mammory lane

A Candid Conversation With Total Recall’s Original Three-Breasted Woman

Total Recall (1990) | Pers: Lycia Naff | Dir: Paul (Dutch) Verhoeven
Total Recall (1990) | Pers: Lycia Naff | Dir: Paul (Dutch) Verhoeven Photo: The Kobal Collection / Carolco/Tri-Star

Fans of the original Total Recall will be happy to know that one of their favorite characters is back in the Colin Farrell remake: the mutant Mary. Don’t recall her name? Perhaps you’d recognize her more from her pronounced physical deformity, the extra mammary gland that made her known as the three-breasted woman (Google it if you need to jog your possibly altered memory banks). Lycia Naff, who played this iconic part, was happy to reminisce with Vulture about her Total Recall days, celebrity run-ins, and why Denise Richards once called her a cunt.

So what was it like becoming the triple-breasted woman?
I have to correct you. I was the triple-breasted hooker from Mars! [Laughs.] They originally were going to give me four breasts, but the feedback was that I looked too bovine, like a cow ready to be milked, and that wasn’t sexy.

Did the cast and crew ever get used to the sight of you? How did Arnold Schwarzenegger respond?
He didn’t pay any attention to me. He was listening to Paul Verhoeven, like he was a baby bird waiting for food from the mama bird. He was just standing at the bar, waiting for direction, like an automaton, in between every single take. So he didn’t give me any bother. I was just another day player, just there to move his story line forward. I remember looking into his eyes and thinking his pupils were so small, so I was like, He looks scary to me. So he creeped me out a bit, but he was very professional, and he didn’t flirt and he didn’t try to touch the breasts. But still, I felt really exposed. It didn’t hit me until the first moment where the scene called for me to expose myself, because what came over me was such shame. Which was weird, because they weren’t my breasts, and it was what I had signed up to do. So why was I getting a reality shock now? I started to cry, and if you look closely at those scenes when I’m opening my blouse, I’m smiling, but not in my eyes. It was probably good for the character and gave her an extra layer, but that was completely unplanned. I was just feeling really emotional and trying to hide it. I was embarrassed, and I was embarrassed for feeling embarrassed. I couldn’t get over that feeling that opening up my blouse felt so real, and to help me get through it, Paul offered to give me a part in his next film.

Did he come through?
No! Hey, Paul, if you’re out there reading this, you owe me! [Laughs.] Even just a walk-on. But it did make me feel better at the time.

Did you have any idea that this scene would become so iconic?
No. At the time, I had the trots [from eating bad food], and I was crying! [Laughs.] And I was embarrassed. I was so petrified when all the reality of it sunk in. Entertainment Tonight wanted to me to come on the show, me and the guy with the one eye, so they could do a piece on the prosthetics, and I said no. Johnny Carson wanted me to come and sit on his couch, and I said no. I was stupid, embarrassed, and young. Now, looking back, why not? Why not make a goof of it?

During my screening of the remake, when the new triple-breasted woman appeared, she got a lot of applause.
I’m glad to set a precedent anywhere I go. [Laughs.] I’m curious to see her in the movie. She’s stunning and gorgeous and her costume is beautiful, extremely sexy and alluring. But she’s got that horizontal strip in the photos. Does she strip it away and you see her nipples? Do you actually get to see her areole? Is that plural for areola? I’m wondering how much they got away with, since the ratings system is more conservative now.

You get to see them.
Good. I think that would be sexy, propositioning someone with that strip. You could pull it back, and it would be raunchy. I just got a warm tingle in my areole thinking about it. [Laughs.]

Kaitleen Leeb said that people were actually asking her if they were real.
Yeah, I had my third one surgically removed. [Laughs.] I can relate to that — she’s had to carry on with all the horny sci-fi fanboys! They’re hers now! Chicks and sci-fi go hand in hand. That’s why I was supposed to be a love interest for Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m going to a convention for that next weekend. I was very young when I had that part, and I wasn’t fully developed, so they had to pad my bra because my costume flattened my boobs out. You need to have D cups for that costume, and I’m more of a solid B. If it’s that time of the month and I’m retaining water, maybe a C. But still quite perky! [Laughs.]

