David Cronenberg was almost the director of Total Recall… back in the mid-1980’s. His top casting choice was William Hurt. He did hours and hours of conceptual illustration work. But where’s the action-sequences, producer Dino de Laurentiis wondered. Richard Dreyfuss and Patrick Swayze were preferred casting choices at the time.
“I was rebounding from a year of doing scripts and rewrites of ‘Total Recall.’ Which was a project that I loved. But after a year, it was apparent that I wanted to make a different movie from everybody else involved,” Cronenberg explained. He also mentioned that while he was after a faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s resource literature, the moneymen conversely wanted to make “Raiders of the Los Ark Goes to Mars.”
Instead Cronenberg did “The Fly.” He explains, “I was out of money and was despondent,” furthering, he fell in love with the new project. “I really wanted to make sure the [fallout] from ‘Total Recall’ wasn’t the reason I was doing ‘The Fly.’ I had to make sure it wasn’t a rebound love affair… I fell in love with doing ‘The Fly.’” As it turned out, “The Fly” of 1986 turned out to be his biggest hit.
When he met with artistic differences again with major studio MGM to make “eXistenZ,” Cronenberg decided to drop the $35 million budget investment offer. He said, “The studio notes were intelligent really… but at that point I would be making a movie that’s not my movie.” It became a characteristic move for Cronenberg when he decided to go the indie route to make what he wanted in his own personal vision.