"I had wanted to make a thriller for a long time," Dutch director Paul Verhoeven says over the phone from the Netherlands. "But a thriller in Holland always looks silly, because society is so peaceful."Anything but peace has marked the making of "Basic Instinct." The sex-soaked whodunit about a rogue cop and a bisexual beauty has been awash in conflict since shooting began last spring.
Mr. Verhoeven, whose films include "Robocop" and "Total Recall," insists the homosexuality is merely a plot device, but gay groups contend "Basic Instinct" trades in the worst gay stereotypes, equating lesbianism with murderous jealousy and hatred of men.
Mr. Verhoeven, who says he'd never make a picture that attacked any minority, says he was blindsided by the uproar, since his earlier films -- most notably "The Fourth Man" -- dealt straightforwardly with gay characters.
"In Holland, this issue [treatment of gays] is not important," the director says. "It was solved in the '50s and '60s. I thought people had accepted the fact that homosexuality was just a fact of life."
He claims the "linkage" gay groups make between lesbianism and murder is artificial and simplistic. Nastiness, he says, is spread evenly among the film's characters.
"There is a dark layer to the movie, and I always felt the movie was about evil," Mr. Verhoeven says, "but I never linked that feeling of evil with preference of sexuality."
However audiences see the film's relationships, it will be hard for anyone to deny that sex -- most of it straight and much of it graphic -- is the engine that drives "Basic Instinct."
A director who demands total control, Mr. Verhoeven sketched out each sex scene shot by shot and went over them carefully with Michael Douglas, Sharon Stone and newcomer Jeanne Tripplehorn, who plays a cop psychologist and Mr. Douglas' sometime girlfriend.
"We discussed every angle and every position, so when we came to the set there were no surprises," Mr. Verhoeven said.