Paul Verhoeven

For other people with the same name, see Paul Verhoeven (disambiguation).
Paul Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven in 2016
Born (1938-07-18) 18 July 1938
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nationality Dutch
Occupation Film director
Film producer
Television director
Television producer
Years active 1960–present
Notable work Turkish Delight
Soldier of Orange
Total Recall
Basic Instinct
Starship Troopers
Black Book
Spouse(s) Martine Tours (m. 1967)
Children 2
Awards Saturn Award for Best Director (1987)

Paul Verhoeven (Dutch: [ˈpʌu̯l vərˈɦuvə(n)]; born 18 July 1938) is a Dutch film director, film producer, television director, television producer and screenwriter. Verhoeven is active in both the Netherlands and Hollywood. Explicit violent and/or sexual content and social satire are trademarks of both his drama and science fiction films. He is best known in Hollywood for directing the science fiction films RoboCop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), Showgirls (1995) and Starship Troopers (1997).

Verhoeven's film Turkish Delight (1973) received the award for Best Dutch Film of the Century at the Netherlands Film Festival.[1] His films altogether received a total of nine Academy Award nominations, mainly for editing and effects. Verhoeven 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 the best Dutch film ever by the Dutch public in 2008.[2]

In contrast, he won the Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture and Worst Director for Showgirls (1995); he is one of the few people to have accepted their award(s) in person.

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 called Verhoeven "a busy bee whose movies pollinate the festival circuit."[4]

Early life

Paul Verhoeven was born on 18 July 1938 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. He is the son of school teacher Wim Verhoeven and hat maker Nel van Schaardenburg. Although he was born in Amsterdam, the family lived in the village of Slikkerveer.

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 Wim Verhoeven became head teacher at the Van Heutszschool in The Hague, and Paul Verhoeven attended this school. Sometimes they watched informative films at home with the school's film projector. Paul Verhoeven and his father also liked to see American films that were in the cinema after the liberation, such as The Crimson Pirate (1952). They went as many as ten times to see The War of the Worlds (1953). Paul 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 himself liked comic drawing; he created The Killer, a grey character in a detailed story full of revenge. Other fiction he liked were Frankenstein and the Rice Burroughs Barsoom series.[5]

Verhoeven attended public secondary school Gymnasium Haganum in The Hague. Later, beginning in 1955, he studied at Leiden University, where he joined the elite fraternity Minerva. Verhoeven graduated with a doctorandus (M.Sc.) with a double major, in mathematics and physics.[6][7]


Short films and TV series (1960–1969)

Verhoeven made his first film A Lizzard Too Much for the anniversary of his students' corps in 1960.[8] 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 never used his math and physics degree, opting instead to invest his energies in a career in film. After his studies he entered the Dutch Navy as a conscript. He made the documentary "Het Korps Mariniers" (The Royal Dutch Marine Corps, 1965) about the Navy, which won the French Golden Sun award for military films.[5]

In 1967 Verhoeven married Martine Tours, with whom he later 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)

Verhoeven's first feature film Business Is Business was released in 1971 and was not especially well received. His first national success did not come until 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 liberal young girl from a rather 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.

Paul Verhoeven (1983)

Verhoeven built on his reputation and achieved international success with his Golden Globe nominated film Soldier of Orange,[9] 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 popular 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)

Gerard Soeteman also wrote the script for Verhoeven's first American 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, very violent, special-effects-heavy smashes RoboCop and Total Recall. Both RoboCop and Total Recall won Academy Special Achievement Awards, for Sound Effects Editing and for Visual Effects respectively.

Presentation of Basic Instinct at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. Left to right: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Douglas, Martine Tours (Verhoeven's wife), Paul 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.[10]

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.[11] Afterward, the film enjoyed success on the home video market, generating more than $100 million from video rentals [12] and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers.[13]

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), adapted from the controversial novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein, and Hollow Man (2000). Each film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.

Return to Europe (2006–present)

Verhoeven promoting his French-language film Elle in 2016.

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."[14] Black Book eventually won six Golden Calves at this festival, including Best Director.[15] 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 never realized. Since his return to European cinema in 2006 with Black Book, Verhoeven has been connected to a large number of projects, but for the moment none of them has come to fruition. Some of those titles were produced with other directors at the helm, such as The Paperboy.

Finally, in a rather unexpected twist, Verhoeven followed Black Book by directing a movie in French: Elle, an adaptation of a novel by Philippe Djian, mostly known as the author of 37°2 le matin. The film by Verhoeven, a psycho-thriller where Isabelle Huppert plays a rape victim, was selected in the Official Competition at the Cannes International Film Festival, where it obtained very favourable reviews.

