Movie Fact #745 – May 8th, 2015:

While director Paul Verhoeven is best known in the U.S. for directing 1987’s “RoboCop”, 1990’s “Total Recall”, 1992’s “Basic Instinct”, and 1997’s “Starship Troopers”, many forget he is  Dutch director who originates from the Netherlands. There was a huge gap where he was strictly in the US with his last film in his home country being 1983’s “The Fourth Man”. The reason that led to this move was, after tiring of attempting to have his controversial Dutch films subsidized by the government, Verhoeven looked elsewhere for funding for his 1985 film “Flesh and Blood”, eventually securing most of the budget from Hollywood studio Orion Pictures. This came at a cost for the vision of the film and his working relationship with his long time, fellow Dutchman, actor Rutger Hauer who played the lead character Martin in “Flesh and Blood” and starred in several of Verhoeven’s earlier, Dutch films.

In addition to a cast featuring American, Australian, British and Dutch actors, attempting to handle an international co-production funded by multiple sources who all wanted to take the film in different directions overwhelmed Verhoeven. He also had not storyboarded the film in a bid to achieve, as he put it, a “looser visual approach”. All this led to a number of delays and disagreements because of the subsequent improvisational style of filming. Many members of the cast and crew also arrived and left when they pleased to party on a local beach. One of the most notable disagreements was between Verhoeven and Hauer.

See Hauer wanted to cultivate a reputation for playing heroic characters rather than villains, as he did in director Ridley Scott’s 1982 film “Blade Runner” as the villain character Roy Batty. This was, unfortunately, at odds with Verhoeven’s intent to portray the moral ambiguity of its characters and the Middle Ages in “Flesh and Blood” as, as he put it, a “stinking time in which to live”. This was to distance it from typical medieval fantasy depictions of the period, but caused a bitter rift to develop between the two, who have not worked together since.

Hollywood has a cost for creative integrity. For the most part, I feel, it helps filmmakers by giving them backing and a different take on their films. Sometimes, to avoid fear of cinematic tunnel vision, this is a good thing. However, when you are still at the bottom of the totem pole, it causes a lot of problems in trying to make your name known for your style. Verhoeven learned from this and several great films came out of him in the US after “Flesh and Blood”.

Orion Pictures soon requested changes once they started funding “Flesh and Blood”, feeling that the film needed a love interest; thus, instead of focusing on the relationship between Hawkwood (Played by Jack Thompson) and Martin, Agnes (Played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) was introduced and attention turned to her romantic entanglement with both Martin and Steven (Played by Tom Burlinson). Verhoeven later said, “The triangular relationship [of] Martin–Agnes–Steven is now the main story line, but in retrospect I think we should have stuck with Hawkwood and Martin. The failure of Flesh+Blood was a lesson for me: never again compromise on the main story line of a script.” And that was how “Robocop”, “Total Recall”, and all those films came to exist. So lesson learned and applied I’d say.

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Published in: on May 11, 2015 at 8:33 PM  Leave a Comment  

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