While it's six years since we had a new feature film from Paul Verhoeven, the great Dutch director is still wielding his influence over Hollywood, even if only as a source of material. This past summer, Verhoeven's 1990 actioner "Total Recall" received the big-budget remake treatment, just as a redo of his 1987 breakthrough "Robocop" went into production, helmed by Jose Padilha, while at the same time, it was announced that his 1997 "Starship Troopers" was being eyed for another version by the producers of 2012's "Total Recall," one more "patriotic" and less "violent" than the original.
With Verhoeven unveiling his latest work, the one-hour, semi-crowdsourced "Tricked," at the Rome Film Festival over the weekend (where it's proven to be one of the highlights), we got a chance to sit down with the director, and one of the main things we wanted to ask about was what he thought about this wave of remakes. And the answer? Not an awful lot.
In terms of the only one that's actually hit theaters, Verhoeven politely danced around his feelings about that “Total Recall” remake, directed by Len Wiseman and starring Colin Farrell. "Critics were a lot more complimentary to me and Arnold about the original after the remake came out than they had been been before it," he laughed. And it seems that the film, which stripped out much of the weirdness and subversion of the original, tanking with both critics and audiences, may have given producers Neal Moritz and David Jaffe, who also have the "Starship Troopers" rights, some second thoughts.
“I don’t know if they’re going to do 'Starship Troopers' after the failure of 'Total Recall,'" Verhoeven told us. "Yes, they bought the rights, we know that, but I really thought they made a mistake when they did the remake by making it so serious. I’m not so sure [that approach] will work for ['Starship Troopers’] either. I think all of these films are accepted because they don’t take themselves so seriously. There’s a lightness, you believe it, but we also know it’s not true." Co-signed, Mr. Verhoeven.
The director seems to think much of the same about the "Robocop" remake too. "It's the same thing," he says. "It's very difficult to make this story realistically." As for thoughts that Verhoeven might have been involved with the redo, he pooh poohs that idea entirely “No, no, I was never going to be involved. There was always a plan to do a sequel at Orion, and it never came to anything [for me — the film was made, in 1990, with Irvin Kershner directing]. As you know, I’m not a big fan of sequels because I’ve never done them. I’ve always escaped them narrowly. I think you better not do them. But sometimes there’s so much pressure and so much that they offer you – these actors and this and that, a much bigger budget – but I’ve always been able to avoid the temptation.”
A good move, we can all agree. Verhoeven has got plenty on his plate for the future. Keep your eyes peeled for more from our interview with the helmer in the next few days. – Interview by Jessica Kiang