It’s been eleven years since we last saw Casper Van Dien as Federation soldier Johnny Rico in Paul Verhoeven‘s sci-fi cult film, Starship Troopers. Two sequels later, Van Dien is back with a new crew, new weapons, new dangers, and the same familiar problems with authority figures and alien bugs. Van Dien spoke with Rotten Tomatoes to share his Five Favorite (Sci-Fi) Films of all time, discuss his longtime friendship with Starship Troopers: Marauder director Ed Neumeier, and reveal how the last decade and two sequels have changed Johnny Rico and the Starship Troopers franchise.
Starship Troopers: Marauder premieres on DVD Tuesday, August 5; click here to preview two exclusive behind-the-scenes clips for peeks of the new Marauder suit and weapons. Read on for Casper Van Dien’s 5 Favorite (Sci-Fi) Films of all time!
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982, 92% Tomatometer)
First we have Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That would be because of “Khaaaaaaaaaan!” “Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!” That’s number five.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, 100% Tomatometer)
Then I would have to go probably with T2. It was another great sequel to a great movie. I loved the humanity of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I loved the humanity in the cyborg, in the Terminator. I loved the fact that he was not human and he had more humanity than most humans do. And he was just cool.
Star Wars – Episode IV: A New Hope (1977, 95% Tomatometer)
Then I would go with the first Star Wars, which is actually the fourth episode, because I remember standing in line; I was one of those bazillion kids that were standing in line opening day. My poor mother and father had to do that with me. I remember my mom left, and came back a day later. So my dad stood there with me. I think that is one of the most incredible memories for me. It was an awesome film; I’ll never take anything away from the film, but the fact that I had a father who was willing to stand in line with me all that while…let’s see, I was born in ’68, so I was 8 or 9. Eight or 9 and my dad stood in line for me. Yeah, I was there for like a day and a half!
The Matrix (1999, 86% Tomatometer)
And then I would put The Matrix. The first Matrix. Are there any others? [Because of] Neo. And it was just so cool. Everything in that movie made you see how we’re all interconnected; I think that the internet is like a man-made version of, the closest we can come to conceptualizing God. It shows how we’re all connected, and this Matrix is really that more defined. The Wachowskis were just a couple filmmakers who did an incredible job.
Aliens (1986, 100% Tomatometer)
And my all-time favorite number one science fiction movie would be…Starship Troopers! Because I’m vain! And full of myself! No, actually I’m excluding me from this, but I would put that on the list. But I can’t do myself, because it just isn’t right. I would say Aliens. Because, as Jim Cameron himself said, “Why are they making Starship Troopers? I already did!” He was wrong, by the way!
Bonus Answer: RoboCop (1987, 85% Tomatometer)
Actually, I have to add one more in. I have to add RoboCop only because of the one line at the very end, when they go, “What’s your name?” And he says, “Murphy.” It’s the greatest way to end any movie, ever. It’s true, if you think about that. Everybody in the audience stood up and screamed. They went ballistic; I know, I was there. I’m probably revealing some geekdom here. I was there in the theater opening weekend! I remember everybody — as soon as he said his name, he got his humanity back, and it was such a powerful moment. It was awe-inspiring.
Were you close with Ed from working on the first Starship Troopers? Was he a presence on set back then?
CvD: Ed is a unique writer — Paul Verhoeven is a unique director, but he demanded that Ed be on the set [of Starship Troopers] every day. So for RoboCop and for Starship Troopers he was on the set every single frickin day. He was there from the beginning to the end. It was fun for me, because he and I became friends. But Ed and I became friends actually when he saw me when I first walked into the audition for Starship Troopers. I was sitting out there with all the other guys that were auditioning for the role, and Ed poked his head out of the office; he was not only one of the writers, but he was one of the producers at that time. He poked his head out of the office, looked at me, pointed at me, and fingered me to come over to him. So I went over to him and in front of the other kids, I was like “Ha ha hah…” I walk into his office and he had a rifle there and I picked it up, and I did some drills with it from military school and we got to talking, and he said he knew when he poked his head out of the office that I was Johnny Rico. And Paul Verhoeven said that when I came into read he knew that I was Johnny Rico. So it was always a thrill to have these men believe in me. Ed really wanted me in the second one, but the director didn’t want any characters from the first film in it. Ed said if he got to do one of his own, that he would demand that I be in it, and I guess he got his way.
CvD: The director [Phil Tippett] really wanted to go a different way, from what I gather. I don’t know everything for a fact — you’ll have to ask him personally — but he also, from what I hear, wanted the humor out of Starship Troopers. It might have been the studio at the time that wanted the humor out, but they really asked Ed to put it back in for this one. So Ed was like, well, that’s the way I like to write, and that’s what he did.
