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The History Of Basic Instinct 2
Basic Instinct 2 is the highly anticipated sequel to the worldwide smash hit Basic Instinct, which grossed more than $350 million at the box office. Set in contemporary London, the film was shot at Pinewood Studios and on location in the UK, with Sharon Stone reprising the role that put her on the road to international superstardom in 1992, that of seductive novelist Catherine Tramell. David Morrissey, one of the U.K.’s most versatile and respected acting talents, portrays Dr. Michael Glass, a brilliant and charismatic psychiatrist who becomes entangled in Catherine’s erotic and deadly game of cat-and-mouse.
Joining Stone and Morrissey in the cast are David Thewlis(Kingdom of Heaven, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) as Scotland Yard’s Detective Superintendent Roy Washburn, Charlotte Rampling (Spy Game, The Wings of the Dove) in the role of Milena GardoshandHugh Dancy (Shooting Dogs, King Arthur, Black Hawk Down) as journalist Adam Tower.
Mario F. Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna Present In Association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures A C2/Intermedia 3 Production in Association with IMF3 Basic Instinct 2 starring Sharon Stone, David Morrissey, Charlotte Rampling and David Thewlis. The film is directed by Michael Caton-Jones and written by Leora Barish & Henry Bean based on characters created by Joe Eszterhas. The producers are Mario F. Kassar, Andrew G. Vajna and Joel B. Michaels. The executive producers are Moritz Borman, Matthias Deyle, Denise O’Dell and Mark Albela. The co-producer is Laura Viederman. The associate producer is James Middleton. The director of photography is Gyula Pados. The production designer is Norman Garwood. The film is edited by John Scott and István Király. The costume designer is Beatrix Aruna Pasztor. The music is by John Murphy. The casting is by Karen Lindsay-Stewart, CDG. International rights are being licensed through C2 PICTURESand international distribution is being handled by I.S. FILM.
The History Of Basic Instinct 2
Original plans for a sequel to the box office smash hit Basic Instinct started around eight years ago. “We went to the New York-based husband and wife writing team of Leora Barish & Henry Bean who came up with this idea that Catherine Tramell would get involved with a psychiatrist,” says producer Mario Kassar. “We thought it was a really compelling concept. We originally thought we’d do it in New York, then we figured it might be interesting to change it to a European city, so it was eventually changed to London”.
Kassar recalls the early days when Sharon Stone won the role that set her on the road to movie stardom, “Sharon worked very hard to secure the role of Catherine Tramellin the original Basic Instinct. You had the combination of Michael Douglas starring and Paul Verhoeven directing, and back then everyone was looking for an established star name for the female lead. However, many actresses were not prepared to undress. Verhoeven tested Sharon for the role and she looked exactly like Kim Novak in Vertigo and everyone who saw the tape agreed that she was perfect. She won the role, and Catherinewas born. When we took the movie to Cannes, Sharon says that she went up the red carpet as an actress and came down a movie star.”
For the sequel, Scottish director Michael Caton-Jones was chosen, a decision Stone favored, having responded strongly to his earlier work like the acclaimed Scandal, another film with erotic overtones. “Michael’s very organic in the way he works,” says Kassar. “He’s natural, low-key and very stylized. His movies always have a certain look. He’s also very good at getting the performances out of his actors, because they like him so much and work hard to please him.”
Producer Joel B. Michaels was equally enthusiastic. “Michael delivers and then he delivers some more. He has a really good eye and he’s just amazing with actors. I’m actually fascinated with the way he works with them. He has a singular technique for extracting very solid and complex performances. All good directors have to tap into the people they’re working with and different actors require different treatment in order to get them relaxed and comfortable enough to draw good performances from them. Michael excels at that.”
Casting the Movie
Having decided to shoot the movie in London, Caton-Jones’ reputation as an “actor’s director” put the production in a good position to attract the cream of Britain’s acting talent. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Liverpool-born actor David Morrissey has built a roster of critically acclaimed film, TV and theater roles in recent years, and Caton-Jones thought him an ideal fit to portray the clean-cut doctor who falls victim to Catherine Tramell’s machinations. “David had totally the right upstanding look,” says producer Kassar. “On the surface he is the opposite of all the bizarre things that go on in Catherine’s psyche. As he slowly he falls under her spell, he is transported to that dark place you only go to when morbid curiosity gets the better of you”.
“The chemistry between Sharon and David was evident from the outset,” adds producer Michaels. Sharon responded to him immediately.”
Kassar and Michaels admit they’ve both been itching to do a movie with veteran British actress Charlotte Rampling for more than 20 years, “Finally we got her!” says Kassar. “Charlotte adds so much to a movie and she’s played so many memorable characters over the years.”
