The Look, Feel and Style
When quizzed on what words he'd use to describe the look of Basic Instinct 2, veteran production designer Norman Garwood's choice is quite simple: "Cool, classy and stylish. It's a London movie and we wanted to make the city look the coolest place in the world. We were under strict instructions from Michael not to show a 'picture-postcard London' and that meant no Big Ben, no Tower Bridge. We wanted to champion the amazing new architecture that's emerged in the city over the last 10 years and blend it with the classical, established London."
"Michael's been an incredibly interesting guy to work with," Garwood continues. "I really enjoyed the experience. I would present lots of ideas to find out what he did and didn't like. Rather than doing drawings, I found that he liked to look at models, so we built quarter-inch and half-inch scale models so that he could look at everything three-dimensionally."
The lead character's personal style was intrinsic to the overall look, design and feel of the film, observes Garwood. "Catherine is very vampish, icy cool, dark in character and mysterious. We wanted to avoid masses of color, and dark red seemed to be a recurring theme. We referred to it as 'dried blood,' which is appropriate considering the subject matter."
Tramell's apartment reflected that approach, according to Garwood. "It was almost like a lair, with lots of shadowy corners and darks areas. It was almost monochromatic -- with shiny surfaces, cold icy finishes and an edgy dangerous feel."
In reprising the role that shot her to international stardom, Stone had a certain amount of input on the look and feel of her immediate environment. Garwood had a model of the apartment made for her, which she loved, and Stone was also very involved in the selection of the art in Catherine's apartment. "Sharon has very good taste, and it was important that she felt comfortable with a selection she genuinely liked," explains Garwood. "So we decided to go with her favorite artists, Egon Schiele and Fritz Balthaus."
In sharp contrast to Catherine's lair, Garwood envisioned Michael Glass's environment as much more in keeping with what he calls his "bookish" character. "We established that Sir Norman Foster's famous Gherkin tower that towers over the city of London would be where Dr. Michael Glass' office would be situated," says Garwood. "We filmed inside the actual building on one of the empty floors, then recreated his office at Pinewood Studios. We had to make it pretty dramatic, as there are areas in the Gherkin with huge double-aspect windows. So, creating the architecture of a famous piece of architecture was something of a challenge, especially with all that glass."
Director Caton-Jones' original brief for location manager Keith Hatcher was to find locations that reflect the changes that London has undergone over the past decade. The London that has perennially been portrayed in movies is all about red double-decker buses and Big Ben. But Basic Instinct 2 takes place in a cool, contemporary London. The locations for this much-anticipated sequel were chosen to mirror the sexy style of its protagonist.
The stunning opening sequence features Stone and former soccer star Stan Collymore driving the Spyker C8 Laviolette sports car (which was custom-built in the Netherlands and has never before been seen on screen) at break-neck speed around the Thames-side areas of east London's Canary Wharf and features the eye-catching Gherkin building in the heart of the city -- complete with 360 degree panoramic views of the high-tech, minimalist office. The area southwest of Tower Bridge, close to Mayor of London Ken Livingstone's headquarters, was selected as an ideal cityscape location for Catherine's apartment.
Other slick hot-spots in the movie include the fashionable Soho celebrity haunts of Hakkasan, The Atlantic Bar and Titanic Bar. By contrast, the seedy side of Soho is depicted in nighttime sequences on Brewer Street and Hanway Street featuring a host of colorful characters from the Soho underworld including drag queens, prostitutes and transsexuals.
The Natural History Museum in South Kensington, which rarely grants permission for filming, is also featured, as is the Old Billingsgate Market, which doubled as Holloway Prison, and Lincoln's Inn, The Masonic Hall close to Covent Garden, County Hall on the South Bank, Imperial College, the amazing Tanaka Business School built by a Japanese millionaire, and the breathtaking Gothic-style Royal Holloway college near Egham in Surrey.
