The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall made a huge impression by combining action movies with insane mind games. Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, it kept audiences guessing until the very end. And it was one of the most successful movies of the early 1990s. So why didn't we ever get a sequel?

Turns out, we came really close, several times. Tons of scripts were written, all of which tried to preserve the ambiguity and craziness of the original film in different ways — and some of them sound like they were downright bizarre. Discover the long, weird saga of Total Recall 2, in this excerpt from the book Tales from Development Hell by David Hughes.

Today, the box office performance of Total Recall would virtually guarantee a sequel. In 1990, however, Hollywood was a very different place, as [Gary] Goldman explains: "When we finished Total Recall, none of the major players wanted to make a sequel. They all felt that the franchise wasn't well suited to a sequel. They also held the previously accepted idea that sequels were commercial debasements that serious artists did not indulge in." The success of James Cameron's Aliens had been an exception, and the same director's subsequent sequel Terminator 2: Judgment Day would further change this way of thinking. At the time, however, Shusett's and Goldman's interest in a sequel to Total Recall fell on deaf ears.

Then, in the early 1990s, Goldman optioned another Philip K. Dick story, 'Minority Report', with a view to directing it himself as a low-budget feature. He approached Verhoeven to ask if he would attach himself as executive producer, thus throwing the weight of his name behind the project, even if he was not directly involved. "He read the short story, liked it, and agreed to help me out. Then he asked me if I had thought about how well the story worked as a Total Recall sequel. Although it had nothing to do with the themes of the movie, there was something about the tone and driving narrative that made it seem perfect for a sequel." Better still, it did not repeat anything from the original film, allowing Goldman to take the franchise in a totally new direction, but one that would be thematically consistent with the original. "This is what appealed to Paul," he says. "The possibility of doing a sequel that seemed original, not repetitive or derivative."

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

In Dick's story, certain human beings are born with telepathic powers, shunned by ordinary citizens but embraced by the government as the foundation for a new anti-crime organisation called the Pre-Crime division, which uses the telepaths (known as 'pre-cogs') to predict illegal activities before they occur, and arrest the would-be criminals before any crime is committed. The plot revolves around a particular Pre-Crime detective forced to go on the run when the pre-cogs spit out his name as a future murderer. As Verhoeven explains, "There was an introduction [in Total Recall] that the mutants were perhaps clairvoyant, and that was used in the idea for the second one where Quaid becomes the head of this company that can look into the future and protect citizens by eliminating criminals before they do the crime." Thus, the mutants would become the 'pre-cogs' of Dick's story, the film rights to which Goldman now owned.

"I had to make a tough decision between continuing with my plan to direct a small movie from 'Minority Report', or to become the writer-producer of a Total Recall sequel based on 'Minority Report'," Goldman says. "At the time, I was still working closely with Paul and Carolco. We had worked together on Basic Instinct, which had turned out to be the biggest movie of the year worldwide, and I had done a rewrite on Crusade which had gotten the project out of Development Hell and into pre-production [see chapter 6]. It seemed like the Total Recall sequel was a sure thing to speed into production, and become another big hit. So I decided that it was too good an opportunity to pass up." At this point, Goldman and Verhoeven discovered that Ron Shusett had a contractual right to write the first draft of any Total Recall sequel, and that they would therefore need his permission to proceed. Goldman proposed that they write the sequel together, based on the 'Minority Report' story, on the proviso that Goldman would then be attached to co-write all future Total Recall sequels. Says Shusett, "We worked on it together and immediately clicked, and it became a wonderful sequel. Arnold was going to star in it, and Paul Verhoeven was going to direct it. Then, right after we wrote it, Carolco went bankrupt." Indeed, Carolco's financial situation was so serious it reneged on its contractual payments to Shusett and Goldman. As a result, ownership of the underlying rights — to both the short story and the first draft — reverted to the writers, allowing them to move it to 20th Century Fox.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