“I’ve been a big fan of Charlotte Rampling’s for a long time, so I was thrilled when Michael said that he wanted her,” says Michaels. “As a director, he has a great eye and always casts his films beautifully, so we all have him to thank for bringing Charlotte to the film. She’s a very elegant and intelligent woman and the absolute epitome of professionalism. She was completely charming and letter perfect every day she came to work.”
As for the leading lady, says Michaels, “I love Sharon. Who doesn’t? “She’s very smart and savvy and she really knows this character. After all, she invented Catherine with her performance in Basic Instinct.”
About The Production…
The Look, Feel and Style
When quizzed on what words he’d use to describe the look of Basic Instinct 2, veteran production designer Norman Garwood’s choice is quite simple: “Cool, classy and stylish. It’s a London movie and we wanted to make the city look the coolest place in the world. We were under strict instructions from Michael not to show a ‘picture-postcard London’ and that meant no Big Ben, no TowerBridge. We wanted to champion the amazing new architecture that’s emerged in the city over the last 10 years and blend it with the classical, established London.”
“Michael’s been an incredibly interesting guy to work with,” Garwood continues. “I really enjoyed the experience. I would present lots of ideas to find out what he did and didn’t like. Rather than doing drawings, I found that he liked to look at models, so we built quarter-inch and half-inch scale models so that he could look at everything three-dimensionally.”
The lead character’s personal style was intrinsic to the overall look, design and feel of the film, observes Garwood. “Catherine is very vampish, icy cool, dark in character and mysterious. We wanted to avoid masses of color, and dark red seemed to be a recurring theme. We referred to it as ‘dried blood,’ which is appropriate considering the subject matter.”
Tramell’s apartment reflected that approach, according to Garwood. “It was almost like a lair, with lots of shadowy corners and darks areas. It was almost monochromatic — with shiny surfaces, cold icy finishes and an edgy dangerous feel.”
In reprising the role that shot her to international stardom, Stone had a certain amount of input on the look and feel of her immediate environment. Garwood had a model of the apartment made for her, which she loved, and Stone was also very involved in the selection of the art in Catherine’s apartment. “Sharon has very good taste, and it was important that she felt comfortable with a selection she genuinely liked,” explains Garwood. “So we decided to go with her favorite artists, Egon Schiele and Fritz Balthaus.”
In sharp contrast to Catherine’s lair, Garwood envisioned Michael Glass’s environment as much more in keeping with what he calls his “bookish” character. “We established that Sir Norman Foster’s famous Gherkin tower that towers over the city of London would be where Dr. Michael Glass’ office would be situated,” says Garwood. “We filmed inside the actual building on one of the empty floors, then recreated his office at Pinewood Studios. We had to make it pretty dramatic, as there are areas in the Gherkin with huge double-aspect windows. So, creating the architecture of a famous piece of architecture was something of a challenge, especially with all that glass.”
One of the key ingredients in captivating global audiences, in the same way that Basic Instinct did 13 years ago, was the “S” word… Sex. Sharon Stone’s leg un-crossing during the interrogation scene in the original movie has become legendary, because of the style, class and eroticism Stone brought to the moment.
Producer Kassar talks about updating that style for Basic Instinct 2: “Risk addict is an apt description for Catherine. Her adrenalin goes sky high when she’s involved in something dangerous and that comes across even more in this movie. It’s a sexy movie because of her character and her constant pursuit of risk.”
“Of course, Catherine is older in this film and the situations are different – she’s challenging the whole psychoanalytic system,” Kassar continues. “Normally, you’d go to a shrink, sit on the couch and the shrink would listen to you for hours and try to make sense of what you’re saying. When Catherine visits Dr. Michael Glass, however, she manipulates him, and instead of extracting things from her, she only gives him what she wants. In so doing, she takes him into her world. The shrink becomes hooked on her and the eroticism comes from the danger, obsession and risk in him when he crosses the professional boundaries.”
Actor David Morrissey felt that the original Basic Instinct broke boundaries because of the sexually explicit nature of what you could see in a mainstream movie. “It was also a great thriller and for me, almost like a Hitchcock film, especially the camera angles and the music,” says Morrisey. “It was a wonderful film, so I was really excited when I was offered this. But, it’s been more than a decade between the two films and, as with any good sequel, it has to exist on its own. And this one does. It’s the same central character, the same tone and it’s a sexual thriller, but the location makes it very different and the supporting characters are also very different.”
