When Starship Troopers first arrived back in November 1997, critics were quick to brand the movie “90210 In Space”, thanks in no small part to the film’s plethora of young, attractive, and largely unknown actors.
Little did they realize that it was all part of director Paul Verhoeven’s cunning plan. Eager to adapt, but not necessarily follow, Robert A Heinlein’s sci-fi novel of the same name to the letter, the Dutch filmmaker wanted to turn the book’s pro-military, fascist leanings on their head with a satirical take on the story that had shades of his previous work helming Robocop.
To do this, Verhoeven needed a cast that embodied the same gung-ho, all-American, po-faced patriotism at the heart of the source text. He needed a cast that believed in what they were saying, however ridiculous it may have sounded, in the same way Beverly Hills 90210 needed its major players to feel and emote through every convoluted twist and turn on the show.
When the dust settled, fans soon realized that Verhoeven had created a modern sci-fi classic, but whatever happened to Johnny, Dizzy, Ace, and the other men and women that made up the cast of Starship Troopers? Read on to find out where they are today!
17. Johnny Rico – Casper Van Dien
On the hunt for his all-American male lead, Verhoeven lucked out in casting the chisel-jawed Casper Van Dien as high school-football-star-turned-killing-machine, Johnny Rico. A complete unknown prior to Starship Troopers – save for brief appearances on the soap One Life To Live and, of course, Beverly Hills 90210 – Van Dien quickly followed his breakout turn up with the starring role in Tarzan And The Lost City and looked set for stardom.
Unfortunately, that film was a huge flop, and though Van Dien was able to follow it up with a supporting part in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, things went downhill from there.
A series of forgettable roles followed, including the lead in Aaron Spelling’s disastrously short-lived soap Titans alongside Yasmine Bleeth. Then, a potentially career-rescuing performance as Patrick Bateman in Roger Avary’s impressive adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel The Rules of Attraction was left on the cutting room floor, before Van Dien returned to where it all began as Rico in the lamentable Starship Troopers 3: Marauder.
16. Dizzy Flores – Dina Meyer
Rico’s long-overlooked, hard-as-nails lady love, Dizzy, may not have got her man in the end, but she scored a pretty decent film and television career off the back of Starship Troopers.
Arguably one of the bigger names on the film back in 1997, Dina Meyer had also been cast as the female lead in both Johnny Mnemonic and Dragonheart prior to Starship Troopers. And let’s not forget her memorable guest stint on Friends as Joey’s castmate Kate Miller on that weirdly awful play he ends up in during season 3.
In the years after Starship Troopers, Meyer starred in the adventure horror movie Bats and the Sylvester Stallone thriller D-Tox – both of which were poorly received by audiences. Things improved in the 2000s though, with Meyer landing a part in Star Trek: Nemesis and each of the first four Saw films. She’s also enjoyed plenty in the way of TV work, including starring roles in several short-lived series as well as guest stints on the likes of CSI, Criminal Minds, Monk, The Mentalist, and Castle to name but a few. This year, she appeared in the horror film The Evil Within. Nope, us neither.
15. Carmen Ibanez – Denise Richards
Johnny Rico’s high-flying high school sweetheart Carmen was played by another 90210 actor in Denise Richards, who had appeared briefly in everything from Saved By The Bell and Seinfeld prior to landing her first major role on Starship Troopers.
She also looked the most likely to succeed after the film was released, following up that role with memorable turns in Wild Things and the James Bond outing The World Is Not Enough, where she played nuclear physicist Christmas Jones. Critics were quick to malign her performance in the latter, with Richards hardly helped by a character name that merely served as the punchline to the film’s innuendo-laden ending. Undeterred, Richards went on to star in the beauty queen comedy satire Drop Dead Gorgeous and the David Boreanaz slasher Valentine, though she never struck box office gold again.