The new-look London depicted in Basic Instinct 2 is more akin to the architecture of Sir Norman Foster than Sir Christopher Wren, says Kassar. A frequent visitor to London over his long career, the producer feels that there's a certain magic about the mixture of old and new in the movie. "It's fascinating and beautiful and it just works so well for this story. The city is like another character in the story."
"If you're going to move the story to Europe, it's just more comfortable to move to a city where the language isn't going to an obstacle," adds producer Michaels. London just made sense, and it's one of the great cities in the world. "Architecturally it's beautiful and varied. Norman Garwood, Michael Caton-Jones, our talented director of photography Gyula Pados, with his amazing eye, managed to collaborate on the perfect locations giving the film a memorable look."
"When you live in a city, you tend to take it for granted and forget about how great it is," observes actor Morrissey. "With this film, it was like looking at London through new eyes."
For Hungarian costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor, her starting point was a meeting with Sharon Stone at her Los Angeles home to discuss ideas for the Catherine Tramell's wardrobe. "Sharon and I talked about the character and decided to approach her in a very classy, artistic way. Sharon had a lot of ideas based on her own fabulous personal style. We started piecing it all together from ideas sparked by the photography of Helmut Newton, the paintings of Schiele and classic film-noir," explains Pasztor.
"In addition to her great sense of style, Sharon also has a great body and she really knows how to carry herself," continues Pasztor. "So she was pretty easy to dress. She particularly loves vintage clothes, so we decided to mix some really old couture vintage clothing with contemporary designer pieces. The BBC is one of my favorite places to dig around for great stuff. We discovered some particularly good 1970s vintage clothing there and also pulled in pieces from a very good company called Whitaker. Most of the wardrobe came from L.A., London, Milan and Rome."
Jewelry also played a major role in Tramell's wardrobe, and apart from a few unique and bizarre pieces from a flea market, London's Chopard jewelers supplied most of the signature pieces. "Their jewelry was fantastic. It gave the character a rich, luxurious look, which gave a very cohesive feel," comments Pasztor.
Director of photography and fellow Hungarian Gyula Pados worked closely with Pasztor on the selection of fabrics. "Gyula asked me to find fabrics with a shine," she says. "The film is quite low-lit, so it's good to have the pieces shining a little. All of Sharon's clothes were pretty tight-fitting and made from very interesting fabrics, and I think the textures and her silhouette give a sexy and interesting look," says Pasztor.
"As for David Morrissey," she continues. "We decided to give him an elegant, classy, film-noir look, in the vein of a Humphrey Bogart. I used a lot of designer high-fashion suits for him because they fit him best. His character isn't extravagant, so we wanted to make him classic in a very solid, sober way. It's a good contrast to Sharon's eccentric and artsy look."
The opening scene of Basic Instinct 2 is one of the most realistic and daring sequences in recent memory. Shot in and around London's famous Docklands area of Canary Wharf, to the east of the city, the production scored a major coup in securing the location. "Our locations department did a wonderful job," says first assistant director for the second-unit Terry Bamber. "They fulfilled all our requests. It was a major achievement."
The second-unit team is among the best the British film industry has to offer, having previously worked on several James Bond movies and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. The opening sequence features Tramell and Kevin Franks driving at high speed in a Spyker Laviolette around Canary Wharf while having sex. The speed and tension builds, leading to a dangerous and exciting climax in which the car ends up crashing through a kiosk and plunging into the Thames River. "We covered the scene with eight cameras," explains Bamber. "We would normally have done it in two parts, but we had limited time because it doesn't get dark till 10.30 p.m. and it's already light again by 4.30 a.m., so we had to shoot it in one. The wind was my main concern because it was too risky for the stunt man, Stevie Hamilton, to drive the car in windy conditions as it could have altered the car's trajectory."
The art and construction departments started work at 6.a.m. to build the ramp for the major stunt. The weather held the entire team up and it took until midnight to execute it. The stunt involved the use of a cannon fire rig on a specially constructed ramp, so the car could be effectively launched like a rocket.
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