Paul Verhoeven

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Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven Cannes 2016.jpg
Verhoeven in 2016
Born (1938-07-18) 18 July 1938 (age 83)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Alma materLeiden University
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1960–present
Martine Tours
(m. 1967)
AwardsSaturn Award for Best Director (1987)
Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film (2016)

Paul Verhoeven (Dutch: [ˈpʌu̯l vərˈɦuvə(n)]; born 18 July 1938) is a Dutch director and screenwriter active in both the Netherlands and Hollywood. His blending of graphic violence and sexual content with social satire are trademarks of both his drama and science fiction films. He directed the films Turkish Delight (1973), Keetje Tippel (1975), Soldier of Orange (1977), Spetters (1980), The Fourth Man (1983), Flesh and Blood (1985), RoboCop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), Showgirls (1995), Starship Troopers (1997), Hollow Man (2000), Black Book (2006) and Elle (2016). His latest film is Benedetta, scheduled for international release in December 2021.

Turkish Delight received the award for Best Dutch Film of the Century at the Netherlands Film Festival.[1] Verhoeven's films altogether received a total of nine Academy Award nominations, mainly for editing and effects. He won the Saturn Award for Best Director for RoboCop. His Dutch war film Black Book (2006) was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language and was voted by the Dutch public, in 2008, as the best Dutch film ever made.[2] In contrast, he won the Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture and Worst Director for Showgirls; he is one of the few people to have accepted their Golden Raspberry awards in person, and was the first person to go to the ceremony to receive it. In 2016 he directed Elle, which won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and César Award for Best Film.

The Seattle Times praised Verhoeven by saying, "director Paul Verhoeven often appears to be a one-man Dutch movie industry,"[3] while The San Diego Union-Tribune called Verhoeven "a busy bee whose movies pollinate the festival circuit."[4]

Early life[edit]

Paul Verhoeven was born in Amsterdam on 18 July 1938, the son of a school teacher, Wim Verhoeven, and a hat maker, Nel van Schaardenburg. His family lived in the village of Slikkerveer.[citation needed]

In 1943 the family moved to The Hague, the location of the German headquarters in the Netherlands during World War II. The Verhoeven house was near a German military base with V1 and V2-rocket launchers, which was repeatedly bombed by Allied forces. Their neighbours' house was hit and Verhoeven's parents were almost killed when bombs fell on a street crossing. From this period, Verhoeven mentioned in interviews, he remembers images of violence, burning houses, dead bodies on the street, and continuous danger. As a small child he experienced the war as an exciting adventure and compares himself with the character Bill Rowan in Hope and Glory (1987).[5]

Verhoeven's father became head teacher at the Van Heutszschool in The Hague, and Paul attended this school.[6] Sometimes the pair watched informative films at home with the school's film projector. Verhoeven and his father also liked to see American films that were in the cinema after the liberation, such as The Crimson Pirate (1952).[citation needed]

Verhoeven and his father went ten times to see The War of the Worlds (1953). Verhoeven was a fan of the Dutch comic Dick Bos (nl). The character Dick Bos is a private detective who fights crime using jujutsu. Verhoeven liked comic drawing; he created The Killer, a character in a detailed story of revenge. Other fiction he liked were Frankenstein and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series.[5]

Verhoeven attended public secondary school Gymnasium Haganum in The Hague. Later, beginning in 1955, he studied at Leiden University. Verhoeven graduated with a doctorandus (MSc) with a double major, in Mathematics and Physics.[7][8]


Short films and TV series (1960–1969)[edit]

Verhoeven made his first film Één hagedis teveel ("One Lizard Too Many") for the anniversary of his students' corps in 1960.[9] In his last years at university Verhoeven also attended classes at the Netherlands Film Academy. After this he made three more short films: Nothing Special (1961), The Hitchhikers (1962), and Let's Have a Party (1963).

Verhoeven has not professionally used his mathematics and physics degree, opting instead to invest his energies in a career in film. After his studies he entered the Royal Dutch Navy as a conscript. He made the documentary Het Korps Mariniers ("The Marine Corps", 1965), which won the French Golden Sun award for military films.[5]

In 1967 Verhoeven married Martine Tours, with whom he had two daughters, Claudia (b. 1972), and Helen (b. 1974).

