Paul Verhoeven

Last updated
Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven Cannes 2016.jpg
Born (1938-07-18) 18 July 1938 (age 80)
Amsterdam, Netherlands
Alma mater Leiden University
  • Director
  • producer
  • screenwriter
Years active1960–present
Notable work
RoboCop , Total Recall , Basic Instinct , Showgirls , Starship Troopers , Elle
Martine Tours(m. 1967)
Awards Saturn Award for Best Director (1987)
Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film (2016)

Paul Verhoeven (Dutch:  [ˈpʌu̯l vərˈɦuvə(n)] ; born 18 July 1938) is a Dutch director, screenwriter and film producer. Active in both the Netherlands and Hollywood, Verhoeven's blending of graphic violence and sexual content with social satire are trademarks of both his drama and science fiction films. He directed the films Turkish Delight (1973), RoboCop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), Showgirls (1995), Starship Troopers (1997) and Elle (2016).

Netherlands Constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Europe

The Netherlands is a country located mainly in Northwestern Europe. The European portion of the Netherlands consists of twelve separate provinces that border Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest, with maritime borders in the North Sea with Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom. Including three island territories in the Caribbean Sea—Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba— it forms a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The official language is Dutch, but a secondary official language in the province of Friesland is West Frisian.

Hollywood Neighborhood of Los Angeles in California, United States

Hollywood is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California, notable as the home of the U.S. film industry including several of its historic studios. Its name has come to be a shorthand reference for the industry and the people associated with it.

Satire genre of arts and literature in the form of humor or ridicule

Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, government, or society itself into improvement. Although satire is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society.


Turkish Delight received the award for Best Dutch Film of the Century at the Netherlands Film Festival. [1] His films altogether received a total of nine Academy Award nominations, mainly for editing and effects. Verhoeven won the Saturn Award for Best Director for Robocop. His Dutch war film Black Book (2006) was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language and was voted by the Dutch public, in 2008, as the best Dutch film ever made. [2] In contrast, he won the Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture and Worst Director for Showgirls; he is one of the few people to have accepted their Golden Raspberry awards in person, and was the first person to go to the ceremony to receive it.

Netherlands Film Festival annual film festival held in Utrecht, Netherlands

The Netherlands Film Festival is an annual film festival, held in September and October of each year in the city of Utrecht.

Academy Awards American awards given annually for excellence in cinematic achievements

The Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, are a set of awards for artistic and technical merit in the film industry, given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), to recognize excellence in cinematic achievements as assessed by the Academy's voting membership. The various category winners are awarded a copy of a golden statuette, officially called the "Academy Award of Merit", although more commonly referred to by its nickname "Oscar". The award was originally sculpted by George Stanley from a design sketch by Cedric Gibbons. AMPAS first presented it in 1929 at a private dinner hosted by Douglas Fairbanks in the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

The Saturn Award for Best Director is one of the annual awards given by the American Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films. The Saturn Awards, which are the oldest film-specialized awards to reward genre fiction achievements, in particular for science fiction, fantasy, and horror, included the Best Director category for the first time at the 3rd Saturn Awards, for the 1974/1975 film years.

The Seattle Times praised Verhoeven by saying, "director Paul Verhoeven often appears to be a one-man Dutch movie industry," [3] while The San Diego Union called Verhoeven "a busy bee whose movies pollinate the festival circuit." [4]

<i>The Seattle Times</i> newspaper

The Seattle Times is a daily newspaper serving Seattle, Washington, United States. It has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the state of Washington and in the Pacific Northwest region.

<i>The San Diego Union-Tribune</i> newspaper in San Diego, California

The San Diego Union-Tribune is an American metropolitan daily newspaper, published in San Diego, California.

Early life

Paul Verhoeven was born in Amsterdam on 18 July 1938, the son of a school teacher, Wim Verhoeven, and a hat maker, Nel van Schaardenburg. His family lived in the village of Slikkerveer.[ citation needed ]

Amsterdam Capital of the Netherlands

Amsterdam is the capital city and most populous municipality of the Netherlands. Its status as the capital is mandated by the Constitution of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam has a population of 851,373 within the city proper, 1,351,587 in the urban area and 2,410,960 in the metropolitan area. The city is located in the province of North Holland in the west of the country but is not its capital, which is Haarlem. The metropolitan area comprises much of the northern part of the Randstad, one of the larger conurbations in Europe, with a population of approximately 8 million.

Teacher person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competences or values

A teacher is a person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competences or values.

