Why the ‘Starship Troopers’ Director Had to Strip Naked Along With the Cast for the Infamous Shower Scene

Paul Verhoeven, 82, is a Dutch director best known for his explicit and visceral use of both violence and sexual content. He is considered a visionary among science fiction fans, particularly for works like Total Recall (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), RoboCop (1987), and of course, Starship Troopers (1997), which apparently might soon get the reboot that fans have been hoping for

Verhoeven is considered a visionary artist with an impressive biography, yet even he still has to jump through hoops to convince actors of his vision sometimes. Which leads to our burning question … why exactly did Verhoeven have to strip nude on the set of Starship Troopers?

(L-R) Actor Casper Van Dien and director Paul Verhoeven speak onstage
(L-R) Actor Casper Van Dien and director Paul Verhoeven | Matthew Simmons/Getty Images

Director Paul Verhoeven is known for pushing the visual envelope

The long and short of it is that Verhoeven has always been a bit of a provocateur. One of the most famous scenes he ever made comes from Basic Instinct. It involved Sharon Stone parting her legs to expose under her skirt and very few details are left to the imagination. Suffice to say, a lot of people were stunned — and Verhoeven got a reputation for using nudity to shock his audiences. 

Beyond that, Verhoeven’s use of extreme violence and his other sexually charged films like the 1995 cult classic Showgirls earned him a reputation for pushing the envelope in Hollywood.

The mixed-gender shower scene in ‘Starship Troopers’ is one of the film’s most infamous scenes 

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Starship Troopers is considered a sci-fi cult classic, but it was also misunderstood in its time. Though Verhoeven meant it as a critique of fascist ideals, many critics mistook it for proof that Verhoeven himself was a Neo-Nazi, according to IndieWire. Still, at least some picked up on the irony Verhoeven was trying to show. One of the scenes that best showcased his critique of fascism, according to some, was a brief mixed-gender shower scene.

In it, recruits of all races and genders shower together while they discuss why they joined the military. Though they are all nude together, it’s not a sexual scene, because it is clearly part of their military regime. This showed a hyper-evolved sort of fascism that matched what Verhoeven was trying to critique. The scene also revealed that the only way these people were afforded the privileges that come with military service was by being willing to die for the regime.

In order to make the scene happen, Verhoeven had to strip nude, too

When Verhoeven asked the cast of Starship Troopers to strip down, at least one cast member, Dina Meyer, didn’t want to give in to the famous provocateur too easily. In order to make the scene happen, both Verhoeven and the cinematographer ended up donning their birthday suits as well, per Meyer’s request.

Verhoeven told Empire that the experience was “strange,” but elaborated, “my cinematographer was born in a nudist colony and I have no problem with taking my clothes off, so we did.” Clearly, Verhoeven wanted the scene to match his vision and was willing to do what it took to make sure it did. It’s a good thing he stuck to his guns because otherwise, the scene might not be as celebrated as it is today.

He has some interesting thoughts on how Americans respond to nudity

During an interview with Empire, Verhoeven noted that he was “constantly amazed” by the fact that “Americans get more upset about nudity than ultra-violence.” He added that he “[hasn’t] seen any sex scenes in American film that are anything other than completely boring.”

True to form, Verhoeven sees his use of nudity as a sort of political stance against a culture he sees as willingly normalizing violence in media while demonizing something as natural as the human form. “A bare breast is more difficult to get through the censors than a body riddled with bullets,” Verhoeven emphasizes. In that context, his infamous Starship Troopers shower scene seems all the more iconic!