“Catherine’scraftier now than she was in the first story,” says producer Michaels. “She lives in an in-between world and that’s what makes her fascinating, scary and dangerous. She has the ability to hone in on someone with whom she knows she’ll be able to wage her psychological war of wills. She never takes the easy route. In the first film Michael Douglas’ tough guy character would give her as good as he got. In this film, it’s a mental game and so she goes after someone who has a superior intellect — a highly respected psychiatrist.”
On the obvious debate on sequels, Michaels responds quite simply: “You make a sequel on the premise that the first film worked and was successful. So now there’s a bar that’s been raised and you’ve got to do better because you’re always going be measured against the first film. This script was written as if there hadn’t been a Basic Instinct. It doesn’t operate as a sequel. It’s such a strong story that it really stands alone and could have been made on its own merit.”
Director Caton-Jones’ original brief for location manager Keith Hatcher was to find locations that reflect the changes that London has undergone over the past decade. The London that has perennially been portrayed in movies is all about red double-decker buses and Big Ben. But Basic Instinct 2 takes place in a cool, contemporary London. The locations for this much-anticipated sequel were chosen to mirror the sexy style of its protagonist.
The stunning opening sequence features Stone and former soccer star Stan Collymore driving the Spyker C8 Laviolette sports car (which was custom-built in the Netherlands and has never before been seen on screen) at break-neck speed around the Thames-side areas of east London’s Canary Wharf and features the eye-catching Gherkin building in the heart of the city — complete with 360 degree panoramic views of the high-tech, minimalist office. The area southwest of TowerBridge, close to Mayor of London Ken Livingstone’s headquarters, was selected as an ideal cityscape location for Catherine’s apartment.
Other slick hot-spots in the movie include the fashionable Soho celebrity haunts of Hakkasan, The Atlantic Bar and Titanic Bar. By contrast, the seedy side of Soho is depicted in nighttime sequences on Brewer Street and Hanway Street featuring a host of colorful characters from the Soho underworld including drag queens, prostitutes and transsexuals.
The Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which rarely grants permission for filming, is also featured, as is the Old Billingsgate Market, which doubled as Holloway Prison, and Lincoln’s Inn, The Masonic Hall close to Covent Garden, County Hall on the South Bank, Imperial College, the amazing Tanaka Business School built by a Japanese millionaire, and the breathtaking Gothic-style Royal Holloway college near Egham in Surrey.
The new-look London depicted in Basic Instinct 2 is more akin to the architecture of Sir Norman Foster than Sir Christopher Wren, says Kassar. A frequent visitor to London over his long career, the producer feels that there’s a certain magic about the mixture of old and new in the movie. “It’s fascinating and beautiful and it just works so well for this story. The city is like another character in the story.”
“If you’re going to move the story to Europe, it’s just more comfortable to move to a city where the language isn’t going to an obstacle,” adds producer Michaels. London just made sense, and it’s one of the great cities in the world. “Architecturally it’s beautiful and varied. Norman Garwood, Michael Caton-Jones, our talented director of photography Gyula Pados, with his amazing eye, managed to collaborate on the perfect locations giving the film a memorable look.”
“When you live in a city, you tend to take it for granted and forget about how great it is,” observes actor Morrissey. “With this film, it was like looking at London through new eyes.”
For Hungarian costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor, her starting point was a meeting with Sharon Stone at her Los Angeles home to discuss ideas for the Catherine Tramell’swardrobe. “Sharon and I talked about the character and decided to approach her in a very classy, artistic way. Sharon had a lot of ideas based on her own fabulous personal style. We started piecing it all together from ideas sparked by the photography of Helmut Newton, the paintings of Schiele and classic film-noir,” explains Pasztor.
“In addition to her great sense of style, Sharon also has a great body and she really knows how to carry herself,” continues Pasztor. “So she was pretty easy to dress. She particularly loves vintage clothes, so we decided to mix some really old couture vintage clothing with contemporary designer pieces. The BBC is one of my favorite places to dig around for great stuff. We discovered some particularly good 1970s vintage clothing there and also pulled in pieces from a very good company called Whitaker. Most of the wardrobe came from L.A., London, Milan and Rome.”
Jewelry also played a major role in Tramell’s wardrobe, and apart from a few unique and bizarre pieces from a flea market, London’s Chopard jewelers supplied most of the signature pieces. “Their jewelry was fantastic. It gave the character a rich, luxurious look, which gave a very cohesive feel,” comments Pasztor.
Director of photography and fellow Hungarian Gyula Pados worked closely with Pasztor on the selection of fabrics. “Gyula asked me to find fabrics with a shine,” she says. “The film is quite low-lit, so it’s good to have the pieces shining a little. All of Sharon’s clothes were pretty tight-fitting and made from very interesting fabrics, and I think the textures and her silhouette give a sexy and interesting look,” says Pasztor.
