San Francisco Examiner, April 30, 1991
Film forges ahead
30 arrested; producers balk at script changes
By Joan Smith
Invoking the First Amendment, the producers of “Basic Instinct” say they plan to continue filming the controversial thriller in San Francisco despite protests by lesbian and gay groups and a last-minute proposal by Joe Eszterhas to rewrite the script to make it “more socially responsible.”
The screenwriter’s proposed changes would “undermine the strength of (his) original material, weaken the characters which he so vividly portrayed and lessen the integrity of the picture itself,” according to the statement released Monday night by Carolco Pictures. “Censorship by street action will not be tolerated.”
Within hours of the announcement, protesters attempted to disrupt shooting of night scenes near First and Howard Streets.
Police said 29 protesters were cited for violation of a restraining order, which the filmmakers said they obtained to ensure that no bystanders were injured during car chase scenes being filmed on slick streets.
Members of the film’s production team made citizen’s arrests, detaining the protesters until police placed them under arrest, said police officer Lea Militello.
Eszterhas said he “deeply regretted” the production company’s decision to resist script alterations. “The changes I suggested . . . would have made ‘Basic Instinct’ a better movie from a dramatist’s point of view and a better movie from a socially responsible point of view,” he said.
One of Hollywood’s hottest writers, Eszterhas (“Flashdance,” “Betrayed” and “Jagged Edge”) made headlines last spring when Carolco paid him $3 million for the script about a detective (Michael Douglas) who falls in love with a suspected female killer.
Eszterhas refused to comment Monday night on whether he would continue to be associated with the film. He already quit once last fall because director Paul Verhoeven (“Total Recall” and “Robocop”) allegedly wanted to spice up the script by making the sex more explicit and adding a lesbian love scene.
Moved by the demands of lesbian and gay protesters who have been trying since last Wednesday to disrupt filming of “Basic Instinct,” Eszterhas urged Verhoeven to change the script and suggested adding a disclaimer to the film that would read: “The movie you are about to see is fiction. Its gay and bisexual characters are fictional and not based on reality.”
Lesbian and gay activists said they were skeptical that Eszterhas’ proposed script changes could have helped the script anyway because there are too many things wrong with it. “It’s so bad it’s almost unreadable,” said Rick Ruvolo, a legislative aide to San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt.
“The good guy is a straight white male and all the bad people are bisexual women and lesbians who have a history of hating men and killing them,” Ruvolo said. “And it’s not only homophobic, it’s anti-woman. Imagine a rape scene in which a woman kisses a man goodbye and thanks him after he forces her to have sex.”
Eszterhas and Verhoeven are apparently still feuding despite a very public reconciliation at the beginning of April. “They are clearly having a relationship problem,” said Ruvolo, who represented Britt at a meeting between the two men and lesbian and gay activists.
“They got into an extremely heated argument — they obviously hadn’t seen one another in a while — and we encouraged them to continue it on their own time,” Ruvolo said. “Eszterhas seemed very sympathetic. He is clearly a man with an open mind and I think he learned a lot. Verhoeven was extremely defensive. He talked a lot about artistic freedom and was offended that we were not familiar with his European work. I think he had to work through some ego problems in order to hear people.”
Jill Tregor of Community United Against Violence said she’d be surprised if Eszterhas could revise the script to the satisfaction of the lesbian and gay community.
“The whole theme is that if a woman is powerful and independent, she must be a dyke or a murderer or insane,” Tregor said. “In some ways it’s easily dismissable as the usual Hollywood trash, but I guess we’re just sick of seeing ourselves portrayed this way.
“Their first mistake was trying to film something like this in San Francisco,” Tregor added.