Creator / Paul Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven (1938) is a Dutch film director, probably best known for his international works made in the United States. He is often regarded as one of the best film directors in the Netherlands, and certainly one of the most notable—having won various Golden Calves (the highest award in the national film award ceremony) for his contributions to Dutch cinema. He is a frequent collaborator of Dutch actor Rutger Hauer.

His films (particularly his sci-fi outings) are typically brutally violent, satirical, and often contain heavy sexual themes.

Verhoeven was born before the onset of World War II and the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, which shaped his outlook on life. After completing the film academy, he started out small in the film community before moving on to full-length features. In the 1970s he cooperated with producer Rob Houwer on several highly acclaimed Dutch movies such as the erotic/romantic drama Turks Fruit (Turkish Delight) and the World War II epic Soldaat van Oranje (Soldier of Orange).

In the 1980s he branched out into making English-language films, starting with Flesh+Blood in 1985. Since then he has became best known to American audiences for his sci-fi action films, although he admits not being a fan of the genre. He became attached to direct the script for the first RoboCop (1987) movie after initially rejecting it. His wife eventually convinced him that there was more to the story than he initially thought (drawing parallels to Jesus Christ's death and resurrection), and he liked the extreme violence. The film proved a major hit that helped jumpstart the Super Hero film genre, while it was hailed as a brilliant Black Comedy satire of 1980s America.

This was followed up by Total Recall (1990), an adaptation of noted sci-fi author Philip K. Dick's story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale about a man who finds out his life is a lie and heads to Mars to learn the truth, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the main role.

His work on the erotic thriller Basic Instinct reunited him with Total Recall's Sharon Stone, and started a short period of working with screenwriter Joe Ezterhas. The film was partially a remake of his earlier Dutch movie De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man), and was controversial in the States, with feminist and gay rights groups protesting against the film's alleged misogyny and homophobia, which puzzled Verhoeven. His career reached a low point with the widely panned Showgirls, for which he won a Razzie for Worst Director. Showing that he's not a sore loser, Verhoeven collected the award in person, becoming the first director to have done so. He claimed to have had more fun at the award ceremony than reading the reviews.

Verhoeven's last two American films, Starship Troopers and Hollow Man received mixed reception. Fans of the Robert A. Heinlein novel considered the movie a betrayal of the source material, while others appreciated it either as a straight-up action movie or for the Stealth Parody it aimed to be.

His next cinematic effort in 2006 returned Verhoeven to his Dutch roots, to direct the World War II thriller Zwartboek. It offers a morally grey account of the Dutch resistance during the last year of the war, with Carice Van Houten as an undercover Jew involved in the anti-German resistance.


This director's work provides examples of:

  • Awesome, Dear Boy: This is part of the reason why Verhoeven did the first RoboCop (1987). He initially rejected the opportunity to direct it when he read the script and thought it was silly and stupid. He changed his mind when his wife convinced him that there were more layers to the story than he initially thought, and because the writers pointed out the amount of Gorn there was, to which he responded "Well, I've never seen the hero get his hand blown off!"
  • Fanservice: He has directed several films with strong erotic themes, and even his other works feature a lot of nudity.
  • Flip-Flop of God: Verhoeven has gone back and forth on the issue of whether the events of Total Recall (1990) were real or all in Quaid's mind. His position seems to depend on whether there are hopes of getting a sequel made at the time he is asked that question.
  • Gorn: His action movies were excessively violent for their time. RoboCop (1987) in particular had to be re-edited for the scene where an OCP rookie exec is blasted to bits by the ED-209 robot in the conference room, and the use of Human Shields in Total Recall (1990) received a lot of complaints. This is referenced as part of a gag in Hot Shots! Part Deux where the body count of the Rambo spoof action scene increases until it surpasses both RoboCop and Total Recall.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: Verhoeven has stated that science fiction is not his favourite genre. Ironically, some of his most popular movies, RoboCop (1987) (a film he almost turned down), Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers, are science fiction, while his American non-sci-fi movies are generally not as popular or well known with the exception of Basic Instinct.