As her private life and marriage to Charlie Sheen began to overshadow her acting work, Richards turned to a rafter of appearances in shows like 30 Rock and Jane The Virgin, often playing an exaggerated version of herself. More recently involved in the cult comedy series Blue Mountain State, Richards will next appear alongside Mischa Barton in the road trip horror movie, The Toybox.
14. Ace Levy – Jake Busey
Living in the shadow of a super-famous dad is bad enough, but doing so when you’re best remembered for playing a sci-fi movie wingman with a penchant for playing the electric fiddle really takes the biscuit.
Unfortunately, that was the very scenario facing Jake “Son of Gary” Busey when Starship Troopers wrapped in 1997. Previously known for supporting roles in Contact and, most notably, The Frighteners, a small part in Will Smith’s Enemy of The State was as good as it got in the years that followed – a period when Busey appeared in straight-to-video sequels to The Hitcher and Roadhouse.
Busey has enjoyed steady work ever since, though, racking up 96 acting credits to his name, including an appearance in the crime series Justified and a major role in the From Dusk Til Dawn TV show. There could be even better things to come for Busey, as he’s been cast in Shane Black’s upcoming Predator movie.
13. Carl Jenkins – Neil Patrick Harris
Johnny’s telekinetic best pal from school always looked destined for great things, and the same sentiment applied to Neil Patrick Harris. Cast in Starship Troopers off the back of his starring role as the child doctor Dougie Houser M.D., Harris’ career revival as an adult only really kicked off as a result of several hilarious cameos in the popular Harold & Kumar movies. Playing an exaggerated, sexed-up version of himself in the smash hit stoner comedy franchise, Harris’s efforts helped him get cast as Barney in the wildly successful sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
Over 200 episodes later, and Harris is a bonafide Hollywood star. He recently appeared in David Fincher’s Gone Girl, and in 2015, he became the first openly gay man to host the Oscars. More recently still, he starred in the Netflix adaptation of A Series Of Unfortunate Events as Count Olaf. Not bad for a man who ended Starship Troopers dressed suspiciously like a Nazi.
12. Sgt. Zim – Clancy Brown
Clancy Brown is an actor that needs little in the way of an introduction. He was The Kurgan in Highlander. The sadistic Captain Bryon Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption. The voice of Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants.
Of course, he also played Career Sergeant Zim – the dude that told Rico to bite down on that gross bit of bark while being punished for a fatal lapse in leadership during mobile infantry training with 10 lashings. He even turned up again later in the movie, having enlisted to do his part.
Despite boasting an enviable career as a character actor by trade, Brown spends a large chunk of his time doing voice work these days, popping in for a whole range of animated series including Archer, Robot Chicken, and Star Wars Uprising.
That’s not to say his career in front of the camera has died down. In recent years, he’s enjoyed prominent roles in Hail Caesar! and Warcraft, while he also guest starred on DC’s The Flash as well as Marvel’s Daredevil TV series, in a combo move known in the industry as “Doing A Josh Brolin.”
11. Sugar Watkins – Seth Gilliam
Seth Gilliam arrives on the scene halfway through Starship Troopers as a member of the Roughnecks, and he goes on to make quite the impression – sacrificing himself for the others during the film’s alien hive-based finale. He was another unknown back then, save for an appearance in Courage Under Fire, but he’s enjoyed some pretty notable success in the years since, starting with a turn as prison guard and, later, inmate Clayton Hughes on the influential HBO prison drama Oz.
It’s only got better from there for Gilliam. Not content with landing the role of cocky cop Ellis Carver on another HBO classic, The Wire, he’s also featured in roles on major TV series like Teen Wolf and, perhaps most notably, The Walking Dead, as Father Gabriel Stokes.
10. Zander Barcalaw – Patrick Muldoon
Rico’s main rival for Carmen’s affections, Patrick Muldoon played cinematic douchebag Zander to aplomb, right up until the moment [SPOILER ALERT] a brain bug decides to suck the grey matter directly from his skull in the final few moments of the movie.
