HOLLYWOOD - Will the gay and lesbian activists protesting the movie "Basic Instinct" have any impact when the sexual thriller opens Friday? And will they be able to shake up the Academy Awards ceremony March 30?
Those questions are being asked in Hollywood after reports surfaced last week giving the impression of a growing activism against what is perceived as the movie industry's failure to produce positive images of gays and lesbians.
On Friday, articles were published in the show-business trade newspapers and elsewhere, suggesting that a disruption could occur at the movie industry's biggest annual show, the Oscars. Earlier in the week, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said that it plans to continue protests against "Basic Instinct," which it termed "gratuitously defamatory" toward lesbians and women in general. The movie stars Michael Douglas as a detective and Sharon Stone as a bisexual serial murder suspect.
So far the gay activist movement largely has been sporadic and unfocused toward the film industry. But with the Academy Awards - the subject of worldwide attention - the groups may have found a focus.
Rick Wilson of Queer Nation, a homosexual rights group, said that the organization's West Coast branch plans to "stop cars from getting to the Oscars. It'll be a stall-in. And we're going to be inside the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (where the Oscars are held) when they give out the awards." There are reports that the group also plans to hand out maps to the homes of gay stars.
Scott Robbe, a founder of Out in Film, said that his group of entertainment industry employees will join Queer Nation in the protest: "These actions promote discussion. . . . Silence is our enemy."
Much of whatever form the current activism takes can be traced to last April, when the producers of "Basic Instinct" had to obtain a court injunction to ward off protests during filming by Queer Nation, ACT UP and GLAAD, which complained about the negative portrayal of lesbians in the film. They are planning further demonstrations when the movie opens this week.
When "Basic Instinct" opens Friday, GLAAD said that it will stage protests at theaters in major cities and hand out informational flyers about negative on-screen images. Queer Nation is planning similar protests. In San Francisco, one group of protesters said that it hopes to discourage ticket buyers by revealing the film's ending: who the killer is.
Paul Verhoeven, who directed the film, points out that this sort of publicity will probably pull people into the theater to see the movie. He says there's nothing he can do about groups who give away the ending. He noted, however, that the movie concludes in such a way that a simple five-second trim could completely change its ending.
Verhoeven claims the "linkage" gay groups make between lesbianism and murder is artificial and simplistic. Nastiness, he says, is spread evenly among the film's characters.
"There is a dark layer to the movie, and I always felt the movie was about evil," Verhoeven says, "but I never linked that feeling of evil with preference of sexuality."
As for the threatened disruption of the Oscars, Academy Awards producer Gil Gates said, "Anyone can protest about anything they want outside the show." But he said the standard, "generic response" to something happening during the ceremony on camera "would be to cut to a commercial."
Academy officials said that there will be no additional security planned for what already is a high-security event, which usually draws protests of one sort or another.
Lance Loud, who first reported that the Academy Awards were being targeted for "mischief" in his column in the Advocate, a national gay and lesbian news magazine, said in an interview that the groups may not need to follow through now. "They are making these plans known to get media attention and the attention of Hollywood, which they've gotten."
MATERIAL FROM THE NEW YORK DAILY NEWS IS INCLUDED IN THIS REPORT.