I got an interview with Len Wiseman, who is producing Underworld: Awakening since, you know, he created the series and married the star. He was also at Comic-Con supporting the Total Recall remake he’s directing with Colin Ferrell. As a comprehensive journalist, I planned on covering both films in my Underworld interview but we really hit it off over Total Recall.
Q: You couldn’t have imagined the fourth Underworld film when you created the series. At what point do you have to go beyond your original mythology to generate new stories?
Len Wiseman: I feel we’ve been doing that a little bit with every film. You have kind of a set mythology from the very beginning but you’re having to branch out so much even with the other two films. So I find it exciting that you have your base mythology, so everything comes back to it anyway. You say what if, what if, what if this were to happen? With this one I loved the idea of taking the Underworld which had always been under and hidden, flipping that upside down and exposing that and how that mythology works into being exposed.
Q: Did you have some ideas for action sequences you still wanted to see?
LW: For sure, a lot of them interacting with humanity a bit more. I just very early on wanted to see Lycans chasing down a freeway amongst traffic. You just crash those two together. There were some things I’ve been actually wanting to see for a while that I tried to even imagine working into Underworld 2 at the time when it was slowly bleeding out into a little bit of humanity. This time we said let’s just turn it completely upside down and humanity is aware, and what kind of action sequences that provides.
Q: Was 3D a major reason a fourth one was green lit?
LW: Not at all. Green lit, no. 3D was going back and forth about whether we would do it 3D or not. No, Underworld 4 got started a good five months before 3D was determined. They just knew they wanted to make another film.
LW: Am I going to make it less awesome? That’s not the way that I would like to separate my film, no. I will do a different kind of awesome.
Q: I just don’t know how you can make anything more awesome than Total Recall.
LW: I love Total Recall. I think of that era it was one of Arnold’s best films. How old were you when you saw it?
LW: I was 15 and it was just cool and it’s funny the things people remember from it.
Q: I still watch the original and it blows my mind. How could Hauser want Quaid’s body? How can that exist? That’s why it still holds up for me.
LW: It’s a fantastic struggle and concept. I just gravitate to movies where the mystery is the character himself. Any time you see a trailer of something where somebody is questioning “Who am I?” I’m hooked.
Q: Can you have any crazy action like the Mack truck vs the fighter jet in Live Free or Die Hard?
LW: Not so much. It’s a slightly different kind of tone for me. I mean, we have a ton of action in Total Recall but the tone is slightly more serious than a Die Hard.
Q: How is Colin Farrell at doing the Quaid and Hauser characters?
LW: He’s great and absolutely invested in struggling with these two personalities. That was one of the reasons too why I really thought there’s a different kind of take on the story which is deeper into the character’s struggle of what if you just inherently feel in your heart that you’re a good guy. You just know you’re a good guy but everyone around you is telling you you’re a bad guy. What do you do with that? You just accept it based off of proof that you’re being shown or you go off on a feeling? What does that do to a person’s internal struggle? He’s a fantastic actor and the guy to be struggling with that dilemma.
Q: Can it still end on an ambiguous note?
LW: Sure. I do love the “what if” and you talk amongst yourselves about what you think is real or not. Like Inception, I’m not the type that needs it to be sewn up at the end and wrapped up for me.
Q: I always believed Total Recall was the implant he bought, until I realized why are we seeing scenes Arnold is not in? He wouldn’t remember the bad guys talking about their plans or the mutants suffocating while he’s at the reactor.
LW: That’s awesome. That’s great that you bring that up because you’ll be very interested in how I approach this film then. I have the same exact question. I actually had a little bit of a problem with that being a fantasy then. What is he saying by cutting away from those POVs? Do you dream with cutaways to other people’s POVs? It’s interesting you bring that up because it actually played into a lot of the way I’m structuring this film.
Q: I still like the idea that it’s his implant and I can think of some other artistic reasons why maybe the Rekall company had those scenes in.
LW: But as a kid you didn’t even think about that.
Q: No, it was when I realized that scenes from another character’s point of view mean something else in a movie.
LW: See, I hope others are thinking the way you’re thinking because I did. I have so many little things in there, Colin and I have been fascinated with going through the script and there is the experience of the film, then there’s going through and really all those little bits and pieces that if you really want to go in and dive into it, there’s all these other levels that play into the what if? What side are we on?
Q: Would Mars have just not been exotic anymore?
LW: I’m sure it could be amazingly exotic. The script that had come to me, it was a choice not to go to Mars, which is one of the things I was interested in. It is a whole different experience. Rekall is a company that offers many different experiences and this is another experience. You’ll see, there’s references to certain things that play into Mars.
Q: By the way, I still believe it’s Quaid’s implant, and he doesn’t have an embolism. That was just part of the memory adventure. He wakes up fine in the chair.
LW: You think he’s still in the chair. As a kid did you fantasize the idea of him waking up in the chair at all? I almost created a scene in my own head because when I was a kid I took the position that it was an implant.
Q: Yes, I imagined him waking up and he remembers killing his wife. His wife will be at home waiting for him, so that’s going to be confusing but I still believe he wakes up from the memory he paid for.
LW: This is why I did the movie. These are the kind of conversations I dig.
Total Recall hits theaters next summer.