20 Show-Stopping Facts About 1995’s Showgirls

A 1995 movie that you may not want to admit that you enjoyed, Showgirls stars former Saved by the Bell actress Elizabeth Berkley as a street smart girl who travels to Las Vegas and begins to climb the seedy ladder from stripper to showgirl.

Released alongside an extremely large amount of controversy due to its gratuitous sex and nudity, Showgirls is now regarded as something of a cult classic, and below are 20 completely revealing facts about Paul Verhoeven’s infamous erotic drama.

20. The movie’s director and screenwriter interviewed over 200 real-life strippers as research

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Director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas interviewed over 200 real Las Vegas strippers as part of their research.

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The pair used these testimonies in the making of the movie, keen to shed light on the exploitation of strippers in Las Vegas.

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Verhoeven wrote lines quoting the women directly in the screenplay.

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As a result of this, he refused to allow the actresses to ad lib or change any lines.

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There were only three minor exceptions allowed, one of which was changing ‘she’s ginchy’, to ‘she’s no butterfly’.

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19. It made Joe Eszterhas the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood history

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Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’ original idea for Showgirls came to him whilst on holiday at his home in Hawaii.

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He quickly jotted down the concept on a napkin during a meeting in a restaurant.

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He was paid a startling $2 million in advance, to ensure he would follow through on the project.

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When the script was subsequently turned into a movie, Eszterhas also made a further $1.7 million.

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Alongside his previous scripts for Basic Instinct (which was also directed by Paul Verhoeven) and Sliver, this made him the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood history.

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18. Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie and Charlize Theron all turned the lead role down before Elizabeth Berkley was cast

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The list of actresses who turned down the role of Nomi Malone (that eventually went to Elizabeth Berkley) was extremely long.

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Some of the more prominent names included Drew Barrymore, Angelina Jolie, Pamela Anderson, Charlize Theron and Denise Richards.

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Richards would go on to be cast in Paul Verhoeven’s next film in 1997, Starship Troopers.

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Many of the women turned down the role as they felt uncomfortable with the amount of nudity required.

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This included Drew Barrymore who was actually offered the part, but declined as she considered the film ‘sexist”.

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17. Madonna and Sharon Stone were both considered for a supporting role

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A number of actresses were also considered for the role of Cristal Connors, including Madonna, Sharon Stone and Sean Young.

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Madonna was a favourite amongst producers, but she had concerns over the film’s portrayal of women.

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Finola Hughes was also in the running but, like many before her, she deemed the film to be sexist.

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Gina Gershon was thought to be favourite for the role right from the start, and was offered it as soon as she became available.

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Gershon would later defend the film against the public’s backlash, stating that in her opinion, audiences took it ‘too seriously’.

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16. Extra staff were sent to cinemas to ensure that underage viewers didn’t sneak into screenings

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Showgirls was given an NC-17 for ‘nudity and erotic sexuality throughout, some graphic language, and sexual violence,’ and it was the first and so far only NC-17 movie to be given a large mainstream release in cinemas.

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In an attempt to ease the controversy that surrounded it, the movie’s distributor United Artists sent hundreds of extra staff members to cinemas all over the US.

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This was to ensure that people under the age of 17 couldn’t sneak into screenings illegally.

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However, the film’s writer, Joe Eszterhas, would later cause controversy when he spoke to reporters for an interview.

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Eszterhas called upon young people to use fake ID’s to sneak in to the NC-17 movie, a statement that was heavily criticised.

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15. Many of the cast and crew have since admitted they don’t think the film is any good

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A number of the movie’s cast and crew have since been quoted as saying that they do not like it, with screenwriter Joe Eszterhas being one of them.

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Eszterhas has said “that rape scene was a god-awful mistake. In retrospect, a terrible mistake. And musically it was eminently forgettable. And in casting mistakes were made.”

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Just one year after the film was released, Eszterhas had clearly not changed his mind, saying ‘Clearly we made mistakes. Clearly it was one of the biggest failures of our time. It failed commercially, critically, it failed on videotape, it failed internationally’.

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Kyle MacLachlan was not a fan of the movie either, and he was not shy of making his feelings known at the film’s premier.

