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In the middle of the Arnold Schwarzenegger action-sci-fi classic Total Recall, a mystery starts to form around a mysterious figure. Leaving behind the safety of Earth to engage in the adventure he’d always dreamed of, Schwarzenegger’s character, Douglas Quaid, eventually crosses paths with a freedom fighter named George. Played by veteran actor Marshall Bell, George is hiding a secret that eventually turns out to be crucial to the narrative that’s made Total Recall a classic, which just happens to be celebrating its 30th anniversary. However, when it came to landing the role, Bell was absolutely in the dark about George’s eventual importance, only learning the full scope when he had gotten the gig.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of Total Recall, Lionsgate has put together an outstanding 4K re-issue of Paul Verhoven’s 1990 film, just in time for fans to pick the film up for the holidays. In honor of this occasion, I was given the opportunity to speak with Marshall Bell about his dual role of George and Kuato on CinemaBlend’s behalf. As it turns out, when Bell went in to audition for the part in Total Recall, he was only looking at half the story; which lead to the following confusion:
And then when I went in, I looked at the script, and I thought, ‘But, I mean, there’s only a couple of pages here, and a couple of lines George has.’ I went in and auditioned, I said these lines, and they’re all over. These lines are here, there’s a line there, and a line there, and it’s very difficult [to follow.] So it seemed like a sort of slapdash interview. And then, as I said, in the formal interview I didn’t really conceive the significance of the Kuato character, until I got fitted for the prosthetics. … It kind of came as an enormous, and I will say extreme physical surprise to me to be Kuato.
“Extreme physical surprise” is a mild way of putting it, as Marshall Bell was outfitted with quite the impressive rig when it came time for the big reveal. As Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Quaid is learning more about his own secret identity, he meets Bell’s character, George, and learns that he’s the host body of none other than Kuato, the leader of the resistance on Mars. The audience learns this in a pivotal scene where George turns his back to the camera, undoes his shirt and turns back to reveal a mutant being coming out of his stomach. It all leads to a stunning transformation scene, which you can see for yourself below:
So imagine you’re trying out a role in a movie like Total Recall, and the whole time you're auditioning, you only get the lines for the human half. There’s no indication that you’ll be spending endless hours in the makeup chair or that you’ll have to adapt two different personas; nothing except the curiously sporadic dialogue that you have to go off of in the scenes you’re given to read from. Even with all of those hoops to jump through, Marshall Bell did that, and he walked away with one of the most awesome moments in sci-fi history.
After his work in Total Recall, Marshall Bell became a huge fan of director Paul Verhoeven and his work in the Hollywood circuit. The two would even get to reunite on the 1997 military adventure Starship Troopers, as Bell would be enlisted to play the part of General Owen in the film. Speaking with Mr. Bell, his fondness for the Total Recall experiences is as palpable as his affection for the works of Mr. Verhoeven.
Total Recall is currently streaming on Netflix, but if you want to see the film like you’ve never seen it before, I highly recommend checking out the 4K UHD/Blu-ray combo pack that’s just been released. Not only is the picture the clearest it’s ever been, there are some new bonus features that are quite informative. Plus, if you're going to watch a mutant talking to a man from another man's stomach, you may as well have the best view in the room.