Theo van Gogh

Controversial film-maker

The film-maker Theo van Gogh, who was shot dead in Amsterdam on Tuesday, will be remembered as a controversial figure who delighted in provocation and had a penchant for portraying difficult subjects on screen.

Theo van Gogh, actor and film-maker: born The Hague 23 July 1957; (one son); died Amsterdam 2 November 2004.

The film-maker Theo van Gogh, who was shot dead in Amsterdam on Tuesday, will be remembered as a controversial figure who delighted in provocation and had a penchant for portraying difficult subjects on screen.

Theo van Gogh's name was known around the world. He shared it with his great-great-grandfather, the brother of the artist Vincent van Gogh. But in the Dutch film community he himself was well known: he was regarded as the Netherlands' Michael Moore. He displayed a charming mix of arrogance with skilful argument in the frequent television interviews he gave, wearing his trademark scruffy clothes and chain-smoking his favourite Gauloise cigarettes.

Van Gogh considered himself to be a misunderstood visionary. His website, " De Gezonde Roker" ("The Healthy Smoker"), was filled with harsh criticism of multicultural society. He said this was sorely needed as the Netherlands was experiencing a social turmoil that threatened to turn it into a "type of Belfast" in a few years.

An award-winning film-maker, television producer and newspaper columnist, van Gogh could be scathing. He once mocked a prominent Dutch Jew, referred to Jesus as "the rotten fish" of Nazareth and called a radical Muslim politician "Allah's pimp". In his passionate efforts to stir public debate, he branded imams as women-haters and ridiculed the Prophet Mohamed. Many Jewish organisations branded him an anti-Semite. Others called him an extremist and Muslims said they found his work insulting. But he was also hailed as a champion of free speech, as the Prime Minister, Jan Peter Balkenende, pointed out in a statement to the nation following his murder.

Van Gogh probably made more enemies than friends in his patchy film career. His recent English-language film Submission was made in conjunction with the Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali - a Somali refugee who is an outspoken critic of Islam. The film, a protest against domestic violence in Islamic cultures, outraged the Dutch public when it was shown on television in August. It features four women in see-through robes showing their breasts with texts from the Koran painted on their bodies talking about being abused. For that, he received death threats and was placed under police protection, much against his will.

He later rejected the surveillance that could have prevented the shots that killed him as he cycled along an Amsterdam street. In a radio interview only last Friday he said he wasn't concerned about being the victim of an attack. "If it happens, it happens," he said, adding that he didn't believe in the goodness of man, but reckoning that his ego was too big to accept a bullet would be meant for him.

Theo van Gogh was born in 1957 and grew up in The Hague. He studied law in Amsterdam but dropped out to take up acting, directing and writing. He made his début in 1981 with the feature film Luger. His films were regularly nominated at the Netherlands Film Festival, where he won five awards. His 1994 film 06, about a young woman who advertises her services for phone sex, became one of his best-known works. It was renamed 1-900 (Sex Without Hangups) for the US market. Blind Date, two years later, featured a bartender listening to two customers talk, and Cool!, which came out this year, was about the rehabilitation of a gang of young criminals.

Van Gogh also found success making television programmes. Among his highlights was Najib en Julia (2002), a modern reworking of Romeo and Juliet that saw a Dutch girl fall in love with a Moroccan pizza delivery boy. His directing was more successful than his acting but he used his famous name in 2002 when he appeared alongside David Carradine in Wheatfield with Crows - which brought Vincent van Gogh into the modern music industry.

His most recent project was 06-05, a fictionalised version of the events surrounding the assassination of the Dutch populist politician Pim Fortuyn two years ago. Based on a novel by Tomas Ross, the film is due to be released next month.

Theo van Gogh was an anti-monarchist and prominent member of the Republican Society. He admitted he was overweight at 300lb and that he led an unhealthy life style. He said he had intended to change it to set an example to his teenage son: "So I have to stop overdoing the drink and lose 100 pounds."

Geraldine Coughlan

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Barnardo's: Corporate Audit and Inspection – Retail Intern (Leeds)

Unpaid - £4 lunch allowance plus travel to and from work: Barnardo's: Purpose ...

Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Receptionist

£15000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future