BASIC INSTINCT 2 -RISK ADDICTION: An Interview with Sharon Stone
by Melissa Walters
While her Academy Award nominated performance in Casino and her performance in the critically acclaimed The Mighty earned Sharon Stone the title of serious actress, it was her role as femme fatale Catherine Tramell in 1992 Basic’s Instinct that made Sharon Stone a star. A role that Sharon Stone seemed born to play, it seems inconceivable that she was the fourteenth actress approached for the role. In “Basic Instinct 2, Risk Addiction”, the unbelievably youthful Sharon Stone reprises the role in this highly anticipated sequel that was thirteen years in the making. However, “Basic Instinct 2, Risk Addiction” is just the beginning; with roles in “Alpha Dog” and the star studded film “Bobby”, this may prove to be a comeback year for Sharon Stone. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Stone discusses the transformation of her character, who has matured in age but finds herself suicidal and in need of a final thrill that is realized by the challenge of manipulating her psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Glass (David Morrissey) to abandon his professional persona and to succumb to his basic instincts.
What happened to David Cronenberg? Wasn’t he attached to direct this film at one point?
Sharon Stone: You know, we love him, of course. He’s so talented and so amazing, and how great was “Crash”? Ohmygod. He is the most gentile, interesting, intelligent, sophisticated person and one of my most things—it’s a little private thing but I’ll share it with you—Marty Scorsese wanted to see “Crash” so I made a surprise dinner party for him and invited David Cronenberg over to the house and screened the movie. Oh, what a fun night! You know, that was a biggie. He had really great ideas, but that would have been a very different kind of movie. I think that in the end, people just got kind of afraid that maybe it wouldn’t be so commercial, because, not to say that some of his ideas didn’t remain in the movie because they did, but what’s funny enough is that some of his ideas that they were the most afraid of remained in the movie.
What would be one?
Stone: I don’t think it’s be fair to say, because I don’t think I have that permission, but I think they just got afraid, ‘cause he’s so inventive, and I think they just got afraid that his ideas weren’t going to be mainstream.
Whose idea was to move it to England and how did that change the dynamics?
Stone: What happened was that we got a list of here’s the place we can go that has tax shelters and financial exchange that makes it become financially viable to shoot, and I think there was a list of seven choices maybe, if I remember correctly. You know, I had just made 152 movies in Canada, and I was like “Let’s go somewhere else.” Not that we don’t love Canada, but I just thought, “Let’s go somewhere that looks different and looks more Basic Instinct.” I just don’t think I can see Catherine Tramell going, “Why don’t I move to Canada?” I don’t see her…
But it seems like the casting and everything was based on that, so was the script done when you made that decision?
Stone: It was already written, and so of all of the possible choices, London just seemed to weave more realistically to that characters.
How much were you concerned about the look and your look such as the style and fashion?
Stone: Oh, very. I thought she should be really fashion forward, and yet have her look kind of a thing, and so, I was very, “I get to pick the wardrobe person!” I just think that Beatrix Aruna Pasztor is the most fascinating, interesting, amazing wardrobe person, and you look at some of the things she’s done. Like, look at “Vanity Fair” for example, and that was not a big budget movie, and you look at those costumes and it’s just mind-blowing!
How did you use the time since the last movie to add to the character rather than doing one after the other?
Stone: Well, you know, with a character like that over time, she becomes so much more observational and so much more dangerous, because her need and her desire to be loved and her desperate disability to accomplish that, so I thought at the beginning of the movie, I thought she really, truly was suicidal, and it really was… Wow! Even here, I’m not really feeling that much, and even here, it’s just another buzz and it really isn’t going to get me. It’s like playing with the police is as little buzz but it’s not much anymore, so to find someone that maybe understands her and maybe gets her is like a dim flick of a light of hope, so it takes a while for her to engage, which is very risky in a movie like this, because she’s a little bit out of it, so you want the character to be interesting, but you have to find a way to make her interesting while she’s disparate and disconnected.