By this time, Verhoeven was busy shooting Showgirls, and Goldman says he lost interest in the sequel. Not so, says Verhoeven: "Somebody whose name I won't name, without warning, took it away — somebody who had me on their pay list, like a Judas. So in some subversive ways, I think, it left Carolco and it came into the hands of Jan De Bont." At this stage, Verhoeven's fellow Dutchman was a celebrated cinematographer, yet to direct the runaway hit Speed. Says Goldman, "Jan and the studio discussed acquiring the Total Recall franchise from Carolco, and continuing to develop 'Minority Report' as a Total Recall sequel. Ultimately, they decided not to continue with it as a sequel, so we removed all the Total Recall elements and used the first draft as the foundation for further work." From that point on, 'Minority Report' was developed as a free-standing movie, based only on the Dick short story. Says Shusett, "We were really devastated, because we had proved tangibly to everybody, including Paul and Arnold, that it would make a great sequel. But my spirits rose when Fox bought it as a non-sequel, a free-standing movie."

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Even after its estrangement from Total Recall 2 and development as a separate entity, Minority Report suffered a further five years in Development Hell, with Jan De Bont eventually jumping ship, as Shusett recalls: "He was very hot from Speed and he'd followed up with Twister, but then Speed 2 and The Haunting bombed out, and gradually Fox lost faith in him. We wrote a new draft for him in '95, but they couldn't find an actor that liked his draft that Fox was in favour of too. It was years later — '98 or '99 — that Spielberg came in and read a draft he didn't like. But when we personally got our draft to him, and persuaded him to read it, he did like it. And then he used an amalgamation of some of their draft and some of our draft and his own ideas, and because he's Steven Spielberg, his version was better in many ways, and he made the best film of all." Shusett — who, like Goldman, earned an executive producer credit on Spielberg's film (Jan De Bont gets an associate producer credit) — admits to being surprised that the director's take on the material was so dark, "even darker than our last draft. It was so dark that I think summer audiences weren't ready for it. We should have released it in the winter, and then I think they might have expected it, and been able to handle it. It was too dark a movie for people expecting summer fun with a Total Recall/Phil Dick name on it, and our names connected to it — they thought it would be like Total Recall. And instead it was more like Blade Runner and they weren't ready for that." Indeed, although Minority Report (2002) grossed $350 million worldwide, it fell far short of expectations generated by the first teaming of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise, especially on a sci-fi project. "It got wonderful reviews, and everybody thought it would do $500 or $600 million worldwide," Shusett points out, "but it only made $350 million — and only $130 million in America, when there are movies making $200, $300 million domestically."

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

In the meantime, Carolco had sold the Total Recall TV rights to DFL Entertainment for $1.2 million, resulting in the short-lived Showtime series Total Recall 2070. The sale led Shusett and Goldman to believe that the possibility of a Total Recall sequel was dead forever, since studios rarely buy into a script or film, much less a franchise, unless all rights are available in all media. Nevertheless, at a subsequent bankruptcy hearing for now-defunct Carolco on 14 January 1997, Dimension Films, the recently-formed genre division of Disney subsidiary Miramax Films, paid $3.15 million for the theatrical sequel, prequel and remake rights to Total Recall. "I heard later that they were surprised that the TV rights had already been sold off," says Goldman. "They thought that was part of the package of rights that they acquired." (Indeed, pressure from Dimension may have been behind DFL's decision to ditch its original concept for the TV series — a direct continuation of the movie, featuring Quaid on Mars — for an Earth-based format using new characters, which ironically owed more to Blade Runner than Total Recall.) In what Carolco bankruptcy counsel Howard Weg described as "lively bidding", Dimension had outbid DFL Entertainment, 20th Century Fox (which retired from the bidding when it reached $500,000) and Live Entertainment, whose final bid of $3.14 million was narrowly exceeded by Dimension, which had recently produced its first bona fide hit, Scream. "This is the perfect franchise opportunity for Dimension," said co-founder Bob Weinstein, "[and] franchises are what Dimension is all about."

