Inside Move: Chilled ‘Instinct 2’ nears point

Decision on co-star expected this week

Sometime this week, Hollywood finds out if icepick-wielding sociopath Catherine Trammel will be back in business this spring. The long-awaited sequel to 1991’s “Basic Instinct,” about a villainess (Sharon Stone) who preys on men, will either fall apart or come together within these seven days, with Stone starring opposite former “Law & Order” star Benjamin Bratt, sources said. The sequel has survived much turbulence to get this far.

“Basic Instinct 2” seemed near flatlining when David Cronenberg dropped out, but re-emerged with more commercial potential when “Die Hard” helmer John McTiernan stepped in.

Much tougher has been the search to find a leading man to play a hotshot young Gotham analyst with an on-the-rocks-marriage who treats the murderess. Sensing his vulnerability, she sucks him into her fatal web. “Thirteen Days” star Bruce Greenwood seemed a good bet until he instead opted for the David Twohy-directed Dimension drama “Below.”

McTiernan, financier Intermedia, producers Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna and MGM all sparked to Bratt, who, while most famous as the longtime boyfriend of Julia Roberts, has begun to develop a feature profile of his own. Most recently seen in “Miss Congeniality” and “Traffic,” he has at least one other major pre-strike pic offer on the table. Though a bit young to be playing a distinguished analyst, Bratt’s got the hunk factor going for the inevitable steamy love scenes. Stone, who met with Bratt on Friday, has been asked to approve her co-star, and that decision is expected this week.

While there was publicized bickering over whether Stone had a pay-or-play deal when Cronenberg fell out, all parties have made efforts to get the pic going for Intermedia’s bottom-line $70 million pricetag. That includes Stone, who’s believed to have forgone at least $2 million of her $14 million payday to pay McTiernan’s $7 million salary.

Enthusiasm has seemed high, particularly after the success of another sequel, “Hannibal,” which, like “Basic Instinct 2,” has what’s considered a strong script, a big-name director and a high-profile villain back in the fold. “Hannibal” has grossed $143 million for MGM.

But if agreement isn’t reached on Bratt, it’s possible the sequel will be scrapped and McTiernan will instead make the Henry Bean/Leora Barish script as “Risk Addiction,” with an all-new cast rumored to include his “Thomas Crown Affair” star Pierce Brosnan. In that case, litigious instincts might take over. None of the parties involved would comment about the backstage drama.

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