Muldoon arrived on Starship Troopers as a fully-fledged soap actor, previously spending three years playing Austin Reed on Days Of Our Lives and later Melrose Place. Since playing Zander, Muldoon has also carved out a pretty prolific career as a star of made-for-TV movies in the US, and he even reprised his role in Days of Our Lives in 2012 after a 16-year hiatus from the soap.
Aside from acting, Zander also serves as the lead singer and guitarist in his very own rock band, The Sleeping Masses, and even contributed the end credits song to the Jessica Biel ensemble drama Powder Blue.
9. Lt. Jean Rasczak – Michael Ironside
Something of a Paul Verhoeven mainstay, Michael Ironside was pitch-perfect for the role of Rico’s philosophy-spouting teacher turned squad leader, Jean Rasczak, and he hasn’t exactly been short of work either before or since the film’s release.
Over the years, he’s appeared in everything from The Machinist, alongside a stick-thin Christian Bale, to The Perfect Storm, Terminator Salvation, and even X-Men: First Class. Ironside has also worked in video games along the way, providing the voice of Sam Fisher on the Splinter Cell games and Lieutenant General Jack Granger on Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. DC fans have become awfully familiar with his vocal talents over the years as well, as he memorably portrayed Darkseid on Superman: The Animated Series, and he went on to appear in both Smallville and The Flash. More recently, he played the main villain in the kooky cult hit, Turbo Kid.
8. General Owen – Marshall Bell
Another familiar face in the Starship Troopers ranks, Marshall Bell had made a name for himself playing scumbags on Twins and A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 prior to this film, so the role of the cowardly General Owen wasn’t a massive stretch. Bell also had previous experience with Verhoeven playing George in Total Recall (the bloke with the mutant Martian Kuato attached to his stomach), and he’s certainly a familiar face to fans of shows like The X-Files and Millennium.
The roles have continued to flood in for the established character actor, who has appeared in horror movies like Virus and Identity alongside more critically well-regarded fare like Capote, Rescue Dawn, and, most recently, The Bling Ring. Bell is also the face of the Citizen Bank commercials, while his most recent film was the 2016 Warren Beatty dud The Rules Don’t Apply.
7. Beckinridge – Eric Bruskotter
Starship Troopers big, dumb mobile infantry trainee never got to see a battlefield in the movie, thanks to a fatal accident during a training exercise, and the actor who played him has been largely under the radar ever since. That was despite the fact that Eric Bruskotter boasted a pretty impressive CV of TV roles prior to Starship Troopers, which included a two-year stint on the ’80s Vietnam drama Tour Of Duty, as well as guest spots on shows like Cheers. He also appeared briefly in The Line of Fire and Crimson Tide in the 1990s.
Since Starship Troopers’ release, Bruskotter’s two biggest film roles came with Major League 3: Back To The Minors (reprising a small role from the second film in the franchise) and Bring It On: All Or Nothing, as the actor has been largely consigned to bit part roles in shows like 24, Six Feet Under, and CSI. He did get more of a chance to shine as Cooter Menkin on Glee in 2012, but he’s been pretty quiet ever since.
6. Kitten Smith – Matt Levin
Another mobile infantry grunt who didn’t see it through to the end of the film, actor Matt Levin had appeared in Blossom and Dougie Howser, M.D. as a child star prior to his casting in Starship Troopers.
He’s pretty much never stopped working since, and he appears to have a rock solid working relationship with Ben Stiller, having appeared alongside the comedic heavyweight in Zoolander, Dodgeball, Tropic Thunder, and The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty. He even served as an associate producer on that last one.
Levin is also a prolific voiceover artist, lending his talents to hit shows like Rugrats, What’s New, Scooby Doo?, Samurai Jack, and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien among other things. He featured in the Will Ferrell comedy Blades of Glory back in the day, though his most recent onscreen film work is still Walter Mitty.
