One of the Netherlands' best-known gangsters went to court Thursday to stop the release of a film about the 1983 kidnapping and ransom of beer tycoon Freddy Heineken, in which he played a key role, claiming it misrepresents him.
Willem Holleeder, dubbed "The Nose" in the Dutch media, was sentenced to 11 years for his part in Heineken's ordeal in 1986. Holleeder sued filmmakers from his cell in the high-security prison where he is serving a new nine-year sentence in an unrelated extortion case, and the Justice Ministry did not grant him leave to appear in the courtroom.
Producer IDTV Film lawyer Jens van den Brink argued the Dutch-language movie "The Heineken Kidnapping," which cost euro4.7 million ($6.4 million) to make and stars Rutger Hauer as Heineken, is a fictionalized version of events. He said halting it days before its scheduled Oct. 24 opening in Amsterdam would be financially ruinous.
Holleeder, now 53, is not named in the movie, and filmmakers merged his character with that of another of the four real-life kidnappers — though one of the actors resembles Holleeder physically, right down to the prominent nose that prompted his nickname.
Holleeder's lawyers say the movie portrays the kidnappers as more violent than they actually were, and it will stymie Holleeder's attempts to reintegrate with society once he is released. They say he wants to be known for what he actually did, not as the character in the movie.
In an interview with Dutch press agency ANP, the film's director Maarten Treurniet said Holleeder's suit has no merit.
"In my eyes, he suffered the bulk of the damage to his reputation when he kidnapped Heineken: this is peanuts by comparison," Treurniet said. He said viewers will have more sympathy for the character that most resembles Holleeder than he deserves.
Court spokeswoman Annemieke Jeuring said judges will rule Friday.
An American film based on the kidnapping also is under negotiation.
Heineken, who built his family company from a small concern into the world's third-largest brewer, was kidnapped on a Wednesday evening as he left his office with his chauffeur. Both were kept in soundproof cells in a warehouse for three weeks.
The country was captivated as the kidnappers released voice recordings of the victims and communicated with police using coded messages in newspapers. They demanded a ransom and developed a convoluted plan for dropping off the money without being caught.
Heineken was rescued by police on a tip after the kidnappers had received the ransom of 35 million guilders — worth euro25 million or $36 million in today's terms.
After the kidnapping, Heineken became much more reclusive and rarely appeared in public. He was thought to be the country's richest man when he died of pneumonia in 2002 with an estimated personal fortune of $3.6 billion.
The kidnappers were all eventually arrested and served varying prison terms, though Holleeder had escaped to Paris until he was captured. Around 20 percent of the ransom money was never recovered. Supporters threw Holleeder a champagne-soaked bash at Amsterdam's posh Hilton hotel the day he was released in 1992.
Holleeder was convicted again in 2007, this time for leading a criminal organization and extorting money from three people. One of his extortion victims, real estate magnate Willem Enstra, told police Holleeder had ordered as many as 25 murders. Enstra was himself killed in 2004 in a case that remains unsolved.
Holleeder has never been charged with any slayings.