CS interview: Marshall Bell on the role of Kuato in Paul Verhoeven’s Total Recall
ComingSoon.net had the opportunity to speak with Total recall Star Marshall Bell as Kuato and George in Oscar-nominated 1990 sci-fi thriller from director Paul Verhoeven which turns 30 this year and will soon be released in 4K and Blu-ray on December 8th! You can check out the interview below and pre-order your copy of the 30th Anniversary Edition here!
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Directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon and Gary Oldman from a story by Shusett, O’Bannon and Jon Povill, the classic science fiction feature film tells the story of a laborer in the building that suddenly finds itself embroiled in espionage on Mars and unable to determine if the experiences are real or the result of memory implants.
Based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”, the film also stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside and Ronny Cox.
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Total recall reportedly had a budget of $ 65 million, making it one of the most expensive films made at the time of its release. The film grossed $ 261.3 million at the box office after its debut on June 1, 1990.
ComingSoon.net: It’s so interesting because I was just thinking about this quote from Orson Welles, where he was talking about his performance as Harry Lime in The Third Man. It’s like, oh, that’s a Mr. Wu role. It’s the role where everyone for the first act says, “Where’s Mr. Wu?” You know, when is Mr. Wu coming? And then when it does show up, you’re just, ah, you’re just stunned. And it occurred to me that it was the same with Kuato.
Marshall Bell: Sensational. This just happens to be one of my pluses – when I think about it this movie, as a simple spy freak, this movie is one of my favorite movies of all time. I saw him in Vienna.
CS: Oh wow.
Bell: Even on New Year’s Day. So and I remember it. It’s pretty awesome. I wouldn’t go that far. But thanks.
CS: Well, it’s true, though.
Bell: I mean, I hadn’t thought of that, but now that I think about it, it’s kind of like that.
CS: Yeah. No other character in the picture –
Bell: They do a little less build up, but they do – when Kuato is there, then you wait for Kuato and wait. Again, this is true. George isn’t very present, so he doesn’t have a lot of time to say it, but yes, you’re right.
CS: Yeah and there’s graffiti all over the movie and everyone’s talking about Kuato and Kuato this and Kuato that.
Bell: Yeah yeah yeah.
CS: At the time, you were the essential character. You’ve cropped up in this and that and you’re still awesome.
Bell: I have been there for a very long time. From the movie twins raised my profile a bit so that I seemed to have popped up. Well, I mean, I was there. I was in Support me and a few small things. Yes you are right. But I only started about three years before that, period.
Bell: I mean, five years ago I started in 1984.
CS: It’s true. And you tended to play these kinds of stern people like authority figures. And here you play that kind of unpretentious guy, and then it turns out you’re actually playing the big hero of the movie.
Bell: Good kind of. I mean, sort of. It’s totally a joint agreement. We really turned out – after the fact, being a lucky thing is kind of Kuato and George. I mean, the real thing about George is that he’s kind of Kuato’s second violin because he’s really the carrier of Kuato. And he relies on Kuato himself. I mean, I felt like Kuato was the deal. And it turns out that when people mention his name, they don’t mention George, they mention Kuato. Fortunately, they said, “Did you play Kuato?” And I can say: “Yes”. I actually auditioned for Kuato after the movie came out.
CS: Oh really?
Bell: Yeah. That voice was me. So when people say, “You are Kuato,” I say, “Yes, I am.”
CS: Oh okay. I had no idea they had done some sort of digital thing to your voice?
Bell: No, I kind of made it up. I mean, I guess, yeah sure they did. But Paul and I, you know, Paul was my boyfriend at the time, and Paul and I took a bit of a dive into the recording room with that voice. But it was me.
CS: It’s interesting. Yeah.
Bell: I think they digitized it a bit, yes.
CS: Yeah, so I guess you kind of had a little Edgar Bergen thing, Charlie McCarthy.
Bell: You give me all this new material. I like this. I’ll go with that. It doesn’t bother me at all, no. I’ll go. But it’s not quite, because I wasn’t ventriloquist or anything.
CS: It’s true.
Bell: I don’t know if it’s a word.
CS: No, but I’m just hearing now that you did that voice and for me the voice was so powerful because it’s like, it’s not like Yoda. It’s not like a mighty, mighty voice. It’s very sweet – it almost looks like he has a hard time speaking and he’s very weak and it is – yeah, that makes him very likable.
