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BASIC INSTINCT
(Paul Verhoeven . 1991)

 

 

“You know I don’t like to wear any underwear, don't you, Nick?”

BASIC INSTINCT

Paul Verhoeven . 1991

“A lot of stars didn't want to considefr it,” said the Dutch film-maker Paul Verhoeven, “because it was about a bisexual killer, violence and explicit sex.” And, after all, he had said he wanted it to be the first Hollywood feature showing an erect penis.  (He made do with a limp one on the opening murder victim). 

 

For the first time in Hollywood history (as far as I know),

an actresses was offered the leading lady  - and the leading man… 

when he was a she!

 

Kathleen Turner had the bizarre experience because Michael Douglas’ cop was originally written as a  lesbian police detective – and earmarked for Turner. (Further irony, she'd  had an affair with Douglas during their  Romancing the Stone period in the mid-80s).  Following a  gender switch, Turner promptly joined to the list for Catherine… And turned down $1.5m. “If the part doesn't work for me, I turn it down.”  [Sharon Stone got $500,000].

For Greta Scacchi, this was “one of the most offensive scripts I’ve ever read,” said “One of the most offensive scripts I’ve ever read.”  She had once declared: “Fuckability is the common denominator in presenting ourselves... How fuckable we make ourselves look. Even the boys have to do it.”  As if to prove that, some weeks before shooting, the film’s $5m star, Michael Douglas, shot off to the Mexico sun to “get beautiful” - after his face-lift.  

Mariel Hemingway, Kelly McGillis and funny Catherine O’Hara actually auditioned.  Others simply refused: Kim Basinger,  Lena Olin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Greta Sacchi.  And Emma Thompson...   “As far as I can see, from Sharon Stone’s love scene, they moulded her body out of tough plasticine. She was shagging Michael Douglas like a donkey - and not an inch moved. If that had been me, there would have been things flying around hitting me in the eye.”

An early idea was Pfeiffer and Mel Gibson - for  the bisexual novelist accused of an ice-pick murder and the burned-out San Francisco PD cop - when the Joe Estzerhas script was auctioned to Carolco Pictures  for $3m. Michelle, for one, wanted all nudity written out. The scripter said he deserved the huge fee as he’d spent spent years on the script. He later admitted that he’d knocked it out in 13 days. Or… $230.769. 234 per day.

Stone  saw her breakthrough  as  a very dark and twisted love story. “The character is, let's face it, kinda loony tunes. Very intense, very, very controlling. But it's also a thriller, a two-box-of-popcorn movie.”  

A dangerous, sexy thriller, said co-star Michael Douglas, more so than his previous hit, Fatal Attraction. Then, he kept adding (as most Hollywood actors do)  “some of it has to do with redemption.”  Oh really!

The director maintained it was all about evil... Although, he added, “as an artist, as a director, it's sometimes better not to be too clear with yourself about what you're doing.”
Either way, Douglas sitting on his $15m salary - and his no full-frontals clause - was not happy.

 

“I’m the star of this movie.

And she one-ups me at every turn.”

 

Catherine Tramell . For the pivotal role, the deadly, bisexual ice-pick killer,Carolco strangely looked to Hollywood’s past, in particular to three films that had previously required not a deadly, bisexual ice-pick killerbut asexy heroine - a teenage castaway for Blue Lagoon, 1979, a mermaid called Madison in Splash, 1983 and the gang rape victim in Accused, 1987.

In the running for Catherine from those three lists were: Rosanna Arquette, Ellen Barkin, Bridget Fonda, Jodie Foster, Melanie Griffith, Daryl Hannah, Mariel Hemingway, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kay Lenz, Tatum O’Neal, Michelle Pfeiffer (she also passed Sliver and Casino to Stone),Kathleen Turner, Debra Winger. (Sean Penn was the only guy seen from the Lagoon, and Accused lists.

Michael Douglas said Catherine had to be another A Star and nominated Kim Basinger Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts or Greta Scacchi. . Almost inevitably, Verhoeven wanted his 4th Manstar, the Dutch Renée Soutendijk,  to wield the ice-pick.  Until he realised that the US pubic would hardly be shocked by a foreigner as a wicked woman - and being so free with her naked charms. No, in order to create a shock, Catherine had to be as American as apple pie. So fast exitsby Isabelle Adjani (she later joined Stone in turning the Diabolique re-make into a dog’s breakfast).,  Isabella Rossellini (although thought hot enough for 9 1/2 Weeks) and Swedish Lena Olin -  she wanted the role but not Verhoeven.

