A film by Paul Verhoeven
1995

Nomi Malone is a young drifter with a dark past, who arrives in Las Vegas hoping to make it as a showgirl but in her uncertain present she is working in the topless bar Stardust. Between a lap dancer and a murder, Nomi sets about pushing her way to become the top of the Vegas showgirls.

FAILURE FACTS
Paul Verhoeven initially did not like Joe Eszterhas’s script of “Showgirl”, but he felt morally obligated to do the film as a personal favor to Mario Kassar to save his studio Carolco Pictures from bankruptcy. The screenplay was completely re-written with “All About Eve” (1950) as the main source of inspiration. Verhoeven intended it to be an over-the-top morality tale, populated with only amoral characters (except for the character of Molly), with Las Vegas as a metaphor for hypocrisy and extortion. However, the satirical intentions were not picked up by the critics, who considered the movie as a semi-pornographic portrayal of American culture. The film was a $40m box office failure that made the bankruptcy of Carolco inevitable. As reminded by the Guardian editor Harriet Gibsone, “Pitched as a mainstream flick about the futile nature of the American dream, ‘Showgirls’ was the first big-budget erotic film since 1979’s ‘Caligula’ by Tinto Brass. But its gaudy ridiculousness was slammed by critics, who deemed it sexless and tacky.”

In 1996 the film earned the dubious distinction of taking a record 13 nominations for the 16thannual Razzie Awards, a very popular American Competition for the worst movies and performances. It won 7 awards and Verhoeven turned up personally to collect the prize for worst director and worst picture – the first winner ever to accept these awards in person. The film has since evolved into a cult classic. Several influential filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, Jim Jarmusch and Jacques Rivette publicly declared their appreciation of the movie.The critical re-evaluation of the film even inspired author Adam Nayman to write the novel “It Doesn’t Suck”, in which he makes a case for the movie being an actual masterpiece.

Paul Verhoeven (The Netherlands, 1938) is considered as a visionary filmmaker who leveraged his success in Holland into making subversive blockbusters ranging from “RoboCop” (1987) and “Basic Instinct” (1992) to “Total Recall” (2012). Verhoeven finished up his time in the studio system with “Starship Troopers” (1997) and “Hollow Man,” (2000) then came back to Europe. There, he produced one of his most acclaimed films, 2006’s thriller “Black Book.” In a 2015 interview for IndieWire, he declares about “Showgils”: “During interviews in the aftermath of this disaster, I said that people would see it differently in 50 years. I said that. I think it’s a very well-made, elegant movie from an artistic, visual point of view.”

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