Paul Verhoeven - Director

Nationality: Dutch. Born: Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1938. Education: Ph.D. in mathematics and physics, University of Leiden. Military Service: Royal Dutch Navy. Career: Documentary and feature film writer and director. Awards: Best Foreign Language Film, Los Angeles Film Critics Association, for Soldier of Orange , 1979; Best Foreign Language Film, Los Angeles Film Critics, International Award, Toronto Film Festival, and Jury Prize, Avoriaz, for The Fourth Man , 1979. Agent: Marion Rosenberg, 8428 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, CA 90069, U.S.A.

Films as Director:


A Lizard Too Much ( Een Hagedis Teveel )


Let's Have a Party ( Feest )


The Dutch Marine Corps ( Hets Korps Mariniers )


Business Is Business ( Wat Zein Ik )


Turkish Delight


Cathy Tippel ( Keejte Tippel )


The Fourth Man ( De Vierde Man ); Soldier of Orange (+ sc)




Flesh and Blood (+ sc)




Total Recall


Basic Instinct




Starship Troopers


Hollow Man



Showgirls: Portrait of a Film , New Market Press, 1995.

Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven

By VERHOEVEN: articles—

"On Dangerous Ground," an interview with M. Valen, in Films and Filming (London), July-August 1990.

"Sex Crimes: Divide and Conquer," an interview with Steve Grant and Alex McGregor, in Time Out (London), 22 April 1992.

"It's Life, Jim . . ." an interview with Dominic Wells, in Time Out (London), 17–31 December 1997.

On VERHOEVEN: books—

Cowie, Peter, Dutch Cinema , London, 1979.

Van Scheers, Rob, Paul Verhoeven , New York, 1997.

On VERHOEVEN: articles—

Cronenworth, Brian, "Man of Iron," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), October 1987.

Baron, David, " Total Director Recalls His Troubles at Home," in Times-Picayune , 9 June 1990.

Welkos, Robert W., "Director Trims Basic Instinct to Get R Rating," in Los Angeles Times , 11 February 1992.

Harrington, Richard, "Director Verhoeven Standing by the Films That Gays Bash," in Washington Post , 20 March 1992.

Fleming, Charles, "No Hardcore Instinct , Says Verhoeven," in Variety (New York), 13 April 1992.

"Special Issue," Post Script (Commerce), Summer 1993.

Bond, J., "Basil's Battle of the Bugs," in Film Score Monthly , no. 8, 1997.

Kelleher, E., "Insects in Space," in Film Journal (New York), September 1997.

Persons, D., in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), no. 8, 1997.

Williamson, D., " Starship Troopers ," in Cinefantastique (Forest Park), no. 8, 1997.

Williamson, K., "War Path," in Boxoffice (Chicago), November 1997.

* * *

Paul Verhoeven, a director of international acclaim who has achieved both critical and commercial success, is also one of Hollywood's most controversial. His films, characterized stylistically by his use of deep focus, Christian iconography, and sensuous mise en scène , are perhaps better known for their graphic representations of violence and sexuality.

Verhoeven began his filmmaking career as a director of short subjects and, while serving with the Royal Dutch Navy, documentaries. After returning to civilian life, he continued to work with both fiction and documentary forms, expanding his scope to television. Though his first feature-length motion picture, Business Is Business (1971), was a commercial success, Verhoeven did not receive international attention until the release of his second feature, Turkish Delight (1973).

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign-Language Film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Turkish Delight not only established Verhoeven as a skilled director, it also began his association with films of explicit sexual content. He continued to receive international critical acclaim with the release of Soldier of Orange (1979), which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and was named Best Foreign-Language Film by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Graphic acts of sex and violence were also integral to his two subsequent films: Spetters (1980), a film about teenage alienation in Holland; and The Fourth Man (1984), winner of the Los Angeles Film Critics Award for Best Foreign-Language Film, the Toronto Film Festival's International Award, and the Jury Prize at Avoriaz.

Controversy surrounding Verhoeven's work became more heated with his move to the United States in 1986. His first American feature, Flesh and Blood , started a long-running battle between the director and Jack Valenti's Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rating authority. Flesh and Blood 's brutal depictions of sixteenth-century battles and candid sex scenes began a battle over ratings that would continue through Verhoeven's next three features.

Considered one of the most violent films of 1987, Robocop , a post-modernist blend of science fiction, action-adventure, and the Western, is often viewed as a critique of corporate and consumer capitalism. Verhoeven's subsequent film, Total Recall (1990), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is one of the most expensive feature films ever produced. The negative cost and worldwide marketing budget has been estimated to be over $100 million. Both these films were given the highly restrictive rating of "X"—prohibited to viewers under the age of seventeen—due to what was judged to be excessive violence. The films were then re-edited to meet the requirements of the "R" rating—under seventeen admitted with the accompaniment of an adult.

Perhaps the most controversial film of Verhoeven's career is Basic Instinct , released in 1992. The story, with a $3 million script written by Joe Eszterhas, concerned a bi-sexual woman suspected of several murders who engages in a sexual relationship with the male police detective investigating the crimes. The MPAA again found Verhoeven's work problematic on the grounds of both sex and violence. Basic Instinct was only the second release from a major studio to receive a rating of "NC-17"—no children under seventeen admitted (the first was Henry and June , directed by Philip Kaufman). Like the X, which was abolished in 1990, an NC-17 rating threatens the economic viability of a motion picture at the box office. Many theaters refuse to screen the films, community presses and television stations may reject advertisements, and some video rental outlets will not carry films thus rated. Again, the film was cut to meet the standards of an R rating.

In addition to the ratings controversy, the film was protested by several national gay and lesbian organizations for its stereotypical representations of lesbians and bi-sexuals. The film was criticized because, like many films of the period, it depicted sexual relations outside of the traditional heterosexual marriage as excessive and dangerous, linking homosexuality with violence.

Verhoeven was reunited with the creative team behind the commercially successful Basic Instinct in 1995 with the production of Showgirls. It was a landmark film, as Verhoeven became the first director in the United States hired by a major motion picture studio to deliver a film without the obligation of achieving an R rating. Showgirls was released with an NC-17 rating and generated considerable interest, but generally negative reviews.

—Frances Gateward

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