Six Things I Learned About ‘Starship Troopers’ with Ed Neumeier

At the last festival, Shooting people sent their top reporter Adem Ay, to send daily… no hourly reports on his experience. We will post these over the next few days as it gives a great insight into on delegates experience… Over to Adem…

Shout out to my Shooters.

Today we are going to spend time with screenwriter ED NEUMEIER. Ed was at this years London Screenwriters’ Festival, and while he reminisced about writing ‘STARSHIP TROOPERS’ I decided to scribble down my five favourite factoids – all for you, the discerning reader.

Ed is an unassuming chap who looks like an American scientist from the 1950s. Despite a straightforward exterior, he is the author of some of the most subversive satires Hollywood has ever produced. STARSHIP TROOPERS may look like ‘Star Wars’, but it is actually about America’s descent into fascism, and it was a satire woven so intricately that it even went over the heads of the studio execs funding it. Here’s Ed with more…

  • The film started life when director Paul Verhoeven, after working with Ed on ‘Robocop’, said that he wanted to tell a story about young kids in 1930’s Germany who join the Nazi party but don’t realise it’s bad. Ed told him no one would finance that, but then remembered a kids-going-to-war novel he had loved as a 13 year old – ‘Starship Troopers’ – and the sci-fi adaptation mash-up began.
  • Ed was amazed to find that the novel had never been optioned by anyone, liking it to to the old adage of the best-looking girl at school never being asked out. But on re-reading the novel he realised why. The story he thought was there had been conjured up by his frenzied 13 year old imagination. What was actually there was a long military treatise that fetishised future weaponry and had very little story. So Ed ended up patching in a love triangle plot from Archie comics. Other key inspirations include John Ford cowboy films (there’s Indians in this, but they’re bigger and buggier) and ‘Triumph of the Will’ (the infamous Leni Riefenstahl Nazi propaganda film, which lead them to casting body-beautiful actors).
  • In the first draft the bug aliens were anthropomorphic – quirky aliens of the sort that George Lucas might use. But Paul Verhoven wanted something different, something bold and original, and told Ed to make the bugs house-sized killers. This change in scale and psychopathy changed everything.
  • Test audiences hated female lead Carmen for cheating on the hero protagonist Rico. So vicious was the audience response that the producers panicked. A scene indicating she was with another guy was cut, as was an alternate ending that Verhoeven was forced to shoot by the studio where the lead couple reunite and kiss. Instead we are left with the original brutally comic ending where a giant intelligent (and very vaginal) bug is tortured. Anything to stop the audience boos.
  • With regards to the studio producer, Ed describes the film as one where “no one was on the switch”. The executives referred to it as ‘that Star Wars film’ and left Verhoeven and his team to it. From very early on, Verhoeven and Neumeir had determined to wear their satire robes lightly, and that they would construct the film in a way that would not tell the audience what to think about the military centred action. They would leave it to the viewer to decide if it was good or bad. To this day, soldiers will approach Ed to say how much they love the film, and he likes this legacy, believing it makes the film more inclusive. Yet however much it is a cult hit today, studio confusion about what the film was, muddled marketing, and an R rating conspired to make it’s initial American release a catastrophe. English audiences got it though!

That’s it from subversive Ed – join me again for five gleaming globules from LYNNE RAMSAY, surely one of the finest British directors (and writers) working today. Miss it and your soul will be flooded with regret.

You can get £30 off your pass with the code SHOOTERS.

Adem Ay
Shooting People