Weinstein went on to say that he intended to contact the film's original cast, but not its director Paul Verhoeven, whose most recent film was the costly flop Showgirls. "We're going to our Miramax stable of directors," he stated. "We have discussed story ideas, we have a concept, and we're going forward with this film within the next year." Weinstein dismissed suggestions that a sequel to the $80 million Total Recall would be expensive by definition, noting that significant profit participation on Scream made the $14 million-budget hit possible, and that the same financial structure — forgoing an upfront fee in return for a share of the back end profits — would make Total Recall 2 viable. Nevertheless, purchasing the rights, particularly for such a colossal sum, was a curious move for Dimension, since under the terms of a deal with corporate parent Walt Disney Co., the average budget of its films must be $12.5 million. Thus, if one film's budget exceeds this sum, another must fall under it by the same amount. As a result, Dimension would need to generate a screenplay as cheaply as possible, and executives were delighted when a writer already under contract to Miramax offered his services.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Matt Cirulnick had just turned twenty-two when he signed a three-picture deal with Miramax, the first of which was the urban drug drama Paid in Full, eventually released in October 2002. "Immediately after turning in that script, Miramax informed my agents that they wanted to activate the second picture in my deal," the writer recalls. "My agent gave me an open writing assignment list, and — lo and behold — on the list I see Total Recall 2. So I flip out. I remember to this day the font, I remember the way it looked, because when I saw those words I was like, 'I'm getting this job.' I was born in '76, so I was watching Total Recall on tape when it came out and it was one of my favourite films. But my agents laughed at me and said, 'Young buck, you're just starting out, they've had some big guys on this job,' blah blah blah, and that fired me up, because I thought, 'I can't control how old I am or my credits, all I can control is the quality of the words on the page. I can't control whether or not a movie gets made.' So I said, 'Look, I'll put my writing up against whoever's writing, and let's see what happens. I gotta take a shot.'"

At the time, Dimension executives were set to close a deal with Bob Gale, who co-wrote the Back to the Future films with Robert Zemeckis. "I can't say for certain what the reasons were for my agents not going after the job aggressively," says Cirulnick, "but the bottom line is that what I was getting for the entire script would have been the commission my agents would get on Bob Gale!" When Dimension failed to make a deal with Gale, Cirulnick did not wait to be asked. "Luckily for me, one of the executives on Paid in Full, Jesse Berdinka, was also one of the executives on Total Recall 2, so I had my agent hit Dimension, and I hit Dimension personally, and I locked myself in a room and came up with an idea for Total Recall 2. I pitched the junior executive, then I pitched the president [Cary Granat], then I met with Bob Weinstein, Andrew Rona, Cary Granat and Jesse Berdinka, and gave them my pitch — and Bob was like, 'Okay, you got it. Go.'"

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

There was just one problem: unbeknownst to Dimension, Ron Shusett's contract for Total Recall meant that they were obliged to hire him to write the first draft of any sequel. Shusett, in turn, was obliged to bring Goldman aboard, due to the agreement the pair had made during the 'Minority Report' affair. Having learned of these obligations, Dimension could simply have asked Shusett and Goldman to turn Cirulnick's concept into a script; instead, they invited the pair to pitch their own ideas. "They didn't even give us Matt's idea," says Shusett. "They said, 'We have some ideas, but what idea do you have?' So we told them our take." Dimension executives had their own ideas about where they wanted to take the sequel, ideas which did not gel with Cirulnick's approach. "We had, almost eerily, the same approach to doing the sequel — a different one than Matt had in mind. So they said, 'Okay, we'll pay you to do it,' and they did. They were very good to their word," he adds. "They didn't low-ball us." Announcing the deal in May 1998, Variety further noted that Arnold Schwarzenegger had attended a four-hour development meeting with Weinstein and Granat, and was said to be "actively involved" in the development of the film.

"We stuck fairly closely to their set-up that launches the story, but from there we were free to go where we wanted," Goldman explains. "They knew what they liked in the original movie: they wanted to keep it as a popcorn movie with lots of cool stuff, but they also liked the 'is it real or is it Memorex?' theme — the 'mindfucks'." Dimension's hope, he says, was to keep the ambiguity alive as long as possible by alternating between the theories. "It was a high wire act," he explains, "where we would confirm that it was real on Mars, then use a narrative device to make it seem like he was on Earth or still in the Rekall chair, and then use an even more clever device to put him back on Mars. Even though this was our favourite theme too, Ron and I actually had to restrain them from overdoing it. They were real students of the movie, and we were flattered, but they didn't quite understand the simplicity and subtlety of how we achieved our effects in the first movie. We took direction from them, but resisted decisions that we felt were mistakes. Eventually, they came to trust us when we said you can easily overdo the complications — and we arrived at a workable balance."

