My Filmviews interviews… Paul Verhoeven

Interview met regisseur over Steekspel, Total Recall en Robocop remake

Tricked is the new movie by Paul Verhoeven, which has been made through crowdsourcing. Everyone had the chance to be part of the project by writing the script, make music or simply by voting. The movie was made in 8 episodes. My Filmviews talked with Paul Verhoeven about making the film, the challenges he faced and his thoughts about the remakes of his most well-known movies.

What was the experience with making this crowdsourced movie, Tricked?
It’s a very intensive and long way to create a story. It is cheaper to start with a real story/script instead of doing it this way. It costs a lot of time, you really need the time you have between episodes to look at the scripts. When doing that you need to be honest to your audience – the users – by using what they suggest as much as possible, but you also be keen to change what isn’t right or doesn’t work structurally. You ask yourself: “Are we going to have a problem with this?” or “If we are going to do it this way is it going to be an endless road which we wont’be able to finish in 8 episodes?”. It’s hard to take control without getting the feeling that you change it too much to reflect your own vision. Working with user generated content is something which works to a certain extent. But not like we thought. We thought we would receive only a couple of scripts which would really stand out and could use as a starting point. We thought we would – together with Robert (Alberdingk Thijm) – be able to turn those scripts into one script and that it would be something which could be done in half a day. That wasn’t the case. Every time it took two weeks and we had to take the good parts from a lot of scripts. For the second episode we used 40 out of 700 scripts.


Was the script the biggest challenge?
Yes, because shooting it was fantastic and I worked with a great crew. The atmosphere on the set was probably the best since Floris and Turkish Delight.

What was the reason for that?
It was because everyone was so spontaneous and we didn’t know where the story would go, it was all very adventurous. Everyone was willing to try and over half of the people were young. There was no stress, we had great locations and it was fantastic. I should do it again, but with a ‘real’ movie that has the same “ligthness” as Tricked. You can’t work that way when you are doing a thriller, that’s too hard. It isn’t possible to shoot a movie like Basic Instinct so loosely, everything there has got to go like clockwork.

Steekspel interview

How did you decide on the cast?
We tested around a thousand amateur actors and actresses. But when I received the first five pages of the script, written by Kim (van Kooten), who really is able to write between the sentences, where there is a lot of ambiguity in what the characters are saying and where it is more important what they don’t say, I immediately thought: That is going to be difficult, only real actors are able to express that. Kim’s script almost floats through the story and it is very difficult to realise that with amateurs.

Would you consider doing a project like this again in the future?
I would do it, but then it would start with the idea of it being to be a full length movie. The question then would be how much more expensive it would be instead of developing the script yourself. You would be able to keep filming. We had to wait a lot. We could shoot for two or three days after which we would need to wait three to six weeks before we could continue and had to set up everything again. That’s something you don’t have when the script is ready before you start filming. Doing it again therefore is really an economic question, can you afford that? Ziggo (a Dutch company) was able to make that investment, because PR played an important role. But you have to realise that for the money they invested, you would have been able to make a full lenght movie – if the script would have been availble at the start. During the project they have tried to make it a 90 minute movie, but it was already too late to do so. The story was already going to its ending and it would not be possible to change it. By then a lot of the story was set, relationships were made clear, secrets were shared and at that moment you can’t say “let’s make up some scenes where the character head to Germany where something happens as well” and then return back here and finish the story.


Before this interview I’ve asked readers of My Filmviews to send in questions they might have for Paul Verhoeven, below are the ones I was able to ask.

Several remakes of your movies have been made or are being made, like Total Recall and Robocop
Starship Troopers was recently bought
did you have any advising role in those movies?
No, I wasn’t asked for advice.

Would you be interested in working on a remake?
I wouldn’t do a movie again. I probably would have done something like it to give feedback, but I’m always interested in doing something new.

