I once heard that Total Recall was going to have a different ending in which the lead character awoke - the whole story was not real but created by Rekall.

Is that correct?

4 Answers 4


The film spent so long in "development hell", and so many versions of the screenplay and script were produced before the film was made, it's highly likely that that ending was considered at some point.

Also, if you'll allow me to quote the wikipedia page:

The film was novelized by Piers Anthony. The novel and film correspond fairly well, although Anthony was evidently working from an earlier script than the one used for the film, and was criticized for the ending of his book which removed the ambiguity whether the events of Total Recall are real or a dream.

This strongly hints that you're right in your assumption that earlier versions of the script had a non-ambiguous ending.

  • 2
    PKD-inspired projects are usually a development hell tarpit apparently ;)
    – drxzcl
    Jan 26, 2011 at 18:57
  • Huh, I read the novelization but didn't realize Piers Anthony wrote it. Fascinating.
    – JAB
    Mar 18, 2018 at 23:11

Actually, Total Recall was based on book by Philip K. Dick called "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale".

I quote:

The plot was loosely adapted into the 1990 film Total Recall, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. In the film, the hero, renamed Quaid, actually travels to Mars, but the initial memory implant scene foreshadows much of what he achieves — kills the bad guys, gets the girl, saves the planet. A later encounter with a "Recall Doctor" (whom Quaid kills after seeing him sweat) who describes procedure in cases where the memory implantation procedure fails, reveals that Quaid may have been lobotomized at the end of the film.

The script maintains deliberate ambiguity as to whether the events are occurring in the physical world or only in Quaid's own fantasy, which was an artistic decision by director Paul Verhoeven.

A novelization of the film (ISBN 0-380-70874-4), written by Piers Anthony, was published the year before the film was released.

As an exciting side note, they're working on a remake!

  • Link to remake news: variety.com/article/VR1118004451?refCatId=13
    – Adam
    Jan 26, 2011 at 14:58
  • 1
    While true, I'm not sure how that answers the question at all. He didn't ask about the ending of the book it was originally based on, or about how ambiguous the actual ending of the film was...
    – Nellius
    Jan 26, 2011 at 22:53
  • I disagree, the movie was based on the book, so it brings in a different narrative concept to the screenplay and context.
    – Adam
    Jan 27, 2011 at 16:09

"Counterfeit Worlds: Philip K. Dick on Film" by Brian J. Robb has a fairly lengthy article in it about Total Recall.

It's a bit of a disjointed book but definitely of interest to PKD fans or people generally interested in his works being turned into movies.

  • 1
    I don't suppose you can expound on what they said?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Nov 29, 2014 at 2:13

The real ending intended for the movie is hinted at first when the technical says "Blue Skies on Mars, that's different" and second when the actress who becomes Quaid's love interest is shown to him while he's they are determine what his preferences in women are. How could the technician have known about the way events would end on Mars, that is to say it getting an atmosphere were it not part of the Rekall trip? Secondly, why would Rekall have images of Quaid's love interest were she not also part of the Rekall trip? No, I believe that he was supposed to wake up in the chair and someone at the Studio decided doing a "Dallas" (JR's Dream Season) or (St. Elsewhere) wasn't the way to go.

  • 1
    Interesting. But how do we know this?
    – amflare
    Apr 27, 2020 at 5:09

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