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

The Shusett-Goldman draft opens amid celebrations for Mars' independence, with Quaid and Melina honoured by President Gloria Palomares for their part in the struggle. Just as Quaid is about to give a speech, however, a double stabs him and takes his place... He wakes to find himself next to Melina. Only three weeks have passed since the events of Total Recall, and he is still among the Martian rebels — independence for Mars is still a dream. They tell him of 'Project Whisper', a form of mind control being planned by President Saarinen's government, and suggest delving into his mind to see if Hauser knows anything about it. Reluctantly agreeing to submit to the operation, he falls unconscious... only to wake up at Rekall Incorporated, his wife Lori and Bob, the Rekall salesman, at his bedside, and Dr Edgemar very much alive. They convince him that he has not left Rekall since he began his vacation, yet events on Mars appear to have transpired largely as they occurred in Quaid's Rekall trip — Mars has air, Cohaagen is dead — a suspicious development which Dr Edgemar attributes to real-world news programmes filtering into Quaid's virtual adventure. "So, Mr Quaid," Edgemar tells him, "like all vacations, this one too comes to an end. And as usual, we feel a little sad returning to the daily grind." Quaid returns home with Lori, only to be told that during the six months he was comatose at Rekall, she began a new relationship with her personal trainer. ("Harvey Weinstein had a [professional] relationship with Sharon Stone, and they wanted to try to get her back into the franchise," Goldman explains.) Dejected and financially dependent on Rekall, Quaid finds a job on the construction site of a Seattle-based 'space elevator' — one of Arthur C. Clarke's proposed constructs tethering an orbital space station to the Earth, allowing payloads to be transported cheaply to and from space.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Meanwhile, an imminent presidential election draws Quaid's attention to an electoral campaign by Gloria Palomares, the President from his dream, denounced by her opponents as a "mutant lover" for promising to hold a referendum on Mars' independence if she is elected. Torn between his feelings for Melina (whom he now believes to be a construct of Rekall) and Renee, one of Mrs Palomares' campaign volunteers, Quaid becomes involved with her political campaign, but is betrayed and framed for an explosion which wrecks the space elevator. Imprisoned for six months in a space prison known as the Pasternak Institute for the Criminally Insane, he manages to escape, and rejoins what remains of the rebels, who tell him of Melina's death.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Posing as Hauser, Quaid heads to Vladivostock, where he is shocked to meet up with his own mother, whom he thought long dead. Mrs Hauser, evidently a Saarinen sympathiser, sees through Quaid's deception, but although she threatens him, she knows that if she kills Quaid, her beloved Hauser will die too. Through his mother, Quaid discovers that Project Whisper is a planet-wide programme designed to keep the electorate voting a certain way, thus keeping the next government — Saarinen's — in power forever. After a gunfight with a dozen Lori clones and his own mother, Quaid succeeds in destroying Project Whisper, an act which creates a vacuum (allowing a popular scene from Total Recall to be reprised) and ultimately leads to the election of Mrs Palomares and independence for Mars. He is about to make a speech when he sees Dr Edgemar sitting in a front seat — but the next instant, he is gone. Did his eyes deceive him? Or is he still back at Rekall, dreaming of Martian independence?

"[Dimension] liked the screenplay," Goldman says. "We did one fairly minor polish, and then they were ready to make the movie. They told Arnold that they were ready to make the movie. They let him know that they would pay him his price. Ron, Arnold, and I were all at the William Morris Agency. Five or six agents there read our script and loved it. I would say that there was a consensus that this should be Arnold's next movie." Schwarzenegger, however, didn't agree. "He said it was too complicated. In general, Arnold never seemed to appreciate the complications in the original, or to grasp that the essence of the franchise was the complicated mindfucks." Adds Shusett, "He had seen the outline, and gave [Dimension] the okay to pay us, but sometimes when you see things in script form, some things feel different than on a ten-page outline. He said, 'No, I don't like this, I don't want to do it.' Bob Weinstein said, 'He just turned down the best script that's ever been offered to him,' which coming from Bob, who can be very tough, is a real compliment. He said, 'I always considered the first Total Recall [to be] one of the five best science fiction movies ever, and now you've topped it with this one, he won't do it.' Dimension was very disappointed, and we were too. At that point," he concludes, "it just went into limbo."

