Dutch helmer Maas is back in business


AMSTERDAM -- After an unforeseen intermission of six years, Dutch director Dick Maas is finally returning to making feature films. Maas, who in addition to Paul Verhoeven is one of the most successful commercial helmers in Dutch cinema, has two projects in the works: the black comedy "The Botox Method" and the thriller "De Rekening" (Play Off). The Dutch-language films are being made back-to-back this year.

Maas blames his absence from filmmaking on a legal battle against his former producer and partner Laurens Geels, who made "a financial mess" of their production company, First Floor Features.

"Together with some colleagues, including Oscar-winning director Mike van Diem ('Character'), we have tried to save the rights of our films," Maas says. "As it stands now, we have no access to our work. It means that we cannot even produce decent DVD releases of our films instead of the crummy versions that are available now."

Maas and Geels -- the duo behind such local hits as the thriller "Amsterdamned" and the comedy-trilogy "Flodder" -- are not on speaking terms. "I have not seen him in five years and do not desire to meet him again," Maas says.

The last project they worked on together was the horror-thriller "Down" (2001), a U.S. remake of Maas' first feature, "De Lift," set in New York and starring Naomi Watts. The film got bad reviews and was a flop locally, though international DVD sales, according to Maas, were decent.

"The Botox Method," budgeted at €2.8 million, is about three married women who hire a killer to get rid of a cheating husband. "I think the Dutch audience is ready for a black comedy," Maas says. "At the moment, the only successful films produced (here) are children's movies."

Maas is unabashed about ex-pressing his displeasure with the Dutch Filmfund, which turned down his script three times before it got a subsidy of about €800,000. "My track record with three films in the top five of Dutch films of the past 25 years does not seem to matter," he laments. "Suddenly they assume that I have lost the capacity to write screenplays." The director plans to start shooting the film, which is backed by commercial TV station RTL, in July.

Maas' thriller "De Rekening" also did not get approval from the Dutch Filmfund the first time around. The filmmaker's problems with the local subsidy committees are reminiscent of the trials and tribulations Verhoeven had to face in the 1980s. It was enough for Verhoeven to search for greener pastures in Hollywood.

"Frankly, if I get a good opportunity in America, I will leave," Maas says. "I have written some scripts, including an English version of 'The Botox Method,' that need U.S. backing, but for the moment, these projects are too ambitious. But I am very tempted to go."