The Dutch cinema industry is relatively small compared to the one of Holland's country. The Netherlands is home to four times fewer people as the UK of France, but the Dutch cinema industry only produces about 200 movies a year, whereas, France creates about 2,000 new motion pictures a year and the UK released more than 2,300 new films last year. Though the Dutch cinema industry is small, it has been producing internationally awarded movies and documentaries for the past 50 years. But in the context of this relatively small market, and because cinema and TV production tend to follow the worldwide globalisation trend, you might already know some Dutch actors, for seeing them in the latest Hollywood blockbuster or because of their part of the cast of your favourite show. You may not have noticed their dutch accent as they probably don't have one. Dutch is the closest language to English there is in the Germanic language family, and most Dutch people start learning English in elementary school. Famous Dutch actors and actress are not the only cinema professional to have found successful careers abroad. Dutch directors have been quite successful in Hollywood:

  • Paul Verhoeven worked in the US for almost two decades, producing movies such as Flesh and Blood, RoboCop (1987), Total Recall (1990), Basic Instinct (1992), Starship Troopers (1997) and Hollow Man (2000).
  • Jan de Bont mainly worked as a cinematographer (including many collaboration with Paul Verhoeven), but he also directed some movies for Hollywood including Speed (1994), Twister (1996) or Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life (2003).

But let's see if you know any of these famous Dutch actors and actresses.

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1 - Audrey Hepburn

Most people do not know that the 1950's and 1960's cinema icon, was half Dutch. Audrey Hepburn's mother was the Dutch Baroness Ella van Heemstra. She spent some of her childhood in the Netherlands, before moving to the UK. After studying the ballet in Amsterdam, she performed as a chorus girl in West End musical theatre productions. Her career in the movie industry started with small appearances. Her international education meant that she could speak English, French and Dutch, and this got her a small role in Monte Carlo Baby (which was shot both in French and English). On the set of the movie, she was spotted by the French novelist Collette who decided to cast her as Gigi, the title role of a Broadway production. From that moment on, Hepburn was under the spotlight and was quickly cast for more starring roles. In Roman Holiday, she held one the two leading roles along with Gregory Peck. The movie was a huge success and Hepburn, who mostly had just started her Hollywood career, was bombarded with awards including  Academy Award for Best Actress, a BAFTA Award for Best British Actress in a Leading Role, and a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama in 1953. After this, she continued a very successful career and stared in another dozen Hollywood hits. Upon retiring from the movie business, Hepburn decided to dedicate her time to work with UNICEF on humanitarian causes and was rewarded with the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992. Find Dutch language courses that can help your learning here.

Actor Rutger Hauer at the Venice Film Festival. (by Il Fatto Quotidiano)

2 - Rutger Hauer

Hauer's international career started in 1981, starring as a psychopathic terrorist in Sylvester Stallone's Nighthawks. Before that, Rutger had a successful career in the Netherlands, and he even held a lead role in Soldiers of Orange (1977), one of the most successful Dutch movies of all times. However, he's most famous Hollywood role will always remain his Blade Runner character, replicant Roy Batty. In one of the most famous scenes of the movies, while his character was chased by Harrison Ford, Rutger ended on improvising what was to be known as the "tears in rain monologue".

 "Hauer's deft performance is heartbreaking in its gentle evocation of the memories, experiences, and passions that have driven Batty's short life"

- Jason Vest, writing in Future Imperfect: Philip K. Dick at the Movies

After the success of Blade Runner, Hauer went on to play in many more movies in the US, and he recently starred in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, directed by Luc Besson. He also had a successful TV career and landed many supporting roles on series such as Alias, Smallville, HBO's True Blood or BBC Two historical show The Last Kingdom.

3 - Jeroen Krabbé

Krabbé has had a long career, both in the Netherlands and in Hollywood. He appeared in more than 60 movies over the past five decades. He played alongside Rutger Hauer in Soldiers of Orange and again in Spetters, both movies being directed by Paul Verhoeven. In Hollywood, his first big success was in a comedy, Jumpin' Flash Back (1986), where he acted beside Whoopi Goldberg. He became famous in the US thanks to his interpretation of villains in movies such as No Mercy (1986), the James Bond movie The Living Daylights (1987), the Prince of Tides (1991) or in The Fugitive (1993). More recently he played in Ocean's Twelve (2004) and the Transporter 3 (2008).