When he left the Navy, Verhoeven took his skills to Dutch television. First, he made a documentary about Anton Mussert named Mussert (1968). His first major success was the 1969 Floris television series, starring Rutger Hauer. The concept of Floris was inspired by foreign series like Ivanhoe and Thierry La Fronde.

First feature films (1969–1983)[edit]

Verhoeven's first feature film Business Is Business was released in 1971 and was not well received. His first national success came in 1973 with Turkish Delight, starring Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven. This film is based on a novel by bestselling Dutch author Jan Wolkers and tells the passionate love story of an artist and a young liberal girl from a conservative background. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974. In 1999 the film won a Golden Calf for Best Dutch Film of the Century. Verhoeven's 1975 film Katie Tippel again featured Hauer and van de Ven, but it would not match the success of Turkish Delight.

Verhoeven (center) in 1983

Verhoeven built on his reputation and achieved international success with his Golden Globe nominated film Soldier of Orange,[10] starring Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé. The film, based on a true story about the Dutch resistance in World War II, was written by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. Soldier of Orange received the 1979 LA Film Critics Award for best foreign language film. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1980.

In 1980 Verhoeven made the film Spetters with Renée Soutendijk and Rutger Hauer. The story is sometimes compared to Saturday Night Fever, but the film has more explicit violence and sexuality (in this case also homosexuality), which are sometimes seen as the trademarks of Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven's film The Fourth Man (1983) is a horror film starring Jeroen Krabbé and Renée Soutendijk. It was written by Gerard Soeteman from a novel by the Dutch writer Gerard Reve. This film would be Verhoeven's last Dutch film production until the 2006 film Black Book.

Filmmaking in the United States (1983–2000)[edit]

Gerard Soeteman also wrote the script for Verhoeven's first English-language film, Flesh and Blood (1985), which starred Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Verhoeven moved to Hollywood for a wider range of opportunities in filmmaking. Working in the U.S., he made a serious change in style, directing big-budget, violent, special-effects-heavy hits RoboCop and Total Recall⁠—each of which won an Academy Special Achievement Award: RoboCop for Sound Effects Editing, and Total Recall for Visual Effects.

Presentation of Basic Instinct at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. Left to right: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Douglas, Martine Tours (Verhoeven's wife), Verhoeven, Sharon Stone and Mario Kassar.

Verhoeven followed those successes with the equally intense and provocative Basic Instinct (1992), an erotic thriller. The ninth-highest-grossing film of the year, the movie was a return to themes Verhoeven had explored in Turkish Delight and The Fourth Man. The film's most notorious scene shows Sharon Stone's character in a police interrogation, where she uncrosses her legs, briefly revealing her vulva (she does not wear underwear underneath her skirt). The film received two Academy Awards nominations, for Film Editing and for Original Music.[11]

During this time, Verhoeven also worked on creating an historical epic based around the Crusades that would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film entered pre-production in 1993, but a year later the studio backing the film (Carolco) pulled funding for the project. Verhoeven would continue to discuss the film throughout the 1990s.[12][13][14]

Verhoeven's next film was the poorly-received, NC-17 rated Showgirls (1995), about a stripper in Las Vegas trying to make a career as a showgirl. The film won seven Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Film and Worst Director; Verhoeven became the first director to accept his award in person.[15] Afterward, the film enjoyed success on the home video market, generating more than $100 million from video rentals[16] and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers.[17]

After Basic Instinct and Showgirls, Verhoeven returned to the science fiction, graphic violence and special-effects tropes that had marked his earlier films with Starship Troopers (1997), loosely based on the novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein,[18] and Hollow Man (2000). Each film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.

Return to Europe (2006–present)[edit]

After about 20 years of working and living in the United States, Verhoeven returned to the Netherlands for the shooting of a new film. Together with his screenwriter Gerard Soeteman, Verhoeven made Black Book (2006). The director was hailed by the host of the Netherlands Film Festival with the words "The return of a hero".[19] Black Book won six Golden Calves at this festival, including Best Director.[20] When the shooting of Black Book was delayed due to financial issues, there was speculation about a new production. The film Beast of Bataan had been announced, but once the shooting for Black Book resumed, the other film was not realized.

Verhoeven at press conference at Berlinale 2017

Verhoeven was knighted in the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2007.[21]

Since Black Book, Verhoeven has been connected to a large number of projects, but in the first decade after his return, none came to fruition. Some of those titles were produced with other directors at the helm, such as The Paperboy. In 2016 however, Verhoeven followed Black Book by directing a French film: Elle, an adaptation of a novel by Philippe Djian. A psycho-thriller where Isabelle Huppert plays a rape victim, Elle was selected for the Official Competition at the Cannes International Film Festival, where it obtained very favourable reviews.