“As for David Morrissey,” she continues. “We decided to give him an elegant, classy, film-noir look, in the vein of a Humphrey Bogart. I used a lot of designer high-fashion suits for him because they fit him best. His character isn’t extravagant, so we wanted to make him classic in a very solid, sober way. It’s a good contrast to Sharon’s eccentric and artsy look.”
The opening scene of Basic Instinct 2 is one of the most realistic and daring sequences in recent memory. Shot in and around London’s famous Docklands area of CanaryWharf, to the east of the city, the production scored a major coup in securing the location. “Our locations department did a wonderful job,” says first assistant director for the second-unit Terry Bamber. “They fulfilled all our requests. It was a major achievement.”
The second-unit team is among the best the British film industry has to offer, having previously worked on several James Bond movies and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The opening sequence features Tramell and Kevin Franks driving at high speed in a Spyker Laviolette around CanaryWharf while having sex. The speed and tension builds, leading to a dangerous and exciting climax in which the car ends up crashing through a kiosk and plunging into the ThamesRiver. “We covered the scene with eight cameras,” explains Bamber. “We would normally have done it in two parts, but we had limited time because it doesn’t get dark till 10.30 p.m. and it’s already light again by 4.30 a.m., so we had to shoot it in one. The wind was my main concern because it was too risky for the stunt man, Stevie Hamilton, to drive the car in windy conditions as it could have altered the car’s trajectory.”
The art and construction departments started work at 6.a.m. to build the ramp for the major stunt. The weather held the entire team up and it took until midnight to execute it. The stunt involved the use of a cannon fire rig on a specially constructed ramp, so the car could be effectively launched like a rocket.
Michael Caton-Jones: The Director’s Cut
“The first time I read the screenplay for Basic Instinct 2, I was actually in Rwanda in the middle of filming Shooting Dogs,” says the film’s director Michael Caton-Jones, “which was about genocide and very difficult to make. I was sitting in Kigali when this script turned up. It didn’t have a cover page so I didn’t actually know what it was. My agent just said, ‘You’ve got to read this and get back to me quickly.’ I just thought it was a thriller. I didn’t know it was Basic Instinct 2. I thought some of it was pretty good and it couldn’t be further from what I was shooting in Africa at the time. So I thought a change would be good as a rest after this.”
Caton-Jones was also drawn to the noir aspects of the script and the fact that the only common thread between it and the first Basic Instinct was the character of Catherine Tramell. “I wanted to make something that was radically removed from the first one,” he says, “My aim was to make a stand-alone film. In so doing, I had to strike a balance between two extremes – give people exactly what they got the first time and making something that was so completely different that it had no relationship to the first one. It was a tricky balancing act, but I think it came off.”
Caton-Jones admired the first film. “It’s well directed, that’s for sure, but it was very much of its time. It was the early ‘90s and the hairstyles and what have you, were of that period. It was certainly slick. It has transmuted over the years, into something that it wasn’t at the time. It was originally a Michael Douglas vehicle. But since it’s become the film that made Sharon Stone a movie star. So we had to deal with perceptions that have changed over the years to a certain extent. But there was no interest for me or anyone else involved in making the same film twice. There was a noir retro tone to the original. It was set in San Francisco. It was Hitchcockian, even down to the music score. I figured since the film-noir influence was there, I could do something similar in a European vein but with a slightly altered tone.”
The way he envisioned it, the new movie would be something of a hybrid, according to Caton-Jones. “When you make a film in Europe it tends to be very specific to the culture of the place. When you shoot in the U.S., it’s different. Atlanta could be Boston or a whole bunch of places. What interested me was to take the script, originally about New York, bring it to London and to treat it like any other city. I wanted to lose the London buses and combine American and European film making.”
“An American director wouldn’t necessarily understand the cultural relationship between things in London,” Caton-Jones continues. “The city is not about Beefeaters and the Tower of London. It has changed over the past 10 to 15 years architecturally, and the emphasis and importance of style on its inhabitants has also shifted. Since I’ve been living in the U.S., I made sure to enlist the help of the Europeans and my English cast and crew. Because it’s become really noticeable that London has become a real European city in recent years.”
He invested as much care in the casting of all the central characters in Basic Instinct 2. “When you’re casting, the most important factor is to get the smartest actors for each role,” Caton-Jones observes. “It doesn’t matter whether they’re famous. If they have the quality that you’re after and can bring something to the party then you hire them. David Thewlis is fantastic, one of the most interesting, honest actors Britain has produced in recent years. I had a blast working with him. Not only is he talented, he’s incredibly funny too. He took what could have been a fairly straightforward cop’s role, and inhabited it. He gave his character a history, a certain physical demeanor, a reticence to believe Catherine, a certain mistrust. There’s volumes going on there and he created something fascinating and honest. David was capable of righteousness as a cop but also deviousness. He could be charming and witty but also untrustworthy — typical human emotions. It’s too simplistic to say he’s a good cop or he’s a bad cop. Human beings are many different things and you can never be afraid of trying to show that complexity.”