 

Kay Lenz, Eastwood’s Breezy, wanted the role

- the Dutchman  wouldn’t hear of it.

 

In all, 82 actresses (compared to 32 guys) were seen, or at least contacted.  From, inevitably, Rosanna Arquette, Kim Basinger, Jennifer Connelly, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rebecca De Mornay, Amanda Donahoe, Alison Doody, Linda Fiorentino, Bridget Fonda, Gina Gershon, Valeria Golino, Heather Graham, Daryl Hannah, Anjelica Huston, Jessica Lange, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kay Lenz, Kelly Lynch, Virginia Madsen, Demi Moore, Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts, Mimi Rogers, Meg Ryan, Theresa Russell (but hubby Nic Roeg was not directing!), Greta Scacchi, Uma Thurman, Marisa Tomei, Kathleen Turner, Sigourney Weaver, Robin Wright…  to the less innately erotic Joan Allen, Nancy Allen, Annette Bening, Lara Flynn Boyle, Helena Bonham Carter, Stockard Channing, Patricia Clarkson, Glenn Close, Geena Davis, Laura Dern, Farrah Fawcett, Carrie Fisher, Jodie Foster, Jennifer Grey, Melanie Griffith, Linda Hamilton, Mariel Hemingway,  Marilui Henner,  Helen Hunt, Holly Hunter, Diane Keaton, Nicole KidmanChristine Lahti, Diane Lane, Heather Locklear, Courtney Love,, AndieMacDowell, Madonna (she did her own version, Body of Evidence, the next year), Lena Olin, Annette O’Toole, Annie Potts, Kelly Preston, Ally Sheedy, Cybil Shepherd, Ione Skye, Sissy Spacek, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Shue, Madeleine Stowe, Emma Thompson and Debra Winger. 

Plus such utter surprises as  a tepid tele trio - Kim Cattrall, Courteney Cox, Sarah Jessica Parker… the little mouse on the prairie) Melissa Gilbert , plus Bette Midler, Tatum O’Neal, Lea Thompson and the Laurence Olivier and Ralph Richjatrdson of US actresses, Meryl Streep anjd Glenn Close.  What werethey smoking at Carolco?

Paul Verhoeven saw them all. Usually running away from him.

Such as…

Brooke Shields is often  cited in Catrherine-lists. In  fact, she refused to be  Catherine’s friend, Roxanne ‘Rocky’ Hardy (Leilani Sarelle), which Brooke feared it would be all naked, too.

Kim Basinger’s agent said: “Let’s face this right now: You have to be nude and do love scenes and full-frontal nudity - yes or no?”  “And I knew,” said Kim, “I couldn’t do it.” So she then passed Sliver to Sharon, as well.

Geena Davis also lost Sliver. Producer Robert Evans made sure of that. He kept telling Stone's agent he was thisclose to deal with Davis. Because he knew Sharon apparently loathed Geena for making Stone a mere second choice for Verhoeven’s film.Stone did not want Sliver,said Evans,  “but she sure in hell didn't want Geena to have  it.”

Farrah Fawcett was worried about the nudity and kept her clotheson until Dr T and the Women, 2000, at age 46. “That was different, it was justified, it made sense. She was vulnerable and suffering, and also, it’s a Robert Altman film and his characters are always interesting. It was gutsy, hard - and definitely worth it.”

Linda Fiorentino’s breasts did not appeal to the Amsterdammer. "Too small." Perfectly  fine. however,  for Venezuelan auteur Temistocles López’s sexy Chain  of Desire, a La Ronde for the AIDS age.

Mariel Hemingway was a far too obvious choice as she had already shown off her newly siliconed boobs  as the murdered Playboy playmate Dorothy Stratten in Star 80,1983. (Her  plastic surgery won her the role).

Like Stone, Jennifer Jason Leigh had worked with Verhoeven before – all but naked in four-below freezing temperatures while being raped in Flesh and Blood, in 1985. “This time, he thought I was too young and though Sharon Stone isn't much older, she looks like a woman.”

Greta Scacchi explained it best. “There was no way I could have coped with playing… a character who was, essentially, a male heterosexual’s lesbian fantasy. I thought that offensive.” The following year, she refused Robert Altman’s (alleged) orders during The Player: “Take your knickers off and do what you’re paid to do.”  (As Fawcett had done  in Altman’s Dr T).  

