Michael Douglas Says ‘Basic Instinct’ Sex Scenes Scandalized Cannes: ‘It Was a Little Overwhelming’

By modern standards, Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 sex noir “Basic Instinct” might not seem that scandalous. It was a much different story when the film first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, star Michael Douglas said.

Considered genre-defining or high camp depending on who you ask, Douglas said the project was “unique, even for France,” during a conversation in Cannes on Wednesday.

“Seeing a lot of those sex scenes on the Grand Palais’ huge screen, it was a little overwhelming for a lot of people. We had a very quiet dinner afterwards, everyone was sort of digesting it,” he remembered (the cast included Sharon Stone and Jeanne Tripplehorn).

“Basic Instinct” followed a weary homicide detective (Douglas) investigating a successful crime writer (Stone). The film was initially given an NC-17 rating, but was downgraded to an R after studio lobbying. A scene where Stone flashes detectives in a police interview is one of the contemporary film’s most memorable scenes and is still referenced and parodied.

Douglas is on hand to accept the festival’s Honorary Palme d’Or, which was announced in March as a salute to his “brilliant career and commitment to cinema.” Aside from Stone’s legwork, Douglas recalled some other Cannes controversies that have surfaced in his years at the festival. “Behind the Candelabra,” which starred Douglas and Matt Damon and was directed by Steven Soderbergh, was accepted into the official competition in 2013. That project was an HBO original but was given a French theatrical release to qualify for entry.

“There was a little controversy over [that] because it was made for cable TV and it was released as a feature film here in France,” Douglas recalled. In a nod to the festival’s notorious aversion to emerging tech, he said: “The reality is now, in streaming, they are making movies. If you are fortunate enough, you can contractually get them to require the movie to play in a theater for one week. You cannot underestimate streaming.”

In addition to “Basic Instinct,” the actor has brought several memorable movies to Cannes over his career, including: “The China Syndrome” co-starring Jane Fonda; Joel Schumacher’s “Falling Down”; and his award-winning Liberace project “Behind the Candelabra.” 

Douglas, the son of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, is a two-time Academy Award winner. The first came as a Best Picture win in 1976, where he accepted as a producer for Jack Nicholson’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The second was for best actor in “Wall Street,” in what is arguably Douglas’ definitive role. He’s in Cannes with his wife, Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *