According to Sharon Stone, the film — in which she plays a calculating killer and Douglas is the investigating homicide detective who becomes obsessed with her — revealed ‘the dark side of myself’. She says: ‘It was terrifying’
The scene has been hailed as the most heavily scrutinised in film history.
That leg-crossing and uncrossing moment in the erotic thriller Basic Instinct, in which — on close inspection — Sharon Stone really wasn’t wearing any underwear as she toyed with a roomful of male police officers, was instrumental in making her a superstar and one of Hollywood’s most intimidating sex symbols.
It was also a shameful betrayal, according to Stone, who has described how she slapped her director Paul Verhoeven in fury and walked out of a preview of the lurid drama after discovering his assurances that it wouldn’t show up on screen had been a lie and that the audience could — as she put it — ‘see all the way to Nebraska’.
Verhoeven has claimed she is the one who is lying but, in a deeply revealing new memoir that is bound to roil Hollywood, Stone has made clear she is not letting the matter drop.
In a further broadside directed at the Dutch director, she describes making Basic Instinct, released in 1992, as ‘terrifying’.
The actress has, in the past, been ridiculed for her diva-like behaviour and for shamelessly exploiting her own sexuality, posing naked for Playboy twice, the first time to get the Basic Instinct role and the second when she was 57.
Now, with the post-#MeToo era portraying notoriously hard-nosed Hollywood women such as her in a kinder light, she has come out all guns blazing against a misogynistic film industry with the morals of the gutter.
In The Beauty Of Living Twice, an excerpt of which has appeared in Vanity Fair, she is combative but also very defensive as she discloses that one of her directors insisted she sat on his lap during filming, while predatory film bosses pressured her to sleep with male co-stars to strengthen their on-screen chemistry.
Stone, now 63, has appeared over the years to revel in her reputation for having ‘the biggest balls in Hollywood’, but surprisingly she insists in her forthcoming memoir that, even when she was cast in Basic Instinct alongside Michael Douglas, she was ‘still so shy and introverted’.
With the post-#MeToo era portraying notoriously hard-nosed Hollywood women such as her in a kinder light, she has come out all guns blazing against a misogynistic film industry with the morals of the gutter
She reveals that making the film was a nightmare for her, especially when, while nakedly astride an actor with whom she had moments before been filmed making love, she hit him so ferociously with a fake ice pick that he passed out and she feared she’d killed him.
Stone also confides that, after years of dead-end acting roles, she was so desperate to get the Basic Instinct job that she had her manager use his credit card to unlock the door of the casting director’s office to obtain a copy of the script.
However, it’s what she has to say about her front-row seat to Tinseltown’s seedy sexual proclivities that is bound to cause the most unease in an industry that nowadays is far more switched on to even a hint of predatory sexual behaviour.
Stone had already made the sci-fi thriller Total Recall (in which she had a small part as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wife) with Verhoeven. But, she says, Michael Douglas demanded a bigger co-star and didn’t want her to get the Basic Instinct role, despite it having been turned down by a succession of actresses — reportedly including Julia Roberts, Geena Davis and Meg Ryan — because of the amount of nudity involved.
Douglas finally agreed to do a screen test with Stone after 12 other actresses had rejected the part, she writes, adding: ‘Michael and I are friends now.’
One of the film’s producers compounded her feeling of insignificance by always calling her ‘Karen’, she says.
Verhoeven has vehemently dismissed her claims that she was taken by surprise in the leg-crossing scene, saying: ‘Any actress knows what she’s going to see if you ask her to take off her underwear and point there with the camera.’
Verhoeven, who said that as a Dutchman he didn’t turn a hair at ‘total nudity’, insists he’d already shown Stone the scene on a monitor, but she became embarrassed when the people around her (incorrectly as it turned out) warned it would ruin her career.
She reveals that making the film was a nightmare for her, especially when, while nakedly astride an actor with whom she had moments before been filmed making love, she hit him so ferociously with a fake ice pick that he passed out and she feared she’d killed him
However, she now describes it very differently. While she had expected to watch the film alone with Verhoeven, they were instead joined by a roomful of agents and lawyers, few of whom had anything to do with the film, she says.
She continues: ‘That was how I saw my vagina-shot for the first time, long after I’d been told ‘We can’t see anything — I just need you to remove your panties, as the white is reflecting the light, so we know you have panties on.’ Yes, there have been many points of view on this topic, but since I’m the one with the vagina in question, let me say: The other points of view are bull****.’
She recalls she went outside and phoned her lawyer who said she could get an injunction as it wasn’t legal under Hollywood union rules to ‘shoot up my dress in this fashion’. He also said the film would probably require an X-rating, which would have hamstrung its box-office chances.
Reminding herself how hard she had fought to get the role, and acknowledging that she’d have left in the scene if she was director, she eventually did nothing.
According to Stone, the film — in which she plays a calculating killer and Douglas is the investigating homicide detective who becomes obsessed with her — revealed ‘the dark side of myself’.
