Paul Verhoeven — the man behind such sci-fi hits as RoboCop and Starship Troopers, plus such sexually charged films as Basic Instinct and Showgirls — has been talking about making a movie about Jesus for almost thirty years now, ever since he first attended a meeting of the Jesus Seminar in 1988. The subject came up again this week when Verhoeven — whose subversive critical hit Elle gets a limited release in U.S. theatres today — spoke to ComingSoon.net to promote his newest film.
Here’s a key bit:
CS: Leap frogging from the Crusades, we have to talk about your Jesus movie. How close are you to pulling the trigger on it?
Verhoeven: I wrote a book, of course, and I have been trying to, for years now already, come up with writers to do an outline. I have some that I participated in, then I ultimately looked at the result and thought, “If it’s this, then they better read the book. Why would I make this?” Because it’s too much the book, and it’s not from me, not interesting enough. Perhaps it’s not possible anymore, but I have not given up, no. The last attempt was six months ago, and I decided to leave it because we couldn’t solve it. We couldn’t solve it to make it a movie that has to be made, you know? You can make it, but then you have to feel that you do something, that the movie that is important to do the movie, although there is a book. I have the feeling that the book is more important than any outline ever about the book.
CS: Sure. Well, is it possible that you could just one day be walking down the street and it’ll hit you and you’ll have cracked it?
Verhoeven: Sure, sure. That’s possible, but there is a very tragic example, the director Carl Dreyer, who did “Joan of Arc” in the ’20s, and they did a couple of other stories, like “Ordet” and whatever, a very interesting director, he wanted to make a movie about Jesus his whole life. Finally the money came together and the star actor that he wanted was working on another movie, and so he had to wait a year or something, and then he died. So he died in front of the gate. At the beginning of production, basically, when the actor was free and the script was there, he died. So that’s in my mind, sometimes when I think about that project, I say, well, I have to be careful.
For the record, Verhoeven is currently 78. Dreyer was 79 when he passed away.
In the interview, Verhoeven goes on to say that Monty Python’s Life of Brian is “the best Jesus movie until now”, and he addresses whether Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Gospel According to St. Matthew is more “historical” or “mythological” — plus, of course, he talks about some of the other films he has made. Check it out.
— The photo above is from one of the bonus features on the RoboCop DVD.