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Jessica Biel shares her experience playing Resistance fighter Melina in a reboot of Total Recall
WHILE not an out-and-out adrenalin junkie, Jessica Biel likes a little action in her life. Alongside dramatic pieces, like The Illusionist and Easy Virtue, Biel’s film CV is peppered with physical roles, from the remake of The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre through Blade: Trinity and Stealth to her recent outing in The A-Team. And now she’s at it again with a physically enervating role in Total Recall, a high-intensity, futuristic action-drama that is opening on Aug 2.
“It’s rare being a woman to be able to use your body in the way that we can use our body in these kinds of film,” says Biel, 30, of her role in Total Recall. “I don’t do that kind of thing on an everyday basis, but I find it really fulfilling to work like that on screen. It’s amazing as you get to learn so much, about different martial arts, or boxing or whatever it is, which is great.”
Biel’s latest role is that of a Resistance fighter called Melina in a reboot of Total Recall. The new film is drawn from the Philip K. Dick short story. We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, which also inspired the 1990 Total Recall movie, shot by Dutch director Paul Verhoeven with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the leading role, Rachel Ticotin, meanwhile, played the Melina character.
“In our movie, Melina’s profession is a bit different,” says Biel, “but then the tone is so different that it is actually quite difficult to compare any of these characters in the two movies. She is really a reinvention of the original character that Rachel (Ticotin) had created. She is still a warrior and still a survivor.
The character in this movie plays an integral role in the journey of the main hero, Quaid (Colin Farrell), a seemingly normal guy who’s living an existence that is not quite his own. Len Wiseman, who helmed Underworld, Underworld Evolution and Live Free or Die Hard, directs.
“When I heard about Total Recall and read the script it sounded really fun, and also very different from the first movie,” explains Biel.
“At the time that the first movie was made it was such a feat of computer-generated imagery — it was amazing cutting-edge CGI. Now, to look back at it, it doesn’t necessarily hold up in that way, but the tone and the fun of it is still there.”
Biel says that she and Farrell would on occasion watch scenes from the original. “Sometimes Colin (Farrell) and I would wonder whether we should be making something that’s more fun and light-hearted like that movie, but then I know that we definitely made the right choice (in going a little darker).
“Wiseman made the right choice by really rebooting the idea and not trying to copy the first movie with the same tone,” continues the actress, “because that really was a moment, that film at that time, and I don’t think you want to mess with it. It was perfect the way that it was. Our film feels very different and very cool.”
While the film offers an essentially dystopian vision of the future, Biel says that some of the futuristic gadgets are mind-bogglingly fun. “I figure I wouldn’t mind a hover car,” she says of the film’s primary form of transport. “There’s also a really cool gun that Colin uses and when it fires all these crazy legs come out, and you can wrap people up!”
She says that if she, like Quaid in the movie, were to enter Rekall for a memory implant, she might opt for the life of a CIA operative. “I’ve always been fascinated by detectives and secret agents,” she says, “so may be I would work on something like a murder unit,” Biel laughs.
“I know that sounds a little bit morbid, but I’m one of those people who ARE obsessed with (the TV show) 48 Hours. I love that kind of stuff. I’m interested in crime and why people do what they do.”
Hence she loves the intrigue and intricate plotting that ripples through Total Recall. The actress says that she feels as though her character is “the heart of the film”. She adds: “And for Quaid, she is that one constant. From the second that he meets her, she’s just truthful and she continues to tell him the truth, even when he doesn’t believe her.”
Quaid starts to question his identity as his story unfolds, realising that his world and his very existence are under siege. He becomes a wanted man, seemingly with no friends. Only the mysterious Melina offers a genuine helping hand.
“It is interesting,” Biel adds. “In many ways Melina represents truth and intuition, that little feeling that you have when you meet somebody and you are like, ‘I don’t know why, but I just know you. l feel like I’ve known you for a long time.’ That little voice that’s hard to listen to. The brain is very, very clever and manipulative, and can twist on you, but that intuition that’s there is always the truth, if you can hear it. If you can actually listen.”
Biel has proved willing to listen to “that intuition” during the course of her own life, her instincts for drama awakened quite literally by a little voice. “I do remember saying to my mum that I wanted to take voice lessons when I went with her to her voice lessons,” Biel recalls. “I think that was where it started for me.
“I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ So she gave me her voice lessons and that turned into theatre camp, and that turned into acting and that turned into the television show, and that turned into the movies. It went on and on from there. That moment at the voice classes was may be the epiphanal moment. It was for the wrong business, but it set me on the right path in the end.”
Indeed it did. Biel’s acting career took off after a starring role in the TV Show 7th Heaven, in which she appeared from 1996 to 2006, before she made a full transition into film in the wake of her performance in the No.1 US box office hit The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a 2003 remake of Tobe Hooper’s horror classic. Her subsequent films display a diverse range of projects that include Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown, the hit comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Lee Tamahori’s Next and Summer Catch.
She will soon be seen in the thriller The Tall Man and the sports comedy Playing The Field, from The Pursuit Of Happyness director Gabriele Muccino. She will then star in the film Hitchcock, which looks at the making of Psycho, opposite Anthony Hopkins, Helen Mirren, and Scarlett Johansson.
“I have a project called The Tall Man with (writer-director) Pascal Laugier, which hopefully will be coming out sometime soon and I’m excited about,” she beams, “and Playing The Field with Gabriele Muccino, a romantic comedy. I will be working on Hitchcock next, though, which will be wonderfully exciting. Things are going great right now.” Sony Pictures Releasing International
Total Recall opens in cinemas on August 2