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

In the meantime, rumours had been circulating that Star Trek: The Next Generation actor Jonathan Frakes, who had directed the $150 million-grossing hit Star Trek: First Contact and had already been hired to helm the next installment of that franchise, had been in talks about directing Total Recall 2. In March 1998, Frakes confirmed that, of the various projects being developed by his Geopp Circle production company, Total Recall 2 was the closest to realisation. "I'm very jazzed about that," he told Ian Spelling. "If it all works out and Mr Schwarzenegger is available, we'll get going with pre-production of it at the end of [Star Trek: Insurrection]. They wouldn't have gone this far if Schwarzenegger weren't interested," he added. "[Dimension] bought it because he wants to play the character again. Wouldn't it be cool if it all happens?" Speaking to the Calgary Sun later in the year, Frakes added: "Arnold is serious because I've already received a draft of a screenplay." Although Frakes expressed concern that the budget of the script might prove too rich for the terms of Dimension's deal with Disney, he added, "Apparently, Sharon Stone wants to return as well — and it's possible because there is a lot of time travel in this draft of Total Recall 2."

Goldman, however, recalls a different version of the story. "Jonathan Frakes was involved in the early stages," he says. "Dimension had been in talks with him before we got involved. We had one meeting with Frakes, but we never heard any more about him. The reason was that Bob Weinstein started working with Arnold, and Arnold's vision of the picture was different than Bob's. To get Arnold, it was clear that the sequel couldn't be medium budget, as envisioned by Bob... and that Arnold would not consent to work with anyone but an A-list director or rising star. So Frakes was tabled." In August 1999, Frakes was quoted as saying that Total Recall 2 was still on Dimension's list of movies, and that they were "waiting for Mr Schwarzenegger's hands to free up. We've got a script from the writer of the original, and we're giving some notes on it," he added. "It's a very big, wonderful, expensive script." By February 2000, however, Frakes confirmed to Starburst that the project was dead — at least for the time being — blaming Schwarzenegger's over-loaded schedule. "Total Recall is an old movie now and it looks like one," he added. "I shouldn't say this, obviously, because I'd love to do that film, but they blew smoke up my ass four years ago, and nothing's happened since. I'm not holding my breath."

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Instead, Schwarzenegger chose to make The 6th Day, in which he played a commercial pilot who discovers that he has been cloned. "It was a Total Recall sequel in everything but name," says Goldman. "The 'A' plot line of one of our sequel ideas was good and bad Arnold — Quaid versus Hauser," says Shusett, "so that was passe because now he'd done a movie where there were two Arnolds. So we came up with a new concept; they came up with part of the idea, we came up with the rest of it, and they gave it to Arnold and he still said, 'No, I don't want to do it.'" At this point, exasperated Dimension executives went back to Matt Cirulnick, giving him a copy of the Shusett-Goldman draft — which he dismisses as "an assault on the English language" — and one piece of guidance from Andrew Rona. "He said, 'What we'd really like is for the story to end on the same note of ambiguity that the first one did,'" Cirulnick remembers. "And that's why I really fell in love with getting this assignment, because how do you sequel-ise something that ended on an ambiguous note, without ever resolving what that was? So that was the challenge... I was going to answer it and then not, answer it and then not, and basically leave you at the same point. What was also great was that this was my own original story — I didn't use anything from the previous scripts, except the cloned Sharon Stones."

