STORY OF THE SHOT: BA­SIC IN­STINCT

No, not Michael Dou­glas in a tight sweater.

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS IAN NATHAN

PAUL VER­HO­EVEN RE­MEM­BERS

a party he and a buddy at­tended in the Nether­lands in the ’60s, where they met an at­trac­tive blonde who, it quickly be­came ap­par­ent, was not wear­ing un­der­wear. Ver­ho­even’s friend, more au­da­cious than the future direc­tor of Show­girls, spoke up: “You know, we can see your vagina.” The woman smiled, “Of course — that is the rea­son I do it.” Al­most 30 years later, Ver­ho­even took his

Ba­sic In­stinct star, Sharon Stone, to din­ner and told her that story, sug­gest­ing a sim­i­lar act would trans­form the scene where Stone’s maybe-mur­derer Cather­ine Tramell is grilled by a room­ful of sweaty cops. Stone, he says, was “re­ally ex­cited by the idea”. It was some­thing shock­ing, yes, but in ev­ery sense re­veal­ing.

What fol­lowed be­came one of the most talked-about im­ages in mod­ern movie his­tory, as Tramell, mid-in­ter­ro­ga­tion, calmly un­crosses her legs and re­veals to the room (and the watch­ing world) she’s gone com­mando.

In truth, Joe Eszter­has’ script con­tained no flash­ing of the holi­est of holies; the shot was dreamed up by Ver­ho­even mid-shoot. To his mind, it am­pli­fied how Tramell had to­tal con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion. “She is vic­to­ri­ous!” he says. “She used sex­u­al­ity to de­fend her­self. And at­tack — it made them into drool­ing males.”

At Stone’s re­quest, film­ing was left un­til the very end of the shoot. Those re­ac­tions (none bet­ter than Wayne Knight’s ter­ri­fied gulp) were shot be­fore­hand. The ac­tors were never there. “I sent them home at the end of the day,” ex­plains Ver­ho­even. “And we did that shot with my DP, Jan de Bont, and sound and script.” There were two an­gles: wide and close(ish)-up. He might have done two or three takes of each. “That’s all there was to it.”

It lasts four frames, a sixth of a sec­ond, and as Ver­ho­even says, “You would have to use a mi­cro­scope to re­ally know what you saw.” Even as­sis­tant ed­i­tor Teresa Longo was never sure. “If you take the time to look at it,” con­cludes the direc­tor, “it is prob­a­bly her vagina.”

To­day, Stone is philo­soph­i­cal (“There’s some­thing about be­ing the one who did it that pro­tects you from the re­ac­tion”), but at the time claimed she’d been mis­led. Through­out the shoot she’d fret­ted she was “push­ing eth­i­cal boundaries”. The direc­tor says she knew his in­ten­tions all along. “You can­not do that shot with­out some­body know­ing. On top of that, she gave me her panties as a ges­ture of con­fi­dence.”

Ver­ho­even won­ders if, be­cause of that mo­ment, her “phenom­e­nal” per­for­mance was over­looked by the Academy. “It is too much for the Os­cars,” he con­cedes.

BA­SIC IN­STINCT IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWN­LOAD

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