Stone back to ‘Basic’ with MGM

Thesp signs eight-figure deal with C-2

NEW YORK — Sharon Stone has signed an eight-figure deal to reprise her role as icepick-wielding, seductive murder suspect Catherine Tramell in “Basic Instinct 2.”

The film will be financed and produced by C-2 partners Mario Kassar and Andy Vajna. MGM will distribute the film in North America, while C-2 will handle marketing and distribution around the rest of the world.

Neither original screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, director Paul Verhoeven nor co-star Michael Douglas will return for an encore.

Since “Basic Instinct,” Stone’s price has gone as high as $6 million per picture. Her salary for the sequel is believed to be in the $15 million range.

“Basic Instinct’s” worldwide gross was $400 million, including $117 million domestic gross.

The sequel has been written by “Desperately Seeking Susan” scribes Leora Barish and Henry Bean; a director is expected to be landed shortly. The picture will begin shooting this fall for North American release in late 2001 or early 2002.

For Kassar and Vajna, the Stone signing comes on the heels of landing Arnold Schwarzenegger to reprise his signature role for “Terminator 3,” meaning the former Carolco partners have resuscitated long-aborning sequels of their two most successful films, “Basic Instinct” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

In both cases, C-2 took the initiative and developed scripts for sequels without firm commitments from the actors, though they’ve been in close contact with Stone for years. Their timing is good: The foreign-driven market which fueled Carolco seems to be back, with overseas investors hungry again for bankable talent-driven pictures.

“We are thrilled to have Sharon on board for the film,” Kassar and Vajna said in a statement. “The first film could not have been made without Sharon’s mesmerizing performance, and we believe her return engagement will be even more exciting.”

After years of saying she wouldn’t return for a sequel, Stone finally committed to reprise the role of the mystery novelist and murder suspect that launched her as an international star.

“Now that the project is in the hands of our original producers and my old friends Mario and Andy, I felt assured that the project will be made with respect to the spirit of the original,” Stone said. “I’m hoping that this will also be a two-box-of-popcorn fun experience at the theater.”

Stone had no comment about Eszterhas’ upcoming book “American Rhapsody,” which is said to include a disparaging characterization of the actress.

For MGM, which owns exclusive worldwide sequel rights to the film in all media, the Stone development gives the studio another star-driven event-caliber film on its release schedule, with the Lion only required to fund prints and advertising.

“We could not be happier to have Sharon Stone starring in this sequel and to be working with Mario and Andy on the project,” said MGM vice chairman-chief operating officer Chris McGurk. “The writers have crafted an outstanding script that, with Sharon, Mario and Andy’s involvement, should develop into a very successful film.”

Stone is repped by ICM’s Ed Limato and managed by Chuck Binder.

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