The resulting thirteen-page treatment was greeted with enthusiasm by Rona and Berdincker, the executives overseeing the project for Dimension. "We went down to the Tribeca Grill and just cut up the outline. They're two great executives," Cirulnick adds, "and their notes were specific. They gave me strong direction, helped me make the cuts that needed to be made, and I got commenced." Cirulnick's first draft, dated 20 April 2000, follows the treatment in most respects — although Quaid's discovery of a Martian colony living deep beneath the surface was omitted. Cirulnick's ninety-six-page 'revised first draft', dated 8 May 2000, opens with a spectacular action sequence, as Hauser and fellow 'ReKall Unit' agents York Brogan (described to put the reader in mind of Ving Rhames), Chris Park ("think Jet Li") and Quaid's paramour Maggie Thomas (a Parker Posey type) foil the hijacking by terrorists of a Saturn-bound cruise ship, which culminates with the terrorists' turbinium bomb being diverted into the sun. As the successful mission ends, Hauser/Quaid wakes to find himself at ReKall, where doctors Bob, Edgemar and Jaslove explain that he suffered a schizoid embolism during his original ReKall trip, and has been effectively comatose for ten years. Here Cirulnick borrows a few elements from the earlier Goldman-Shusett draft: the explanations for Quaid's assimilation of real-world developments into his dream (the news was on) and his lack of muscle atrophy ("newest thing, Doug — magneti-pulse muscle stimulation"), Lori's break-up and affair with her personal trainer (although Cirulnick plays the brush-off as a taped vid-phone 'Dear John'), and Quaid's subsequent employment on the construction of a space elevator, which, this time, is described as a 'space bridge' and is tethered to Mars, which trillionaire industrialist Hugo Strickrodt is preparing to open to the public.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Commencing work at the construction site, Quaid is surprised to meet York Brogan, now calling himself 'Jones Seni' and denying all knowledge of his association with Quaid or Hauser. Quaid is more cautious approaching 'Sue Richards' (shades of Fantastic Four), a nerdish neighbour who resembles Maggie. When Quaid's flashbacks cause an accident on the space bridge (itself a flashback to the Goldman-Shusett draft), Quaid injures his arm, peeling away a piece of false skin to reveal scars he suffered in his hijack-foiling fantasy. Now convinced that starting the reactor which gave Mars its atmosphere and foiling the Saturn cruise ship hijack are real memories, not implanted ones, Quaid is pursued by ReKall's Colonel Ladson — Hauser's commanding officer in his hijacking memories — who is anxious that Quaid may be about to achieve 'total recall' and discover the truth: that he, York Brogan, Chris Park and Maggie are part of a secret cadre of NorthBloc Intelligence operatives so elite even they do not know who they are or what they do — or have done — for the government.

Employing ReKall technology, each operative has dual identities, both stored on digital disk: one disk contains their birth and upbringing through each of their missions logged and catalogued in detail — this is their real, or 'Alpha' life. The second disk contains their lives up to a point — their real childhood is used, but at some key juncture a new 'program' has been written, with a normal, run-of-the-mill 'Beta' life, the identity these elite agents possess when off-mission. Thus, the agents are only restored to their true selves (for Quaid, the Hauser persona) when they are on-mission; as soon as their missions are completed, they resume their Beta lives with no knowledge or memory of their agency activities. "That way," Brogan tells him, "should we want to betray the agency, or should anyone get their hands on us, we'll be useless."

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

Quaid learns all this from a digital recording of York Brogan (echoes of the cement factory scene from Total Recall), who urges him to break Chris Park out of the Pasternak Institute for the Criminally Insane, where he has been held since his memory implant failed to take. (Quaid is also shown footage of his own mission history, among which Cirulnick slyly includes images from such Schwarzenegger films as Predator, True Lies, The Terminator and Commando.) Meanwhile, things on Earth are hotting up — literally: the turbinium bomb appears to have swollen the sun until it swallows up Mercury and threatens to burn all life on Earth to a cinder. Global warming accelerates on a catastrophic scale, as giant holes appear in the sky, through which deadly heat rays scorch the Earth (a cinematic cataclysm subsequently explored in The Core).

