by Izzy Woods
This movie was meant to shock you and wasn’t for the faint hearted. From the opening scene where a woman murders her lover with planned precision, you know you’re going on a roller coaster ride that will be more than a little uncomfortable.
Behind the Scenes of 'That Scene'
Looking back over history now, the one scene that has taken up 99% of the talk over this movie isn’t even agreed upon by the two people involved. Director Paul Verhoeven said that actress Sharon Stone was ready for the scene where she would cross her legs, giving her interviewers and the audience of millions opportunity to wonder if she was wearing any underwear. She wasn’t, but this must be the most replayed frame by frame scene. Some still aren’t sure after a dozen viewings.
Though there’s no doubt that it has placed her in the vaults of must-see movies, Sharon Stone tells a different story. She said she didn’t know anything about the director’s choice of how to play the scene until it was too late. Ms Stone said she didn’t mind the nude scenes in the movie, but was disturbed by the murders, not just because of the numbers of murders, but the way people were killed, as though voyeurs were watching.
The crew confirmed that body doubles not used for the many nude scenes. That didn't ruin Ms Stone’s reputation as she appeared to lose her clothing regularly throughout the movie, a fact not lost on her new found male and female fans.
Interestingly, Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone were nowhere near the top of the list to play the leads for the movie, but after seeing the screenplay, most well known names of the day refused to sign on.
This brings us to the argument over whether the movie portrayed lesbians as evil killers or just killers who happened to be lesbian. Lesbian and gay activists tried to disrupt during shooting of the film in San Francisco and enthusiastically demonstrated wherever the film opened in theaters.
Paul Verhoeven had to back down and revert to the original screenplay as he tried to make the portrayal of the actresses ever darker. Writer Joe Eszterhas had a collection of hits under his belt when he was contracted to write Basic Instinct. The writer was paid $3 million. The director removed him but then didn’t agree with the second writer (over the explicitness) so they went back to the original Eszterhas version.
To center on the controversy is wrong. The movie is quite brilliant. The writer slaved over every word and none are out of place. The movie may require a second viewing just to check who did commit the murders. It’s easy to miss the clues and though it appears to show the audience who was guilty, it isn’t actually confirmed, so it could be open to interpretation.
The movie tells the story of a writer and a killer. The killer acts out the murders from the writer’s back catalogue. The writer is so manipulative that the detective investigating her falls for her not knowing if she is in fact, the murderer. Not only does she keep the detectives on a leash, but the audience too.
The sex scenes are quite graphic, erotic for many, leaving nothing to the imagination. Writers are taught to show and not tell their story. It feels as though the audience is in there with the copulating couple.
Box Office Success
The movie was an outstanding success. It took almost $400 million at the box office (this is around twenty years ago) and became one of the top DVD sellers of the decade. Interestingly, as Sharon Stone was new to top salaries, her half a million dollar check was just a small part of the $50 million budget, but this movie alone quadrupled her salary overnight, giving her plenty of capital for going on World Cruises on vacation.
A Disappointing Sequel
You had to wait 14 years for Basic Instinct 2, which really wasn’t worth the wait. Only Sharon Stone returned from the first movie and she hadn’t lost anything in the intervening years. The movie didn’t get good reviews, although if you can get through to a third viewing, it will grow on you. However, there is no doubt that it cannot match the heights gained by the original, which stands in history as one of the great movies to see.