This film was always meant to be a DVD release. But it’s getting a theatrical in Japan because they did such a phenomenal job with it that Japan said, we want this for a theatrical [release]. But it was always meant to be a DVD.
Well, there’s definitely a collective love for the first Starship Troopers, and Marauder seems to fall much closer to the spirit of the original.
CvD: Definitely. You are one hundred percent correct. Robert Heinlein created Starship Troopers, but Ed created the Starship Troopers movie world. He put in his political satire in the first film, he’s got it in this film and then some, and he’s also got this new religious twist, which some may or may not get. I think it’s hysterical, though. He’s a phenomenal writer. Different people will embrace it in different ways. And other people will hate it in other ways, but it’s always fantastic to have that kind of variation in appeal, or lack thereof.
Next: Ed Neumeier vs. Paul Verhoeven, Johnny Rico vs. Stallone, Schwarzenegger, and more
CvD: That’s a very good question. Ed Neumeier — this is a natural segue for him, to go from writer-creator to director, and this is an easier venue for him to do that as his debut. Because he is already known, and this is an established franchise that he’s affiliated with and have a lot more appreciation for and from. The advantage for him is as a director, he hired a great team around him. He did a superb job and the people really embraced it and loved him and went for it. But he also had the most incredible training and advantage over most debut directors, because he was on the set every day of RoboCop, and on the set every day of Starship Troopers, under one of the greatest directors of all time: Paul Verhoeven. So he had that instruction. Paul — even if you watch Black Book today…what a great film that is. Paul continues to grow as a director and his passion is unsurpassed by anybody. Ed was able to witness this and get these lessons and instructions. And also he’s a fan of films. Ed’s a huge fan of John Ford films, and you can talk to him about just about any film. Differences between them? Paul’s a bit more of a screamer, and he has more of an accent. [Laughs]
Paul had a bigger budget, but what Ed had for this was phenomenal. Robert Skotak was the Academy Award-winning special effects guy for Aliens and T2, and he wanted to be on the first Starship Troopers because he was a big fan of the book, and he got to do this one and he did something like 420 more special effects than he was scheduled to do because he loved it so much. The bug that Ed wrote about, he created. The old bugs, he put his little flavors into. For the budget that he had, he did the most phenomenal job. What I also appreciate is Sony, they got Klaus Badelt, who did the music for Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, who saw this and loved it and did the music for it. So they really got some remarkable people behind it. And Sony’s putting the most incredible campaign I have ever seen together for a DVD release. The Japanese website is incredible, and the posters that you see throughout the world, from Australia to America to Japan, are awesome! And I’m not just saying that because I’m on the cover…
CvD: Well, being the self-absorbed me…I remember seeing this article that rated different superheroes, and it had me beating Jesse Ventura from Predator, and it had me beating Demi Moore from G. I. Jane — it had Johnny Rico beating these guys — and it had Sylvester Stallone beating John Wayne…whatever! And Arnold Schwarzenegger beat me, but then Arnold Schwarzenegger beat Stallone. So I came in third. But right now, I could kick either of their asses, ’cause they’re old. I’m sorry! Put ’em down like the b****es they are! Just kidding, I don’t know. Arnold Schwarzenegger can still take me out, he’s the Governator; Sylvester Stallone, I just saw him in Rambo and he was huge. Huuuuge.
Yeah, but how many of them still do nude scenes like the one you have in Starship Troopers: Marauder?
CvD: [Laughs] I don’t think we’d want to see them in a nude scene right now! I hardly want to see myself in a nude scene, but I worked out really hard for that one.
So tell us how Johnny Rico has changed in the near-decade since we last saw him in Starship Troopers.
CvD: Well it’s eleven years later, and it’s eleven years later for him as well. He’s survived — one of the few in the Starship Troopers world to do so — men, women, an equal kill factor. It seems like he’s become more of a pure warrior. He might be more disillusioned with the higher ranking officers and their willingness to sacrifice good troopers, as many of us are disillusioned with the people in charge who are willing to sacrifice American soldiers who are willing to do their part, and do it well, and who have honorable intentions. I think that is what he’s become. He joined the military first for a girl, and was trying to impress her, though that of course didn’t work; we always do stupid things when we’re young to try and impress girls and it never works, but…he became a soldier, and now he’s a pure warrior, and he’s very good at what he does. Maybe not as good as everyone else because they get promoted a lot faster, but he’s good enough to survive, and that’s a definite plus in the Starship Troopers world.
For more info, photos and news, check out our Starship Troopers: Marauder page.