Why do you think it took so long to get the sequel going? What was your motivation to stick by it while others dropped out of it?
Stone: Well, you know they tried other things over the years. They had all these different ideas; they even sold it to a different producer who wanted to make it with a different actress. He called me into have a meeting, and talk to me about it, and I explained to him, “Great idea, let’s do it.”
How long was that?
Stone: Like a year ago, a year and a half ago. I said, “Great idea, let me tell you my take on the character and if you want me to take her out to lunch and talk to her about it, I will. She’s great.” And then he got completely freaked out.
Who is the actress?
Stone: I don’t think it’s appropriate to say.
How was it driving the Spyker Laviolette?
Stone: It is really an amazing car, but you know, it has gull wing doors, which are about this thick, and because they open like this, it really is terrifying going underwater in it for three and a half days, because you know that getting out is a problem, and popping the top, you have water pressure, so you know that it is a giant risk to do the scene. Even though we had an extraordinary dive team, I had spare airs everywhere from under the seat, behind the seat, and in the glove box. We were as protected as we could possibly be, but we felt it was risky. We did our very best. My heel got caught in the floor grill, and I had ankle-strapped four inch heels in the middle of the take, but I knew that could happen, and I told my dive master, “You’ve got to have a knife.” He’s like, ‘I’ve got it strapped to my leg. Because I can look at you and know that my heel is going to get stuck in that grill, because I see the risk of this.” And he said, “And I’ll get you out.” And I’ll just go to my spare air and use it on me and Stan until you get me out, and of course, it happened. But fortunately, because I didn’t want to blow the take, because it’s a huge thing to pull the car back out, dry my hair, start over, every time we had to do this, and we redid it and redid it from every angle and up and down and all the different stuff we had to do. I really tried to work through the take, but it was a moment that I won’t forget.
It’s interesting that Basic Instinct 2 is coming out now because last year was Hollywood’s “gay year”.
Stone: This year can be Hollywood’s “sex year”.
Of course, when the first movie came out, there was a big controversy about evil lesbians, and etc. How do you see this in the context of today’s society?
Stone: What’s so terrific is that I think we did break those borders, and break the boundaries of sexuality and homosexuality and all of these kinds of things that were so taboo, and because of that, I think we have broken all kinds of boundaries and are afforded all kinds of things to be said and spoken about and done in filmmaking. I’m really proud of the boundaries we broke, and you know, when I was nominated for a Golden Globe for the first film, people laughed in the room, because they couldn’t cope that a film of our kind of controversy got critical acclaim. But you know what? Who’s laughing now? The film is still playing, it’s still being rented. People still know that character by name, and look at the kinds of films that are being made as a result of taboos being broken in the theatre. I’m thrilled.
Was there less in BI2 in terms of breaking taboos?
Stone: Well, I mean, jeez, what are you going to do? We are able and allowed and afforded the possibility of being who and what we are as humans in filmmaking, and you know what? I couldn’t be more pleased.
Can you talk about the casting of David Morrissey?
Stone: You know what’s really interesting is that they like to talk about who turned down the part. I’d like to thank the 13 women who turned down “Basic Instinct” 1 because I was the 14th choice, and they want to say so-and-so turned down being in “Basic Instinct 2.” I’d like to thank each and every one of them for turning it down, so I got to have David Morrissey, because I feel about him, like I think Mario Kassar feels about me in “Basic Instinct 1.” I couldn’t be more thrilled that every single person turned down “Basic Instinct 2.” I’d like to write them a thank you note, because there isn’t anybody I’d rather have in that movie then David Morrissey. There isn’t anybody who could play that part better, and there isn’t anybody who is more handsome and sexy and talented and interesting, and there isn’t anybody that would have caused me to be more challenged and on my toes and on my game than David Morrissey. That guy is a giant star. He is super talented, super smart, witty, interesting and fabulous, and even more, he’s a spectacular human being, and I loved working with him.
