Sharon Stone exposes ‘Basic Instinct’ pay disparity with co-star Michael Douglas

Actress Sharon Stone arrives at the 83rd Academy Awards in Hollywood. Photo: Reuters

Actress Sharon Stone arrives at the 83rd Academy Awards in Hollywood. Photo: Reuters

Published Mar 30, 2023


Sharon Stone says she got paid $13.5 million less than Michael Douglas for “Basic Instinct”.

The Oscar-nominated “Casino” actress, 65, starred alongside 78-year-old Michael in 1992’s shock Paul Verhoeven’s erotic thriller, which made nearly $353 million at the box office largely thanks to audiences wanting to see her notorious leg-crossing scene.

Stone told the New York Women In Film and Television’s 43rd annual Muse Awards lunch on Tuesday about landing a $500 000 paycheque for playing kinky killer author Catherine Trammel in the noir flick: “Michael Douglas made $14 million. Now, I was new. I was new and he was a very big star.”

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She revealed her pay for the film to a crowd of mainly female film and TV executives, and added she faced disrespect from a line producer on the film, who kept referring to her as Karen for the “entirety” of the project.

Stone said: “Even at the Governor’s Ball (after the Oscars), he still called me ‘Karen!’

“And, I carried that humiliation really deeply within me – even though my name wasn’t on the poster.”

Stone, who has an estimated $60m (about R1 billion) fortune, told a Women’s Cancer Fund event on March 23, days after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, she had lost half her money in the recent financial crisis.

She said: “I just lost half my money to this banking thing and that doesn’t mean that I’m not here.”

Who can forget Sharon Stone's seduction game in the Basic Instinct films?

She has repeatedly alleged she was tricked by “RoboCop” and “Showgirls” director Verhoeven, 84, into stripping off her underwear for her famous “Basic Instinct” police interrogation scene, in which her psychotic bisexual character uncrosses her legs to briefly reveal her privates.

She said in her autobiography “The Beauty of Living Twice” she was told to remove her underwear as it was reflecting too much light, but was assured her genitals could not be seen on camera.

The actress added about smacking Dutch film-maker Paul – notorious for his extreme flicks – when she saw the final cut for the first time in a room full of agents and lawyers: “It didn’t matter anymore. It was me and my parts up there. I had decisions to make.

“I went to the projection booth, slapped Paul across the face, left, went to my car, and called my lawyer.”

Stone has said she was told the film could not be released in the form it was in as it would get an NC-17 rating – seen as a downer for box office profits – but the film was submitted to the Motion Picture Association of America seven times until it got a more mass audience-friendly “R” rating.

She said at the GQ Awards in 2019 about the scene: “Some years ago I was sitting on a sound stage, and my director said: ‘Can you hand me your underpants because we’re seeing them in the scene and you shouldn’t have underpants on, but we won’t see anything.’”

She then asked the audience to copy her leg cross, before declaring: “Do you feel empowered? Maybe not.”

She hit out again at feeling exploited over her private parts being kept in the film – recently re-released in a fresh 4K Ultra HD format – on Australian show “A Current Affair” in 2021.

She said: “There are new (Screen Actors Guild) rules about that that have been made and created but they were made after I, as a young lady, made this film, and so they don’t apply to me… regrets are like farts, you can’t get them back. Once they’re out, they’re stinky and gone.”

Verhoeven’s told Empire Magazine in 2016 the idea for the scene came from a party the director attended with a woman who was not wearing underwear.

He insisted he discussed the idea with Stone before they shot the scene and she was “really excited by the idea”.

Despite Stone’s hatred of the incident, she returned as Catherine Trammel in 2006’s “Basic Instinct 2”, directed by “Doc Hollywood” film-maker Michael Caton-Jones.