5. Shujimi – Anthony Ruivivar (Banshee)
Anthony Ruivivar was just another mobile infantry casualty during that first disastrous strike on Klendathu, but he’s gone on to some pretty impressive things since the film’s release. In 1999, he took on the role of paramedic Carlos Nieto in the police procedural drama Third Watch for the entirety of the shows’ six-season run. He later landed recurring character roles in Southland and Banshee, as well as voicing Bruce Wayne/Batman on the computer animated series Beware the Batman.
More recently still, Ruivivar has appeared in American Horror Story: Hotel and as Sheriff Miguel Costa in the Scream TV series. Though not quite as prolific in the world of film, the Hawaii-born actor also featured in Tropic Thunder and The Adjustment Bureau. He’s also married to his former Third Watch castmate Yvonne Jung. They have two children together.
4. Commanding Officer – Dean Norris
Dean Norris was tapped to play the man running things at the Mobile Infantry training camp shown towards the start of the film. He was also the one that devised Rico’s punishment of 10 lashings following the accidental death of a soldier under his command.
Another established character actor to rival Michael Ironside for looks as well as movie credits, Norris had already appeared in Terminator 2, Total Recall, and Lethal Weapon 2 among many, many other films prior to Starship Troopers.
Things would get even better for Norris, though. While continuing to work steadily in the years since, he eventually landed his career-defining role as Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad in 2008. He’s appeared in dozens of shows and films since, including guest stints on CSI and The Big Bang Theory, and more recently, Girlboss. His next major project is a main cast turn in the upcoming TNT comedy/drama series Claws, and he’s also in line to star alongside Bruce Willis and Vincent D’Onofrio in the Death Wish remake, which is currently without a release date.
3. Captain Deladier – Brenda Strong
Brenda Strong played Carmen’s boss Captain Deladier in the fleet, and she was cast in Starship Troopers off the back of steady TV work on Cheers, Seinfeld, MacGyver, and Twin Peaks during a varied career that also included movie roles on Spaceballs and The Craft.
Strong is perhaps best known for her work in the years since Starship Troopers, though. At least her voice is, anyway. Cast as Mary Alice Young on Desperate Housewives, she featured in all 179 episodes of the show. She only actually appeared in a handful, however, with her character having been killed off in the first season, and instead serving as a narrator of sorts for the majority of the ABC series’ run.
2. Recruiting Sergeant – Robert David Hall
Granted, Robert David Hall’s role isn’t necessarily one that jumps at you from the screen, but his short and significant contribution as the triple amputee Recruiting Sergeant is one designed to send a message to Johnny about the dangers of the mobile infantry and war.
Hall actually lost both his legs in real life following a car accident way back in 1978, but that did not stop him from carving out an impressive acting career. Often cast in officious roles like that of a judge or doctor, Hall is perhaps best known for playing medical examiner Dr Al Robbins on CSI. Hall was a series regular for the CBS hit, appearing in an incredible 326 episodes during a 15-year stint on the show, which ended in 2015.
1. Pilot Cadet Stack Lumbreiser – Amy Smart
Amy Smart’s acting experience was limited at best going into Starship Troopers, having previously worked primarily as a model. Though it was a minor role in the grand scheme of things, Paul Verhoeven’s movie did lead Smart to more memorable parts in the teen hits Varsity Blues and Road Trip. Smart continued to enjoy steady success throughout the first decade of the 2000s, including Starsky & Hutch, The Butterfly Effect, and, of course, two Crank movies opposite Jason Statham.
Smart also contributed vocal work to Robot Chicken and has guest-starred on several hits series, including Scrubs, Shameless, and Justified. Now mainly working on TV movies and independent films, Smart’s career may not scale the same heights again, but she can at least look back on a pretty solid track record of success in the industry.
Did we leave out any of your favorite Starship Troopers cast members? Will the actors chosen for the upcoming reboot hold a candle to this gang? Have your say in the comment section!
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