You might have heard that body-horror mastermind David Cronenberg was originally in line to direct Total Recall, before he left the project and Paul Verhoeven took over. Now, for the first time ever, artist Ron Miller shares a ton of the concept art he created for Cronenberg's version... including a very different-looking version of the mutant leader, Kuato.
My wife and I both worked for nearly a year on the David Cronenberg version of Total Recall. At Dino DiLaurentiis' studio outside Rome, we worked under the direction of the brilliant production designer, Pierluigi Basile. I produced scores of drawings and paintings while Judith created models of sets and spacecraft, mostly of paper and balsa wood.
Cronenberg's Total Recall would certainly have been a very different movie than the one ultimately produced. So different, in fact, was the story that Cronenberg evolved that it was proposed at one time that his version be filmed as a sequel! What did eventually make the screen was much closer to what screenwriter Ron Shusett had originally imagined... less like the Philip K. Dick story, "I Can Remember It For You Wholesale", that the screenplay was based on — and which was what Cronenberg wanted to do — and more like an over-the-top adventure.
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!
I've put together a small collection of this preproduction art, along with a few of Judith's models, to illustrate a little of what Total Recall might have been...
Above the City, and the Sphinx Excavation
Disposal of a Body in the Martian Sewers
Drawing of the Mars Flyer
Facade of Mars City
In the City
Inside the Sphinx
Inside the Sphinx
Landing Atop the Sphinx
Mars City Sketch
On Board the Mars Liner
The Liner's Modules Descending to the City