15 Fun Facts About Starship Troopers

TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

On November 7, 1997, moviegoers watched as a cast of no-name actors—plus Neil Patrick Harris—went to war against a planet full of giant bugs. Most critics dismissed the splatterfest that ensued as yet another brainless action flick. But in the 20 years since its release, appreciation has grown for director Paul Verhoeven’s film as a clever satire of warmongering civilizations. Here are a few things you might not know about Starship Troopers, on the 20th anniversary of its debut.

1. IT’S A COMMENTARY ON ROBERT HEINLEIN’S PRO-WAR NOVEL.

Released in 1959, Heinlein’s sci-fi adventure follows Juan “Johnnie” Rico as he rises through the ranks of the Mobile Infantry squad and eventually battles giant bugs on the planet Klendathu. Filled with classroom lectures and lengthy dialogue about the virtues of armed conflict and molding men into soldiers, the book struck many readers as more political diatribe than action story. One such reader was Ed Neumeier, co-writer of RoboCop, who decided to give Starship Troopers an over-the-top satirical bent, complete with fascist overtones and wholesome teenagers getting mowed down in droves. Paul Verhoeven, the Dutch filmmaker who directed RoboCop, Total Recall, and Showgirls, and had grown up in Nazi-occupied Netherlands, liked the idea and jumped on board.

2. PAUL VERHOEVEN COULDN’T FINISH THE BOOK.

The filmmaker knew he needed to read Heinlein’s book before he began filming, but he only read a few chapters before giving up and asking Neumeier to tell him the rest. “It is really quite a bad book,” Verhoeven told Empire magazine.

3. ITS WORKING TITLE WAS BUG HUNT AT OUTPOST NINE.

Verhoeven and company didn’t secure the rights to Heinlein’s book until well into the filming process, so they used the campy stand-in until then. That didn’t seem to bother the crew; most of them weren’t even aware of the connection, despite the shared names and plot elements.

4. THE FIRST SCENE IS MODELED AFTER TRIUMPH OF THE WILL.

Starship Troopers opens with a recruitment video for the Mobile Infantry unit that recreates Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 Nazi propaganda film. There’s eagle imagery, flags fluttering, a wide shot of troops in formation and soldiers cheerfully proclaiming they’ll do their part.

5. THE UNIFORMS ARE ALSO MODELED AFTER THE THIRD REICH.

TriStar Pictures

The officer uniforms in particular, with their gray-and-black hues, jackboots and eagle pins, were tailored to resemble those worn by the Nazis. Not convinced? Just check out what Neil Patrick Harris wore. 

6. MARK WAHLBERG WAS CONSIDERED FOR THE LEAD ROLE.

No word on why, exactly, he wasn’t chosen, or if he would have accepted the role of Johnny Rico (Juan, a.k.a. Johnnie, was changed to John, a.k.a. Johnny, for the movie), which ended up going to then-unknown Casper Van Dien.

7. VERHOEVEN USED SOME INTERESTING STAND-INS FOR THE CGI BUGS.

The film had an ace visual effects coordinator in Phil Tippett, who also worked on the original Star Wars films and RoboCop. But on set, the computer-generated bugs had to be simulated using some rather unconventional methods. Verhoeven used everything from brooms to poles and even himself as a stand-in. As Clancy Brown (Sgt. Zim) recalled, Verhoeven would be "jumping up and down with a bullhorn going, 'I'm a big f**ing bug! I'll kill you!'”

8. THE SHOWER SCENE WAS BOTH SHOCKING AND EXPECTED.

On the one hand, the scene showing male and female soldiers all showering together was shocking. On the other hand, it was exactly what you’d expect from the director who brought you a three-breasted alien and Sharon Stone’s infamous leg-cross. According to Verhoeven, the cast wouldn’t do the scene unless he and cinematographer Jost Vacano were naked, too. No problemo, he told them. “My cinematographer was born in a nudist colony and I have no problem with taking my clothes off,” Verhoeven told Empire.

9. HANK FROM BREAKING BAD HAD A SMALL ROLE. 

TriStar Pictures

Dean Norris plays the commanding officer who reinstates Rico after his home city of Buenos Aires gets destroyed.

