Before it was over, we would talk about our shadow selves, the wind and the dirt, beautiful days, and our mothers. Before it was over, we would cry (more than once, in fact, more than twice); before it was over, we would talk about sex and love and loneliness. Before it was over, I would come to think of her as a good witch. That was how we spent our time together, Sharon Stone and I. First we spoke on the phone.
I started by asking about her beauty routine — the easy, I’m-not-a-threat questions. We spoke about lipsticks and body scrubs. I asked Stone her biggest beauty regret. "Overplucking my brows," I expected. "Not enough sunscreen," maybe. But she made it clear that she doesn't give a shit about small talk and has more than a passing acquaintance with regret:
SHARON STONE: People are incredibly unkind. They think if you're beautiful, you must be stupid, you must be shallow. If you're beautiful, we should make you feel small or less. Every person has gifts. And if beauty is one of them, we should accept it and enjoy it as a gift from nature... If someone's beautiful, for God’s sake, let them be beautiful.
ALLURE: Has your idea of power changed over your career?
SS: As I grew older, I gained the power of stardom. I thought that I had the power of being a powerful woman in Hollywood. But at that time, there was no such thing. There were things in my contract — that I would supposedly have the power to choose my costar, which was never true, the power to choose my own films, which absolutely was not true because my career was short and sketchy. It was a false power. I got to make a few movies, but mostly movies picked by men, written by men, sold by men. My career could have gone a whole different way — I think I'm somewhat more than a sex star. It might have been the power to get paid more than $2 million, but [not] to get paid equally. While I broke glass ceilings, they were the old-fashioned eight-foot ceilings. And they were hard to break and they hurt my head. When I was ill [Stone had a stroke in 2001], I wasn’t able to come back to the business, like a man. I was sent to the back of the line to do episodic television, to scratch my way back. There’s no power as a has-been movie star.
Now I'm discovering what real power is: the power of dignity; to maintain my home, my family, my finances, my health; to grow as a person who understands myself and the follies — of the film choices, of the public image — that are mine to bear. I decided to use my fame for something valuable.
ALLURE: You're talking about amfAR and your philanthropy?
SS: Yes, amfAR, but many other AIDS organizations. No AIDS organizations agree to work together because they all want to compete for the cure. It's as competitive as Hollywood.
ALLURE: That’s disappointing.
SS:: You have no idea how disappointing and how ugly. I think we've come to learn from Harvey Weinstein how ugly people can be inside the charity world.
ALLURE: You worked with Weinstein.
SS: I had a contract for a production company with Miramax, which was very complicated, and I never was able to get anything done. I'm not much of a massage-giver.
ALLURE: Was it different in the '90s? What you had to endure to be successful?
SS: I don't think it was anything different than the things I endured going to college, working as a waitress, as a short-order cook, modeling.
ALLURE: Do you think Basic Instinct could have been made in 2019?
SS: I think Basic Instinct was made at the exact right moment in history because it captured all our fears and doubts and the moment of change of power for women. It's still an intriguing film, but could it be made now? I doubt that it would have any form of the sensationalism it had at the time. When I began my career, there were only two ways we were allowed to sit: cross at the ankles or ankles under the chair.
Well...Stone gave the world a third option in Basic Instinct, and I can't help but think she's being pretty damn wry to bring up the subject of women and chairs. I want to say something smart and poignant here, but instead: I don't.
If you came of age in the 1990s (which I did) and you saw Basic Instinct (which I also did), I'm willing to bet that somewhere in your brain is Sharon Stone's body informing your idea of a woman's body (three for three). The same goes for her iconic, Oscar-nominated star turn in Casino in 1995. And now that she's 61, I want to know what happens next. I want to know what happens when you're not 34.
SS: I like my body so much more.
ALLURE: Oh, God. I'm so jealous. (That just came out. I pray she didn't catch it.)
SS: I'm so grateful to my body. When I was younger, everybody was telling me what was wrong with my body — too this, too that. When I got on Basic Instinct, they hired a makeup artist that put on pounds of makeup every day, and every day I went to my trailer and took the makeup off. But I wasn't allowed to choose my makeup artist, nor was my name [above the title] on the poster.