 

“When I was young,” said Sharon Stone.

“all I wanted to be was a movie star.”

 

Meanwhile Sharon Stone(who made Total Recallfor an imprressed Verhoeven) was seriously considering job-retraining as her career was turning to sludge.“I thought I might go to law school. Do some writing. Maybe teach acting.”  She said she understood why established stars didn’t wish to accept an unlikeable  character.  (The No Brigade  were not complaining  about likeability).  “The challenge,” asserted Stone, “is being likeable when you’re this awful!  If you can do that, you’re in business. Anthony Hopkins certainly did that in Silence of the Lambs - you couldn’t wait to see him in another scene.  But that’s not the Hollywood mechanism. If your goal is to be a huge star, Basic Instinct might not have been the best career choice.” (Oh no?!). “If your goal is to expand yourself as an actor, it was the break of a lifetime.  I told Paul: If you’re going to shoot it like real sex, you can count on me to do whatever you want.”

Their tawdry film, as we all know, made Sharon Stone a sensation. An A Star. Not so much due to her naked sex simulations, but by the simple expedient of crossing her legs during a police interrogation to demonstrate that she was not sporting any underwear. Stone  said was trapped into the scene. Hardly as she, like us, knew she had not put any panties on while dressing in the previous scene... unless we were expected to believe  that she had somehow addressed that deficiency in the police car with Michael Douglas on the way  to the nick..

Kelly Lynch, however, said the script she was given (Verhoeven’s not Estzerrhas’) actually contained a diagram about the famous flash... which was, in reality,  a tame, blink-and-you-miss-it moment. It was not, for example, Marushka Detmers Sylvia Kristel, Carole Laure, Catherine Wilkening in Europe. Nor Claudia Koll in Tinto Brass’ Cosi fan tutte that very year. Nor Rosario Dawson dispensing with pants and public hair in Danny Boyle’s Trance in 2013.

After shooting their choreographed love scene -  totally nude save for genititalia pads during fivedays -  Stone said she and Douglas were a horizontal Ginger Rogers andf Fred Astaire. Although she’d thought she’d won it, Kelly Lynch never thought the result was sexy enough, “It didn’t get me off,” said the delicious blonde from Cocktail and Drugstore Cowboy. “Critics would’ve thought I was slumming... going for the money. Whoever did that part had to embrace it because there was very little besides the camera taking advantage of you and being lit, dressed and coiffed by the best.”  She did, though, consider the sequel.

Nick Curran .   Following the character’s sex-change, Verhoeven first considered a RoboLover - with  his RoboCop,Peter Weller. Carolco preferred Richard Gere or Jeff Bridges.Beaten by Douglas to Fatal Atraction, 1987, Wall Street, 1989, and Traffic, in 2000, Gere was Stone’s husband  for Intersection, in 1993. When Robert De Niro also passed, Hollywood wags suggested if only Catherine had been black...(By 1995, he was wed to  Stone in Casino),

Tom Cruise, Ray Liotta, Brad Pitt and Patrick Swayze autioned. Also considered were: Tom Berenger (who preferred Sliverwith Sharon), Nicolas Cage, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones and the Lost Panties?), Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, John Heard, Don Johnson, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Dennis Quaid, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta... and  Bruce Willis, who had his own  abysmal  nude romps - plus  his penile  version of crossing legs - in Colour of Nighttwo years later with an 18-years younger Jane March.

Plus  such bizarre notions as  Richard Dean Anderson, Parkinsons’ victim Michael J Fox and his Back to the Future’smanic Doc Brown, Christopher Lloyd (the oldest notion at 53) and even… Chuck Norris!  Top black stars Wesley Snipes and Denzel Washington wouldn’t risk it.  Oh, and defying any ageist thinking, Verhoeven also aimed Nick  at both Charlie Sheen, 26, and his father Martin, a sprightly 51.

Footnote: In her revenge for being “trapped” into her  famous flashing (which only  made her a global name!), Sharon Stone refused to Trammell again in the (even tawdrier) sequel. MGM immediately called up Ashley Judd and Demi Moore.  And, my goodness, who was that rushing back into the fold - andsitting in leg-crossing mode on the poster? All that for an obvious flop before one scene was shot...

After all: What could she do for an encore?

 





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