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Recalling the incident, he said ‘I was absolutely gobsmacked. I said, “This is horrible. Horrible!”‘

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14. It received a record seven Golden Raspberry Awards

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I think we can safely say that many film producers aim to earn awards. However, they probably don’t aim to win awards such as these ones…

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Showgirls was the ‘winner’ of a record seven Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Actress for Elizabeth Berkley and Worst Director for Paul Verhoeven.

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It also picked up the award for Worst Screenplay for Joe Eszterhas, Worst New Star for Elizabeth Berkley, Worst Screen Couple and Worst Original Song.

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Not only this, but Showgirls had the pleasure of being listed on the Top Ten Best Bad Films Ever Made in The Official Razzie Movie Guide.

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This culminated in the film being placed third as the most dis-honoured film in Razzie history. What an achievement!

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13. It bombed at the box office but was an unprecedented success on video

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Showgirl’s adult rating, alongside the bashing it took from critics, meant that it became a box office bomb.

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This was disappointing for the producers, as the film was predicted to be a huge box office hit, following in the footsteps of movies such as Robocop and Basic Instinct.

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In fact, the film made only $37 million out of a budget of $45 million, resulting in an initial loss of $8 million.

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However, it enjoyed massive success on the home video market, making more than $100 million from rentals alone.

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This meant that the movie actually ended up making a profit, and also became one of MGM’s all time top 20 VHS best sellers.

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12. Some critics now consider it to be a brilliant satire

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Showgirls was completely panned by critics upon its initial release, and it often features on lists of the worst movies of all time.

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However, just like fine wine, it seems the film has only got better with age. Well, let’s be honest, there was really no way for it to get any worse.

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More recently, some critics have re-evaluated the movie, with some even declaring that it is actually a brilliant satire that should be praised.

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Critic Jacques Rivette has even gone so far as to claim that it is “one of the great American films.”

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Viewers also started to appreciate the film, albeit ironically, with audiences even holding outrageous ironic Showgirl parties, where spectators would find laughs in the script’s apparent poor writing and weak plot.

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11. There was a straight-to-video sequel in 2011

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Did you know that Showgirls spawned an unofficial sequel that focused on the minor character of Penny, who was played by Rena Riffel?

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Called Showgirls 2: Penny’s from Heaven, the sequel was also written, produced, directed and edited by Riffel, and it went straight to video in 2011

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However, this wasn’t the first time a sequel had been in the works.

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Paul Verhoeven had also planned to make a follow on movie, entitled ‘Nomi Does Hollywood’.

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His plans were foiled after the movie’s spectacular box office flop, after which no one was prepared to invest in the idea.

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10. The film ruined Elizabeth Berkley’s career

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Elizabeth Berkley had enjoyed success when she become a much-loved public figure after playing Jessie Spano in Saved by the Bell.

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However, this success was short lived, and her demise was somewhat accelerated by her performance in Show Girls.

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As we know, the film received poor reviews, many of which used Berkley as somewhat of a scapegoat, with Entertainment Weekly stating that the actress had just two emotions: hot and bothered.

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Director Verhoeven defended Berkley, arguing that she had played the character exactly as she had been written, and therefore the blame should lie solely with him.

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If anything, he explained, she played the part too well, and audiences were unable to distinguish the actress from her wild, somewhat obnoxious onscreen counterpart.

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9. The writer took drastic measures to save the film

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After the film tanked on its opening weekend, writer Joe Eszterhas decided to try some…unusual…tactics in an attempt to save the day.

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He actually took out an ad in Variety magazine, imploring female audiences to go and watch the film.

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He argued that the film held somewhat of a feminist angle, and that it highlighted the exploitation that lap dancers were subjected to.

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Eszterhaus criticised the studio for its underhand marketing techniques, in which they used the tagline ‘leave your inhibitions at the door’.

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This, he felt, conveyed the wrong sort of message, and implied that the film was a cheap sex movie.

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8. Elizabeth Berkley spoke out against criticism over her performance

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It may have taken over twenty years, but it seems Berkley has made peace with the film, and the outrage it provoked.

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She explained that, at the time, it was humiliating for critics to bash her performance so publicly and so harshly.

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She chalked the film’s flop up to the fact that it was ‘too edgy’ for audiences at the time, suggesting it might have been better received in today’s world.

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However, at the film’s twentieth anniversary event, Berkley announced to fans that she has since come to embrace her time on Showgirls.

