Fresh from the sensational success of her role in Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone hoped that in her follow-up erotic thriller she would star alongside a young Brad Pitt.

The actress imagined herself filming steamy scenes in which her character, a book editor, was graphically released from her sexual doldrums by Pitt’s pretty boy charms.

But Stone’s dreams were shattered when 29-year-old Pitt was replaced as her leading man in Sliver by William Baldwin, a rising star following hits with Flatliners and Backdraft.

Worse, audiences ridiculed the sex scenes — including one in a lift that in today’s post-MeToo era seems sexually aggressive and lacking consent. For her part, Stone made no secret of the fact Baldwin was unwanted. The animosity was mutual, and as Baldwin finished one sex scene, he quipped to a crew member of Stone: ‘Thin lips, okay breath.’

William Baldwin said he had deliberately orchestrated this sex scene, where he made love to Stone from behind while pressing her up against a concrete pillar 'so I wouldn't have to kiss Sharon'

Baldwin and Stone in Sliver. She said had been pressured by producer Robert Evans to sleep with Baldwin to improve the sexual chemistry between them

Stone is said to have imagined herself filming raunchy scenes with Pitt, pictured in A River Runs Through It in 1992
Stone never forgave Baldwin, feuding throughout filming. Last week, 31 years on from the movie’s release, their hatreds exploded again. Stone, now 66, rekindled the spat by saying she had been pressured by Sliver producer Robert Evans to sleep with Baldwin to improve the sexual chemistry between them.

‘If I could sleep with Billy, then we’d have chemistry on screen and save the movie,’ said Stone, who claims that she refused the request. Baldwin, the younger brother of Alec Baldwin, who faces involuntary manslaughter charges over a fatal shooting on a movie set, hit back: ‘Does she still have a crush on me or is she still hurt after all these years because I shunned her advances?’

He said he had deliberately orchestrated one sex scene where he made love to Stone from behind while pressing her up against a concrete pillar ‘so I wouldn’t have to kiss Sharon’.

What’s more, he claimed to have ‘dirt’ that he could expose about Stone, cruelly musing: ‘Wonder if I should write a book and tell the many, many disturbing, kinky and unprofessional tales about Sharon? That might be fun.’

Brad Pitt demonstrates his pretty boy charms in a steamy scene from Thelma and Louise with Geena Davis

Stone felt she had a lot to prove on Sliver, as so many people felt she had only become a star in Basic Instinct (pictured)  'by uncrossing her legs while the camera leered up her skirt,¿ says an insider
The film’s director, Phillip Noyce, speaking for the first time about the story, told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The two were not at all happy opposite each other. Sharon had always wanted Brad Pitt to play opposite her, so she was disappointed.

‘I think she was genuinely regretful even that she’d taken the role. She was not at all happy on the movie.’

The warring co-stars could hardly bear being together, Noyce revealed. ‘Some of Sharon’s close-ups had to be shot with a stand-in opposite her.

‘There was such a great deal of animosity on set. Sharon’s open disdain for Billy resulted in him feeling extremely insecure.’

A crew member who witnessed their on-set hostility agreed, saying: ‘They loathed each other.

‘They were at loggerheads through the entire film. Their sex scenes were distinctly unsexy, though you can blame a bad script and direction as much as you can blame Sharon and Billy.’

Today, Stone appears to be raging not only against Baldwin and Evans, but against the Hollywood machine that turned its back on her after she suffered a near-fatal brain aneurysm in 2001, when doctors gave her only a 1 per cent chance of survival. She left hospital stuttering and struggling to walk, and spent years slowly recovering.

Warring Sliver co-stars Stone, left, and Baldwin, right, could hardly bear being together. Director Phillip Noyce, centre, revealed: 'Some of Sharon's close-ups had to be shot with a stand-in opposite her'

Pitt's replacement by Baldwin shattered Stone's dreams. Here he is in Thelma and Louise
Having previously suffered three miscarriages due to endometriosis and an autoimmune disease, she was divorced in 2004 by her husband of six years, newspaper executive Phil Bronstein, lost custody of their adopted son Roan, and struggled to revive her movie career.

She did herself no favours by attempting a comeback in Basic Instinct 2 in 2006, with its risible opening where she recklessly drove a Spyker C8 Laviolette sports car through London while sexually pleasuring herself, until she crashed into the Thames drowning her lover, improbably played by then England footballer Stan Collymore.

‘Sliver represents a professional and personal setback that haunts her still,’ says an insider.

Certainly, the suggestion that Evans — a legendary producer whose films included The Godfather, Chinatown, Love Story and Rosemary’s Baby — might ask Stone to have sex with Baldwin to heighten their sexual chemistry surprised no one who knew the maverick former studio executive, who died in 2019.