So why didn’t the Geordi La Forge love interest story line take off?
You know, I was supposed to be there for three episodes, because they were trying to find a reason he would take his visor off, to justify a reason he would undergo a dangerous surgery to risk his life so he could see again, and the reason was supposed to be because he’s in love. They wanted to have us fall in love so deeply that in the next season, he would say, “I have to do this so I can see my beauty.” But they also wrote Sonya Gomez as comic relief, as a bumbling ensign with bright eyes who wants to save the world but ends up spilling hot chocolate on Picard, and the feedback they got was that there was no way Geordi would fall in love with someone like me. And I didn’t know what they were going for, because we weren’t told to play it like it was romantic. I didn’t get that clue until later. So we did it more like a little sister/big brother relationship.

We also had a major hair crisis. I did two episodes, and I was supposed to come back and do a third, but I wanted to cut my hair. My agent asked if it would be okay, and since I wasn’t under contract, they said, “Okay, we’re releasing her.” So I cut it shaggy, but above the shoulder. I get a call the next week, and they want to redo a hallway scene, and I go back, and they lose their tiny little minds. They were so angry. Everyone was grumbling at me, and making me feel not so great, but LeVar [Burton] was so sweet. He said, “Don’t worry. This gives us a chance to do the scene even better.” He was so supportive and encouraging, and the scene did come out better. So if you look really closely, you can see the hair extensions. 

Did you have any crazy mishaps on the set of Baywatch?
On Baywatch, you have to strip naked and they spray tanned you from head to toe with a dark tan, and then two people come and rub glycerin all over your body so you shine. You feel completely molested and manhandled. You watch it and think, How glamorous, but the glamour is gone, baby. My scene was a husband and wife on the beach having a fight. And years later, I ran into the guy who played my husband, [Grant Heslov], when he was with George Clooney at a gala the night before the Oscars, because he works with him now [as a writer, director, and producing partner]. I was teasing him, like, “Don’t you remember me?” as if we had a tryst.

You transitioned from acting to journalism, which might be why Denise Richards sought your advice about battling bad press during the second episode of her reality show, It’s Complicated.
Oh, so here we go.

What happened?
Ken Baker called me up, he had just started at E!, and one of the things he was doing was this show, and he asked me to do this. We had the meeting in a fake office, in a fake building, in a fake place, and it was supposed to be unscripted, but it apparently wasn’t. Later on, when I saw the show, I realized that every time Denise cussed, she was supposed to put money in a jar — it was a through line on the show — so she started cussing right away. I was like, “Whoa! What the heck?” She called me the C-word on-camera, and my dog who was present is still in therapy over it. [Laughs.] I couldn’t understand why. I’ve never written a word about her, I’ve never been asked to write about her, and I didn’t even cover her deposition in the Charlie Sheen case, so I had to actually go back and do my homework for this meeting. And I was trying to suggest things for her to combat the bad press, “Let’s get a positive story out there for you.”

But she wanted to fight.

I guess I was launching all these balloons she wanted to shoot down, and she was on the attack. In real life, I would have said, “You got to bring it down,” or “Get out of my office,” or, “Calm down,” because she was being inappropriate and out of control. She was being a diva. I may report on other people’s dramas, but I want a drama-free zone. But I was trying to figure out how to hold my own with her, so I tolerated it. She was so upset, and she threw her purse down, and she was screaming, and then she left, but the cameras continued rolling. And then they turned off the lights to cool the room and pulled me aside to tell me, “Denise wants to leave. She doesn’t want to do this anymore.” Okay. But she really did make me the symbol of everything that went wrong in her life, as far as bad press was concerned. I was just trying to help her figure out how to get a happy story out there.

Such as one about breasts?
[Laughs.] This has all been about breasts. I’m going to go see Magic Mike now to clear my head.

The original Total Recall will play at New York City’s Film Forum from August 10–16.

Recall’s Original Three-Breasted Woman Opens Up