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Wachtel On The Arts - Paul Verhoeven

With movies such as Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Black Book, Dutch-born director Paul Verhoeven is always pushing the limits and challenging audiences. He calls his new movie, Elle, his most subversive film yet. Verhoeven talks to Eleanor Wachtel at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival about growing up in the Netherlands during the Second World War, how that influenced him as a filmmaker, his careers in Holland and Hollywood, why he’s a believer in realism, and working with Isabelle Huppert.
Director Paul Verhoeven attends the 'Elle' Official Competition screening during the 60th BFI London Film Festival in London, England on Oct 8, 2016. (John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI)

With movies such as Robocop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, and Black Book, Dutch-born director Paul Verhoeven is always pushing the limits and challenging audiences. He calls his new movie, Elle, his most subversive film yet. Verhoeven talks to Eleanor Wachtel at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival about growing up in the Netherlands during the Second World War, how that influenced him as a filmmaker, his careers in Holland and Hollywood, why he's a believer in realism, and working with Isabelle Huppert.


Paul Verhoeven has made a career as a bad boy of cinema. Many of his movies are steeped in sex and violence, some would say gratuitous sex and violence.

Who can forget Sharon Stone in the erotic thrilled Basic Instinct? The scene where she crosses and uncrosses her legs during a police interrogation has gone down as one of the most daring in American movie history. Or Peter Weller in the cyberpunk action movie Robocop, as a cyborg police officer who singlehandedly cleans up crime in Detroit only to find his own life at risk. Or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the dystopian SciFi megahit Total Recall, as a man who discovers that his memories are not his own.

Paul Verhoeven was born in Amsterdam in 1938. His family moved to The Hague in 1943, which was also where the German headquarters in The Netherlands were stationed. As a result, The Hague was heavily bombed by the Allies. And Verhoeven became intimately familiar with death and destruction at a very young age. In fact, he recalls going out to look at planes that had been shot down and staring into the faces of dead pilots.

When Paul Verhoeven was called up for military training after the war, he managed to get himself attached to the Marine Film Service. His 23-minute documentary about the Dutch Marine Corps won the Silver Sun for military films in France and launched his career.

Paul Verhoeven made a number of highly-regarded films in the Netherlands before moving to Hollywood. For instance, 1973's sexual romance Turkish Delight and then in 1977, the enormously popular Soldier of Orange, a heroic but critical tale set during the Second World War.

More recently, he made the hit Dutch movie Black Book. It's a dramatic and unsparing look at the Dutch Resistance – and collaboration - under Nazi Occupation. Paul Verhoeven's newest movie is Elle. Made in France, it stars Isabelle Huppert and is an ususual mix of sexual thriller and family social drama.

Paul Verhoeven lives in Los Angeles. Eleanor caught up with him at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. 


Web Extra | Official Trailer for "Elle" directed by Paul Verhoeven

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