Sharon Stone built her entire career on a fraction of a second of screen time.
You have to admire that.
So why does Stone insist, to this day, that it was her superior acting in Basic Instinct that opened the door to fortune and fame, and not the most famous peekaboo in cinematic history?
There's no doubt Stone was good, very good, as suspected killer Catherine Tramell. So good, and so friendly, in fact, that a sequel, the imaginatively titled Basic Instinct 2, blows into theaters today.
Legend has it that Stone slapped Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven when she found out just how much anatomy she shared with moviegoers in her interrogation scene with Michael Douglas.
As she told reporters: "I knew that we were going to do this leg-crossing thing, and I knew that we were going to allude to the concept that I was nude, but I did not think that you would see my vagina in the scene."
"Later," Stone goes on, "when I saw it in the screening, I was shocked. I think seeing it in a room full of strangers was so disrespectful and so shocking, so I went into the booth and slapped him [Verhoeven] and left."
Verhoeven did her a huge favor. As far as movie moments are concerned, Stone's cannot be topped.
Make a list, any list, of the most sublime micro-scenes from cinema's ancient times to today -- and Stone beats them all by a wide margin:
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."
Dil drops her drawers in The Crying Game.
"I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille."
Bluto's ladder falls backward in Animal House.
"I'm melting! Melting!"
The wine bottle breaks in Notorious.
"You talkin' to me?"
Phoebe Cates' pool exit the first time -- in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
"She's my daughter! She's my sister! My daughter! My sister!"
"You either surf or you fight."
"This is the start of a beautiful friendship."
Maya explains why she likes pinot in Sideways.
Ads for Basic Instinct 2 acknowledge -- and pay homage to -- Stone's warm and welcoming manner. They show the apparently surgically enhanced blond bombshell in an unmistakable want-to-see-my-underpants pose -- if she's wearing any this time.
You gotta love it. She's 48 and the mother of two. She's trying to survive in Hollywood, and at her age, when you've got it -- even if you paid a surgeon to supply it -- you're contractually obligated to flaunt it.
It used to be, starlets of a certain age mellowed into more sedate roles or hid their advancing decrepitude from culture vultures by vanishing altogether from the screen.
Stone, ever the brazen iconoclast, appears without clothing in Basic Instinct 2. She goes full frontal, in fact, a dish she shared recently with reporters in Tel Aviv, Israel, where she was making an appearance to promote International Women's Day. (Though it's doubtful such an event needs promotion; there's no doubt to millions of moviegoers that Stone is a woman.)
"People are just sitting there going, like, 'I don't care what she's saying. I don't care what she's saying. I just want to know is she getting naked? Is she getting naked in that movie? Is she naked? Nude? Nude? Naked?'" she said. And she laughed. Why not? She's reportedly been paid $14 million to show it all again.
That's Sharon Stone for you. You have to hand it to her. She laughs a lot ... all the way to the bank.