Paul Verhoeven hits back at critics of ‘Benedetta’ sex scenes

Director Paul Verhoeven railed against the “puritanism” of modern cinema during a Cannes 2021 press conference for his latest film Benedetta.

Speaking after critics questioned some of the scenes, including one where an effigy of the Virgin Mary is used as a sex toy, Verhoeven said (per Variety): “I don’t really understand how you can really blaspheme about something that happened, even in 1625.

“You cannot change history, you cannot change things that happened, and I based it on the things that happened. So I think the word blasphemy in this case is stupid.”

In response to another question about a new “hysteria” regarding nudity, the director responded: “Don’t forget, in general, people, when they have sex, they take their clothes off,” he said. “So I’m stunned basically by the fact that we don’t want to look at the reality of life. Why this puritanism has been introduced? It is, in my opinion, wrong.”

Paul Verhoeven
Paul Verhoeven directs a scene in 1995’s ‘Showgirls’. CREDIT: Alamy

Asked whether Verhoeven would ever consider using an intimacy coordinator, Verhoeven replied: “[The actors] themselves were the intimacy coordinators. I felt it. Sometimes it might be necessary but for the time being I believe not in France.”

The 82-year-old Dutch director’s approach to sex and nudity scenes has been previously criticised by actors who have worked with him. Earlier this week (July 7), Verhoeven responded to Sharon Stone’s claim that he misled the actor into filming Basic Instinct‘s famous leg-crossing scene.

In her recent memoir The Beauty Of Living Twice, Stone stated Verhoeven tricked her into shooting the scene without underwear – among various other anecdotes about sexism and intimidation in the industry – by suggesting that Stone’s underwear was reflecting the light poorly, and asking her to remove them with the caveat that no frontal nudity would appear in the final film.

“My memory is radically different from Sharon’s memory,” Verhoeven told Variety.