There are some big movies celebrating anniversaries this year — “Goodfellas” turns 25, and “Se7en” blows out 20 candles — but another, slightly more infamous movie is ringing in two decades: Paul Verhoeven‘s “Showgirls.” The years haven’t changed the tide of overall opinion of the stripper flick. It’s still regarded as a major misfire, but some are now able to view the picture as a camp curiosity (frankly, I don’t even find it enjoyable enough on that level to be able to get through the movie more than a few minutes at a time). Still, “Showgirls” has remained on the pop culture radar for a couple of decades and Rolling Stone has used the occasion of the film’s birthday to enlist Verhoeven to share his reflections on the movie.
The entire thing is a must read, as it provides a pretty fascinating and honest account of the director’s work on the movie from the man himself. But there are some pretty choice nuggets in there, about his intentions with the picture, how it was received, and the overall tone, which he takes full responsibility for. Here’s a few….
Don’t call “Showgirls” sexy: “…the sexual elements of ‘Showgirls’ are extremely limited; it’s more about the nudity. If you make a story about a lap-dancer who becomes a showgirl, I think nudity is obligatory. It followed the storyline. But I wouldn’t call that sexual. I would say ‘Showgirls’ is more anti-erotic than erotic.”
Paul Verhoeven fought for an NC-17 rating: “With ‘Basic Instinct,’ I had endless fights for months with the MPAA about what I could and couldn’t show in the film. Which is why the American version is different than the European version, which is much more explicit. We had to go back to the MPAA eight times with that movie before we could get an R rating, which is what my contract required…I foresaw exactly the same problems — or worse — with doing ‘Showgirls.’ So I told [screenwriter] Joe [Eszterhas] and the others, ‘If you don’t do this as an NC-17, I’m not going to do it.’ Because I didn’t want to fight with the MPAA about one breast here, or another breast there, and another breast over there. So from the beginning, I was very clear that I only wanted to make the movie with that rating.”
Paul Verhoeven stands by casting Elizabeth Berkley, takes responsibility for her performance: “I had never seen ‘Saved by the Bell,’ so that didn’t count too much for me. I chose her because she was the right choice. There was no competition…People have, of course, criticized her for being over-the-top in her performance. Most of that comes from me. I pushed it in that direction. Good or not good, I was the one who asked her to exaggerate everything — every move — because that was the element of style that I thought would work for the movie.”
Everyone missed the artistry of the movie: “Even now, when I see the movie, I think it’s shot in an extremely elegant way. There are beautiful movements of the camera, and beautiful choreography of how the camera worked with the actors and how the actors moved. I think it’s Felliniesque, certainly, in its over-the-top stuff. And I think that the whole thing, somehow, was completely rejected.”
Paul Verhoeven’s Hollywood career evaporated after “Showgirls”: “The backlash, and the consequences for me in the Hollywood industry, are certainly not something I will forget. After ‘Showgirls,’ nobody trusted me anymore, other than with the movies that had been working very well, which was the science-fiction stuff. I started with ‘RoboCop‘ and ‘Total Recall,’ but I tried to get away from science fiction. Then all the doors that were opened for me were all closed by Showgirls. It made life more one-dimensional as to what I was able to do. That’s why I decided to go back to myself again with something like [WWII movie] ‘Black Book‘ in 2006.”
How does “Showgirls” hold up for you? Misunderstood classic? Total failure? Somewhere in between? Let us know below.