Verhoeven has been a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion since 2007.[16]

Other activities

Verhoeven is a member of the Jesus Seminar,[17] and he is the only member who does not have a degree in biblical studies.[18] He graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Leiden.[19][20] 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.[21] On the other hand, some Jesus Seminar members were unhappy with Verhoeven's portrayal of Jesus as an eschatological prophet.[22]

In 2007 Verhoeven wrote the book Jesus of Nazareth (Dutch: Jezus van Nazaret) about the life of Jesus of Nazareth.[23] 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.[18] 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.[24]

Robert J. Miller, author of Born Divine, said about Jesus of Nazareth, "Verhoeven breaks down the gospels...and reassembles them into a unique...reconstruction of the historical Jesus."[25]

In April 2010, Verhoeven hinted that his next potential film project would be an adaptation of a "Hitchcockian" computer game set in 1914. Although he would not reveal the title, there was speculation that the project might be an adaptation of The Last Express, a 1997 game designed by Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner.[26] In October 2011, Verhoeven confirmed The Last Express as the identity of the game in question, and revealed that he is even considering filming it in 3D.[27] Mechner has gone on record as saying he is a fan of Verhoeven's Jesus of Nazareth (JON).[28] Verhoeven's interpretation of JON will reportedly include Jesus as an exorcist, and a believer in the Kingdom of God on Earth.


Year Film Director Producer Writer Notes
1971 Business Is Business Yes
1973 Turkish Delight Yes
1975 Katie Tippel Yes
1977 Soldier of Orange Yes Yes
1980 Spetters Yes
1983 The Fourth Man Yes
1985 Flesh and Blood Yes Yes
1987 RoboCop Yes Saturn Award for Best Director
1990 Total Recall Yes Nominated — Saturn Award for Best Director
1992 Basic Instinct Yes
1995 Showgirls Yes Razzie Award for Worst Director
1997 Starship Troopers Yes
2000 Hollow Man Yes
2006 Black Book Yes Yes
2012 Tricked Yes Yes
2016 Elle Yes



Verhoeven has cast several actors more than once.

Business Is Business Turkish
Soldier of
Spetters The Fourth
Flesh +
RoboCop Total
Showgirls Starship
Marshall Bell
Christian Berkel
Mark Carlton
Ronny Cox
Andrea Domburg
Michael Gregory
Rutger Hauer
Thom Hoffman
Michael Ironside
Jeroen Krabbé
Hannah de Leeuwe
Derek de Lint
Jack McGee
Dean Norris
William Shockley
Renée Soutendijk
Sharon Stone
Carry Tefsen
Greg Travis
Monique van de Ven
Dolf de Vries

Other creative professions

Verhoeven has worked with Basil Poledouris on Flesh & Blood, Robocop, and Starship Troopers. He has also worked with visual effects experts Peter Kuran and Phil Tippett, and writer Edware Neumeier, on Robocop and Starship Troopers.


  1. ; Winners of the Netherlands Film Festival
  2. "Zwartboek beste film aller tijden - Nieuws" (in Dutch). Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  3. Hartl, John (June 7, 1985). "THE FOURTH MAN Is Occult Thriller That Holds Suspense". The Seattle Times. Seattle: Seattle Times Company. p. 22.
  4. Elliott, David (July 20, 1984). "The Fourth Man is half-baked film". San Diego Union.
  5. 1 2 3 Een beetje oorlog, best spannend, 2003; accessed on October 17, 2006
  6. Paul - all about a unique director
  7. Wiskundemeisjes » Paul Verhoeven
  8. Paul Verhoeven - Biography
  9. HFPA - Awards Search
  10. Session Timeout - Academy Awards Database - AMPAS
  11. "Razzie Awards (1996) on IMDB".
  12. Wiser, Paige. "The beauty of 'Showgirls'", Chicago Sun-Times, July 27, 2004
  13. "MGM's official page for Showgirls DVD". 2007-04-28. Archived from the original on 2007-04-28. Retrieved 2010-11-25.
  14. Gala van de Nederlandse Film, October 6, 2006; accessed October 17, 2006
  15. Winnaars Gouden Kalveren 2006, October 6, 2006; accessed October 17, 2006
  16. (Dutch) "Paul Verhoeven geridderd in Den Haag", Omroep West, 2007. Retrieved on 12 February 2015.
  17. See the Jesus Seminar website at
  18. 1 2 Paul Verhoeven schrijft boek over Jezus Dutch press release on the writing of his book.
  19. Hakkenes, Emiel Verhoeven is niet echt zeer geleerd in Trouw 24 October 2008 Engl. 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." Dutch original: "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.” "
  20. shaw, Dan. "critique by professor Dan Shaw". Archived from the original on November 17, 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
  21. For example, The Real Jesus by Luke Timothy Johnson (SF: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997) 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 on pp. 15–16 of this book.
  22. Charlotte Allen, "Away With The Manger", in Lingua Franca (Feb. /1995), p. 27.
  23. published by Netherlands company Fondslijst Uitgeverij Bijleveld Archived March 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. Jesus of Nazareth, at Seven Stories Press
  25. by Paul Verhoeven, "Google Books"
  26. "Paul Verhoeven Developing Big Screen Adaptation of… Jordan Mechner's Video Game The Last Express?". /Film.
  27. Paul Verhoeven Talks 3D During MIPCOM on YouTube
  28. Good Books to Buy for Geeks Like Me

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