Beckinsale, Biel recall making 'Total Recall'
Posted July 31, 2012
The future rests in the hands of formidable women. At least, that's how the modernized world of Total Recall paints it, with Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel playing mind-bending, butt-kicking forces of good and evil.
On a recent afternoon, the raspy-voiced pair are comparing futuristic manicures. "Boring" is how Biel stacks up her metallic silver polish to Beckinsale's trendy two-tone nails, which feature a slim line of orange at the nail-bed. Beckinsale repeats the unprintable, X-rated nickname for the style, and Biel's eyes slightly widen. "But I still like it," Beckinsale says with a saucy grin.
The two share zero such girly moments on-screen in the updated sci-fi film (out Friday), which hands Colin Farrell the role Arnold Schwarzenegger made famous in 1990. In the fantasy flick, beleaguered factory worker Douglas Quaid enlists a service that can turn dreams into real memories, Rekall, to try on a virtual life as a secret spy, only to trigger the truth: He's a rebel fighter whose memory has been wiped clean (or has it?).
As Farrell wades through what is real vs. imagined, Beckinsale takes over Sharon Stone's role as Quaid's deadly wife, Lori. Biel plays rebel fighter Melina, who clouds Quaid's head with memories of a more dangerous life.
The biggest difference between the new Total Recall and the original? The reboot doesn't go to Mars, and instead takes place in a far-off Earth, now dominated by two nation-states — the wealthy United Federation of Britain and dreary Colony. "We wanted to keep it on Earth," says director Len Wiseman of staying closer to the 1966 short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale by Philip K. Dick. "The original short story never actually traveled out to Mars."
"Who needs two movies exactly the same?" asks Beckinsale. "If you're going to do it, you might as well do it differently."
The film is much darker tonally, Wiseman says, "but not without its fun." (Super-fans can rest easy: The futuristic three-breasted prostitute is alive and well.)
Acquaintances and actresses
Before Total Recall, Beckinsale, 39, and Biel, 30, knew each other only in a Hollywood sense.
"I'd run into you at the gym a couple of times," says Beckinsale.
"We'd shared a trainer a while ago," says Biel. "And I'd only ever heard 'Oh, my God, you'd love her, she's so nice.' "
Fast-forward to their screen test for Total Recall. Biel had "never been sicker." Barely able to stand, the actress would prop herself up and pretend to shoot guns as the production team finalized decisions on hair color, costumes and props.
Beckinsale admits she steered clear. "I'm actually quite phobic of vomit," she says, wrinkling her nose. "And they're like, she's here, would you like to meet her? And I was like, not at all. I don't want to be sick!"
Biel laughs, but at the time, she had given up on Western medicine for her ill health. "I would get acupuncture every day, and he would strap my stomach with vinegar-smelling herbs with tape" she says, as Beckinsale looks on in mock horror. "And I would show up covered (she motions at her stomach) to the camera tests."
"And it goes to show that she walked around smelling like pee and vinegar, and the only thing I ever heard was, 'She's so pretty,' " says Beckinsale.
Pretty, and tough. Like Becksinsale, who finished Underworld: Awakening days before stepping onto Total Recall's set, Biel typically stays in fighting shape. But Farrell warns not to underestimate just how tough she can be.
"Jessica is an incredibly feminine woman, but she's also got this strength and athleticism that is really impressive," says Farrell. "She throws a really good punch."
Not that she was the only intimidating woman present. Used to playing Underworld's heroine Selene, Beckinsale "really savors it completely," playing the bad guy, says Farrell. "The level of ill intent that she carries with her throughout the film was kind of delicious to observe."
In one scene, the two women fight each other in epic — and gender-neutral — fashion.
"I very much wanted to keep it to a fight between two very efficient agents in their own right," says Wiseman, Beckinsale's husband of seven years, who has directed her in two Underworld films. "I didn't want to take it to flirting or winking or anything like that."
It was refreshing to fight like that, both women say.
Beckinsale: "You realize you haven't seen that many fights that don't involve someone's bra strap coming out — "
Biel: "Or somebody getting their hair pulled — "
Beckinsale: "Or like, you know, somebody straddling somebody — so it's not like a fantasy fight, it's a proper fight. … It was very similar fighting that I did with Colin. If anything it was more vicious."
And so empowering that Biel ended up teaching the fight sequence to Beckinsale's daughter, Lily, 13,and her friend, which Wiseman decided to shoot for the DVD.
The one difference in a girlfight? Excessive politeness, says Beckinsale.
"I think Len has these funny outtakes of me going, 'Oh, no!' and she goes, 'Oh, was it me?' and I go, 'No, was it me?' The boys are not doing that, you realize. It's a very polite thing that we had going."
Today, time flies with the two women, aided by Beckinsale's rapid-fire wit and Biel dishing on her Twitter use (mostly filled with pictures of her dog, Tina). They share baking success stories (both are adept at sweets, although Beckinsale teases Biel that the almond butter fudge she brought to the set looked like "poo, to be honest with you") and favorite shows (Biel: Gator Boys, Beckinsale: Wife Swap). And both women are far more down-to-earth than their cover-girl status would imply, speaking openly of their surprise at the genres they've found popularity in.
"I was more picturing myself in a princess gown than wielding a machine gun," says Beckinsale, who will step out of the genre next in indie legal drama The Trials of Cate McCall. "This whole turn of events that's happened to me is very strange. It kind of came out of left field. But I'm enjoying it."
Biel nods; she was recently up for a role in The Wolverine, but passed because of scheduling conflicts. "You never plan. … For me, it's like this horror-movie thing (she next stars in thriller The Tall Man, out Aug. 31). You know like, 'Just go scream and freak out and cry for how many months a year.' "
Biel's getting married
Biel speaks with her hands, and it's impossible not to notice the huge princess-cut engagement ring winking from her ring finger. Engaged to Justin Timberlake, she says their wedding date is still TBD.
"I'm excited about it," Biel says, but she's hardly the type to have been planning her wedding since childhood. "I actually never ever in my wildest dreams thought it would ever happen to me. … I never dreamt about what I would wear, what it would look like or what it would be. Even now I still just feel like, I don't even know when it will ever happen because we're so busy."
Beckinsale, who married Wiseman in 2004, helps put it in perspective.
"It's a funny thing, too, in this business when you're getting married," she says. "Because for people who aren't in this industry, it's the one day that feels like that. And we," she gestures at Biel, "have a few days that feel like as stressful as a wedding is, … it can feel a little bit like almost not real. I felt like once I got married, I just wanted to do it again because it feels oddly like, I don't know, stage-managed. And if you have other things in your life that are stage-managed, it's weird."
Biel's one wish for her big day? An absence of hovering helicopters. "That's all I wish, for whenever it may be, is just privacy. That's it. If we can have that, anything else can go wrong. I don't care."
After three films, Wiseman and Beckinsale have a strong history of collaboration (their secret: he says they've learned to "quietly have our disputes" via text) , and Biel and Timberlake may join them. Biel confirms that Timberlake plans to write music for a film she has been putting together, The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea. "I'm so thrilled that he wants to do that, because I mean, I'm like his No. 1 fan, as dorky as that sounds."
Life is good, but virtual life, as Total Recall espouses, could be even better. Which Rekall experience would these two select?
"I can't sing at all, so I'd love to be a rock star," says Beckinsale. "And in particular I'd like to be Freddie Mercury."
Hands-down, says Biel, she'd pull the lever to be a spy. What kind?
"I don't even care," she says with grin. "I just want to be a part of secret missions."
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