How was Michael Caton-Jones approached to making this film from Paul Verhoeven?
Stone: Night and day. You know, that was also very challenging and interesting, because you know, Paul Verhoeven believed in me and trusted me and brought me to this movie when I don’t think anyone else would or could have, and I was very lucky and enormously indebted to Paul. I just adore him. Playing Catherine Trammell, you’re in a very peculiar and weird headspace, and it’s not an affable place, because you bring out the darkness in everybody, and then you don’t have any compassion for them. You just kind of watch them like a rat in a maze. And so, Paul totally understood that, because he pushed me to be that, but coming to work as that, was someone who didn’t invent that with me and for me is also very different. Michael wanted me to be that, but I can’t say he liked me very much when I was being that. When the movie was over, we liked each other really a lot, because we both respected and admired each other for staying in our game and doing a good job. But it’s not pretty to be Catherine Trammell.
It seems like the lesbian aspect was played down a bit.
Stone: well, you know we had a ménage a trois scene with this glorious French actress, but when we took everything to the ratings board, they just made us cut out a bunch of stuff and that was one of the things they made us cut out. I think it’s been on the internet, and you can see her there. She was so lovely and pretty and talented and interesting and hot.
So this wasn’t Sony’s decision?
Stone: No, no. We had a limit and we were over it.
Do you think that part will be on the DVD?
Stone: I think they’ll do a director’s cut.
Being older and having more experience, do you think that adds some qualities to Catherine Trammell and how you approached her now?
Stone: I hope so, I hope that I was a little more like Michael than in the first one, where I came to work a little more relaxed and more generous and more able to be there for other people and more comfortable in general as an artist. When I came to work on the first one, I was paralyzed. I kept waiting for them to replace me with the actor they really wanted. You know, why me? Why did I get so lucky that I got the part? In this one, who else were they going to get? So I’ll probably get to play it all the way through. I was able to be sure, and I think over time, you come to understand that a movie’s just a movie, and it isn’t everything.
Do you see a Basic Instinct 3 happening?
Stone: (crazy laugh) It’s really funny. It never crossed my mind and then on this press tour, people keep asking me that and I keep thinking, wow, at the beginning, when we left for the first country, I thought “NO! God!” and now like six countries later, I’m like “Oh my God, what if they really want to do that?”
Would you try to bring something different to the character for a third movie?
Stone: Yeah, my wheelchair… (At this point, Stone does an impression of herself rolling a wheelchair up to a victim and then stabbing him with an ice pick while mimicking the Bernard Hermann soundtrack from "Psycho.")
Did you have any hesitations about the nudity? In this point in your career, you really needn’t do it.
Stone: Well, you know, I don’t, because it’s so appropriate to the character, because it’s the way she chooses to be manipulative. It’s one of her ways to be incredibly irritating. She uses sex and nudity as a weapon. She’s not a gunslinger. She’s a sexslinger, so I just don’t. I find if you do it and it’s appropriate to the part, than that’s what you should do. We’ve all seen these movies where the character is supposed to be nude and the actress refuses to do it and she tapes the sheet across her and she gets up and the sheet is taped to her and you say, “That’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen!” and you’re out of the movie. But if a person is also nude in a movie and there’s no reason for it, or nude in an ad, and it’s about shoes, you think, “Why is she nude in shoes? Why is she nude with the handbag?” And you feel confused. You don’t want to be confused. If a person’s doing it and that’s what it’s about, then you stay in the movie and you’re like “Whoa!” and you’re scared or you’re happy and you’re laughing. It’s all about, to me, being in the movie or being in the ad or being in the thing.
Do you think this film could be seen as a film noir?
Stone: I do, I do, and I think that very rarely do people write well a noir script. I think that because Henry Bean and Leora Barish are so smart and interesting and particularly because they live in New York and they’re into that whole thing and they’re really the intelligentsia type. They’re into the therapy scene. They’re into all of that stuff. They really got into that and they like that. I really like the throwback to things, my whole style of consciousness. I like things that have a vintage quality with a modern twist. I’m a classicist with a modern thing. It’s always been my style in general, so if a project comes to me and it has that thing than I know that it’s probably going to be right for me. Well, that’s what they’ve done. They’ve used the noir set-up and put a modern edge on it and I think that’s good for me. So the film has that noir thing with the over-the-top modern edge to it, so that’s what makes it funny. We’re not trying to be deadly serious, and let’s face it, in noir or the detective movies of that period or any of those things, they always were a little, you know.. (puts on huskier voice) “I saw her standing in the window and she was one hot tomato.” I mean, you know, you laugh. When my son wants to see… he’s obsessed with detective things and police things, so I love showing him the black and white movies from the ‘40s because he loves suits and ties and all that stuff, and guys come in the big hats and (huskier voice) they talk like that and then they shoot each other, but nobody bleeds. They just fall down! He’s 5 and a half! He loves that, and he just thinks that’s fantastic, that they talk like that and they drive in cars. This movie has that kind of suspension of disbelief and you’re in that kind of “BANG BANG!” it’s a tone movie, so when people go “it’s over the top,” well no kidding! That’s why I have 17,000 outfits and I wear high heels and black clothes at home and my walls are black. It’s a tone movie! Like, get it? Of course it’s over the top! It’s not Molier, well, actually it is, cause that was over the top. It’s not, whatever… it’s not a “not over the top movie.”
Can you talk about working with Demi Moore in “Bobby”?
Stone: I do have scenes with her and let me tell you, this is a Demi Moore you’ve never seen, and she is going to knock your socks off! You are going to be so killed by her performance. I can’t tell you how good she is. Oh, she’s so good in this movie. It’s unbelievable the performance she does. It’s amazing. I have scenes with everyone in this movie, because I run the beauty shop in the Ambassador Hotel, and it's 16 hours leading up to when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Bill Macy is my husband, who runs the hotel, and Christian Slater works for him, and Anthony Hopkins is the retired doorman who doesn't leave and stays, and Harry Belafonte is his friend that he plays chess with at the hotel, and Laurence Fishburne runs the kitchen. Freddy Rodriguez from “Six Feet Under” is so amazing, and Lindsay Lohan, and Heather Graham and Holly Hunter, and the guy from “Lord of the Rings”, Elijah Wood. I mean, this is a cast!
Who directed it?
Stone: Emilio Estevez, who wrote it. I have chills from my head to my toe. When I tell you there is magic inside that camera, when you it see it alive with the day... We're using the real footage of Bobby and Ethel and Sirhan Sirhan, and we're putting it together like 'Forrest Gump.' and the extras, these extras could get Oscars. I wish there was an Oscar for extras… I'm not even joking, because the performances that the extras gave are so compelling and so rich and so deep. Because we're all together and because what happened was so profound, what they had to do was so big. Because of what was happening, their performances are so key. They're there in the kitchen when everyone comes running out, and they're there by the ambulance. It's such a tight thing, that what they did and what we all were together is a whole different thing than what we've seen or what I've seen in a movie. I don't know how to explain it, but the presence of what happened... It was such a privilege to be with everybody and there wasn't an extra that wasn't up to the level of every actor I just mentioned.
Anything else coming up?
Stone: Alpha Dog that I did with Nick Cassavetes. We knew that the material we were handling and the people we are [playing] were on the set, and gave us their truth and their stories, and sat with us and shared with us what was happening. We knew that we were handling something that was valuable for those people. Of course, when we made the movie, the guy who was on the 10 Most Wanted list was found, and that was for us, very important. Everybody just came together with a great deal of integrity. Nick is one of the finest directors working, in my opinion, and we're all very proud and pleased with what we did as a team for this purpose, so I hope you'll see that, too, 'cause that was really, really nice.