Lifestyle & Culture

Willeke van Doorn: Surprise … some of your favorite ‘American’ and ‘Brit’ stars are Dutch


This whole global mobility of talent thing cuts both ways. Yes, the Netherlands attracts top tech talent from all over the world to fuel its robust economy. But this country of 17 million has an outsized impact on the arts, witness the increasing number of Dutch stars in American movies and on-demand television series.


Not one, but two Dutch actors star in television’s biggest show of the moment, “Game of Thrones.” Others score roles in big movies, win prestigious awards and are featured on the big screen as Hollywood’s biggest stars. And don’t forget the directors and producers.

What is it that makes Dutch actors and actresses stand out in Hollywood?

We asked Willemijn Tuip from Copper en Co, a boutique agency representing actors, presenters, authors and comedians:

The acting schools here are good. We study different languages in high school and sometimes even in elementary school which is an advantage. Movies here are subtitled so we hear a lot of English from a young age. This gives us an advantage over Italian, Spanish and German people. Sylvia Hoeks and Michiel Huisman really sound like Americans. But you need to have a lot of discipline and the courage to move abroad.

Dutch actors who a aspire to work abroad are in for a long and challenging road. Not only do they need to make sure their English is perfect, they need to continue to improve their acting skills, have good material to show casting directors, be flexible – casting is sometimes done very last-minute – and make sure they star in productions shown at film festivals outside of the Netherlands.

“A small art-house film which pays less sometimes has a better chance to be featured at an international film festival than a bigger, good Dutch comedy,” says Tuip.

Despite the many challenges there are quite a few actors and actresses who have succesfully made the move abroad and who are starring in big Hollywood movies and TV shows. And most of the time, their language skills are so superb that native English speakers have no clue they’re not Brits or Americans.

We’re only going with the most current stars because if we listed every character actor, we’d be here all day.


Marwan Kenzari

Marwan Kenzari has recently been cast as Jafar in the new live-action re-make “Aladdin.” It’s not the first role in Hollywood for the 34-year old Dutch actor, who was named one of the most promising young actors at the International Film Festival in Berlin in 2014 as well as one of Hollywood Reporter’s International Breakout Talents of 2016.

Kenzari starred in “The Mummy,” “What Happened to Monday?” and “Collide.”

He will also take on the lead role in Netflix’s new spy drama “The Angel.”

Michiel Huisman

If you are one of the millions of people who watch “Game of Thrones,” you have seen Michiel Huisman around. The Dutch actor is well-known for his role as Daario Naharis in the HBO hit show. Huisman also starred alongside Blake Lively in the romantic drama “Age of Adeline” and is currently in theatres with “2:22,” in which he plays the lead role.

Carice van Houten

In the Netherlands, Carice van Houten is known for her heavy roles in dramas like “Black Book” and “Stricken” (“Komt een vrouw bij de dokter” in Dutch) in which she portrays a woman with breast cancer.

But you know her as Melisandre from “Game of Thrones.”

On the big screen, she was also featured in “Valkyrie” opposite Tom Cruise and more recently in “Brimstone,” which also features her “Game of Thrones” co-star Kit Harrington, Dakota Fanning and her Australian partner Guy Pearce.

And if that’s not enough, she has a second career as a singer.

Sylvia Hoeks

Sylvia Hoeks, who previously worked as a model and graduated from the Maastricht Theatre Acadamy, made her film debut in 2007 in “Duska” for which she received the award for Best Actress at the Dutch Film Festival. She also received a Shooting Star Award at the Berling International Film Festival in 2011.

This fall, you can catch her on the big screen alongside Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford in” Blade Runner: 2049,” the sequel to “Blade Runner” (1982) … which featured Dutch actor Rutger Hauer!

Gaite Jansen

Gaite Jansen is only 26 years old but already has an impressive resumé including leading roles in several Dutch movies (“170Hz,” “Supernova” and “The price of Sugar”). Jansen, who graduated from the Maastricht Theatre Academy, also stars in two BBC series – “Peaky Blinders” and “Line of Duty.”

Famke Janssen

Famke Janssen has been one of the most successful Dutch actresses working in Hollywood.

The now 52-year old first moved to United States in 1984 to work as a model. She later moved from New York to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting. Janssen has had numerous roles in both TV and film over the years including her stint as a Bond girl in “GoldenEye.”

Janssen has been in so many movies we couldn’t even begin to name them all. Her biggest box office was in the “X-Men” movies and the “Taken” series with Liam Neeson.

On TV, notable roles include Eve Rothlow in ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder” and Ava Moore in “Nip/Tuck.” She was also awesome in NBC’s long-running “The Black List” series.

In fact, Janssen has been working in Hollywood so long, we wonder if she even remembers how to speak Dutch.

Lotte Verbeek

One of our favorite characters in “Outlander” is a willowy Scottish witch named Geillis Duncan. Or is she Scottish? Nah …. she’s Dutch. The 35-year-old with red hair and distinctive cat eyes was born in Venlo on the Netherlands/Germany border. Even in interviews such as above, she speaks flawless, unaccented American English.

In the Netherlands, Verbeek is celebrated for roles in “LEFT” and “Nothing Personal,” and she’s doubly famous for playing multiple roles in the same movie.

But in the U.S., she’s sort of following Famke Janssen and Carice van Houten, in demand for reoccurring roles in “The Blacklist” and other TV series.

Rutger Hauer

No list of Dutch superstars would be complete without Rutger Hauer, whose breakthrough Hollywood role came in the original “Blade Runner” back in 1982. Though you could argue he broke through the year before with Sylvester Stallone in “Nighthawks.”

But “Nighthawks” didn’t have Hauer’s legendary “Tears in Rain” monlogue, one of the most memorable in film history.

Since then, he’s become one of those “that guy in every movie” actors, doing dozens and dozens of films, TV shows and music videos.

Producers and directors

Paul Verhoeven

Paul Verhoeven is simply one of the most successful directors in Hollywood.

Verhoeven started out making indies but quickly became Hollywood’s go-to guy for action blockbusters, directing “RoboCop” and “Total Recall,” as well as psychological thrillers such as “Basic Instinct,” which had “that scene” with Sharon Stone.

Then, oddly, in 2006 he left Hollywood to return to the Netherlands to make “Black Book,” an acclaimed movie about the Nazi years that starred many of the above mentioned actors including Carice van Houten.

Finally, a really odd fact: Verhoeven wasn’t trained in filmmaking at all, but has a degree from the University of Leiden in physics and mathematics.

Those amazing Dutch!

Pieter Jan Brugge


Pieter Jan Brugge is a Dutch industry insider you’ve never heard of but who has written for – or produced – some terrific movies and TV shows during the past 20 years including “The Insider,” “Glory,” The Pelican Letter” and “Heat.”

Currently, Brugge is a producer for the hit TV series “Bosch,” which has Dutch touches. For instance, the main character is Harry Bosch, whose birth name is – wait for it – Hieronymus. Yes, the same as the famous phantasmagorical Dutch painter and native of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands.

Anton Corbijn

You know him as the guy who shot the famous “Joshua Tree” album cover photo for U2. But Anton Corbijn has directed a number of films including “The American,” starring George Clooney.

We’re guessing we left out some big names. If so, let us know at: [email protected]

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