That complexity also facilitated Caton-Jones’ job of keeping the audience on its toes trying to figure out who’s telling the truth and who’s lying. The object isn’t to provide answers for an audience. It’s to provide lots of questions so the audience can engage with the movie and try and figure out what’s going on, who’s doing what and why. You can only do that if an actor commits completely. And as with Thewlis, David Morrissey has an emotional honesty. He’s a very intelligent guy. So you could talk about the scene and what you were after. Because of our shared background — we’re working class boys and we’re about the same age — we understood a lot with just a couple of words or a nuance. So, it was easy for me to get him to go that extra mile.”
The story and style of Basic Instinct 2, as Caton-Jones sees it, was a heightened reality. These people don’t take the trash out,” he laughs. “Maybe they pay someone to take the trash out for them, but they don’t do it themselves. I wanted a kind of heightened look, particularly with the costumes, though the behavior had to be honest and human. The world that they inhabit is slightly glamorized and slightly richer than the real world. Catherine is a fairly well-off woman, someone who understands fashion and I was quite happy to let Sharon find her character again through her look and clothing. For many actors the costumes are very important to finding the character. It’s been 13 years since Sharon played Catherine Tramell,so it was important to look at who this woman is now and how she got there.”
The film’s erotic elements had to be handled just so, says Caton-Jones, because what is sexy to one person isn’t necessarily sexy to another. “When you try to analyze what’s sexy, it’s not always the obvious. It’s not always about seeing flesh. It could be the suggestion of flesh or hidden flesh, or just the way someone looks at someone. The most sensual or erotic moments are more about a caress, a touch or a glance. That way you build desire by making it an organic process”.
I felt quite strongly that the sex should be treated like any other emotion in the film: If it didn’t have a dramatic purpose, it shouldn’t be there. There’s no point in just slapping in a load of sex for the sake of it. Otherwise, you may as well just make a porn film.”
The nature of sex in Basic Instinct 2 is mainly a power struggle, the director continues. “There are different kinds of sex: Loving sex, responsive sex, furtive sex. I really felt in this instance the sex was about power and about who’s in control of whom. Sex is a weapon in this film.”
The sexual and thriller elements of the film should reinforce one another, as Caton-Jones sees it. “It’s too simplistic to say, this is a sexy film or it’s a thriller. In reality, it’s a combination. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to make this film in Europe. We have a much more relaxed attitude to sex. I felt that a European attitude to sex might be slightly more interesting in a mainstream Hollywood movie than the kind of very cleaned-up type we normally encounter.”
In combining all the different aspects of the movie, Caton-Jones was careful to make sure they all complemented one another, and resulted in a consistent whole. “The design of a film really has to do with deciding on a look before you start shooting. You do that by referencing other films, paintings and photographs with the costume designer, the production designer and the cinematographer. You create a palette of colors and tones. With Norman Garwood, our production designer for instance, I was looking for was something that would reflect London in a shiny, sleek, mirrored way. David Morrissey’s character name is Michael Glass and there are a lot of double sides and reflections to the people within the movie. The locations reflected the basic concept, the color scheme, the darkness, the moodiness and the Euro film noir look. Equally, we needed to dress people in a stylish way to reflect that. You won’t see anyone wearing jeans in this movie.”
In choosing locations, Caton-Jones plotted out how he and his director of photography were going to shoot a particular scene and then find the ideal spot in which to execute it. “For instance, we’d see a window and we’d visualize the characters by that window and utilize a certain view. Then if we were going to use a certain view, we’d look at how we were going to light it. By the time you’re at the location ready to shoot it’s too late for that. You can’t just turn up and invent it as you go along. You lose time and it’s not good for the performances.”
Once production had been completed, says Caton-Jones, his real work began. “The truth of the matter is that films are made in the editing room. Editing is such an art. It’s really about fine-tuning a picture to tell the story in the least amount of film. I’ve learned over the years that what looks good on the studio floor can sometimes end up on the cutting room floor. You simply have to keep your options open, keep an open mind and use your instinct. When you’re in a dark cutting room your concentration is on the screen and you’re actually far more finely attuned to the nuance and behavior than you are with all the distractions of being on set. You are able to focus and assimilate information much faster and pick up on little glance or a movement of the head. You find yourself really moving things along and getting rid of anything that is excess.”
