'Total Recall' at 30: Arnold Schwarzenegger recalls gruesome wrist-cutting injury on set

Kevin Polowy
·3 min read

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been one of the most prominent action stars of his generation, and his body can attest to the wear and tear that title has come with.

The actor-turned-politician-turned-actor-again has sustained numerous injuries filming stunt work. "I get injured in every movie," he said in 2014. That includes a particularly nasty laceration on the set of the popular Paul Verhoeven-directed 1990 sci-fi thriller, Total Recall, which turns 30 today.

Schwarzenegger, now 72, explained to Yahoo Entertainment during a 2015 Role Recall interview how a mistimed prop glass explosion by the film's production crew resulted in a badly cut wrist (watch above, starting at 4:15).

His character Douglas Quaid (a construction worker who travels to Mars to uncover his identity as a former secret agent — or at least we think he does) is engaged in a foot chase through a subway station, on the run from a gang of hitmen when he cracks through the window of a departing train with his gun and dives into the subway car.

"They did not explode the window before I hit the window with the gun, so therefore I cut my wrist deep. And I had to get stitched up during lunch break, which was at like midnight, because we were night shooting," Schwarzenegger said of the incident, which was filmed in 1989 in the futuristic-looking (at the time) Mexico City Metro stations that stood in for the year 2084.

"After I was stitched up and everything, we hid the bandages, we pulled the jacket all the way to the front and taped it up so we don't see the bandages."

Schwarzenegger wasn't the only one who had an unpleasant experience on the film's set. Costar Michael Ironside, who played Quaid's main adversary Richter, suffered a cracked rib shooting the elevator scrum between the two men.

The air pollution was so bad in Mexico City at the time of shooting that according to production designer William Sandell in the 2001 featurette Imagining Total Recall, associate producer Elliot Schick had to be air-lifted via medical-evacuation helicopter to a nearby hospital.

And nearly the entire cast and crew fell ill to food poisoning at one point — with one of the only exceptions being Schwarzenegger.

The actor had apparently learned his lesson after getting sick from drinking tap water in Mexico while filming Predator three years earlier, and had all his food and beverage flown in from the U.S.

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