Sharon Stone Slapped Paul Verhoeven the First Time She Saw Basic Instinct

Sharon Stone wearing a plunging black gown at Elton John's Oscar viewing party in Los Angeles
Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

Basic Instinct boasts one of the most paused scenes in film history. However, Sharon Stone, the erotic thriller’s star has revealed in her new memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, just how difficult the process of making that film was when it was released in 1992. In her book, which has been excerpted by Vanity Fair, Stone writes about being shy when she was just starting out in Hollywood, and explains that her former manager told her she was not “fuckable” enough to be hired for acting projects. But, at the encouragement of her first great acting teacher, she decided to stop “leaving [her] sexuality at the door” and was soon hired for the role that would change her life, in Paul Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct.

Her manager, Chuck, actually had to break into the casting director’s office using his credit card so that he could steal the script because no one would let them see it. Still, though, after finally snagging the part, Stone found that despite being her 18th film, this role would be the one that challenged her the most. For starters, after she auditioned the line producer told her she was not their first choice for the role and kept calling her Karen, which he continued to do throughout production. He only stopped doing that after she attended the Oscars for the film.

There’s also the infamous scene, in which her character Catherine Tramell is being interrogated, and she uncrosses her legs to flash her vagina. According to Stone, while filming the scene she was not informed properly about just how much she would be exposed. “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,’” she wrote in her memoir, explaining that the first time she screened the film was not alone or just with Verhoeven, but in a room full of executives who had nothing to do with the making of the film and were just there to watch. “I went to the projection booth, slapped Paul across the face, left, went to my car, and called my lawyer, Marty Singer,” she explained. She was told by her lawyer that the 1992 film could not be released as it was and that it was illegal to have been recorded up her skirt that way.

However, she decided not to file an injunction against the scene after considering how hard she had worked to get the role. “It seemed like there was no line I wouldn’t be asked to skate up to the very edge of to make this film,” she wrote. “I had spent so long coming to the project that I had fully examined the character and the dangerousness of the part,” she went on, calling the role “by far the most stretching that I had ever done in terms of considering the dark side of myself,” and adding that throughout production she had “hideous nightmares” and sleepwalked three times, “twice waking fully dressed in my car in my garage.”

Still, despite Basic Instinct’s challenges, it wasn’t her worst experience with a Hollywood director. Stone also wrote about “ the one who wouldn’t direct me because I refused to sit in his lap to take direction” and the lack of support she received from the studio, despite the fact that it was a multimillion-dollar project and she was the star of the film. “Of course the film was a bomb. The level of insecurity and unprofessionalism, and I would guess drug abuse, required to make those kinds of choices never leads to good work. But as a superstar, which at that point I was, and a woman, I had no say,” Stone wrote. “That was how it was in my day. Even a high, abusive director had more power than I did.”

Throughout the rest of the memoir, the actress addresses the #MeToo movement, candidly discusses trauma and violence from her childhood, and reflects on her experience as a mother.