I R()/)()('()]). Basic Instinct and
Don’t let the bugs bite: Casper Van Dien has an insect problem in Starship Troopers
Never one for half measures, director PAUL VERHOEVEN shocked the world with sex scenes in Basic Instinct and Showgirls. Now it's futuristic violence that's his obsession in Starship Trooper. Words: Thom Dibdin
When controversial Dutch director Paul Verhoeven needed to persuade his actors to disrobc for a mixed shower scene in his latest movie. Stars/tip Troopers. he did what seemed to he the logical thing. He took all his clothes off in front of the cast. Although the scene is far from gratuitous — it serves both to indicate the sexual equality of the futuristic infantry and to contrast the fleshy humans with their alien insect foe — the anecdote is indicative of a nai’vete’ which runs through the whole film. The man who directed
Showgirls has turned his hand to a movie so violent that it PauWerhoeven barely scraped into the ‘lS’ category. but which also uses that violence to promote an anti-war message. ‘Although it is violent. it is comic-book violent.’ Verhoeven points out. ‘From a certain viewpoint. it is like Laurel and Hardy destroying their neighbour’s house. I think kids love it. I did this movie because of my childlike pleasure in seeing similar movies.‘ Chi’ldlike though it is. Stars/zip Troopers contains
; echoes of the 505 mutated ant movie Them.’. updated
for a time when the States has lost its natural foe and needs to create a new one. While those original bugs stood for the Cold War and fears of nuclear weapons. Verhoeven argues that his insects stand for the kind of
‘Although it is violent, it is comiebook vioient. From a certain viewpoint, it is like Laurel and Hardy destroying their neighbour’s house.‘
enemy we would like to have.
‘The insects are a metaphor for the enemy that we want to see as anonymous.’ he says. ‘The statement in the movie that “the only good bug is a dead bug" was. of course. used in the Second World War against the Japanese. If you look at American newsreels of the time. you would find exactly the same attitudes of non-identification with the enemy. Now there is no really good enemy around. I think the bugs would fill that function. They are the enemies you should be able and willing to hate without trying to identify with the species.’
it’s not just the hugs’ role as metaphor which has been updated. Their portrayal represents the cutting edge of computer-generated imaging technology. But. while the hand-to-claw battle scenes are so realistic that you don’t begin to question the bugs‘ virtual origins. the process of adding computer images to live action had its own problems for actors and movie~makers alike.
‘The main challenge for all those scenes was that the actors involved had to look as if the insects were there.’ says Verhoeven. ‘You easily drop your energy levels after six or seven hours of playing with imaginary bugs in your head — and doing that for three or four weeks in a row . . . It is difficult because you have to make an effort every time to visualise them.’
Casper Van Dien. who plays the film’s heroic hunk Johnny Rico. remembers this in practice. ‘If all the models and intense Storyboarding didn’t work.’ he says. ‘Paul would just walk out in front of us and go. “Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Eargh! Slice and dice! And bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Earghl". So. the whole time. if our energy level was getting down a bit. this guy would run out there and be this crazy. lunatic. manic genius.’
Naive it may be. but it worked.
General release from Fri 2 Jan. See review.
The column that’s more festival than festive.
FOOTBALL HOOLIGANS, BORSTAL bullies, British Nazis, Irish terrorists: controversy is guaranteed when that lot are pulled together. Each
' features in a key work by director
Alan Clarke — namely The Firm, Scum, Made In Britain and Elephant (produced, incidently, by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle). When he died aged 55 in 1990, Clarke was one of Britain's most influential but least seen filmmakers. That will change, however, when the Liverpudlian becomes the subject of the Edinburgh International Film Festival's retrospective in 1998.
Actors including Tim Roth, Ray Winstone, Phil Daniels and Gary Oldman all spent time in the Clarke stable. His style is very much evident in Oldman's directorial debut Nil By Mouth, while Roth once said, 'Clarke was the king . . . he made films about real people who were in sad situations'.
Neglect of Clarke's work partly has to do with the explosive subjects be tackled and his forthright treatment of them. In 1978, the made-for-TV Borstal expose Scum was banned by the BBC, the same channel who commissioned it, although it was remade for the cinema the following year. His utterly unerotic sex comedy Rita, Sue & Bob Too also received a big screen release, but other key works - including the Jim Cartwright play, Road — have until now been left to grow dust in a TV graveyard.
New prints of a number of Clarke's films will, however, be made up for the Edinburgh retrospective and will be available for theatrical booking thereafter. Faber 8: Faber will also be publishing a book alongside the event, and Festival director Lizzie Francke hopes that some of the Clarke alumni - Oldman and Roth included - will be present in August.
Rita, Sue & Bob Too: part of ElFF’s Alan Clarke retrospective
2] Nov—4 Dec 1997 THE USTTI