Paul Verhoeven is Making an American Spy Thriller and a Movie About Jesus

Legendary filmmaker Paul Verhoeven is back with Benedetta, a film set to premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The RoboCop and Basic Instinct filmmaker hasn’t made an American film since 2000’s Hollow Man, but it sounds like that’s going to change soon. According to Verhoeven himself, he’s working on an American spy thriller. And that’s not all – Verhoeven is also planning on turning his book Jesus of Nazareth into a film as well.

From the late ’80s through the late ’90s, Paul Verhoeven’s Hollywood career was unparalleled. He gave us ultra-violent satirical action in the form of RoboCop and Starship Troopers. He made the ultimate erotic thriller with Basic Instinct, unleashed smart-yet-brutal sci-fi with Total Recall, and created the modern cult classic Showgirls. But then he made Hollow Man, a rather crappy riff on The Invisible Man. The experience soured Verhoeven on Hollywood filmmaking, and he later said, “I decided after Hollow Man, this is a movie, the first movie that I made that I thought I should not have made…I felt depressed with myself after 2002.”

After Hollow Man, the Dutch filmmaker left Hollywood behind and helmed the foreign language films Black BookTricked, and Elle. His latest is Benedetta, based on the true story of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th-century nun who entered into a love affair with another nun. And while Benedetta is another non-American effort from Verhoeven, it looks like the filmmaker is ready to return to the U.S. with a new spy thriller.

Speaking with Variety, Verhoeven was asked about future projects, to which he replied: “I’m developing a couple of projects. One is an American movie — a spy thriller that’s going to be set in Washington. I’m also going to make a movie based on my book about Jesus.”

The prospect of Verhoeven making a new uber-violent spy thriller in America is enticing, and I hope that when and if it happens, the studios stay the hell out of his way and let him do whatever he wants.

Jesus of Nazareth

At one point, Verhoeven was a member of Jesus Seminar, a group of critical biblical scholars who debate the historical accuracy of the stories of Jesus (Verhoeven had the distinction of being the only member who did not have a degree in Biblical studies). Verhoeven’s studies of Jesus lead to the book Jesus of Nazareth, which attempted to demystify Jesus and present him in a more historical light. Essentially, it sets out to debunk Jesus as a divine being and presents him as a real man, and it’s a pretty great read. Here’s the synopsis:

Building on the work of biblical scholars—Rudolph Bultmann, Raymond Brown, Jane Schaberg, and Robert Funk, among others—filmmaker Paul Verhoeven disrobes the mythical Jesus to reveal a man who has much in common with other great political leaders throughout history—human beings who believed that change was coming in their lifetimes. Gone is the Jesus of the miracles, gone the son of God, gone the weaver of arcane parables whose meanings are obscure. In their place Verhoeven gives us his vision of Jesus as a complete man, someone who was changed by events, the leader of a political movement, and, perhaps most importantly, someone who, in his speeches and sayings, introduced a new ethic in which the embrace of human contradictions transcends the mechanics of value and worth that had defined the material world before Jesus.

All throughout the book, Verhoeven talks about how what he really wanted to do was make a movie about the historical Jesus, but plans didn’t work out and he wrote the book instead. But he clearly hasn’t given up on the idea, and it sounds like he’s finally going to get to make the film after all. And of the two potential projects Verhoeven mentioned, this is the one that excites me the most, so I really do hope he gets to make it someday. Of course, the real solution here is for Verhoeven to combine the projects and make an American spy thriller about Jesus.

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