Did Cronenberg nearly get a second chance to make his Total Recall?

News Ryan Lambie 23 Jun 2014 - 10:53

In a surprising interview, director David Cronenberg hints that he was once attached to direct the 2012 Total Recall remake...

For almost 40 years, director David Cronenberg has remained firmly outside the Hollywood studios system, and instead forged ahead with his own line in shocking, bizarre and philosophically troubling films. Cronenberg's had his hits - not least The Fly and A History Of Violence - but his successes have always been made away from the glare of executives and test screenings.

But in a Q&A with the equally wayward filmmaker John Waters at the Provincetown Film Festival, Cronenberg revealed that he recently had the opportunity to make a decidedly mainstream film: the remake of Total Recall.

Now, it's fairly well known that Cronenberg was heavily involved with in a production of Total Recall in the 1980s, back when it was a project headed up by producer Dino De Laurentiis. The director spent considerable time on the project, having written his own screenplay and overseen a considerable amount of production art. That incarnation of Total Recall never happened, and it instead became an Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle directed by Paul Verhoeven.

To the best of our knowledge, it's never before emerged that Cronenberg was also involved with the remake, which came out in 2012. The Hollywood Reporter mention it in their report from the film festival, and it's dropped into the Q&A so casually that you might think that it's a simple mistake. Yet the article clearly states that Cronenberg was "famously the original director attached to the 2012 Total Recall remake before Sony went with Len Wiseman."

Cronenberg himself went on to say, "This is a big studio movie that's going to cost $200 million. They're going to give it to a guy who's directed a couple of rock videos because he's someone they can control. But it's not in my nervous system to do something like that."

It's clearly the 2012 film Cronenberg's referring to here and not the 80s production which sadly fell apart. So what happened? Did Cronenberg offer to make his original version of Total Recall for Sony, only for them to turn him down and go for Wiseman instead? 

We can only speculate at this stage, but it's mildly infuriating to think that, if true, we all missed out on a second chance to see what a big science fiction film from the mind of Cronenberg might have looked like.

Cronenberg's latest film, Maps To The Stars, is due out later this year.

The Hollywood Reporter

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As much as there are too many remakes at the moment (I have nothing against them in principal but when they become so profligate that they are essentially clogging up the screens they get tiresome), part of me sort of wishes that there was one studio that existed entirely to produce remakes by interesting directors - even with the Wiseman Total Recall only being a year or so ago - a Cronenberg Totall Recall or Robocop or Friday the 13th would be astounding, and then a couple of years later a David Lynch or Doug Jones or Spike Jonez version would be astoundingly interesting. Of course it's never going to happen but something like that would engage my 'alternate history' fetish.

Why did this not happen!?!?!?!?! .................... oh right! Sony.

Oh man, that could be pretty cool! I remember when Aronofsky was attached to the RoboCop remake/reboot, I was quite excited by the prospect. I had visions of a really cerebral and graphic interpretation, and so lost interest when he left the production before it had begun. I did watch the remake a couple of weeks ago and was more impressed than I'd expected to be, but I still can't help wondering how it might have been.

I felt exactly the same way when Aronofsky was announced as the director of The Wolverine. Drives me insane when that happens, you get someone from totally out of leftfield announced and think 'Ok, this could work for me', then six months down the line they pull out, and its always ALWAYS 'creative differences', i.e. they didn't want to make the insipid, throwaway tosh the studio were insisting on. Sometimes I think maybe its a bait and switch from the studio, get everyone jazzed then pull the rug out, leaving everyone interested to see 'what could have been' (with the added bonus of leaving all that lovely development work on the table for the puppet they inevitably replace the original choice with). Hey Hollywood I hate your face today.

I think a lot of the blame is due to the utter crapness of Ang Lee's Hulk: that's made the suits very nervous of giving the genuinely inventive creatives too much rope, because if it's not a good fit the results can be appalling.

Doubt it. Ang Lee's Hulk was critically and commercially more successful than The Incredible Hulk.

Agreed. I like Hulk, a lot, I think maybe, whirl it was a decent film, it wasn't what Marvel needed it to be. That said what we want is a film that's pretty much 90% Hulk going buck wild, and I guess that's just too expensive at the moment sadly. So it'll be bite sized pieces for the time being.

On Cronenberg's current form it would have been dull, self-regarding, talky rubbish. The man is has fundamentally forgotten how to make audience-pleasing films and has lost the ability to write challenging original screenplays. Whoever passed on him made the right choice.

Well that worked out for Sony... the remake was complete garbage, Wiseman is a hack and has never made a film I've enjoyed. The remake actually made me nod-off it was so boring.

Cronenberg confessed as much back in November last year at the TIFF retrospective where he stated that the studio wanted a full pre-vis before giving him the go-ahead. When he insisted that's not how he works that ended his chances. Stupid studio.

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