She says: ‘It was terrifying.’ She found herself sleepwalking three times during production, twice waking fully dressed in her car. She had ‘hideous nightmares’.
She describes how they stopped filming an early stabbing sequence in the film and the actor she had been manically attacking ‘just lay there, unconscious’. Stone panicked, convinced the retractable ice pick she was using hadn’t actually retracted.
The actor was prostrate on a bed under which a special-effects man was lying, pumping fake blood through a prosthetic chest.
As the director kept screaming ‘hit him, harder, harder!’ and ‘more blood, more blood!’, Stone says she became faint with her exertions.
It appeared she had hit the actor so many times that he’d passed out. ‘I was horrified, naked, and stained with fake blood,’ she recalls. It seemed there was virtually nothing the director wouldn’t ask of her to make the film.
Stone says she found the violence and anger she had to show in Basic Instinct by ‘tapping into the rage’ from an unhappy childhood in which she had suffered ‘deep cuts and broken bonds of security’.
The daughter of a factory worker and an Avon lady, she grew up in straitened circumstances in a backwater town in Pennsylvania, where she was a ‘nerdy, ugly duckling’ with an IQ of 153.
She worked in a McDonald’s but, fiercely ambitious, managed to break out by becoming a beauty pageant queen and a model.
Stone got her acting break when she was cast as a ‘pretty girl on train’ in Woody Allen’s 1980 film Stardust Memories, but then waded through a mire of forgettable parts in bad films or TV series before she got a decent role in Total Recall.
However, she kept her clothes on in the film and her then manager warned her, she says in her memoir, that no one would hire her because she wasn’t regarded as ‘sexy’; ‘I wasn’t, as they said in Hollywood at the time, f***able’.
Six weeks later, she was cast in Basic Instinct.
Stone says she admits she was opinionated and stood up to the men who ran Hollywood, only to be labelled as difficult. And she was. ‘Oh, I used to cause some trouble . . . It was so easy to wind people up,’ she concedes. ‘I think I liked to have control of people’s minds, and it was so easy to get them off their rockers.’
But that’s all in the past, insists Stone, who says she has become a much more pleasant and peaceful person since she started practising Buddhism. Others attest that the old Stone is still there, once popping out eight years ago when she interrupted an interview to monster her doctor’s surgery down the phone while referring to herself as ‘we’.
Off-screen, Stone also had to help her brother, Michael, recover his life after he was jailed for being a cocaine dealer. In 2014, Michael’s son, Colin, compounded the family tragedy when he died aged 22 from a suspected heroin overdose.
Stone’s own health problems also sparked drama when, in 2001, she suffered a serious brain haemorrhage which led to her vertebral artery being repaired with 22 platinum coils.
Her messy love life only added to the pain, prompting Stone — with typical sharp wit — to admit that ‘if I’d had one more thing go wrong I’d have been a country and western song’.
She was married to producer Michael Greenberg for three years before divorcing him. She then had an affair with another producer, Bill MacDonald, who ditched his wife for Stone. She then ditched him, returning his engagement ring by Federal Express.
She married newspaper editor Phil Bronstein in 1998 and, unable to have children because Stone had contracted an autoimmune disease, they adopted a son.
Bronstein divorced Stone in 2004, citing irreconcilable differences, and he was given primary custody of their child, Roan. Stone later adopted two more boys.
Although she insists she’s done with romance, the actress signed up to the online dating site Bumble in 2019, only to be blocked from it because everyone thought it couldn’t really be her.
Stone now admits she was consumed by her career — being an actress was ‘everything’ to her — but appears bitter at how it played out.
Hollywood preferred its female stars to be ‘ornaments’ and do what they were told, she claims.
Learning she was seen as an ‘intimidating’ presence to men in her industry makes her ‘want to cry’, she says.
‘I was often alone on a set with hundreds of men.’ And not just alone but sometimes naked, too.
She’s often asked, she says, what it was like for her at the height of her fame. ‘It was like this. Play ball or get off the field, girl,’ she says.
Without naming names, Stone reels off ugly stories about the executives she encountered. She claims a director of a big-budget film, in which she was the star, wouldn’t shoot with her because she refused to sit on his lap.
The actress also mentions a producer of another of her films who urged her to sleep with her co-star to improve their ‘on-screen chemistry’
Unfortunately, this particular producer wasn’t alone in his tawdry theory.
‘I’ve had other producers on other films just come to my trailer and ask: ‘So are you going to f*** or aren’t you? You know it would be better if you did’.’
Sex, says Stone, and not just sexuality onscreen, has long been expected in the film business.
Although she’s remained in work, recently appearing in Ratched, a Netflix series spin-off of the film One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, her subsequent acting career has never come close to matching her Oscar-nominated performance as the chaotic, drug-addled wife of Robert De Niro in the 1995 gangster film Casino.
Stone tries to be philosophical about a career in which she was usually cast simply for her looks, admitting: ‘I was not the chosen one, not the golden gal, just the sex symbol.’
For the actress, whose sudden rise to superstardom hinged not just on a film but a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in a film, it takes some nerve to knock being a sex symbol.