ALLURE: What makes you grateful for your body now?
SS: I started to understand that I was going to go for being more like a European woman who got more beautiful with age and who could understand that women are more beautiful than girls because they know something.
ALLURE: Have you had a favorite age?
SS: My 40s were so beautiful. I couldn't work because women, once they got to be 40, were not given jobs in Hollywood. I was a mom with three beautiful little boys. I was recovering from a massive brain injury, and I was in custody court constantly over my oldest child. But there was something wonderful in that period of all those challenges. And even though no one wanted to date me — no one would want a woman that had little children — it was a period of reconciliation and change, and understanding myself. It was my period of the biggest change, but the period where I thought I was the most beautiful.
ALLURE: Is there anything that you wish you had or hadn't done in your 40s?
SS: I wish that someone had fallen in love with me, I guess. I think life would have been less harsh with a partner.
We are, at this moment, two women, a decade and a half apart, a few miles away, one sick in bed, one typing at a desk, total strangers. But for a moment that follows, the silence between us isn't awkward; it isn't loaded; it just feels like a little bit of life passing through. And for a second, I feel pure gratitude for this stranger who taught me so much about what it meant to be a woman, to own my sexuality. She was the poster woman for sex and beauty and power, and her name was barely legible on the poster. And in that minute, this breath of silence on the phone feels respectful, a small prayer for her younger self, a small prayer for the idea of life being less harsh.
ALLURE: Does sex get better as you age?
SS: I would say — this is speculative at this moment, that should I have a lover — I would think that sex would be better, because it would come from love. Sex for the sake of sex at this point in my life is not interesting.
ALLURE: You don't seem to get lonely.
SS: I absolutely get lonely. It would be false to say that the happiness of my solitude doesn't come sometimes with the melancholy of aloneness. But no one is going to find the beauty of genuine love through flagrant promiscuity.
ALLURE: I hope this isn't too personal. When was the last time you cried?
SS: I'm crying a little bit now. It's not really a sad thing. It's more — life is so beautiful. When we're young and we're so driven by the follies of our youth, sometimes we can miss some of the great beauty and wonder of the simplicity of every day.
Here's what I was learning about Sharon Stone: She was introduced to the world in an exchange that went roughly like, "People of Earth, meet the Platonic ideal of sexy. Sharon, this is the world." That kind of coming-out party requires that thoughtfulness be locked away. There was no room for all of Sharon all at once. Hollywood wouldn't allow it. We took the beautiful face, the amazing body, but we didn't want the soul. The soul remained entirely hers.
I don't want our time together to end, so I ask the dumbest question of my career, and she handles it with the grace of Serena Williams playing tennis with a toddler.
ALLURE: Do you have any life lessons for your younger self?
SS: I've been unbelievably famous. And to go from that to the complete obscurity of neurological ICU — people don't know what it's like to learn that lesson, and the falsehoods of false power.
This would be such a natural place to end the conversation, but Stone has lessons to teach, and I am now the world's most eager student.
ALLURE: Is it a weird time to raise boys?
SS: Actually, I think it's one of the most wonderful times to raise boys. I'm trying to allow them to be informed, thoughtful young men. When my older son was small and he was up in San Francisco, he went out through the school fence in the back, through the back of the school garden. And he was 450 miles away, and I knew. I was adamant. And they found a hole in the fence, and he'd gotten out onto the sidewalk.
ALLURE: You're like a good witch.
SS: Yes, but women are. Don't you know what your son is up to?
ALLURE: I do...but I don't think I could predict a hole in a fence 450 miles away.
SS: You'll see. When they get into puberty, they discover their shadow side. You start thinking, My kid is nuts, and then you realize, No, my kid is a whole person.
"When I was young, my ambition was so intense. Taking off the tough veneer has been my latest mission."
A few days later, I was in the contemporary art museum that is Sharon Stone’s house. The paintings and the windows and the light—it’s all perfect. Then she walked — swept — downstairs, and it occurred to me that this incredibly considered marvel of a home was all designed to keep up with her. She may be doing episodic television (there are HBO and Netflix projects in the pipeline), but Sharon Stone is pure movie star. She was wearing a black backless jumpsuit that swished around her legs like backup singers, and around her neck was a strand of crystals (they were too big to be diamonds, but maybe?). Fresh blowout, lipstick, not a pore to be found, and bare feet. That’s it.
