Dutch actors are everywhere: on tv, in films, on stage, in advertisements. Some remain in the Netherlands or bordering countries, others spread their wings further afield. Here is our selection of some of the best.
The one who died in the rain
Rutger Hauer (1944), arguably the Netherlands’ most famous international film star, leapt to fame in the 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner where he improvised the now classic tears in rain soliloquy. But the blond, blue-eyed hunk was already a major star in his own country having appeared as the swashbuckling Floris in the 1969 tv series of the same name, and in the 1973 romantic film Turkish Delight. Series and film were directed by Paul Verhoeven who also cast Hauer in major roles in Soldier of Orange (1977) and Spetters (1980).
The move to Hollywood came in 1981 with the role of a cold-bloodied terrorist in Sylvester Stallone’s Nighthawk. And then came Blade Runner, since when he has appeared in a wide range of roles in mainly low-budget films, including The Hitcher, and tv series such as Escape from Sobibor for which he won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor. Most recently he was to be found in season six of HBO’s True Blood.
The one who does good and evil
Peter Blok (1960) is one of a distinguished generation of Dutch actors now in their late fifties and early sixties who showed that a stage actor could still be taken seriously when he broadened out his work to film and tv. Blok, who is equally effective in comedy and drama, is primarily a theatre actor with some extraordinary performances to his credit in classics such as Medea and Hedda Gabler and in new plays such as the black comedy Cloaca, written by his ex-wife Maria Goos and also performed in English with a different cast at the Old Vic Theatre in London in 2004. Most recently Blok’s versatility was on show on Dutch tv, when he played the vile and murderous property developer Jack van Zon in two seasons of the gangster drama Penoza, and the vague and confused doctor Robert Finkelstein in the mildly surreal comedy Volgens Robert (according to Robert) and the sequel Volgens Jacqueline.
The perfumed one
Michiel Huisman (1981) may not be one of the greatest of Dutch actors, but he has the distinction of being the only one to feature in a Chanel commercial. The commercial for Chanel No 5, directed by Baz Luhrmann in October 2014, starred Huisman and top model Gisele Bünchen and was regularly on tv throughout 2015. As was Huisman, who took a popular Dutch route into acting by appearing in the tv soap Goede Tijden, Slechte Tijden (good times, bad times) and then spent several years appearing in other tv series and films.
His first foray into an international career came with a supporting role in an episode of the British tv police series Dalziel and Pascoe and in two made for tv dramas: The Young Victoria and Margot in which he played Rudolf Nureyev. He then joined the main cast of HBO’s Treme, landed a recurring role on Nashville and in 2014 became a series regular on Game of Thrones. On the big screen, he was recently seen as the love interest in the turgid fantasy romance The Age of Adaline.
The one who paints
Jeroen Krabbé (1944) may have dined out for years on anecdotes about working with Barbra Streisand in the film The Prince of Tides and with Joan Collins in the tv mini-series Dynasty: The Reunion (both 1991), but he has a heavyweight Hollywood filmography. He originally made his mark in Paul Verhoeven’s Dutch films Soldier of Orange (1977), Spetters (1980) and The Fourth Man (1983), before appearing with Whoopi Goldberg in the comedy Jumpin’ Jack Flash. But international stardom came with a string of villainous roles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including that of the Bond villain in The Living Daylights.
He made his first foray into directing in 1998 with Left Luggage, a film about orthodox Jews in 1970s Antwerp starring Isabella Rossellini and Maximilian Schell which was entered for the 48th Berlin International Film Festival. Krabbé has since directed other films, including the adaptation of the Harry Mulisch novel The Discovery of Heaven. He still occasionally acts – he appeared in an episode of the tv series Midsomer Murders in 2008 – but most of his time is devoted to painting. In 2015, he made the well-received six-part tv series Krabbé Zoekt Van Gogh.
