Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner has received cross-party support, including from Prime Minister Boris Johnson, after a Mail on Sunday article published on 24 April accused her of using underhand tactics at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).
The newspaper said the claims drew a parallel to an infamous scene in the 1992 film Basic Instinct, during which Sharon Stone’s character is seen crossing and uncrossing her legs.
Describing it as “gutter journalism”, Rayner wrote on Twitter: “Women in politics face sexism and misogyny every day - and I’m no different.”
Directing her fire at the unnamed Conservative MPs who were quoted in the piece, she said: “Boris Johnson’s cheerleaders have resorted to spreading desperate, perverted smears in their doomed attempts to save his skin.
“They know exactly what they are doing. The lies they are telling.”
The story has brought the 1992 film back into the zeitgeist in a surprising and uncomfortable way. But why exactly is the film infamous, and what happens in it?
Here is everything you need to know.
What is Basic Instinct?
Basic Instinct is a neo-noir erotic thriller released in 1992.
The film follows detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) of the San Francisco Police Department as he investigates the gruesome death of a wealthy rock singer.
Curran develops a tumultuous and emotional relationship with the lead suspect, Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), an enigmatic writer, during the inquiry.
Basic Instinct sparked debate even before its release because of its overt sexuality and violence, which included a rape scene.
The representation of homosexual relationships in the film, as well as the portrayal of a bisexual lady as a murdering maniac, were both attacked by gay rights groups.
On the other hand, the film was praised for its groundbreaking depictions of sexuality in mainstream Hollywood cinema.
Why is it in the news?
The Mail on Sunday article claimed that an unnamed Tory MP told the newspaper Rayner crossed and uncrossed her legs on the Labour front bench during Prime Minister’s Questions in an attempt to distract Johnson.
The paper likened the claims to a scene from Basic Instinct, and said Rayner was trying to put the PM “off his stride”.
In perhaps the film’s most infamous scene, star Sharon Stone's genitalia is seen as she crosses and uncrosses her legs.
The scene has generated controversy in and of itself, with Stone claiming she believed her character’s lack of underwear would simply have been hinted at rather than seen.
She has said she was wearing white underwear until director Verhoeven told her they reflected light on the camera lens and advised her to remove it, telling her that only shadow would be visible.
Stone claimed that she was not aware of the film until she viewed it with a test audience in a screening room, prompting her to hit Verhoeven in the face and leave the screening.
While Stone was first enraged at the director's decision, she said in a 1998 interview that having “thought about it for a few days” she knew “in my heart, he was right.”
“I hated that it existed, I hated it more than he stole it from me instead of allowing me to choose,” she added. “But he was right."
Verhoeven has responded to the claims, saying that Stone “knew exactly what we were doing,” but has since said that, despite having "radically different" memories of the scene, they’re on good terms.
Can I stream Basic Instinct in the UK?
The film is available to stream in the UK, both through the StudioCanal Presents Apple TV channel, and Virgin TV Go.
Otherwise, the film can be bought digitally or rented from any of the usual outlets, including Amazon Video, Google Play Movies, YouTube, iTunes, and the Sky Store.
It is priced between £2.49 and £3.99 for a digital rental.