He’s been to the belly of the beast, kicking a severe drug and alcohol addiction that threatened his health and made him persona non grata in Hollywood. Sobriety has brought a quiet humbleness to Colin Farrell, now starring in the Total Recall reboot. He plays everyman Douglas Quaid, who doesn’t realize he’s actually someone else because his memory has been erased. (Maybe not such a bad thing, if you’ve seen Miami Vice). We ask him about sci-fi, fitness and hooking up with Kate Beckinsale… right in front of her husband.
With exercise there’s nothing going in, but sweat coming out. I love it.
MADE MAN: The initial premise of this film is very relatable; being in a 9 to 5 job, wanting to leave but not knowing what else is out there, searching for a distraction…
COLIN FARRELL: Yeah, there’s no doubt all of us are looking for meaning in our lives. And I think that starts very young, when you are looking at the environment you find yourself in, where you fit into the grand scheme of things—whether it’s a schoolyard, or a family home, or a football team. And while this is first and foremost a big action film, there was plenty of existential questioning that I could afford myself as an actor approaching the material. The whole story is [Quaid] looking to confirm to himself who he is.
MM: Another relatable theme: learning to become comfortable with his incremental awakening and uncertainties of life.
CF: To be OK with being uncertain about your past would be kind of a nice state of grace to be in, because we are all kind of uncertain about our past. Quaid has what seems to be a curse at the start of the film, but what seems to be great misfortune is actually a state of grace. It’s actually a kind of launching point of liberation from a past that he probably doesn’t need to know about.
MM: Is exercise a more realistic escape?
CF: Yeah, absolutely. With exercise there’s nothing going in, but sweat coming out. There’s so many ways as human beings to experience ourselves. That’s just a way that I’ve grown in the last four years to really enjoy experiencing myself, feeling my body in space and actually being aware. I love it.
MM: What was your physical preparation to be fit for this film?
CF: I had about four months to get ready. I went to the gym every day and hit the bag, worked on the mitts with a friend of mine, and I got really fast jogging. And I ate really well, slept loads, kept sugar out of my diet—all of that is kind of boring!
MM: One of the great things about sci-fi films is that they generally reflect how we feel as a society currently. But nowadays everything is bleak. There’s been some kind of war, half the planet is dead, something bad has happened. What do you think about kind of that change? What do you think that says about where we are?
CF: Well, sometimes, the best way to show a person where they are is to show them where they are heading, you know? Sometimes people are too close to something to see how it is, but if they are given a concept of how it might become, then they can have a clearer picture of what stares them straight in the face. I think science fiction allows a certain distance and a certain objectivity where you go, “It’s in the future so it’s not happening.” So there’s not an immediate fear, or defensiveness, that kicks in.
MM: Finally… was it uncomfortable to kiss Kate Beckinsale in front of your director, Len Wiseman, who also happens to be her husband?
CF: Yeah, big time! It was one of the more unfortunate positions that I’ve found myself in, in the 15 years of doing this racket! And Len wasn’t even polite enough to leave the room. Thank God it barely touched first base.