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Sharon Stone’s Basic Instinct Nude Scene Controversy Explained

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It’s the kind of controversy Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) would have loved to fictionalize, but to the actor who played her, it wasn’t a thrilling matter. 

Everyone alive during the 1990s likely remembers the infamous interrogation scene from “Basic Instinct” — if only because parodies of the scene became extremely ubiquitous over the ensuing decade. During it, Catherine effortlessly manages to keep an entire room filled with police officers eating out of the palm of her hand even as they try to blame her for the brutal murder of an ex-lover. It’s a murder that’s conducted in a manner eerily similar to one in her published thrillers, and that’s just one thing that makes Catherine the murder’s prime suspect. Notoriously, there is a shot of her crossing and uncrossing her legs that appears in the film, during which Stone’s vagina is briefly visible.

To say that Stone was unaware of the fact that her private parts were visible during the filming of the scene is an understatement. In her memoir, “The Beauty of Living Twice,” she claims she was told (via Vanity Fair), “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,” which resulted in her removing her underwear. She later the scene for the first time at a large screening.

Stone’s fury was instantaneous. “I went to the projection booth, slapped Paul [Verhoeven, the director] across the face, left, went to my car, and called my lawyer,” she wrote.  While her lawyer reassured her that they couldn’t include the shot as is for multiple reasons, she reflected upon the situation and tried to approach it from an evenhanded perspective. The scene was kept in, although Verhoeven claims Stone is incorrect about the incident. 

Paul Verhoeven insists that Stone knew her vagina was visible

Paul Verhoeven has gone on record claiming that Sharon Stone’s story about her “Basic Instinct” nude scene is incorrect. He told Variety in 2021, “My memory is radically different from Sharon’s memory. […] But her version is impossible. She knew exactly what we were doing. I told her it was based on a story of a woman that I knew when I was a student who did the crossing of her legs without panties regularly at parties. When my friend told her we could see her vagina, she said, ‘Of course, that’s why I do it.’ Then Sharon and I decided to do a similar sequence.” Verhoeven also claimed in the interview that he and Stone maintain a social relationship.

Stone further recalled in her memoirs, however, that Verhoeven called her by the wrong name throughout the production and editing phase of “Basic Instinct.” Allegedly, he also responded to her confronting him about the scene after she slapped him at the screening by declaring that she had no choice in determining if it went into the finished film or not. Whether the actor or the director is right on the matter, it’s hard to deny that this one moment has gone down in pop culture history.

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