Backed by San Francisco police, “Basic Instinct” producer Alan Marshall made citizen’s arrests of 31 demonstrators protesting the film’s portrayal of gays and lesbians.
After refusing to alter the script as demanded by gay groups – and urged by writer Joe Eszterhas – Marshall and director Paul Verhoeven resumed lensing April 29 in a downtown alley and were met by some 60 protesters from Queer Nation and the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
Around 11 p.m., Marshall told police some of the demonstrators were violating a court order against excess noise by chanting, yelling and blowing whistles. Police moved in and took protesters away in paddy wagons.
Those arrested were cited at the Hall of Justice and released. Some of them returned to the location to protest further, but were not arrested again.
These were the first arrests since gay groups went on the offensive against the picture last week, complaining of murderous lesbians and bisexuals portrayed.
The escalation followed an exchange earlier in the day in which Eszterhas suggested changes in the script to meet the objections and the producer, director and Carolco Pictures refused to yield.
Queer Nation spokesman Jonathan Katz insisted those arrested were well behind police barricades keeping them at least 100 feet from the set, as ordered by the court, and were not making any noise that would interfere with the shooting.
Keeping his own distance from the production, Eszterhas issued a statement April 30: “I was sorry to hear about the arrests. I’ve always believed in trying to communicate with people, not arresting them. I wish there was more of an effort here to communicate.”
The writer said he would keep trying to get his suggested changes made, adding, “I admit it’s a” perverse situation because I’m fighting to change my own script with a director who doesn’t want to change.” After meeting last week with representatives from several gay groups Eszterhas had agreed to make a slew of script changes, including altering numerous scenes and all of the central characters and recasting one part.
According to Eszterhas, the proposed revisions included changes to those scenes in which the characters’ lines and actions might be viewed as “unfeeling, intolerant or sexist.”
Eszterhas also proposed that a disclaimer be added to the beginning of the film that would have read: “The movie you are about to see is fiction. Its gay and bisexual characters are fictional and not based on reality.”
Late April 29 afternoon, officials from Carolco and the film’s distributor, Tri-Star, shot back with a response to Eszterhas’ proposals. The response was endorsed by Verhoeven, producer Alan Marshall and actor Michael Douglas, who said they were “in agreement that those changes undermine the strength of Eszterhas’ original material, weaken the characters which he so vividly portrayed and lessen the integrity of the picture itself.”
Verhoeven’s rejection of the proposed changes was no surprise given his rigorous defense of his right to artistic freedom in an earlier meeting with gay groups in San Francisco.
At that meeting, Eszterhas reportedly was more open to addressing activists’ concerns about his script but Verhoeven did not share Eszterhas’ enthusiasm for making script changes. The two only recently had buried the hatchet on their creative differences.