‘Basic Instinct’: Michael Douglas Almost ‘Destroyed’ the Film by Changing the Ending

The movie Basic instinct was one of the most influential films of the 90s. It proved to be a commercial hit among audiences and helped launch Sharon Stone’s A-list career.

But according to the film’s screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, the film’s star Michael Douglas was vehemently against the ending. So much so that he tried to change it, which might have had disastrous effects on the movie.

Michael Douglas felt there was a ‘big problem’ with his character in ‘Basic Instinct’

Michael Douglas posing while wearing a suit.
Michael Douglas | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Douglas saw himself play hot-headed detective Nick Curran in the 1992 thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven. He eventually crossed paths with Sharon Stone’s Catherine Tramell, who’s a wealthy heiress and novelist investigated for murder. This puts him in a cat and mouse game with the suspected killer in an attempt to determine her guilt.

But there were certain issues Douglas had with his character and the way he was portrayed. In a 1992 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Douglas was conflicted over how passive Nick came across when dealing with Stone’s character. Not only that, but the Ant-Man star touched on the mortality given to his character, which might have leaned too much into being evil.

“I don’t know if this guy was worth saving,” Douglas said “I don’t know if his soul was worth saving. That was a big problem with this picture — Paul never solved the problem that this guy is evil. He’s an evil motherf*****. There has to be somebody who’s good. You can’t all be bad. That’s the big problem, you know what I’m saying? He’s an evil motherf*****— he’s dark, he’s a f****** killer.”

‘Basic Instinct’ writer claimed that Michael Douglas would’ve ruined the movie with his ending for the film

There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the original script of Basic Instinct. So much so that the film’s screenwriter, Eszterhas, ended up at one point walking away from a project that he conceptualized. But he felt it was necessary due to the changes being made to his film, some of which were suggested by Douglas himself.

“I felt like an idiot, but I felt there was no choice because the changes they were suggesting would have ruined the material. Michael was adamant that Sharon one-ups him at every turn, and he was just fervent about the notion that there was no redemption in the piece, and that she wins, that evil wins,” Eszterhas told AV Club.

Douglas’ solution to this problem was to give Basic Instinct what he thought was a better ending for him and his co-star.

“Well, to remove that ambiguity and turn it into an ordinary TV thriller-kind of ending, because Michael wanted to shoot her at the end and end the movie that way, would have destroyed the film,” he believed.

It was only after a heated meeting with Douglas and the film’s director that Eszterhas came back on board.

‘Basic Instinct’ director Paul Verhoeven thought Sharon Stone was perfect for the role because she was evil

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In addition to the controversy surrounding the movie’s ending, Eszterhas also shared that Verhoeven quipped that Stone was evil. To the director, this was one of the reasons why he felt she was a perfect match for Catherine Tramell. But it was a take the screenwriter was against.

“Paul’s take was that Sharon is evil and that’s why she was so good in the movie, and I disagree with that. I think she was terrific in the part,” he said. “She knew that she would be really good, which is why she fought so hard. I think one of the things that happened to her was that the quality of her performance was totally blown out by that one famous scene. At that point it became a sexual, erotic thriller, and she was much better than that.”