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Rome Interview: Paul Verhoeven On 'Tricked' & What's Next Including 'Rogue,' 'Hidden Force' & 'Jesus Of Nazareth'

Photo of Jessica Kiang By Jessica Kiang | The Playlist November 26, 2012 at 9:56AM

One of the most enjoyable half hours we spent during the Rome Film Festival was in conversation with director Paul Verhoeven. The filmmaker behind a large number of everyone's favorite popcorn movies from the late '80s/early '90s ("RoboCop," "Total Recall," Basic Instinct," "Starship Troopers") is experiencing something of a resurgence of late, with various films of his getting the subpar-remake treatment, which often has the unintended consequence of making us realize all over again just how much we loved the originals.
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Tricked 3
You mention that the process has left you rejuvenated?
Yes, not only the development, it was also about working with very young people, there are four people in the cast who are very young [between 19 and 23]… it was so much fun to work with the young people and within their own vocabulary. You cannot notice it, because you lose it in translation, but they have this kind of youth vocabulary that was already indicated by Kim, who knows very well how these people talk…And we tried to put that in the movie, and a lot of it came from the actors themselves. They were very creative -- I gave them freedom enough to be creative. 

So that was one thing, but also it was good to work again in this lighter form, this is not “Basic Instinct” which is sometimes funny too but in a different way. All my movies have a certain humour to them, but this… I thought mainly about two movies from the past when I was making this film, Ingmar Bergman’s “Smiles of a Summer Night” and Jean Renoir’s “La Regle du Jeu." It was a little bit even lighter of course, but I felt the amoral attitude in “La Regle du Jeu” was [similar to here.]

And then working with very young cameramen who did everything handheld with this new Arriflex camera, the Alexa… They knew so well how to work with these two cameras, how to move, shooting continuously, one over here, one over there, and they would come up with these ideas “if he does this, I can do that” and it was so energetic and so eye-opening, after all these science fiction films I’ve done where everything is so rigid. 

Sunset Boulevard
So is "Hidden Force," your film about the Dutch colonial period, the next thing you'll be bringing your "rejuvenation" to bear on?
I hope they will get the money together. I just finished another version of the script, I’m nearly done, but now the process of financing… it’s only about 30% there right now. Now they have to make an English version, and go to Germany and other countries and see if you can get money, because in Holland you would not be able to shoot it. Like "Black Book" was four countries -- a lot of money from Germany, money from Belgium, England and from Holland. And that was a budget of 17 million euro; this might be a little bit less like 14 or 15. 

And how about upcoming American films?
Yes, I’m working on this film I want to make with Bill Mechanic, who was head of Fox and is now independent. It’s a movie called “Rogue,” the script is done, it’s pretty tough -- a real film noir. Where you know that the guy is going to die, like "Double Indemnity" or "Sunset Boulevard." That’s what I liked about it, and it is set against the background, but not the foreground, of the Mexican cartels. 

You could call “Basic Instinct” a film noir, but that for me was more inspired by the paintings of David Hockney. So this would be a real film noir, but hopefully in that loose style with the two cameras. I would prefer to make every future movie with these two cameras so it has a certain looseness.

The Lady Vanishes
And how about "The Last Express," wasn't that due to have noir elements too?
That’s still there, not so much film noir, again it's lighter in tone. It’s like “The Lady Vanishes” combined with ‘Orient Express.’ In fact ‘Orient Express’ is closer, most of the scenes are on the train, it goes from Paris all the way to Istanbul. And they stop sometimes and get out, but in fact it’s all on the train, and it has a kind of romantic, slightly over the top, adventurous style. Till now it has not been possible to finance it. The script is done and I think it’s a really nice idea, I’m a big fan of train scenes, like in "North by Northwest"… I even took inspiration from Buster Keaton’s “The General

What is the status on your controversial "Jesus of Nazareth" film?
Well, we started with a scriptwriter and that went wrong. 

Paul Verhoeven Roger Avary
Wasn't that Roger Avary?
Yeah, but I don’t mention the name because I don’t want to hurt him...I thought he was very enthusiastic and he understood what I wanted, and of course I wrote a book about it, so he had that for background. But somehow it didn’t work and about a month ago we had to decide to separate ways. And so I have to find a new writer. It’s still there, but it’s a bit of a dangerous project. 

Dangerous indeed, how would you go about it?
I would shoot here [in Europe] certainly, it might be something you would have to be careful about [doing elsewhere] and there are a lot of guns in the United States…  Perhaps I think if I make that movie then I shall probably also prepare to move back to Europe. 

Of course, you can't foresee anything, I mean think of Theo van Gogh the film director who got killed. Of course he made terrible statements in his newspaper columns about Muslims, but he thought that you could do that, he didn’t realize that you cannot do that, that is not the time we live in. 

Speaking of which you also have a movie about Islam in Turkey in the cards?
Yes, I'm working on a movie in progress about Turkey in 1923. I’m going back to the time of Ataturk, and secularization of Turkey, the abolishment of Islam where they kind of pushed it out of the window. He used it only when he needed it, and now it’s coming back of course. All these things are kind of … [makes a serious, frowny face]

That’s why I want to make a comedy. My first film was a comedy but after that I went always into more heavier stuff. On "Tricked" it was such a delight to play with these people, when I finished this movie I thought, I would like to make a comedy. 

This article is related to: Rome Film Festival, Paul Verhoeven, Interview, Steekspel (Tricked), Rogue, The Last Express, Hidden Force


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