There are various versions of why director Mark Rydell's "Intersection" hit a crossroads, causing Paramount Pictures to yank the film from its Christmas release slot and move it to Jan. 21. Several different sources contend that the movie was stalled because of a lot of negative reaction in audience test screenings to one of the key passengers driving this romantic drama--Sharon Stone. But Rydell ("On Golden Pond," "For the Boys") maintains that the delay has nothing to do with Stone's performance; rather, it was sparked by a rushed post-production schedule that he felt he couldn't meet.
In "Intersection," Stone--who portrayed the seductive Catherine Tramell in last year's thriller "Basic Instinct"--plays Sally, wife of architect Vincent Eastman (Richard Gere), who is getting dumped for Olivia (Lolita Davidovitch). The story opens with Vincent's car swerving out of control and just before he collides with the hereafter, Vincent's life flashes before his eyes. Therein, the story unfolds, love tryst and all.
According to one Paramount source, "Some of the early test screenings about Sharon were brutal. They didn't like seeing her play the wife. She's very cold in the picture where Lolita is very warm, which is why Lolita's Olivia attracts Gere's character in the first place."
Some of the comments can't be repeated here. In essence, they say if the Stone character wants to keep her husband she should pick up a few explicit leg-crossing cues from the wickedly seductive character she played in "Basic Instinct."
But delaying the $45-million film's release until next year was not triggered by results of some test audiences trashing Stone's performance, insist its director and the studio.
Rydell says he's not even aware of the negative reaction to Stone. In fact, he calls Stone's performance stellar.
Like Paramount, Rydell says the picture wouldn't have been finished in time for a Dec. 25 release.
"At first, Paramount was trying to make me rush to put this picture out for Christmas because they felt it had the star power of Richard Gere and Sharon Stone needed for their big Christmas release," says Rydell. "But they ended up conceding to my pressure. The film needed some finishing touches.
"This picture is not about Christmas entertainment anyway," he says. "It is full of performance and is an examination of extremely mature, delicate adult subject matter."
Insiders however, say the film was delayed because of problems with the story that tended to drag in parts. The screenplay, by Marshall Brickman and David Rayfiel, was inspired by the French film "Les Choses de la Vie."
"This is a tough picture to sell because they're telling an audience, 'Hey, watch this guy go into a skid for the first 15 minutes, then hold that thought for the next 1 1/2 hours while we flash back through his life.' The audience knows the ending before the picture even gets started! That's a big commitment to ask from any audience," says one Paramount source.
Those who saw the film before Rydell's latest editing touches say that the ending was off and that some of Stone's lines in the movie almost seemed like a rip-off from scenes in "Basic Instinct."
For instance, instead of, "What are you going to do, arrest me?" which Stone's character says in "Basic Instinct," her retort to a hospital nurse telling her to put out a cigarette becomes, "What are you going to do, hurt me?"
But Rydell says that is not the case, calling it an original and "beautifully written" script, with a surprise ending. He again points to the production schedule as the sole reason for any delay.
"Intersection" began shooting in Vancouver March 22 and wrapped production in early July. Rydell has finished editing, polishing off the last reel last week. Then there's the dubbing and scoring.
"To have this picture completed by Dec. 1, which is what the studio would have needed, we needed an extra month to six weeks. It just wasn't going to make it," he said.
But even Rydell sees a major roadblock with his self-imposed delay. Releasing a picture early in 1994 will make it a tough sell at Oscar nomination time next year.
That's one road he'll have to cross with Paramount this time next year when the studio will presumably rev up its academy campaign.*