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In an poignant speech, she told crowds that it was they who had made the film the cult classic it had become, and that it was them who taught her to love it, too.

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7. Paul Verhoeven claimed critics misunderstood the film

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In 2013, Verhoeven revealed that he did not actually like Eszterhas’s original script, and that he initially passed on the project with no hesitation.

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However, after his plans to work on another project fell through, Verhoeven decided to go ahead with Showgirls as a personal favour to Mario Kassar.

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He rewrote the script extensively, using the 1950 movie All About Eve as inspiration.

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He intended it to be an over-the-top tale of morality, featuring wholly immoral characters, with Las Vegas as a metaphor for hypocrisy and extortion.

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The satirical angle he was coming from went over the heads of critics and audiences alike, instead regarding the film as a simplistic portrayal of American culture.

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6. The film’s composer hated the movie

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We’ve already established that the producer, director and most of the cast were not fans of Showgirls.

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But it didn’t stop there. The woman behind one of the film’s catchiest tunes also spoke out about her feelings towards it.

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Musician Tony Halliday, of the band Curve, described meeting the movie’s director and being blown away by his passion and enthusiasm for the project.

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‘He wowed me into this horrible film,’ she explained. ‘He sold it as some intellectual comment on the sex industry’.

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Halliday claims she walked out of the screening after just 45 minutes, with the screen ‘going dead every time that woman was on it’.

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5. The director regretted including the assault scene

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Everyone knows that making films can be a risky business, especially on such as controversial subject as this.

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Director Paul Verhoeven clearly knows this all too well, and he has been vocal over regrets concerning the scene.

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‘Nearly every character in the movie is a bad person except for one girl, Molly, and she is the one who gets raped. Molly is the only really genuinely supportive person and she is punished,’ explained Verhoeven.

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‘The reason I did this was to show that Vegas is not a nice place and that is basically what the movie is all about.’

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Verhoeven also felt that the film seemed to lack closure, and that the scene ‘took the fun’ out of the movie.

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4. The film was banned in Ireland

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When the film was first released in the US, it caused quite a stir amongst viewers.

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So much so in fact, that Ireland actually decided to ban the film.

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It was the first film to be banned since the release of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers the year before.

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Ireland’s film censor, Sheamus Smith, did not give any explanation as to why the film was banned but we can probably hazard a guess.

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The ban was lifted in 2002, seven years after the film was originally released.

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3. Paul Verhoeven deferred 70% of his fee

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Verhoeven was so sure that the film would be a success that he actually offered to defer 70% of his fee in exchange for total creative freedom.

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Of course, as we know, the film was not a success, and Verhoeven would end up earning just 1.8 million. Still, we wouldn’t say no.

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Lead actress Elizabeth Berkley didn’t serve much better, and was paid a meagre $100,000.

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This is a significantly low pay, especially considering the film had a budget of a whopping $45 million dollars.

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In 2004, Berkley was asked to be interviewed on the Special Edition box set, for which she requested an additional film of $2500. This was subsequently denied, and she did not appear on the DVD.

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2. Elizabeth Berkley and Gina Gershon argued on set

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In true diva style, the two lead actresses were apparently caught in several feuds whilst working on the film.

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You might assume that fellow cast members and crew would attempt to ease the tension but, alas, this was not the case.

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In fact, director Paul Verhoeven actively encouraged the pair’s squabbling.

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He felt that this would help add to their on-screen dynamic, and make their onscreen feud all the more authentic.

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When you consider that Berkley would often work sixteen hour days clad in a tight dress and six inch heels, it’s hardly surprising she wasn’t in the best of moods.

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1. The studio attempted to ‘rebrand’ the film to reignite interest

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After the film made its spectacular flop at the box office, the studio attempted to re-market it as a ‘Midnight Cult Flick’, in the same vein as movies such as The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

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They printed a new ad, complete with a leopard print background, and prominently mentioning the film’s seven Razzie ‘wins’.

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The ad ran in in several LA newspapers, and promoted the midnight showings in West Hollywood in the spring of 1996.

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Although this marketing ploy was well-intentioned, it was ultimately deemed unsuccessful.

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However, the film later gained a cult following, and audiences would turn up to screenings dressed in full ‘Showgirls’ attire.

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