In December 2016, it was announced that Verhoeven would be the president of the jury for the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, scheduled to take place in February 2017.[22]

In April 2017, Benedetta, his next French film, was announced to begin filming in August of the same year.[23][24] It is a biographical film about the life of Benedetta Carlini, which will be portrayed by Elle co-star Virginie Efira, and is an adaptation of the non-fiction book Immodest Acts - The life of a lesbian nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown.[25] In May 2018, Charlotte Rampling was announced to play a key supporting role.[26] The film premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival in competition for the Palme d'Or.[27]

Other activities[edit]

Verhoeven was a member of the Jesus Seminar,[28] and he was the only member who does not have a degree in biblical studies.[29] He graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Leiden.[30][31] Since he is not a professional biblical exegete, his membership in the Jesus Seminar has occasionally been cited by opponents of the Seminar as a sign that this group is less scholarly than it claims. For example, Luke Timothy Johnson criticizes the Jesus Seminar's methods on exegetical grounds, and also criticizes what he perceives to be a dependence on the theatrical and an attempt to manipulate the mainstream media. He singles out Verhoeven as a key player in the media activities of the Jesus Seminar.[32] On the other hand, some Jesus Seminar members were unhappy with Verhoeven's portrayal of Jesus as an eschatological prophet.[33]

In 2007, Verhoeven wrote the book Jesus of Nazareth (Dutch: Jezus van Nazaret) about the life of Jesus of Nazareth.[34] The book reviews the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth and the alleged corruption of these same ideas over the last 2,000 years. Co-written with Verhoeven's biographer Rob Van Scheers, the book is the culmination of the research Verhoeven conducted in preparation for Jesus: The Man, a motion picture about the life of Christ.[29] The book tells about the Jewish uprising against Roman rule and characterizes Jesus as a radical political activist, downplaying any supernatural events and miracles as unproved or unprovable. Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait was released in September 2008 in Dutch and was published in English in May 2010 by Seven Stories Press.[35]


Year Film Director Writer Notes
1960 A Lizard Too Much Yes Short film
1961 Nothing Special Yes Short film
1962 The Hitchhikers Yes Short film
1963 Let's Have a Party Yes Short film
1965 The Marine Corps Yes Short documentary film
1970 Mussert Yes Television documentary film
1971 The Wrestler Yes Short film
1971 Business Is Business Yes
1973 Turkish Delight Yes
1975 Keetje Tippel Yes
1977 Soldier of Orange Yes Yes
1980 Spetters Yes
1981 All Things Pass Yes Television film
1983 The Fourth Man Yes
1985 Flesh and Blood Yes Yes
1987 RoboCop Yes
1990 Total Recall Yes
1992 Basic Instinct Yes
1995 Showgirls Yes
1997 Starship Troopers Yes
2000 Hollow Man Yes
2006 Black Book Yes Yes
2012 Tricked Yes Yes User-generated film
2016 Elle Yes
2021 Benedetta Yes Yes

Awards and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards[edit]

Year Nominated work Category Result
1973 Turkish Delight Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

Golden Globe Awards[edit]

Year Nominated work Category Result
1977 Soldier of Orange Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
2016 Elle Won

BAFTA Awards[edit]

Year Nominated work Category Result
2006 Black Book Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated
2016 Elle Nominated

César Awards[edit]

Year Nominated work Category Result
2016 Elle Best Film Won
Best Director Nominated

Saturn Awards[edit]

Year Nominated work Category Result
1987 RoboCop Best Director Won
1990 Total Recall Nominated
1992 Basic Instinct Nominated
1997 Starship Troopers Nominated

Golden Raspberry Awards[edit]