Hatmaking manufacture and design of hats and headwear

Hatmaking or millinery is the design, manufacture and sale of hats and head-wear. A person engaged in this trade is called a milliner or hatter.

In 1943 the family moved to The Hague, the location of the German headquarters in the Netherlands during World War II. The Verhoeven house was near a German military base with V1 and V2-rocket launchers, which was repeatedly bombed by Allied forces. Their neighbours' house was hit and Verhoeven's parents were almost killed when bombs fell on a street crossing. From this period, Verhoeven mentioned in interviews, he remembers images of violence, burning houses, dead bodies on the street, and continuous danger. As a small child he experienced the war as an exciting adventure and compares himself with the character Bill Rowan in Hope and Glory (1987). [5]

The Hague City and municipality in South Holland, Netherlands

The Hague is a city on the western coast of the Netherlands and the capital of the province of South Holland. It is also the seat of government of the Netherlands.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

V-weapons set of long-range artillery weapons developed by Nazi Germany, designed for strategic bombing during World War II, particularly terror bombing and/or aerial bombing of cities

V-weapons, known in original German as Vergeltungswaffen, were a particular set of long-range artillery weapons designed for strategic bombing during World War II, particularly terror bombing and/or aerial bombing of cities. They comprised the V-1, a pulsejet-powered cruise missile; the V-2, a liquid-fuelled ballistic missile ; and the V-3 cannon. All of these weapons were intended for use in a military campaign against Britain, though only the V-1 and V-2 were so used in a campaign conducted 1944–45. After the invasion of Europe by the Allies, these weapons were also employed against targets on the mainland of Europe, mainly France and Belgium. Terror bombing with V-weapons killed approximately 18,000 people, mostly civilians. The cities of London, Antwerp and Liège were the main targets.

Verhoeven's father became head teacher at the Van Heutszschool in The Hague, and Paul attended this school. Sometimes they watched informative films at home with the school's film projector. Verhoeven and his father also liked to see American films that were in the cinema after the liberation, such as The Crimson Pirate (1952).[ citation needed ]

The head teacher, headmaster, headmistress, head, chancellor, principal or school director is the staff member with the greatest responsibility for the management of a school, such as a college or university or, in the case of the United States and India, an independent school.

Movie projector opto-mechanical device for displaying motion picture film by projecting it onto a screen

A movie projector is an opto-mechanical device for displaying motion picture film by projecting it onto a screen. Most of the optical and mechanical elements, except for the illumination and sound devices, are present in movie cameras.

<i>The Crimson Pirate</i> 1952 film by Robert Siodmak

The Crimson Pirate is a 1952 American Technicolor tongue-in-cheek comedy-adventure film from Warner Bros., produced by Norman Deming and Harold Hecht, directed by Robert Siodmak, that stars Burt Lancaster, who also co-produced with Deming and Hecht. Co-starring in the film is Nick Cravat, Eva Bartok, Leslie Bradley, Torin Thatcher, and James Hayter.

They went ten times to see The War of the Worlds (1953). Verhoeven was a fan of the Dutch comic Dick Bos (nl). The character Dick Bos is a private detective who fights crime using jujutsu. Verhoeven liked comic drawing; he created The Killer, a character in a detailed story of revenge. Other fiction he liked were Frankenstein and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series. [5]

Verhoeven attended public secondary school Gymnasium Haganum in The Hague. Later, beginning in 1955, he studied at Leiden University, where he joined the elite fraternity Minerva. Verhoeven graduated with a doctorandus (M.Sc.) with a double major, in Mathematics and Physics. [6] [7]


Short films and TV series (1960–1969)

Verhoeven made his first film A Lizzard Too Much for the anniversary of his students' corps in 1960. [8] In his last years at university Verhoeven also attended classes at the Netherlands Film Academy. After this he made three more short films: Nothing Special (1961), The Hitchhikers (1962), and Let's Have a Party (1963).

Verhoeven has not used his mathematics and physics degree, opting instead to invest his energies in a career in film. After his studies he entered the Royal Dutch Navy as a conscript. He made the documentary Het Korps Mariniers ("The Royal Dutch Marine Corps", 1965) about the Navy, which won the French Golden Sun award for military films. [5]

In 1967 Verhoeven married Martine Tours, with whom he later had two daughters, Claudia (b. 1972), and Helen (b. 1974).

When he left the Navy, Verhoeven took his skills to Dutch television. First, he made a documentary about Anton Mussert named Mussert (1968). His first major success was the 1969 Floris television series, starring Rutger Hauer. The concept of Floris was inspired by foreign series like Ivanhoe and Thierry La Fronde .

First feature films (1969–1983)

Verhoeven's first feature film Business Is Business was released in 1971 and was not well received. His first national success came in 1973 with Turkish Delight , starring Rutger Hauer and Monique van de Ven. This film is based on a novel by bestselling Dutch author Jan Wolkers and tells the passionate love story of an artist and a young liberal girl from a conservative background. The film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1974. In 1999 the film won a Golden Calf for Best Dutch Film of the Century. Verhoeven's 1975 film Katie Tippel again featured Hauer and van de Ven, but it would not match the success of Turkish Delight.

Paul Verhoeven (1983) V.l.n.r. Jeroen Krabbe, regisseur Paul Verhoeven en Renee Soutendijk, Bestanddeelnr 932-5420.jpg
Paul Verhoeven (1983)

Verhoeven built on his reputation and achieved international success with his Golden Globe nominated film Soldier of Orange , [9] starring Rutger Hauer and Jeroen Krabbé. The film, based on a true story about the Dutch resistance in World War II, was written by Erik Hazelhoff Roelfzema. Soldier of Orange received the 1979 LA Film Critics Award for best foreign language film. It was also nominated for a Golden Globe in 1980.

In 1980 Verhoeven made the film Spetters with Renée Soutendijk and Rutger Hauer. The story is sometimes compared to Saturday Night Fever , but the film has more explicit violence and sexuality (in this case also homosexuality), which are sometimes seen as the trademarks of Paul Verhoeven. Verhoeven's film The Fourth Man (1983) is a horror film starring Jeroen Krabbé and Renée Soutendijk. It was written by Gerard Soeteman from a novel by the Dutch writer Gerard Reve. This film would be Verhoeven's last Dutch film production until the 2006 film Black Book .

Filmmaking in the United States (1983–2000)

Gerard Soeteman also wrote the script for Verhoeven's first American film, Flesh and Blood (1985), which starred Rutger Hauer and Jennifer Jason Leigh. Verhoeven moved to Hollywood for a wider range of opportunities in filmmaking. Working in the U.S., he made a serious change in style, directing big-budget, violent, special-effects-heavy hits RoboCop and Total Recall. RoboCop , for Sound Effects Editing, and Total Recall , for Visual Effects, each won an Academy Special Achievement Award.

Presentation of Basic Instinct at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. Left to right: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Douglas, Martine Tours (Verhoeven's wife), Paul Verhoeven, Sharon Stone and Mario Kassar Basic Instinct Cannes 1992.jpg
Presentation of Basic Instinct at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. Left to right: Jeanne Tripplehorn, Michael Douglas, Martine Tours (Verhoeven's wife), Paul Verhoeven, Sharon Stone and Mario Kassar

Verhoeven followed those successes with the equally intense and provocative Basic Instinct (1992), an erotic thriller. The ninth-highest-grossing film of the year, the movie was a return to themes Verhoeven had explored in Turkish Delight and The Fourth Man . The film's most notorious scene shows Sharon Stone's character in a police interrogation, where she uncrosses her legs, briefly revealing her vulva (she does not wear underwear underneath her skirt). The film received two Academy Awards nominations, for Film Editing and for Original Music. [10]

Verhoeven's next film was the poorly received, NC-17 rated Showgirls (1995), about a stripper in Las Vegas trying to make a career as a showgirl. The film won seven Golden Raspberry Awards including Worst Film and Worst Director; Verhoeven became the first director to accept his "award" in person. [11] Afterward, the film enjoyed success on the home video market, generating more than $100 million from video rentals [12] and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers. [13]

After Basic Instinct and Showgirls, Verhoeven returned to the science fiction, graphic violence and special-effects tropes that had marked his earlier films with Starship Troopers (1997), loosely based on the novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein [14] , and Hollow Man (2000). Each film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.

Return to Europe (2006–present)

Verhoeven promoting his French-language film Elle in 2016 Portrait de Paul Verhoeven (2016).png
Verhoeven promoting his French-language film Elle in 2016

After about 20 years of working and living in the United States, Verhoeven returned to the Netherlands for the shooting of a new film. Together with his screenwriter Gerard Soeteman, Verhoeven made Black Book (2006). The director was hailed by the host of the Netherlands Film Festival with the words "The return of a hero." [15] Black Book won six Golden Calves at this festival, including Best Director. [16] When the shooting of Black Book was delayed due to financial issues, there was speculation about a new production. The film Beast of Bataan had been announced, but once the shooting for Black Book resumed, the other film was not realized.

Verhoeven was knighted in the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2007. [17]

Since Black Book, Verhoeven has been connected to a large number of projects, but in the first decade after his return, none came to fruition. Some of those titles were produced with other directors at the helm, such as The Paperboy . In 2016 however, Verhoeven followed Black Book by directing a French film: Elle , an adaptation of a novel by Philippe Djian. A psycho-thriller where Isabelle Huppert plays a rape victim, Elle was selected for the Official Competition at the Cannes International Film Festival, where it obtained very favourable reviews.

In December 2016, it was announced that Verhoeven would be the President of the Jury for the 67th Berlin International Film Festival, scheduled to take place in February 2017. [18]

In April 2017, Benedetta , his next French film, was announced to begin filming in August of the same year. [19] [20] It is a biographical film about the life of Benedetta Carlini, which will be portrayed by Elle co-star Virginie Efira, and is an adaptation of the non-fiction book Immodest Acts - The life of a lesbian nun in Renaissance Italy by Judith C. Brown. [21] In May 2018, Charlotte Rampling was announced to play a key supporting role. [22]

Other activities

Verhoeven is a member of the Jesus Seminar, [23] and he is the only member who does not have a degree in biblical studies. [24] He graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Leiden. [25] [26] Since he is not a professional biblical exegete, his membership in the Jesus Seminar has occasionally been cited by opponents of the Seminar as a sign that this group is less scholarly than it claims. For example, Luke Timothy Johnson criticizes the Jesus Seminar's methods on exegetical grounds, and also criticizes what he perceives to be a dependence on the theatrical and an attempt to manipulate the mainstream media. He singles out Verhoeven as a key player in the media activities of the Jesus Seminar. [27] On the other hand, some Jesus Seminar members were unhappy with Verhoeven's portrayal of Jesus as an eschatological prophet. [28]

In 2007, Verhoeven wrote the book Jesus of Nazareth (Dutch : Jezus van Nazaret) about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. [29] The book reviews the ideas of Jesus of Nazareth and the alleged corruption of these same ideas over the last 2,000 years. Co-written with Verhoeven's biographer Rob Van Scheers, the book is the culmination of the research Verhoeven conducted in preparation for Jesus: The Man, a motion picture about the life of Christ. [24] The book tells about the Jewish uprising against Roman rule and characterizes Jesus as a radical political activist, downplaying any supernatural events and miracles as unproved or unprovable. Jesus of Nazareth: A Realistic Portrait was released in September 2008 in Dutch and was published in English in May 2010 by Seven Stories Press. [30]

Robert J. Miller, author of Born Divine, said about Jesus of Nazareth, "Verhoeven breaks down the gospels...and reassembles them into a unique...reconstruction of the historical Jesus." [31]

In April 2010, Verhoeven hinted that his next potential film project would be an adaptation of a "Hitchcockian" video game set in 1914. Although he would not reveal the title, there was speculation that the project might be an adaptation of The Last Express , a 1997 game designed by Prince of Persia creator Jordan Mechner. [32] In October 2011, Verhoeven confirmed The Last Express as the identity of the game in question, and revealed that he is considering filming it in 3D. [33] Mechner has gone on record as saying he is a fan of Verhoeven's Jesus of Nazareth. [34] Verhoeven's interpretation of Jesus of Nazareth will reportedly include Jesus as an exorcist, and a believer in the Kingdom of God on Earth.


1971 Business Is Business Yes
1973 Turkish Delight Yes
1975 Katie Tippel Yes
1977 Soldier of Orange YesYes
1980 Spetters Yes
1983 The Fourth Man Yes
1985 Flesh and Blood YesYes
1987 RoboCop Yes
1990 Total Recall Yes
1992 Basic Instinct Yes
1995 Showgirls Yes
1997 Starship Troopers Yes
2000 Hollow Man Yes
2006 Black Book YesYes
2012 Tricked YesYes
2016 Elle Yes
2020 Benedetta YesYesPost-production



Verhoeven has cast several actors more than once.

# Business Is
Soldier of
Spetters The Fourth
Flesh and
RoboCop Total
Showgirls Starship
Elle Benedetta
Marshall Bell 2
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Christian Berkel 2
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Peter Blok 2
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Mark Carlton2
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Ronny Cox 2
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Andrea Domburg2
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Virginie Efira 2
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Michael Gregory 2
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Rutger Hauer 5
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Thom Hoffman 2
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Michael Ironside 2
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Jeroen Krabbé 3
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Hannah de Leeuwe2
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Derek de Lint 2
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Jack McGee 2
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William Shockley 2
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Renée Soutendijk 2
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Carry Tefsen2
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Greg Travis 2
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Monique van de Ven 2
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Dolf de Vries 4
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Other creative professions

Verhoeven has worked with composer Basil Poledouris on Flesh & Blood, Robocop, and Starship Troopers, and with composer Jerry Goldsmith on Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Hollow Man. He has also worked with visual effects experts Peter Kuran and Phil Tippett, and writer Edward Neumeier, on Robocop and Starship Troopers.

Awards and Nominations

Academy Awards

YearNominated workCategoryResult
1973 Turkish Delight Best Foreign Language Film Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

YearNominated workCategoryResult
1977 Soldier of Orange Best Foreign Language Film Nominated
2016 Elle Won

BAFTA Awards

YearNominated workCategoryResult
2006 Black Book Best Film Not in the English Language Nominated

César Awards

YearNominated workCategoryResult
2016Elle Best Film Won
Best Director Nominated

Saturn Awards

YearNominated workCategoryResult
1987 Robocop Best Director Won
1990 Total Recall Nominated
1992 Basic Instinct Nominated
1997 Starship Troopers Nominated

Golden Raspberry Awards

YearNominated workCategoryResult
1995 Showgirls Worst Director Won

Awards received by Verhoeven movies

YearFilmAcademy AwardsBAFTA AwardsGolden Globe AwardsSaturn Awards
1973 Turkish Delight 1
1977 Soldier of Orange 1
1987 Robocop 31285
1990 Total Recall 21192
1992 Basic Instinct 225
1997 Starship Troopers 152
2000 Hollow Man 131
2006 Black Book 12
2016 Elle 11221

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  13. "Showgirls DVD". MGM. 28 April 2007. Archived from the original on 28 April 2007. Retrieved 25 November 2010.
  14. Podgorski, Daniel (February 4, 2016). "Poking Fun at Militarism: How Paul Verhoeven's Cult Classic Starship Troopers Willfully Discards Robert Heinlein's Novel". The Gemsbok. Retrieved December 7, 2016.
  15. "Gala van de Nederlandse Film". (in Dutch). 6 October 2006. Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2006.
  16. "Winnaars Gouden Kalveren 2006". 6 October 2006. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 17 October 2006.
  17. "Paul Verhoeven geridderd in Den Haag". Omroep West (in Dutch). 27 April 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  18. "Jury President of the Berlinale 2017: Paul Verhoeven". Berlinale. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  21. "Virginie Efira en Sainte Vierge pour le prochain Paul Verhoeven". Allociné (in French). April 26, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2018..
  23. "Meet the Westar Fellows: Paul Verhoeven". Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  24. 1 2 "Paul Verhoeven schrijft boek over Jezus" [Paul Verhoeven writes book about Jesus]. Katholiek Nederland (in Dutch). 3 September 2005. Archived from the original on 11 March 2007.
  25. Hakkenes, Emiel (24 October 2008). "Verhoeven is niet echt zeer geleerd". Trouw . Zijn academische titel zou Verhoeven behaald hebben aan de Universiteit Leiden. Maar is hij wel gepromoveerd? "Dan zouden wij een proefschrift van hem moeten hebben”, zegt een woordvoerder van de universiteit. "Dat is niet het geval." (English translation: Verhoeven would have received his academic degree at the University of Leiden. But did he receive a doctor's degree? "Then we should have a dissertation", says a spokesperson of the university. "This is not the case."
  26. Shaw, Dan (January 2003). "Paul Verhoeven". Senses of Cinema. Archived from the original on 17 November 2007. Retrieved 28 November 2007.
  27. Johnson, Luke Timothy (1996). The Real Jesus. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco. pp. 15–16. ISBN   978-0-0606-4166-5.
  28. Allen, Charlotte (February 1995). "Away With The Manger". Lingua Franca: 27.
  29. "Fondslijst Uitgeverij Bijleveld". (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 12 March 2007.
  30. "Jesus of Nazareth by Paul Verhoeven". Seven Stories Press. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  31. Verhoeven, Paul; Scheers, Rob van (2010). Jesus of Nazareth. Seven Stories Press. p. 2. ISBN   978-1-58322-905-7 via Google Books.
  32. Sciretta, Peter (13 April 2010). "Paul Verhoeven Developing Big Screen Adaptation of… Jordan Mechner's Video Game The Last Express?". /Film .
  33. Paul Verhoeven Talks 3D During MIPCOM on YouTube
  34. "Good Books to Buy for Geeks Like Me". December 2011.