Total Recall 2012

What did you think of the remake of Total Recall?
It wasn’t good. With Total Recall all lightness has been taken out. It’s all being played straight and it only has chase scenes and shootouts. In that setting the story seems idiotic. If I look back at the way we did it, the man who is selling Schwarzenegger that dream really is kind of a comedic car salesman. Because of something like that you buy into this crazy story. If you take it all seriously then from the outset you’re approaching it the wrong way. Philip K. Dick’s stories have a light footedness about them, where he plays with the elements and that’s the way I filmed it. By leaving that out and making it very serious – which is something that could also happen to the new Robocop movie – you really are left with a ridiculous story. If you film it while slightly making fun of yourself, with the right perspective while winking at the audience, you protect yourself against the danger of it becoming ridiculous.


How did you do that with Robocop?
We had to think for a long time about how we would introduce Robocop in the movie. The idea eventually came from the maker of the suit, Rob Bottin. He suggested to not immediately show the whole suit, but just bits of it. When you watch the movie you see a flash of it on a TV, then a shot of it filmed through a matte piece of glass and the next moment you see Robocop, but only showing it very briefly. If you present all of it immediately, no matter how good that suit is, people will start to laugh. If you look at the first two part of Star Wars you also see they have that lightness to them. That’s why you believe everything, you believe in those aliens from other galaxys and it makes the ‘princess’ something ordinary.

Are you a member of the Academy?
Yes, I am a member of the Academy, of the Director’s Guild and I vote.

Since you are I thought it was interesting that you appeared at the Razzies. How do you look back on that?
Well, that’s different, it’s kind of a joke. It really was a fantastic evening. I didn’t know what those ‘Razzies’were, but RenΓ© Mioch (a famous reviewer in the Netherlands and also the producer of Tricked) asked me to go. It turned out to be a lot of fun, although it initially started very upleasantly because people were laughing so much when pieces of Showgirls were shown – to show how ‘bad’it was. When they realised the director was there and that he had to head to the stage six or seven times to receive an award for worst movie, worst directing, worst actrice etcetera, the mood changed. People started yelling “Showgirls!” and it really was a change of values. When going in I expected a slaughter, but it ended in a victory and I’m really happy that I attended.

The new movie by Paul Verhoeven, Tricked, will premiere in the Netherlands on March 28th. The movie was created together with the public and that same public can influence its release as by buying tickets at and decide in which cinemas it will be shown.

27 thoughts on “My Filmviews interviews… Paul Verhoeven

  1. Cool you got to interview the director! Remake of Total Recall was so unnecessary, understandable Verhoeven didn’t think it was good. I think what he says about taking story too seriously is what went wrong with the Star Wars prequels as well.

  2. Fantastic stuff Nostra. I’m very impressed man. Glad to see you squeeze in that Razzie question as well. Good on you and Mr. Verhoeven. A fine interview man.

    • Thanks Mark, I really had to squeeze it in, because time was already up, but he was cool and lit up when talking about it. It was really clear he enjoyed the Razzies a lot.

    • Thanks Alex. It was great he was talking about it like that. Don’t know when it will be released internationally, but hope you’ll get a chance to see it.

  3. VERY nice Nostra!! Glad to hear about his views on the reboot, and I’m glad he doesn’t do remakes. Congrats on the interview and you post some great questions here!

  4. Great job on this interview, Nostra! Really enjoyable read, and it was especially interesting to hear his thoughts on the Total Recall remake.

    BTW, not sure if anyone else is having problems, but your RSS feed is struggling to pop up in my reader. I didn’t get anything until today, when it sent me your last nine posts all at once. Any idea what could be causing this?

    • Thanks Eric!

      Hmmm, hadn’t heard about it from anyone yet, that’s very annoying. I have no idea what could be causing it, but I will subscribe to the rss feed myself to see if I run into any issues.

  5. Hurray! You asked my question! I’ve added him to my list of Academy members and have linked to you as the source.

    I also really loved his take on the Razzies. I remember the video where Sandra Bullock attended and she also got a very warm response, so I think more stars should consider showing up to get their awards — And make a lot of new fans in the process!

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    • Thanks, was cool to do. What was funny though is that I had prepared my questions, but if you ask him something he really keeps going. Actually had to interrupt him a couple of times because I knew I only had a limited time.

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