Paul Verhoeven has never been a director known to pull punches. And after hearing the news that Sony wants another stab at Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers – a film he first did in 1997 – the man behind classic films like Total Recall and Robocop said the decision matched the way the United States pointed in the recent presidential election.
While discussing his Starship Troopers film at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York City, according to IndieWire, Verhoeven didn’t seem too keen on having a film version of Starship Troopers closer to the original 1959 novel.
“We really, really tried to get away from the novel because we felt that the novel was fascistic and militaristic. You feel that going back to the novel would fit very much in a Trump presidency.”
Of course, Verhoeven’s opinions on Donald Trump are his own, yet the director said the idea they were putting across in the 1997 version of the film was to “seduce” the audience into Heinlein’s vision, but then make you realize you were actually rooting for the wrong side. That what Heinlein wrote in his book is not what Verhoeven wanted audiences to walk away from admiring.
“Our philosophy was really different. We wanted to do a double story, a really wonderful adventure story about these young boys and girls fighting. But we also wanted to show that these people are really, in their heart, without knowing it, on their way to fascism.”
Fascism is typically defined as an authoritarian and nationalistic system of government. The story is focused on a military regiment trained to go after an alien enemy, and do so completely out of a desire to earn citizenship with their service, and all the benefits that come with that designation.
Verhoeven and writer Ed Neumeier would poke a number of holes into that primary motivation for the characters, sprinkling clues to their own philosophy throughout the film. One example is a classroom scene where portraits of various philosophers were hanging on the wall. One of those philosophers, however, is Hannah Arendt, a political theorist (she hated being called a philosopher) who tackled major issues in her time like totalitarianism.
Verhoeven doesn’t seem to have a lot of optimism for the new take on Starship Troopers, but said even if someone did follow in his footsteps to create satire, it would likely never make it through the executive level of the studio. Back when he did his film, Sony was undergoing a massive management shakeup, where he said many leaders were more focused on if they would have a job the next day than what he was doing on a movie set in California or South Dakota.
“We succeeded to do this movie that is so subversive and politically incorrect (because) Sony changed (leadership) every three, four months. Nobody looked at the (dailies) because they had no time, because they were fired every three, four months. So we got away with it because nobody saw it.”
“I remember saying, ‘Yeah, but they are a different color, really.'”
The 1997 Starship Troopers starred Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer and Denise Richards. It earned $121.1 million globally, the equivalent of $180.6 million today.
The new version is currently in development with writers Mark Swift and Damian Shannon, the duo behind films like Freddy vs. Jason in 2003 as well as the Friday the 13th reboot in 2009.
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