10. GERALD FORD’S SON ALSO HAD A SMALL PART.

Steven Ford, an actor who also appeared in When Harry Met Sally... and Heat, plays Lieutenant Willy, a no-nonsense commander who addresses soldiers before landing on Klendathu. “You kill anything that has more than two legs, you get me?!” he yells as their ship prepares to take off.

11. AND DON’T FORGET RUE MCCLANAHAN.

The Golden Girls actress plays a blind biology teacher who oversees a dissection and introduces her students to some of the bugs’ finer qualities. It’s as far removed from Blanche Devereaux as she could possibly be.

12. A REVOLVING DOOR OF STUDIO EXECS HELPED THE FILM GET MADE.

The mid-1990s were a turbulent time for Sony Pictures, as executives were frequently shuffled and replaced as the company attempted to find its footing. According to Verhoeven, this prevented the studio from taking a more critical look at his $105 million sci-fi satire. “All the satire was in the script from the beginning, but they might not have been really aware of it, or had read it precisely,” he said in an interview with The A.V. Club. “By the time one of them might have understood what movie I was going to make, he was already gone.”    

13. CRITICAL OPINION OF THE MOVIE HAS SHIFTED.

Many were quick to pan the movie’s squeaky-clean cast, over-the-top violence, and seemingly one-dimensional narrative. But in the ensuing years, critics have picked up on Verhoeven’s intent to portray a so-called “ideal” society that’s lacking humanity and consumed by warfare. “Starship Troopers is satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism,” Calum Marsh writes in The Atlantic. “The fact that it was and continues to be taken at face value speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers.”  

14. IT INSPIRED SEVERAL SEQUELS AND SPINOFFS.

The first sequel, Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation, came out in 2004, followed four years later by Starship Troopers 3: Marauder. In the latter, Van Dien reprised his role as Johnny Rico—though apparently not to increased returns, as sequel number four never materialized. In 2012, there was Starship Troopers: Invasion, a CGI feature that hewed closely to Heinlein’s novel, followed by a second CGI feature, Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars, which was released in August. Arguably the most popular spin-off was a 1999 animated series called Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles that ran for just one season.

15. IT MAY GET MADE INTO A LIVE-ACTION TV SHOW.

For years, there’s been talk of a possible TV series or a movie reboot. A satire-light, less-violent feature seemed to be in the works, but that irked fans of the original film. Earlier this year, Goosebumps producer Neal Moritz seemed to indicate that a TV show is in development. No word yet on timeframe, network, or whether Neil Patrick Harris will reprise his role as telepath Carl Jenkins.

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

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Late MythBusters Star Grant Imahara Honored With New STEAM Foundation

Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Grant Imahara attends San Diego Comic-Con
Genevieve via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Fans of MythBusters and White Rabbit Project host Grant Imahara were saddened to hear of his passing due to a brain aneurysm in July 2020 at the age of 49. Imahara, a graduate of the University of Southern California, used the television medium to share his love of science and engineering. Now, his passion for education will continue via an educational foundation developed in his name.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation was announced Thursday, October 23, 2020 by family and friends on what would have been Imahara’s 50th birthday. The Foundation will provide mentorships, grants, and scholarships that will allow students from diverse backgrounds access to STEAM education, which places an emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. (Formerly referred to as STEM, the “A” for art was added more recently.)

Imahara had a history of aiding students. While working at Industrial Light and Magic in the early 2000s, he mentored the robotics team at Richmond High School to prepare for the international FIRST Robotics Competition. Whether he was working on television or behind-the-scenes on movies like the Star Wars prequels and The Matrix sequels, Imahara always found time to promote and encourage young engineering talent.

The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation’s founding board members include Imahara’s mother, Carolyn Imahara, and close friends Don Bies, Anna Bies, Edward Chin, Fon H. Davis, Coya Elliott, and Ioanna Stergiades.

“There are many students, like my son Grant, who need the balance of the technical and the creative, and this is what STEAM is all about,” Carolyn Imahara said in a statement. “I’m so proud of my son’s career, but I’m equally proud of the work he did mentoring students. He would be thrilled that we plan to continue this, plus much more, through The Grant Imahara STEAM Foundation.”

Imahara friend Wade Bick is also launching an effort in concert with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to name a study lounge after Imahara. Donations can be made here.

You can find out more about the foundation, and make a donation, on its website.