Film director Paul Verhoeven and Sharon Stone are accused of lying about the ins and outs of the mythical scene
Twenty-seven years, and some still haven’t recovered. The crossing (or technically, uncrossing) of the legs that took the world’s breath away hasn’t aged at all. Murder suspect Catherine Trammell (played by 34-year-old Sharon Stone) submits to questioning, but she’s the one who ends up overpowering the police. The mouse and the cat have never been so in heat. Catherine is the only one to appreciate the situation.
Her, and millions of viewers: Basic Instinct (Paul Verhoeven, 1992) was the fourth highest-grossing film of the year (it was released in March 1992 in the United States), and the most successful in history in Spain at the time (it was released in August 1992). Sx (and its lust) corrupts every shot until it nearly melts the celluloid of a film that has become an instant classic. And all because many teenagers (and some parents) burned the video by rewinding and pausing the scene in question.
He [the director, Verhoeven] assured me that nothing would show. So I took off my underwear and put them in his shirt pocket,” Sharon Stone said.
Twenty-seven years later, a juicier and less deadly mystery remains unsolved. Did the director get the actress’s permission to portray her crotch for posterity?
Risk-loving (and everything else) sleuth Nick Curran, played by Michael Douglas, knows Catherine Trammell doesn’t wear underwear. He spied her getting dressed in the previous scene and verified that for Trammell lingerie is a thing for losers. The public knows it too, and it attends this interrogation with its mouth open. Will he dare to uncross his legs to stun the males of the pack? Yes of course. Catherine Trammell did not arrive there by her shyness.
There are two versions of how the famous scene happened. According to the film’s director, Paul Verhoeven, Stone knew exactly what she was doing and was thrilled with the perverted situation. According to the actress, the director used it. “When we shot it, it was going to be a come-on,” says Sharon Stone, “but [Verhoeven] said to me: ‘You see the white of your underwear, I need you to take them off.’ He assured me that nothing would show. So I took off my underwear and put them in his shirt pocket.”
So far, both versions of the story agree. The conflict arises when at the end of the shoot both analyze the shot in question. “At that time, there was no high definition,” the actress continues, “so when I looked at the screen, there was really nothing to see.” Everything changed when Stone, his team and the whole world saw the film on a cinema screen of several square meters.
“I was in ‘shock’,” Stone said. “At the end of the film, I got up, went to Verhoeven and slapped him”
“I was in shock,” Stone says. “At the end of the movie, I got up and went over to Paul Verhoeven and slapped him.” The actress admits that the shot suits the film and the character, and that if she had been the director, she would have kept it in the final cut. “But I would have had the courtesy to show it to the actress,” she concludes.
Someone is lying, and according to Paul Verhoeven it’s not him. The Dutch director says that Stone tried in every possible way to eliminate the blow from his crotch on the loose. Verhoeven replied that it was too late. “Sharon is lying,” Verhoeven tells ICON. “Any actress knows what it’s going to be like if you ask her to take off her underwear and point the camera at it. She even gave me hers as a gift. When Sharon watched the resulting scene on the monitor, she had no idea. I think it had to do with the fact that the cinematographer [Jan De Bont, who would go on to direct Speed and Twister]
and I’m Dutch, so we were totally normal about the n-de, and Sharon got carried away with that relaxed attitude. But when she saw the scene surrounded by others [American] people, including her agent and publicist, she panicked. They all told her that this scene would ruin her career, so Sharon came over and asked me to take it down. I said no. “You accepted, and I showed you the result,” I told her, and she said, “Fuck you.” But Sharon isn’t going to tell you, she certainly won’t tell you.”
The legend surrounding the filming of Basic Instinct would give for another thriller, and with quite a few erotic scenes too, since the screenwriter Joe Eszter declared having slept with Sharon Stone to celebrate the success of the film. Several LGTB associations tried to boycott the filming because of the film’s negative image of bisexual women, and Michael Douglas refused for months to hire Stone, considering her “a second-rate actress”.
But the director always believed in her. When the lead actresses (Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer) read the script, they asked him if he would shoot the sex and violence scenes as they were described in the script. “No,” Verhoeven clarified, “they will be even stronger.” Sharon had no such inhibitions, and she had just posed n-de for Playboy to try and revive her career. And boy did she turn it back on. Twenty-seven years later, Basic Instinct is still the only film that makes you want to smoke a cigarette at the end.
Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, who didn’t write the interrogation scene because it was Verhoeven’s idea, resents this legacy. “When you have [on your resume]
one of the most famous erotic shots in the world of cinema, it eclipses the film, which is a tense and psychological modern film noir,” laments Eszterhas. The sequence was cult-like both in clandestine encounters when the parents were at home and in parodies. In the latter, comedian James Corden tries to seduce an older Michael Douglas, to an effect different from that of Catherine Trammell.
An open mystery remains, perhaps the most complex of all. Who is Sharon Stone? A sexual predator ready for anything or the naive victim of a dirty old man? Probably both, and neither at the same time. Sharon Stone is who she should be. Catherine Trammell made the actress who gave her a face, a body and a pubis a myth, but she ended up condemning her. Rita Hayworth lamented that the men went to bed with Gilda (her most iconic character), but woke up disappointed in her.
“Sharon Stone is lying,” Paul Verhoeven told ICON. “When she saw the result of the scene on the monitor, she had no problem”
Stone suffered a similar sentence: to go down in history, but at the cost of no one remembering her as an actress but Catherine Trammell. A cornered woman who fashioned kinky female characters who didn’t apologize for enjoying sex. Demi Moore has built an entire career off of this trend. In the roaring 90s, the cultural revolution was without underwear, and Sharon Stone had the audacity to be the first to take it off.
“No one else could have done this job,” admits Verhoeven. And he adds: “She can be very cruel and very charming, and she can change her look from one state to another in a second. Sharon Stone is like that. She is Catherine Trammell, but without the ice pick.”
Everything indicates that this mystery, turned into a pop culture myth, will never be solved. In this play, there were only Stone, Verhoeven and De Bont, because the actress had asked to shoot the scene at the end of the day and without anyone else in front. The relaxation she gained from this intimacy backfired, but it also made her the official erotic myth of the 90s: a whole generation of teenagers suddenly became men after watching Basic Instinct. .