One of the most infamous scenes from director Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall is the moment when, in the midst of a Martian bar, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Quaid is being offered a date with a three-breasted sex worker. It's something that feels right at home in the filmography of the man behind sci-fi hits like Robocop and Starship Troopers, but things could have been a little more on brand, as Verhoeven has revealed that this character could have had even more breasts if he had his way.
As part of a retrospective interview by The Ringer, Paul Verhoeven explained where his head was at when he dreamed up this particular aspect of Total Recall:
I know that some women had, let’s say, not two nipples, but they have four nipples. Like a dog, whatever. That’s what they have. They exist, basically, and I’ve seen the medical photos when I was at university. And I knew that. I wanted four nipples and breasts, with big breasts and smaller breasts underneath. And Rob Bottin, I think, felt that it was too realistic for the film. And basically that three breasts would be more, let’s say, in the style of the whole movie.
On the one hand, Paul Verhoeven’s original intent for the Total Recall visual effect of a Martian sex worker doesn’t sound all that ridiculous when you think about how his previous film focused around turning a man into a cybernetic crime fighter. Then again, the extra breast and nipples might have been a little too on the nose, as the symmetrical aspect could have been a little too grounded for this version of Mars.
The result is history, and definitely NSFW, so you’ve been officially warned about the clip below:
As it turns out, Rob Bottin’s effects prowess as the legendary special effects creator/designer, who also worked with Paul Verhoeven on Robocop and Basic Instinct, would help nail the film’s effects in ways that even the director couldn’t have imagined. Everything from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robotic mask to the nasty nasal probe removal scene all benefitted from his hand, and a pretty fantastic reward was to be had in the process.
Total Recall would go on to win a Special Achievement Award for Best Visual Effects at the 1991 Academy Awards, which saw Rob Bottin, alongside his colleagues Eric Brevig, Tim McGovern and Alex Funke, taking home some coveted golden trophies. While the three-breasted prosthetic was only part of the amazing work that was done on this sci-fi classic, it probably helped drive the point home that the world based on Phillip K. Dick’s famed story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” definitely belonged in the hands of Paul Verhoeven and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
As the world is celebrating 30 years of Total Recall this week, there’s bound to be a lot of memories and quotes floating around in various retrospective pieces on the matter. So don’t be surprised if someone mentions how they wish they had three hands, as it’s both a compliment to the film’s humor, and its killer effects work.