The one with stage fright
Another of the generation of actors who made film and tv acting acceptable is Gijs Scholten van Aschat (1959). He decided on an acting career as a teenager and put on shows with his brother and sister in the attic of his parents’ house. He studied at the stage school in Maastricht where he met Pierre Bokma and Peter Blok (see elsewhere in this section) and has been a member of several Dutch theatre companies, the most recent being Toneelgroep Amsterdam. It’s a strange job for a man who spent several years fighting stage fright and needed help to overcome the condition. Scholten van Aschat won the Louis D’Or in 1993 for his role in Decadence, and a Golden Calf in 1998 for the tv series Oud Geld (old money).
The one who’s a poet
It’s highly possible that Ramsey Nasr (1974) is the only actor in the world who has also been his country’s poet laureate. He filled that role in the Netherlands between 2009 and 2013. He grew up in Rotterdam, the son of a Dutch mother and Palestinian father. He attended theatre school before joining the Zuidelijk Toneel theatre group. He was only there for a short time, however, deciding to change tack and become a poet.
Following his stint as poet laureate, he returned to acting and was invited to join Toneelgroep Amsterdam by Ivo van Hove. Under Van Hove’s direction, Nasr has proved himself one of the Netherlands’ top actors in roles in the classics such as The Fountainhead for which he won the prestigious Louis d’Or in 2015. He won a wider audience with the role of an unstable man desperately trying to win back his wife in the two seasons of the Dutch tv series Overspel (adultery). He continues to write poetry and essays.
The one who never settles
Pierre Bokma (1955) is another of the generation now in their late fifties or early sixties who laid the foundations for the arrival of a host of talented actors in the following decades. After four years at theatre school, Bokma began his career as a serious stage and film actor, twice winning the prestigious Louis D’Or theatre prize and four Golden Calf awards for his work in film and television. Over the past couple of decades he has revealed a talent for comedy, showing a previously unexpected lightness of touch and sense of comedic timing. Currently back in serious mode under the direction of Johan Simons at the Belgian theatre company NTGent, he is also known for his peripatetic life style – he does not own a home and has four children by three women.
The one with the medal
Jacob Derwig (1969) is an extremely versatile theatre and film actor who studied at theatre school before embarking on a career which has seen him play a sensitive homosexual in the film Zus & Zo for which he won a Golden Calf, and a murderous gangster in season three of the recent television series Penoza. His stage work includes most of the classics and he won the Louis D’Or in 2011 for his role as Pavel Protassov in Children of the Sun. Three years earlier he was handed the Paul Steenbergen medal by Pierre Bokma. The medal was established by The Hague council in 1982 to honour the actor Paul Steenbergen who could keep it as long as he liked and then pass it on to a younger actor he admired.
The one who swore at an awards ceremony
The Dutch-Moroccan actor Nasrdin Dchar (1978) won the Golden Calf in 2011 for his role in the film Rabat. Overcome with emotion, he made an outstanding acceptance speech (available on YouTube) during which he told the audience: ‘I’m Dutch, I’m a Muslim and I’ve got a fucking Golden Calf.’
Turned down for theatre school, he studied economics before going on stage with various theatre companies beginning in 2002. He has appeared with the Ro Theater, made two solo shows, one of which is about his Moroccan mother, and has been seen in tv series such as Charlie and films including Süskind, Tirza and Tussen 10 and 12.
The one making a dynasty of two
Reinout Scholten van Aschat (1989) is one of the ten gifted young actors who was selected as Shooting Star for the 66th Berlin International Film Festival in February 2016. He was picked following his lead role in the film Nooit Meer Slapen (Beyond Sleep) and the jury experts said: ‘In a riveting performance, he walks the delicate line between lucidity and madness’. Previous Shooting Stars include Daniel Craig, Alicia Vikander and Halina Reijn. The son of Gijs Scholten van Aschat (see above) began his career in 2005 with a recurring role in the tv series Gooische vrouwen. He then moved on to other tv roles and films ranging from The Heineken Kidnapping, for which he won a Golden Calf in 2012, to Borgman. He is now a member of the Nationale Toneel, appearing in such classics as As You Like It.
My Dutch wife had no interest in watching Game of Thrones until I told her Michiel Huisman was in it. Now she is suddenly very interested 🙂
Why only actors? There are some amazing Dutch actresses in international movies as well. (Carice van Houten, Famke janssen)