The most dangerous woman in film?
“Catherine Tramell is very dangerous, but dangerous women are the most interesting,” says producer Mario F. Kassar. “Sharon made Catherine her own and there are few other actresses and few cinematic characters that can compare. She appears pleasant, smiling and sexy even though she’s conniving and manipulative underneath.”
“Catherine is such an iconic character in the world of cinema, if there was going to be the top ten list of cinematic female bad girls she’d clearly be in the top three,” comments producer Michaels. “She could be seen as the most interesting of the bad girls on film because she doesn’t come out guns blazing. She does it mentally and psychologically, which I personally find far more interesting and intriguing. If her intellect didn’t come into play and she didn’t have such substance to her, I don’t know if her character would have would have survived all this time.”
“I think Catherine has evolved since the first film,” observes Stone’s co-star David Morrissey. “You can’t play the same mystery again and certain things are punctuated because of that. She’s a whirlwind force — someone who is amazingly sexually liberated. She is not about to be constrained by the conventions of English society. Refusing to play by the rules makes Catherine a wonderful character for people to be around and frightening person as well. Her great energy and eroticism are completely captivating. She’s an alien in English society, which allows her to get on farther. Being American gives her license to behave outrageously because that’s how the English perceive Americans. However, there’s a point in the script where I call people in the States who have encountered her and I discover her behavior was just as outrageous there.”
For actress Charlotte Rampling, “Catherine Tramell is dangerous because she knows no limits. She’s totally immoral. She has no sense of conscience and she has total anarchy in her head. She’s her own law and lives in her own world. She’s not unique, because there are people like her in the world, but she’s fictional. People of her character in the real world are criminals.”
“She’s a black widow,” says Hugh Dancy. “She seduces people into her web and then maybe kills them, or maybe she doesn’t. And that’s the whole point.”
The Cast on Their Characters…
Sharon Stone on Playing Catherine Tramell
“Things have moved on and Catherine has turned up in London to write her new novel. In the process she meets this gorgeous, smart, delicious psychiatrist who she lures into her web of deceit,” says Stone. “It’s a marvelous story and it’s beautifully shot and thrilling and fun and funny.”
Stone says her experience with Michael Caton-Jones was similar to that of Paul Verhoeven who directed the first movie. “The pre-requisite for directing this movie is that you have to be super-smart, slightly twisted and a little perverse,” she attests. “You also have to love filmmaking because it’s a big ride to make a movie like this. You have to be able to create a lot of twists and turns and thrilling action and you have to be able to direct your actors well. You also need a kind of weird sense of humor and a funny, sexy, kinky take on things. Most importantly, you have to be experimental. Michael really got all that. He’s not a director who goes out every time and makes the same movie. He’s tried every genre. He was very cool about taking a Spyker sports car and throwing it into an underwater tank for four days with me in it. It was hard but it was a truly phenomenal experience. I knew if we didn’t do things that were on the edge, how could we possibly bust any barriers with this movie?”
Besides being physically demanding, Stone enjoyed the opening sequence because she’s also a “motor-head,” she claims. “I’ve got an Aston Martin and a Porsche Cayenne and I love sports cars,” she laughs. “I’m really into it.”
Being submerged in 20 feet off water in a sports car with someone who is six-foot-three and filling up most of the car, may have been as exhilarating for Catherine Tramell as for the actress who was playing her. But as the water was splashing around her and pouring in through the car grill, there was also a part of Stone that was thinking, “I could actually die in here, even though we were surrounded by an amazing team of rescue divers,” she confesses. “At one point, the floor of the car is just a grate so the water can come in and I was wearing four-inch high heels with ankle straps. My heel got stuck in the grate when we were in the middle of a take. I do yoga breathing exercises so I can hold my breath. One of the divers actually asked me if I was a pearl diver. I figured Catherine should never seem to have to breathe underwater. But, when my heel got stuck, I was thinking about the spare air under my seat, though I was stuck and couldn’t get to it. I was looking outside the car and I could see the diver and I knew he had a knife. I was thinking I’d have to push the roof off the car for him to get me out. But I didn’t want to blow the take, so I carried on with the take while trying to dislodge my heel and eventually it came out. When you’re so involved in a scene, you can get a bit dare-devilish.”
Stone has high praise for her Basic Instinct 2 leading man David Morrisey. “He’s amazing, a super-talent. He’s actually married to Sigmund Freud’s granddaughter in real-life, so I had a very well versed adversary. He was really the right guy for the role not only because he’s everything you’d want in an actor, but also because of his humanity. The dynamic was just great. Glass and Tramell are two of a kind. Their dynamic is like a rubber band wound too tight.”
