Eszterhas Presses for ‘Basic Instinct’ Script Changes : Movies: The screenwriter is swayed by gay outcry, but director Paul Verhoeven rejects his call for revisions. Police arrest about 25 protesters.

Fox, a Times staff writer, reported from Los Angeles and free-lance writer Rosenthal reported from San Francisco

Screenwriter Joe Eszterhas on Tuesday said he will continue to fight for changes in his script to “Basic Instinct,” now in production here, even though director Paul Verhoeven and producer Alan Marshall, along with Carolco and Tri-Star Pictures, have rejected his proposals. Eszterhas said that he proposed the changes after he and Verhoeven met here last week with such vocal gay groups as Queer Nation and ACT-UP and with several public officials who share the concerns of the gay organizations.

He said that the script he wrote had included “certain insensitivities” toward the gay community.

Meanwhile, protests against the movie by gay groups continued Monday night. Police reported that about 25 protesters were arrested at the downtown location where the movie was shooting.


Protesters charge that the movie contains violent portrayals of lesbians and reinforces negative images. The film stars Michael Douglas as a drug-using, psychologically unstable policeman who falls in love with the prime suspect in an ice-pick murder of a San Francisco rock club owner. The suspect is a bisexual female novelist whose lesbian lover murdered her younger brother; another lesbian character also commits murder.

Eszterhas, who was paid a record $3 million for his screenplay, said that he is “more than disappointed by the rejection (of the proposed changes). I told them they were making a serious mistake.”

The Eszterhas/Verhoeven relationship has been a frosty one over the last several months. Earlier in the year, the writer and his longtime producer-partner Irwin Winkler angrily left the project when they learned that Verhoeven wanted to make the film more sexually explicit.

Then at the beginning of April, Eszterhas said that the changes weren’t extensive, and he and Verhoeven patched things up.

In a telephone interview Monday from his Marin County home, Eszterhas described Verhoeven as “an explosive and dazzling director. I bear him no animosity. I just don’t think he understands the societal impact of the script. I frankly didn’t understand these things either before the meeting last week.” But, he added, “I’m not certain that the gay groups would be satisfied with the changes I made.

“I really want to sit down to talk with Paul. I have not had a chance to do so. . . . I just want to be communicative. I put a lot of hours into these changes and I don’t think I’m asking too much for an hour of his time.”

A statement from the director, producer, Douglas and film companies on Monday disputed the protesters’ concerns. “ ‘Basic Instinct’ is a psychological thriller. . . . It is not a negative depiction of lesbians and bisexuals.” The statement said that filming would continue in San Francisco as scheduled.

“Censorship by street action will not be tolerated. While these groups have a right to express their opinions, they have no right to threaten First Amendment guarantees. . . .”

So far, the production has been dogged by protesters who have attempted to disrupt shooting. Carolco reported that there had been some threats of violence when it went to court last Wednesday and won a temporary restraining order to keep protesters at least 100 feet from the production.

Protests continued over the weekend, and Monday night police reported the first arrests for violations of the court order. The protesters were cited and released, police said.

A spokesman for the production said that the arrests were made when producer Marshall pointed out individuals to police.

Jonathan Katz of Queer Nation said Tuesday that his group is “outraged” by the rejection of Eszterhas’ proposed changes.

Rick Ruvulo, an aide to gay city Supervisor Harry Britt, said that the decision showed “Hollywood has once again decided to sacrifice the lives of gay men and lesbians in order to make money.”

But one film crew member, who asked to be anonymous, labeled the dispute as paper thin. “Eszterhas is a P.R. genius trying to score a coup by coming out the sensitive good guy and making us the heavies. He knows damn well his changes are impossible. It would cost a fortune to reshoot.”

Eszterhas had proposed changes to numerous scenes and to all of the central characters, the re-casting of one part and the use of a disclaimer.

The writer acknowledged that he is in a “perverse situation, in that I’m fighting to change a script, instead fighting to keep the director from changing a script.”