4 - Famke Janssen

Janssen is a Dutch actress, director, screenwriter and former model. She had a successful career in the US, both in Hollywood and on TV. In 1995, she was Pierce Brosnan's first femme fatale in his premier James Bond movie, GoldenEye. Later on, as she tried to move away from typecasting, she was cast by Woody Allen to play in Celebrity. Millennials are more likely to recognise her for her X-Men films role as superhero Dr Jean Grey. She acted in the original movie as well as in X-2 (2003) and X-Men: Last Stand (2006). For this last movie, she won a  Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. On TV, Janssen had a recurring role in the FX series Nip/Tuck as Ava Moore. She also stars in Netflix Original horror series Hemlock Grove since 2013.

Dutch actress Famke Janssen.
Dutch actress Famke Janssen is mainly famous for her role as Jane Grey in the X-men movies serie.

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5 - Carice van Houten

All the fans of Games of Thrones will recognise van Houten as Melissandre, a role that the actress has held since 2012. Van Houten first big breakthrough on the international scene was in a Dutch movie, Black Book, which at the time was the most significant production ever for the country. In 2008, she was cast by Bryan Singer to play in the historical thriller Valkyrie, a role that got her to be nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also played alongside Jude Law and Forest Whitaker in Repo Men (2010), and alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Daniel Bruhl in The Fifth Estate (2013).

6 - Marwan Kenzari

Kenzari is a Tunisian-Dutch actor that you may recognise for his recent role in Murder on the Orient Express under the direction of Kenneth Branagh. The director also portrayed the famous Belgian detective Hercule Poirot and Kenzari portrayed train attendant, Pierre Michel. You may also have spotted Kenzari in the 2016 super-production remake of Ben Hur or in The Mummy alongside Tom Cruise. Disney also announced that Kenzari would portray Jafar, in a live-action adaptation of Alladin, directed by Guy Ritchie.

Carice Van Houten in GoT.
In the HBO's series Game of Thrones, Dutch actress Carice Van Houten portrays Melissandra.

7 - Lotte Verbeek

For those who watched Showtime's series The Borgias, you may recognise Verbeek as Giulia Farnese, the mistress of Pope Alexander VI interpreted by Jeremy Irons. In 2014, Verbeek started playing Geillis Duncan in the series Outlander which has been renewed by Starz for a fourth, fifth and sixth season. Like many of her Dutch actor and actress colleagues, Verbeek is multilingual and can speak Dutch, English, French, German, Italian and Gaelic. Check out the History of the Dutch cinema.

8 - Sylvia Hoeks

Rutger Hauer played a replicant in the 1982 Blade Runner movie. His fellow Dutch national Hoeks is mostly known in the movie industry for her role as Luv in Blade Runner 2049, a sequel to the 1980's icon movie, in which Harrison Ford resumed his old character as a supporting role for Ryan Gosling's lead role as K. As well as being an actress Hoeks has had a successful modelling career and has played in many Dutch TV shows.

9 - Michiel Huisman

Another actor that you might have spotted in the HBO's series Game Of Thrones, Huisman has been portraying Daario Naharis since 2014. He also played in BBC American series Orphan Black in which he held the recurring role of Cal Morisson. In 2016, Huisman was cast to be the co-lead in the romantic drama Guernsey, opposite Lily James. Huisman is also an acclaimed musician, singer and guitarist. His acting talent and musical background landed him a role in HBO's drama Treme.

A Dutch actor in an American mega production.
Dutch actor Michiel Huisman plays the role of Daario Naaris in the HBO series Game of Thrones.

10 - Thekla Reuten

Reuten has had some supporting roles for which you may have spotted her alongside stars such as Colin Farrel in the movie In Bruges (2008), Jennifer Lawrence (2018) in Red Sparrow or George Clooney in The American (2010). She also a very successful actress in the Netherlands where she has held some recurring series roles on national TV. For being one of the smallest countries in Europe, Holland surely does not lack talents, and the fact that English is widely taught and spoken across the Netherlands has only helped Dutch actors and actress to spread their wings on the international film industry. By taking Dutch lessons London or Dutch lessons Glasgow, you would  not need to read Dutch movie subtitles!


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