Educated insolence, is how Stone describes Catherine’s dynamic. “She’s also crazy in a way since her pathology is full of observation and an unusual use of the truth,” she continues. “Catherine is completely devoid of compassion, which is dangerous and weirdly alluring. She’s like this big mirror, very hot and alluring because everybody wants to know about themselves, particularly when they have this attractive, wanton, kind of groovy, come-to-me person going “Yeah, tell me about you.” That’s how things start getting fast and dangerous and crazy until you’re wondering, “Is she responsible for the actions or are they?” That’s what’s so interesting about the psychology of the film.”
As an actress, Stone’s greatest thrill was getting inside Catherine and finding out what makes her the way she is. “In a way she’s very fast. But there’s also a methodical vampire-like quality about her. She’s watching all the time and you’re just waiting for the moment. More than telling people what to do, she chooses the moment when they’ll do it. That was very interesting to play because she’s moving the other characters through their discovery of themselves and their willingness to find their own truth. Where will they go with it? What direction will they choose? It’s interesting because, in a way they’re telling their own story.”
Another aspect that is so fascinating about Catherine Tramell for Stone is her take-charge aggressiveness. “Women have been taught that they’re supposed to use guile and veil their behavior to get what they want from others. Men have always been more direct. Catherine is the first female character who just decides to be direct and honest and truthful. In her, for the first time, it’s okay to say, ‘I’m powerful, I’m interesting, I’m smart, I’m strong. I’m going to say and do and be what I want. And I’m going to sit in a room straight across from the men and do it.’”
David Morrissey on Playing Dr. Michael Glass
“I first read the script for Basic Instinct 2 when I was shooting Stoned, the film about Brian Jones and the Rolling Stones. I thought it was a great thriller. It really rattled along,” Morrissey recalls. “I met Michael Caton-Jones in London and we got on really well. Then, I flew to Los Angeles and had a two-hour meeting with Sharon Stone at the Four Season Hotel. We eventually did about three or four scenes on camera, but for the first hour we just talked about ourselves and our lives, not about the job. Michael was there too and we just laughed for most of that hour. The meeting must have gone well, because 24 hours later I got a call to say they were going with me. It’s been quite a ride ever since.”
Morrissey’s character is initially employed by the police to do a psychological assessment of Catherine Tramell when she’s arrested as a murder suspect. The case never comes to trial. It gets thrown out at the pre-trial stage, so Catherine is free. She pursues Dr. Michael Glass and asks him to take her on as a patient. He eventually agrees. “He’s intrigued by Catherine,” says Morrissey, “and at the same time, he’s writing a paper which he hopes will blow the psychoanalytical world away and Catherine is part of that study. Of course, because she is Catherine Tramell, he can’t resist her and they embark on a tumultuous affair.”
The affair has some unforeseen consequences, however. “Michael’s life starts to get very complicated when people close to him start dying,” says Morrissey. “Not only does he become a murder suspect, his professional confidentiality about her and everything she tells him in their sessions is called into question. His refusal to compromise that confidentiality brings the whole thriller aspect into play.”
In preparation for his role, Morrissey met with therapists and analysts in London, as well as other professionals who do this kind of work for the police department. “I found it fascinating. There’s endless information about the psychoanalytical process and if you search the internet, you end up with reams and reams of different opinions.”
Morrissey was familiar with Caton-Jones’ work, including This Boy’s Life among his favorite films. He was similarly impressed with Scandal. “It struck me when we first met that Michael was a down-to-earth Scottish guy with a great sense of humor, which is something we shared throughout the filming process. I liked the way he worked. He was very straightforward. We’d rehearse, but then when we were actually shooting, he’d pop up with his notes about whether it all sounds truthful or not. He’s very instinctive as a director and I really like that.”
As for his co-star Stone, his first impression was borne out throughout the production. “Working with Sharon was great. We always got on and had a laugh, which is important when you’re doing very tense scenes. It was like working in a pressure cooker, so in the downtime, laughter was a good way of releasing that tension and that was essential for me. “One of my favorite scenes is the climactic one between me, David Thewlis, Charlotte Rampling and Sharon. I really enjoyed playing that, even though it took about a week and a half to shoot. There’s been a lot of pretence going on with the characters and it’s the first time we’re really all together and all the secrets start coming out. That was fun to do.”
In summing up Dr. Michael Glass, Morrissey observes, “He basically descends into a sexual world that he’s incapable of handling. Within that world, he’s trying to solve the riddle of who the killer really is and his journey becomes a very dangerous one.”