Bell: Well, it’s like when you walk into an ADR room and it gets dark and you start recording. And usually you just do your own stuff. But we just made it up, so there was Paul next to me. And so, it was a working day. We were in the process of creating this and we took a long time to create it. You know, and no, no, no, it’s horrible. No, you know, so but then, I mean, he really liked my gut, because he was really good to me actually, on it.
CS: It’s so cool.
Bell: And there were other people who auditioned for it, by the way. I had to audition for it.
CS: Oh wow. Do you remember who you were competing against?
Bell: Who was I competing with?
Bell: Well the most famous name – I don’t know if I like – I’m such a fan and I got to have lunch with him. I made a film with him. But the most famous name I heard was Don Ameche.
CS: Oh wow. It would have been different.
Bell: And I worshiped him. I am a groupie from that time. I care about Brad Pitt because he’s a nice guy, but Brad Pitt or I could have dinner with Don Ameche, I’m going with Don Ameche.
CS: Oh sure. Yeah, and he’s been there forever. He’d been in the creepy Love Boat and everything.
Bell: I heard that name. And then there were others that I didn’t hear. I was competing for it. I didn’t know I was, but I was.
CS: Wow. And can you talk a little bit, of course, the other big component of this performance is Rob Bottin’s amazing makeup job.
Bell: He has become a very, very close friend. I think he’s the kind of Rembrandt or better, the Leonardo da Vinci of prosthetists. I have worked with him a lot more than once. I did commercials with him. He made me work on commercials. I mean, I think I’m qualified – he’s the best that ever existed.
CS: I’m kind of inclined to agree with you. Stan Winston was really good, Rick Baker was really good, but there was something about what Rob did that just had that extra layer of super realism.
Bell: Hey man, you want a demon, forget about it … nobody understands [demons] Like him.
CS: Yeah. And he’s sort of become the JD Salinger of makeup artists now. Is he still working and everything?
Bell: Yeah, no, totally. He won’t call me back.
CS: Oh wow.
Bell: But I mean, even talking about a demon, even though I’m saying that even Kuato, what made him so interesting was given to any other sort of circumstance, it could have been a demon. But then it was the opposite of that.
Bell: Well, if he just took that look, you could tell – but it wasn’t. He was the opposite of a demon, which is what was so cool about it.
CS: Yeah, he looked a bit like an old Jew you’d see in a bathhouse or something.
Bell: You don’t know any, do you? I wish the public baths were open, I want a sauna.
CS: I wanted to ask about another movie before we had to go just because I saw it again recently and it’s one of those movies I’m sure you have yourself, but this ‘is one of those movies where I want I love him so much because he’s a great director, it’s a great idea for a movie, and it didn’t really work out. And I watched it three times, and it never really worked out for me and it’s Innocent Blood.
Bell: Yeah. Oh, I was just going – I have this DVD here and I was about to release it. And I will see him again. I don’t agree with you, but I’m in the director’s tank and refuse to say that everything he does is the greatest movie ever made. This is where I come from. I have it, actually. I didn’t agree with that. J? understood. But then if you know the guy and you know where he came from, it’s like when Paul did the Showgirls. Okay, okay everyone hated it, but I didn’t hate it because Paul made all of these choices. In other words, he didn’t make a mistake. He chose that.
CS: Well, yeah.
Bell: And it didn’t work. And Landis, man, come on… Being in his movies is just a big deal.
CS: It’s true. Well, and you’re in Oscar as well, which is a movie that I think is really underrated.
Bell: Another guy said that. I agree with that too.
CS: On Innocent Blood, do you remember the talk about tone? It’s a very delicate tone he’s trying to do, because it’s kinda comical, it’s kinda scary.
Bell: On working on Innocent blood, well, look. He also extended his hand. He picked up an actress who was a French star, but he was unsure of going to say, well, it’s going to work in America. And I got it and I loved it in it and I loved Anthony a lot in it. But you know, I liked it. But then again, I’m not going to say I don’t like it because I love everything he does.
CS: Me too. I agree with you.
Bell: I just saw the remake of, there is a new remake of “Thriller”. Come on man. And it’s ridiculous how good he is.
CS: Oh yeah, I love John. He is great. I guess that’s all for us today. But it was a pleasure talking to you.
Bell: Yeah, that was fun.
CS: Hope we can chat again someday.
Bell: I’ll have to work with the commentary on Kuato being an old Jew in a public bath. Thank you for all these things.
CS: You’re welcome.
Bell: This line, what was the other? You gave me a line.
CS: Oh yeah? It was like Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.
Bell: Yeah, yeah, those three things, yeah.