter Rekall for a memory implant, she might opt for the life of a CIA operative. “I’ve always been fascinated by detectives and secret agents,” she says, “so maybe I would work on something like a murder unit.”
Biel laughs. “I know that sounds a little bit morbid, but I’m one of those people that is obsessed with [the TV show] 48 Hours. I love that kind of stuff. I’m interested in crime and why people do what they do.”
Hence she loves the intrigue and intricate plotting that ripples through Total Recall. The actress says that she feels as though her character is “the heart of the film.” She adds, “And for Quaid she is that one constant. From the second that he meets her, she’s just truthful and she continues to tell him the truth, even when he doesn’t believe her.”
Quaid starts to question his identity as his story unfolds, realising that his world and his very existence are under siege. He becomes a wanted man, seemingly with no friends. Only the mysterious Melina offers a genuine helping hand.
“It is interesting,” Biel adds. “In many ways Melina represents truth and intuition, that little feeling that you have when you meet somebody and you are like, ‘I don’t know why, but I just know you. l feel like I’ve known you for a long time.’ That little voice that’s hard to listen to. The brain is very, very clever and manipulative, and can twist on you, but that intuition that’s there is always the truth, if you can hear it. If you can actually listen.”
Opening across the Philippines on August 22, “Total Recall” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.