As many nerds know, David Cronenberg — who is currently set to premiere his Don DeLillo adaptation Cosmopolis at Cannes later this month — almost directed sci-fi actioner Total Recall, which was eventually released by Paul Verhoeven. And lucky for us, website io9 shared some fascinating goodies this morning, relating to the project that never was.
When producer Dino De Laurentiis was assigned to the film, he hired Cronenberg — who after creating dozens of drafts never found a version that De Laurentiis and writer Ronald Shusett (who co-wrote with the legendary Dan O'Bannon) felt comfortable with. The duo apparently wanted "Raiders of the Lost Ark Go to Mars" and Cronenberg's version was more faithful to the Philip K. Dick source material, the short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. Eventually Cronenberg left to make The Fly and De Laurentiis bailed after his production company took a hit with the failure of David Lynch's Dune.
Fast forward to today and Ron Miller, who shared his story about working on the Cronenberg version with wife Judith. They had the opportunity to collaborate with production designer Pierluigi Basile — who has contributed his talents to gems like Adios Sabata, Don't Torture a Duckling and the original Inglorious Bastards film. "Cronenberg's Total Recall would certainly have been a very different movie than the one ultimately produced," Miller told io9. He also revealed that at one point it was proposed as a sequel. The most interesting parts of the lost project's history revolve around humanoid sage Kuato — who apparently would have at one point in the film transformed into " a kind of phosphorescent vagina" — and a few surreal, signature Cronenberg moments. Miller shared:
"What eventually became Pyramid Mountain in the Verhoeven version was originally a prehistoric Martian sphinx excavated from the Martian desert, and a good deal more screen time was have been allotted to Kuato, including an elaborate dream sequence where he morphed first into the sphinx and then into a kind of phosphorescent vagina. Cronenberg had some very Cronenberg touches, such as agents with guns hidden within their bodies, but absolutely my favorite idea of all those we came up with was to have camels imported from earth to haul freight across the Martian deserts. This would, of course, have been after significant terraforming had already been done ... but not so much that the camels didn't have to wear respirators!"
Hollywood's mining of Philip K. Dick's library has been frustrating for fans. Most of the movies created have taken the most basic premise of his stories, steering clear of anything risky or non-linear. A Scanner Darkly and Barjo have been two adaptations that took chances, remaining fairly faithful to the source material. While the blockbuster versions of the author's tales have their place — and many have been highly entertaining, including the cut of Total Recall that eventually hit theaters in 1990 — we have to say it would have been amazing to see what Cronenberg would have done with the story, knowing he was attempting to be more true to the source.
Below are several interesting images Miller shared. Check out the rest of the never-before-seen concept art on io9.