While he realizes that the erotic nature of the material may be a drawing card for audiences, he thinks they will get so much more. “I know everyone talks about the leg un-crossing scene in the first film, but the film as a whole was what got people excited. With our film, there are explicit scenes but the film as a whole and the journey is what’s important. If you’ve just got one hot sex scene but the film around it is rubbish, then it means nothing. The scene has to tell a story. In the original film, it was about a woman asserting her sexual power over a group of men and the fact that they could not handle it. There are scenes in our film that are equivalent to that, but for very different reasons.”
David Thewlis on Playing DSI Roy Washburn
"My character is a detective who is very suspicious of Catherine Tramell, and I’m the main investigating officer who is brought onto the case after the first murder," says actor David Thewlis. "I have a bit of back history, so you’re not sure how straight I’m being. I have a little enigma of my own and you’re left wondering how innocent I really am."
Even by the end of the film, audiences will still be guessing, Thewlis promises. "You’ll never be quite sure if I’m capable of murder or not. It’s something I decided early on in how I was going to play the character. In that way, this movie is a lot like the first. There’s a lot of ambiguity and many things are left for the audience to decide."
Thewlis has high praise for his co-stars and his director. "It was great working with Sharon. She’s part of the gang. She’s got a great sense of humor and is very creative and enthusiastic. I’ve always liked and respected David Morrissey as an actor. I hadn’t worked with him before. He’s a contemporary of mine and one of the main reasons I wanted to do the film. The same goes for Michael Caton-Jones. I’ve wanted to work with him for years. I’m really pleased this opportunity arose. He’s a great man very warm and funny — and he makes filming an absolute pleasure. As a director he’s very concise, erudite and really good fun. We had a two-week rehearsal period before we started shooting, which is really rare in films these days, so we had the chance to talk the scenes through with Michael. He’s someone who says exactly the right thing at exactly the right time and that’s a sign of the best directors."
Charlotte Rampling on Playing Dr. Milena Gardosh
“I was very intrigued that they wanted me to play Milena in Basic Instinct 2. She’s an intriguing personality,” says Charlotte Rampling. “Milena’s a mentor to Michael Glass and he comes to her for feedback and reference. He also uses her as a watch guard to make sure he doesn’t get too involved with his patients. Milena tries to keep him on an even track when he starts the relationship with Catherine,but things go overboard when he becomes increasingly obsessed by her and Milena has to try and work out how to intervene and keep him stable and save him. “I’m already familiar with psychiatry and the psychoanalytical world. It’s an area I’ve always been very interested in. I’ve been in analysis for quite a long time and I’ve always been interested in the path towards mental knowledge and discovering how we can actually understand human behavior.”
Rampling found the script ground-breaking in many respects in that it was audacious, not politically correct and willing to explore a lot of dangerous areas. She was also impressed by her co-stars. “It’s great working with good actors who have a sense of purpose and fun and Sharon’s one of those. David Morrissey’s a very fine English actor and it was interesting to see the balance between us Anglo-Saxon actors and Sharon, to see how we approach things differently in England than they do in America.”
She was equally intrigued by Caton-Jones’ directing method. “I found him wonderfully reassuring to work with,” says Rampling. “You can feel that he has the experience and that he’s made a lot of very big films. He became very close to us and you knew you were really being watched, which is what we really need as actors. When you’re being watched very closely, the director can quickly put you back on the track that he feels is best for that particular moment in the film.”
Hugh Dancy on Playing AdamTower
“Adam’s a celebrity journalist. Not in the sense that he writes about celebrities, but in the sense that he’s something of a celebrity himself,” observes Hugh Dancy of his role. “He enjoys being in the public eye as much as he likes following up on a story. Catherine Tramell’s trial is the biggest thing that’s hit London in a while, so he’s busy chasing that down, along with a few other leads concerning Dr. Michael Glass’ past.”
“To prepare, I spent some time with David Morrissey because his character and mine have history and Adam is also seeing Michael’s ex-wife Denise. So, I needed to work out how many ways I could annoy him and how opposite my character is to his. We figured that his character was very buttoned-up on the surface, so I tried to work at being a character that’s the antithesis of that. Adam’s relationship with Michael is very competitive – he really likes to press Michael’s buttons. Under the veneer of respectability, Michael quite fancies himself as a celebrity psychiatrist, so Adam finds it quite easy to wind him up and that’s the side of Adam that really comes across in the film.”
Dancy had just finished working with Caton-Jones on Shooting Dogs and found it an even bigger pleasure the second time around “because you don’t really notice how he’s improving your performance. You’re too busy having a good time.”
To this day, Dancy remembers the impact the original Basic Instinct had on him when he saw it as a teenager. “It was the film that rocketed Sharon Stone onto the walls of every teenage boy’s bedroom wall. It was a really well-made, slick thriller.”