We sat on a leather couch with Joe, her French bulldog, between us and picked up where we left off.
ALLURE: You said we all have a piece of ourselves to work on. What’s yours?
SS: I think when I was young, it was my ambition. It was so intense. Taking off the tough veneer and telling the truth has been my latest mission.
ALLURE: What inspired that mission?
SS: I decided to write a book, which I just finished. I wanted to read it to my mom and see what she thought about it. I think my understanding of her, and us, and her childhood, has changed us completely. I can't tell you how much I love her, and how much she loves me, and what I've come to understand she went through, and what she's come to understand that I went through, and what it would've meant to both of us if there'd been a world where we were allowed to talk to each other about our lives.
ALLURE: Do you remember what it was like to be a private citizen?
The pause that follows — and it's a long one — makes me feel sad for the nostalgia I am foisting on her.
SS: I miss people inviting me over for dinner, inviting me to do things.
ALLURE: Yeah, I can't see myself saying to my husband, "Let's have Sharon Stone over for tacos!"
SS: That's it. You wouldn't. Most famous people spend a lot of time alone. I still have my friends from 30, 40 years ago. [When] I have to go to something, I'll run upstairs, throw on some lipstick and sunglasses, and they're like, “Oh, you just turned into Sharon Stone." It’s like she’s someone we deal with.
ALLURE: Your alter ego?
SS: Yeah. As I get older, it's easier for me to blend it.
ALLURE: Making new friends can't be easy.
SS: I'm desperate to call Margo Martindale and be like, "I really want you to come over and have dinner with me because I think you're the greatest. But I don't want you to think I'm psycho."
Margo, if you read Allure, consider this your standing invitation for dinner at the Stone residence.
ALLURE: Have you enjoyed your fame?
SS: I was very lucky. So many of the women who had been famous before me were so good to me. Faye [Dunaway] and Shirley MacLaine — they told me it won't last forever, enjoy every minute of it. Don't do drugs. Don't ever have cocktails in your hands when you're out. I'm like, "I don't even drink!" Go home early. Don't be a party girl. Write thank-you notes. Faye took me to my premiere of Basic Instinct and sat holding my hand telling me exactly what to do. I got to be friends with Lauren Bacall. When we saw each other, we would sit in the same chair and gossip. Even though I don’t smoke, I shared cigarettes with her because why wouldn’t you?
ALLURE: Do you think it's your job to help others like you were helped?
SS: I do when I see a talent like Margot Robbie — she is just the cat's pajamas. I am nuts about her. When I was going in to the Golden Globes, [Tonya Harding] was in front of me and didn't know how to go through the press line. She was discombobulated. I'm like, "Let me show you what to do. Put your purse under the arm that you're going to pick up your skirt with, then go up the stairs."
It's absurd — Sharon Stone shepherding Tonya Harding through the press line of an awards show. But not entirely. In my handful of hours with her, Stone wanted to help me process a tortured relationship with my mother; she told me exactly what to say to my kids the next time I lose it on them. It's not that she's maternal, necessarily, but she sees the path forward with startling clarity. She's comfortable in the role of guide — sage, even. Before I leave I ask how things went with her mother when she read her the book.
SS: We lay in bed together and I read it to her, and we were both crying. She loved it. She's so proud of me and so grateful I told her about it. She didn't understand why I was such a removed child. She thought I didn't like her. I thought she was mean and unloving. My mother was finally able to tell me her true story.
ALLURE: Earlier you mentioned that raising girls would be different from raising boys — that you could lie in bed together, read books, have tea parties, all that. It's like that vision came true, except you're the daughter; the book is your story.
SS: Wow. I hadn't thought about that.
Once again, we are both crying — for our mothers who tried so hard and couldn't understand us, for our children who will forgive our failures one day, even for generations of women who have struggled to find peace, to be loved, to make life less harsh.
Then she says something, and I'm not sure if we're talking about her mother or if she means her own life. But then I realize it doesn't matter.
SS: It's been an astonishing journey, and a beautiful one.
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