Sharon Stone’s Basic Instinct interrogation scene remains one of the most controversial and talked about moments in movie history. Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven has never been shy about depicting graphic violence and sex in his work, from the savage, blood-soaked satire of RoboCop to the simmering sexuality of modern-day noir Basic Instinct. By the early 1990s, Verhoeven had famously pushed the boundaries of onscreen violence with his Hollywood efforts RoboCop and Total Recall and aimed to see what he could get away with when it came to sex with Basic Instinct.
The script for Basic Instinct was written by Joe Eszterhas, who was famous for screenplays like Jagged Edge and Flashdance. The story follows detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) as he investigates a murder, with Sharon Stone’s thriller author Catherine Tramell being prime suspect. Nick is far from a saint himself, however, and is soon drawn by Tramell’s mind games.
While the interrogation scene became Basic Instinct's most iconic moment, it wasn’t in the original script; the idea came from Paul Verhoeven, who recalled a party he once attended where he met a woman who wasn’t wearing underwear. She told Verhoeven she was aware of the effect this was having on the other men at the gathering, and the director felt Tramell would do the same thing. The director also wanted Basic Instinct to be the first mainstream American film to feature an onscreen erection - he was overruled on this point.
So let’s revisit one of cinema’s most infamous sequences, examining the scene’s impact and legacy and how it would forever tie Sharon Stone and Basic Instinct together.
How Basic Instinct's Sharon Stone Interrogation Scene Was Filmed
Sharon Stone came to Basic Instinct after bigger names like Michelle Pfeiffer and Demi Moore turned it down. Verhoeven has previously worked with Stone on Total Recall and it was her willingness to commit to Basic Instinct’s more risque elements that got her the role. Verhoeven pitched the uncrossed legs moment to Stone, who loved the idea. The scene in question finds Tramell being interrogated by a roomful of cops, but despite the intensity of their interrogation, she remains completely in control. She later uncrosses her legs to reveal she’s not wearing underwear, with the moment proving shocking to both the cops and the audience.
The moment shattered numerous taboos, yet is over in less than a second and was relatively simple to shoot. The reactions of the men was shot separately, with Verhoeven then clearing the room to shot Tramell’s legs uncrossing. There were only the director, the DP and a couple of other crew members present, and Verhoeven shot the moment from a couple of different angles.
That said, there are conflicting reports from Verhoeven and Sharon Stone over Basic Instinct’s most controversial scene. Stone has stated she didn’t realize the shot would be full-on in the final movie and thought the flashing would only be implied. Verhoeven later denied this, claiming she knew what the shot would be, but panicked over what the response to the scene would be once she saw the film cut together.
The Legacy Of Basic Instinct’s Sharon Stone Interrogation Scene
The reaction to Sharon Stone’s Basic Instinct flashing was instant and vocal. The movie’s depiction of sex and violence was already controversial, with the movie being protested by gay and lesbian rights activists over its depiction of a bisexual killer. The interrogation scene would make Basic Instinct one of the most talked about movies of 1992, with the sequence being discussed in every review and interview. Naturally, this word of mouth had a very positive impact on the box-office; it would gross over $350 million worldwide and enjoy a healthy afterlife on VHS and DVD.
Basic Instinct’s success would inspire a short-lived slew of big budget erotic thrillers, including Sharon Stone vehicle Sliver and Bruce Willis’ Color Of Night. The Sharon Stone Basic Instinct interrogation would also be relentlessly parodied in everything from The Simpsons to Loaded Weapon 1. Sharon Stone would later return for belated sequel Basic Instinct 2, where she seduces David Morrissey’s troubled therapist; Douglas declined a return. Verhoeven would later reteam with Eszterhas on Showgirls, which was something of a disaster upon release but has since become a beloved camp classic.
The uncrossed legs scene pretty much overshadowed everything else about Basic Instinct, which is an effective, visceral thriller that’s occasionally let down by the trashiness of the script. The movie undeniably broke through some boundaries when it came to depicting sex in a mainstream movie - another reason the movie was so controversial - and Basic Instinct made Sharon Stone an instant icon.