Year Nominated work Category Result
1995 Showgirls Worst Director Won


  1. ^ "Turks fruit". Netherlands Film Festival (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 15 February 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  2. ^ "Zwartboek beste film aller tijden" [Black Book: best film of all time]. (in Dutch). 3 October 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  3. ^ Hartl, John (7 June 1985). "'The Fourth Man' is occult thriller that holds suspense". The Seattle Times. p. 22.
  4. ^ Elliott, David (20 July 1984). "'The Fourth Man' is half-baked film". The San Diego Union-Tribune.
  5. ^ a b c Testelmans, Rob (2003). "Een beetje oorlog, best spannend" [A little war, quite exciting]. De cinema van Paul Verhoeven: voorbij de controverse (in Dutch). Retrieved 17 October 2006.
  6. ^ Scheers, Rob van (20 September 2016). "Paul Verhoeven als het zoontje van het schoolhoofd". de Volkskrant (in Dutch). Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  7. ^ "What's new?". Archived from the original on 20 February 2009.
  8. ^ "Paul Verhoeven profile". (in Dutch). Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  9. ^ "Paul Verhoeven: Biography". (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 29 January 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  10. ^ "Winners & Nominees: Soldier of Orange". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 1980. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  11. ^ "1993 Nominees (B)". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  12. ^ Brew, Simon (3 March 2009). "The 7 films that Arnold Schwarzenegger never made". Den of Geek. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  13. ^ Vigilla, Hubert (29 February 2012). "From Hell: Paul Verhoeven/Arnold Schwarzenegger's Crusade". Flixist. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  14. ^ Yakir, Dan (February 1996). "Starship Instincts". Starlog (223): 34–35 – via Internet Archive.
  15. ^ "Razzie Awards (1996)". IMDb.
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Showgirls DVD". MGM. 28 April 2007. Archived from the original on 28 April 2007. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  18. ^ Podgorski, Daniel (4 February 2016). "Poking Fun at Militarism: How Paul Verhoeven's Cult Classic Starship Troopers Willfully Discards Robert Heinlein's Novel". The Gemsbok. Retrieved 7 December 2016.
  19. ^ "Gala van de Nederlandse Film". (in Dutch). 6 October 2006. Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2006.
  20. ^ "Winnaars Gouden Kalveren 2006". 6 October 2006. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2006.
  21. ^ "Paul Verhoeven geridderd in Den Haag". Omroep West (in Dutch). 27 April 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  22. ^ "Jury President of the Berlinale 2017: Paul Verhoeven". Berlinale. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  23. ^ Mitchell, Robert (26 April 2017). "Paul Verhoeven to Direct 'Blessed Virgin,' Based on True Story of Lesbian Nun". Variety.
  24. ^ "Virginie Efira retourne chez Paul Verhoeven". Le Blog d'Ecran Noir.
  25. ^ "Virginie Efira en Sainte Vierge pour le prochain Paul Verhoeven". Allociné (in French). 26 April 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2018..
  26. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (1 May 2018). "Charlotte Rampling Set To Join Paul Verhoeven's Erotic Thriller 'Blessed Virgin'". Deadline Hollywood.
  27. ^ Lachasse, Jérôme (4 June 2020). "Festival de Cannes: un film déjà sélectionné pour l'édition 2021" [Cannes Festival: a film already selected for the 2021 edition]. BFMTV (in French).
  28. ^ "Meet the Westar Fellows: Paul Verhoeven". Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  29. ^ a b "Paul Verhoeven schrijft boek over Jezus" [Paul Verhoeven writes book about Jesus]. Katholiek Nederland (in Dutch). 3 September 2005. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007.
  30. ^ Hakkenes, Emiel (24 October 2008). "Verhoeven is niet echt zeer geleerd". Trouw. Zijn academische titel zou Verhoeven behaald hebben aan de Universiteit Leiden. Maar is hij wel gepromoveerd? "Dan zouden wij een proefschrift van hem moeten hebben", zegt een woordvoerder van de universiteit. "Dat is niet het geval." English translation: Verhoeven would have received his academic degree at the University of Leiden. But did he receive a doctor's degree? "Then we should have a dissertation", says a spokesperson of the university. "This is not the case."
  31. ^ Shaw, Dan (January 2003). "Paul Verhoeven". Senses of Cinema. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
  32. ^ Johnson, Luke Timothy (1996). The Real Jesus. HarperSanFrancisco. pp. 15–16. ISBN 978-0-0606-4166-5.
  33. ^ Allen, Charlotte (February 1995). "Away with the Manger". Lingua Franca: 27.
  34. ^ "Fondslijst Uitgeverij Bijleveld". (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 12 March 2007.
  35. ^ "Jesus of Nazareth by Paul Verhoeven". Seven Stories Press. Retrieved 3 February 2017.

External links[edit]

Media related to Paul Verhoeven at Wikimedia Commons