It happened on a Wednesday very much like today, although the year was 1997. I had just turned nine. My friend and I had convinced his mother to drop us off after school at the local movie theater. We told her were going to see Flubber with Robin Williams, however that was a flubbered version of the truth. Our real intention was to sneak into to a screening of Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers.
The film was a satirical military science fiction film starring Denise Richards, Casper Von Dien, Neil Patrick Harris, Dina Meyer, and Jake Busey. The plot line follows Johnny Rico’s (Casper Von Dien) ascension through the futuristic military, culminating in a final war on the planet of an insectoid alien species known as “Arachnids”. The project first grew out of an original script by Edward Neumeier entitled Bughunt at Outpost Nine, but as similarities between it and the novel Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein were discovered, the studio licensed the title and the characters’ names were changed to reflect those in the novel.
In doing some more research on the film, we learned that the cast only agreed to film the shower scene if director, Paul Verhoeven, was also nude. Verhoeven, who directed Basic Instinct and Sharon Stone’s famous flashing scene five years earlier, agreed.
By the time of filming Starship Troopers, Verhoeven had developed a reputation for pushing the envelopes of onscreen violence and sex. He directed RoboCop and Total Recall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of which were notoriously bloody and violent.
Sharon Stone’s famous interrogation scene in Basic Instinct was not in the original script, but rather proposed by Verhoeven himself. He has said that inspiration for the scene was provided by a woman he once met at a party in the Netherlands. The woman was not wearing underwear, and knew of the affect it was having on people in attendance.
Verhoeven proposed the idea to Stone, who agreed that her character Catherine Trammel would do something similar. Although, in the final cut of the version Stone admits that she expected the moment to be more implied than explicit. Stone at the time of the film was still relatively unknown, and the 14th choice of director Paul Verhoeven. He had auditioned thirteen other more widely-known actresses, including Michele Pfeiffer, before choosing Stone for the part.
It’s interesting to note that Stone, for many years, has claimed that she was misled about the scene and how it would be edited. Verhoeven has always denied these claims.
“When we shot it, it was going to be a hint,” says Stone, “but [Verhoeven] told me: ‘You can see the white of your underwear, I need you to take it off.’ He assured me that nothing would be seen. So I took off my underwear and put it in my shirt pocket.”
Stone agreed and has that she even checked the monitor after shooting the scene to be sure that nothing could be seen. In the days before high definition, on a small monitor, she agreed nothing could be scene.
Everything changed when the scene was shown on a large screen. Stone claims to have stood up, walked over to Verhoeven, and slapping him when she first saw the scene on a large screen. Verhoeven has always had a very relaxed response to these claims.
“I think it had to do with the director of photography [Jan De Bont, who would later direct Speed and Twister] and I am Dutch, so we act with total normality towards nudity. And Sharon was carried away by this relaxed attitude. But when she saw the scene surrounded by other [American] people, including her agent and her publicist, she went crazy.”
This relaxed attitude towards sex and violence has come to characterize Verhoeven’s films for better or worse, as noted in his willingness to film in the nude to ensure the sexual shower scenes in Starship Troopers stay in the film.
The next film he would direct would be Hollow Man starring Kevin Bacon. Benedetta is Verhoeven’s upcoming film, a French and Dutch biographical drama film starring Virginie Efira as Benedetta Carlini, a novice nun in the 17th century who joins an Italian convent and begins a love affair with another woman. It is slated to be released in 2020.