Australian director Noyce, 73, said: ‘Evans was famous for his ribald sense of humour and his bluntness when it came to discussing sexual matters, and I can imagine that he may have encouraged Sharon to ‘warm up’ Billy a little.

‘But if he did, that was not an instruction of any sort, I can assure you. It would have been an encouragement to be kinder to Billy.

‘It would have been delivered in what we at the time would call ‘Evans-speak’, which was his own particular dialect, usually inspired by mischievous humour. I think Sharon just misinterpreted the nature of that suggestion.’

In any case, Noyce insists, there was never the possibility of a sexual relationship between the co-stars.

‘Billy was, and is still, happily married. And, at the time, Sharon was beginning a relationship with a producer on the film, so there was no likelihood of anything happening.’

A crew member suggested that asking Stone to sleep with Baldwin for the sake of the film would have been ‘de rigueur for Bob Evans’, adding: ‘And that’s the best of it – it could get a lot worse. It sounds exactly like something he would say, depending on the day and the cocktail he was drinking.

Instead of Pitt, Stone ended up starring alongside Baldwin in Sliver. A crew member who witnessed their on-set hostility said: 'They loathed each other'

Stone at the Oscars earlier this month. Is the final chapter of her feud with Baldwin yet to be written?
‘Bob was doing massive amounts of cocaine. There was a patina of white powder over everything around him, as he inhaled it off any hard surface.

‘He was worried the film wasn’t working, and everyone could see that Billy and Sharon hated each other. I witnessed eye-rolls and snarky comments between them.’

At the time, Evans was desperate to make Sliver his comeback from personal and professional ruin.

The former head of film production at Paramount Pictures, he had been convicted of cocaine possession in 1980, and lost a fortune with the 1984 box office flop The Cotton Club. He became a Hollywood pariah when a former girlfriend was arrested for the murder of another The Cotton Club producer. Sliver was, he hoped, his path back to respectability.

Yet the film, based on an Ira Levin novel about a beautiful Manhattan book editor seduced into a tumult of voyeurism and murder, saw its budget balloon. ‘Sharon Stone also felt she had a lot to prove on Sliver, as so many people felt she had only become a star in Basic Instinct by uncrossing her legs while the camera leered up her skirt,’ says the Sliver insider.

Director Noyce agrees that Stone’s insecurities linger from that infamous police interrogation scene. Baldwin, now 61, also hoped Sliver would be a stepping stone to finally rival the success achieved by his brother Alec.

But the stars’ warring personalities seemed fated to doom the film. ‘They were both such big egos,’ the Sliver insider continued. ‘On set one day, the director opened it up to everyone for ideas about what to do with a scene we were filming. Sharon and Billy both wanted the shot to start with a close-up on them, and then open up on the rest of the scene.

‘They were both such narcissists. It’s hardly surprising that Bob Evans wanted to add a spark to the film. It was so bad – everyone was stiff.

‘Phillip Noyce was a good action director – he made Dead Calm and Patriot Games – but wasn’t the best guy to film a romance or sexual conflict.’

However, it wasn’t a lack of sexual chemistry between Stone and Baldwin that hurt the film – it was a bad script, and bad direction.

Noyce explained: ‘After such success with Basic Instinct, I think Sharon felt she’d taken the wrong turn in a wonderful career, by taking a film that perhaps asked more of her sensuality than it did of her acting.

‘She had misgivings about being in the movie, even though that was her decision. And she had always wanted Brad Pitt to be playing opposite her.

‘It was not a good situation. I was the one that had pushed for Billy Baldwin to be in the movie, so Sharon was upset at that casting and only had me to blame.’ Sliver also struggled with a trouble-plagued production. Three crew members filming the movie’s final scene crashed their helicopter inside an active volcano in Hawaii, miraculously surviving but lost in clouds of smoke and sulphur for hours awaiting rescue.

Noyce had to spend weeks in the editing room, where he made a reported 110 changes to avoid the box office poison of an NC-17 rating — the equivalent of an X-certificate in the UK.

And Evans suffered a heart attack while raging against the changes being forced on the film.

An early test screening found the audience were left cold by Stone and Baldwin’s sex scenes – a bitter blow for the actress still uncertain whether she was being admired for her looks or her thespian abilities.

Reviews were damning, with critics ridiculing the sex scenes, too – one of which saw Stone perform a sex act on herself in a bath while Baldwin watched on CCTV.

Noyce says: ‘I was proud of the job that both did, but it was a fraught situation in many ways.’

After being a critical and box office flop, Sliver’s co-stars harboured a mutual resentment for more than 30 years before their frustrations erupted again last week. The film left Baldwin’s career faltering, and he has not forgotten – or forgiven – Stone’s sleights against him.

The final chapter of their feud may yet to be written. Baldwin said: ‘I have so much dirt on her it would make her head spin, but I’ve kept quiet.’