Director Paul Verhoeven has certainly had his share of success in the science fiction genre. His sci-fi films such as RoboCop, Total Recall, and Starship Troopers have made him a cult icon, and his films ushered in a new era of science fiction movies in the late 1980s. Considering how popular his SF flicks have been, they’re also ripe for the Hollywood remake machine. We’ve already seen one in the abysmal Total Recall remake from director Len Wiseman, and we’re slated to get another one next year with Jose Padilha’s remake of Verhoeven’s 1987 classic RoboCop. Needless to say, Verhoeven is not a fan of this trend.
In an interview with the Huffington Post’s Mike Ryan, the Dutch director opens up about Hollywood’s remakes of his early films. Wiseman’s Total Recall also adapted Philip K. Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” but the two directors’ approaches couldn’t be more different. Verhoeven succeeded in making a sci-fi classic largely by not taking the source material too seriously. Verhoeven says:
It’s too serious. They took themselves very seriously and didn’t realize that the big story is also strange. And impossible, of course. But, I felt that it was strange. I felt the movie, in some way, should not take itself too seriously. In fact, ultimately, the casting of Arnold — he was already cast before I was there. So I had to take Arnold. I liked the script already, but Arnold was playing the main part. So, take it or leave it. I said I wanted to do it with Harrison Ford, like in Blade Runner. But I might have made a mistake because Blade Runner is also very serious.
Verhoeven goes on to discuss about the playfulness of his Total Recall, and how that approach came from what he learned while making RoboCop a few years earlier. Verhoeven moved from Holland to Hollywood to make the cyborg cop movie, so he had to adjust culturally to his new American home, and in that way RoboCop is a very personal film for him. When asked how he feels about the new RoboCop remake, Verhoeven responds:
It’s to make money. It’s like washing fluids: You add some mini changes, give it another color and you sell it again. You know, it’s the same. That’s what it is. It’s like cookies: You change the form and the box and put more modern colors around it and say, ‘We have new cookies.’ Especially with RoboCop, which is perhaps more personal than Total Recall — because I was completely in that new American world and it was like a fish in a new water. So I think the film is extremely inspired by things that I had no idea about. And I went to the set and, boom, and tried this and that. And all of that worked very well.
Finally, Verhoeven offers up some hope for the new RoboCop remake. Apparently, Verhoeven is a fan of director Jose Padilha’s work:
“I was very inspired and I think that’s why it’s a unique movie (RoboCop, 1987). And it’s difficult to repeat that. But, perhaps the guy [director Jose Padilha] feels that way and can do it in a different way, you know? He is an interesting director.”
We’ll see if Paul Verhoeven is right about Jose Padilha’s work with RoboCop when it’s released next year. Padilha has a good track record with such films as Elite Squad and its sequel, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. Let’s just hope Padilha’s remake isn’t as bad as Len Wiseman’s Total Recall. Yikes!
You can read Mike Ryan’s complete interview with Paul Verhoeven at the Huffington Post. The RoboCop remake will hit theaters everywhere on Februray 7, 2014. Here’s Paul Verhoeven’s “cameo” in the original RoboCop: