In contrast, he won the Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Picture and Worst Director for Showgirls (1995); he is one of the few people to have accepted their award(s) in person, and was the first person to go to the ceremony itself to receive it.
Paul Verhoeven was born on 18 July 1938, the son of a school teacher, Wim Verhoeven, and a hat maker, Nel van Schaardenburg. Although he was born in Amsterdam, the family lived in the village of Slikkerveer.
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).
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. Paul and his father also liked to see American films that were in the cinema after the liberation, such as The Crimson Pirate (1952).
They went as many as ten times to see The War of the Worlds (1953). Paul 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 himself liked comic drawing; he created The Killer, a grey character in a detailed story full of revenge. Other fiction he liked were Frankenstein and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series.
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.
Verhoeven made his first film A Lizzard Too Much for the anniversary of his students' corps in 1960. 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 never used his maths and physics degree, opting instead to invest his energies in a career in film. After his studies he entered the 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.
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.
Verhoeven's first feature film Business Is Business was released in 1971 and was not especially well received. His first national success did not come until 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 liberal young girl from a rather 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.
Verhoeven built on his reputation and achieved international success with his Golden Globe nominated film Soldier of Orange, 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 popular Dutch writer Gerard Reve. This film would be Verhoeven's last Dutch film production until the 2006 film Black Book.
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, very violent, special-effects-heavy smashes RoboCop and Total Recall. Both RoboCop and Total Recall won Academy Special Achievement Awards, for Sound Effects Editing and for Visual Effects respectively.
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.
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. Afterward, the film enjoyed success on the home video market, generating more than $100 million from video rentals and became one of MGM's top 20 all-time bestsellers.
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), adapted from the novel of the same name by Robert A. Heinlein, and Hollow Man (2000). Each film received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.
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." Black Book eventually won six Golden Calves at this festival, including Best Director. 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 never realized. Since his return to European cinema in 2006 with Black Book, Verhoeven has been connected to a large number of projects, but for the moment none of them has come to fruition. Some of those titles were produced with other directors at the helm, such as The Paperboy.
Finally, in a rather unexpected twist, Verhoeven followed Black Book by directing a movie in French: Elle, an adaptation of a novel by Philippe Djian. The film by Verhoeven, a psycho-thriller where Isabelle Huppert plays a rape victim, was selected in the Official Competition at the Cannes International Film Festival, where it obtained very favourable reviews.
Verhoeven has been a knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion since 2007. 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. In April 2017 his next French film titled Blessed Virgin was announced.
Verhoeven is a member of the Jesus Seminar, and he is the only member who does not have a degree in biblical studies. He graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics from the University of Leiden. 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. On the other hand, some Jesus Seminar members were unhappy with Verhoeven's portrayal of Jesus as an eschatological prophet.
In 2007 Verhoeven wrote the book Jesus of Nazareth (Dutch: Jezus van Nazaret) about the life of Jesus of Nazareth. 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. 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.
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."
In April 2010, Verhoeven hinted that his next potential film project would be an adaptation of a "Hitchcockian" computer 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. In October 2011, Verhoeven confirmed The Last Express as the identity of the game in question, and revealed that he is even considering filming it in 3D. Mechner has gone on record as saying he is a fan of Verhoeven's Jesus of Nazareth (JON). Verhoeven's interpretation of JON will reportedly include Jesus as an exorcist, and a believer in the Kingdom of God on Earth.
Verhoeven has cast several actors more than once.
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.