Meanwhile, Quaid helps Chris to escape, the pair head to Mars (disguised as a fat Samoan and his Japanese wife), where Brogan and Maggie appear to be in Strickrodt's employ, the latter also (much to Quaid's chagrin) in his bed. Maggie explains that she and Brogan are on a ReKall mission to infiltrate Strickrodt's inner circle. Through her, they learn that the hijacking was a set-up, and that Strickrodt used them to send the turbinium bomb into the sun, hoping that the devastation of life on Earth would lead its inhabitants to flock to Mars. Quaid and his team counter with a plan of their own: using explosive charges planted in its turbinium core, they intend to blow up Mars, hoping that the resulting "gravity gap" causes the Earth to shift into the vacuum previously occupied by Mars, thus saving the planet from the expanding sun.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2

Before they can implement their plan, however, Dr Jaslove shows up (a la Dr Edgemar's second act appearance in Total Recall) and tells him he's still at ReKall Incorporated, where he has been in a coma ever since the accident on the space bridge — the point at which he 'discovered' that his secret agent fantasies were true. His fellow agents, his mission to Mars and Earth's impending destruction by an expanding sun are all products of his imagination! Dr Jaslove shows him vid-phone images of Earth, his own comatose body and Lori at his bedside, and tells him that if he does not snap out of his delusion, he will suffer a fatal embolism. Quaid refuses to believe, vowing to continue his mission, but as his 'fantasy' continues, Ladson floors him with a further revelation: that even his 'true' identity, Hauser, was merely the invention of a military supercomputer (provoking the potentially classic Schwarzenegger line, "Then if I'm not me, or Hauser... who the hell am I?"). Refusing to believe any of this, Quaid secures the planting of the turbinium charges and blows up Mars, the fragments of which circle Earth in a ring similar to that of Saturn while Earth assumes the position of the destroyed planet.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

No sooner has the explosion occurred, however, than Quaid wakes up at ReKall, where the news announcer is commenting on Mars' destruction, which has shifted Earth's orbit and saved it from the swelling sun. "Scientists say the Mars explosion was an unexplained phenomenon, and may be the result of the sun's growth, which pressurized Mars' turbinium core," the anchorwoman announces. "Earth's a little worse for wear, but she'll live — and hopefully like her makeover!" Quaid — either denied the credit for saving the planet, or recovered from his schizoid embolism, depending on which version of events he and the audience chooses to believe — is reunited with Maggie/Sue at the space bridge, where they kiss in front of the awe-inspiring view of Earth, complete with its ring of Martian debris — an exact reprise of the Melina/Quaid clinch at the end of Total Recall. Image by Stayte of the Art.

The Long, Strange Saga of Total Recall 2S

"I turned in the script," says Cirulnick. "They dug it, Jesse Berdinka dug it, my agents dug it. Everything was cool. I was all fired up. I kept calling and calling, 'Hey, what's happening?'" Eventually, Cirulnick heard that Schwarzenegger had read the draft, and that a meeting had been arranged between Bob Weinstein, Andrew Rona and the star. "My understanding is that meeting took place," the writer says. "I never found out specifically what happened — all I know is after that I got a call from Miramax who asked me would I be interested in rewriting the script to shrink the budget down. Maybe they wanted to cut money out of the below-the-line stuff to give more money to Schwarzenegger. It began to look like they couldn't make a deal with Schwarzenegger, and it may have had something to do with Miramax not thinking that his stock was high enough for the fee he was asking. After that," says Cirulnick, "Andrew Rona told me that they were beginning to talk about other people — Vin Diesel's name was mentioned — but it never happened. I think at the time Vin Diesel was paid $20 million to do xXx, so I guess he wasn't going to be that much cheaper than Schwarzenegger."

Although Cirulnick half-expected to be asked to rewrite it for another actor, his agents advised against it: "They said, 'Look, if it's not going to go with Schwarzenegger, don't write any more on the project. You want to have written the script for Schwarzenegger, not some other guy. It's a dynamite sample, but don't get too wedded to it.'" For most of 2001 and 2002, Dimension's partner company, Miramax, suffered a series of flops and financial disasters, including the expensive collapse of Talk magazine, ballooning costs on Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York and MGM's abrupt exit from its co-production deal on Chicago — from which it did not recover until Chicago turned a profit in 2003. So when a comprehensive Variety profile failed to mention Total Recall 2 among the future projects either of Miramax or Dimension, Cirulnick surmised that the project was dead. "I think the monetary issue, the economics of the script and the film, and not being able to make a deal with Schwarzenegger cost the film momentum, and that was it," he says. "I left a man down on the battlefield and there was nothing more that could be done."

Copyright 2012 by David Hughes. All rights reserved.