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Sharon Stone Reinvented

After a virtual five-year hiatus and armed with a new lease on life, Sharon Stone has returned to her rightful place as a Hollywood star.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Sharon Stone, July/Aug 2004

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In her own judgment, her most successful role was as gold digger Ginger McKenna in Casino. She earned a Best Actress nomination for that part from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, and won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in 1996. She has been nominated three other times for Golden Globe awards: for Basic Instinct in 1992, The Mighty in 1998 and The Muse in 1999. "I loved working on The Muse," Stone says. "It was so great being with Albert Brooks. He's so smart and funny and cool." She says that her ex-husband, San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein, always told her that her role in The Mighty, as the distraught mother of a physically disabled, yet extremely intelligent boy, "was the part that I've played that is most like me." She also has very kind words for many of those tough-guy actors that she played opposite, such as Stallone. "Sly is just like a brother to me. He's a great guy to be with. And he's a great raconteur and a great cigar smoker."

In the wake of her brain aneurysm in 2001, cigar smoking is no longer part of Stone's life. She says she has cut out most tobacco and alcohol. But she can still get nostalgic about cigars. "Oh, I used to like them now and again in the right environment. I love it when you're in a tropical setting. The more jungle tropic it is, the better," she says, tilting her head back as if she was watching the smoke curl up from a great cigar. "When it's in its natural cultural environment, the more I like it. Then it's marvelous. That's when it makes sense."

Like much of what Stone says, there is a world of implication about just how dramatically her brain aneurysm altered her outlook on life. While she is obligated by a divorce settlement not to discuss matters of her marriage to Bronstein in the media, there is little doubt that it, too, was one of the things she decided to change after she spent 11 days "bleeding into my brain." "Oh, I think I actually died," Stone says, when asked if she had nearly passed away. "But I realized then that, hey, that's not too bad, either, and that has given me a case of the eternal giggles. It's not that I don't get scared anymore, but I just notice things differently, and I notice now that 'oh, you're one of the people it scares,' and there's someone who it doesn't scare. Truth shouldn't be such a scary thing."

Stone says that one of the best outcomes of her illness, and her father's bout with esophageal cancer a year later, was how her family grew closer together. Stone has an older brother, Michael, a younger brother, Patrick, and a younger sister, Kelly, whom she calls one of her best friends. She admits that it had been a very rough time, with her aneurysm and then her father's cancer. "But it totally healed my relationship with my father and my family," Stone says. "We all decided that we each had an assignment when my dad was in the hospital. One person did the doctor's appointments, one did the groceries, one person took care of the housing for everybody…my dad had a three percent chance of survival, and he beat it." Stone says that now when he goes to UCLA for his checkup every four months, the doctors are 100 percent sure they're going to find tumors, and when they don't, they say, "The only explanation is your mother's love," Stone says, breaking down in tears. "I'm really lucky they are my parents. They're both in their 70s. They are really in love…my parents are really having an actual living relationship. They relate. They have fun. They dance in the yard. They're lovers…it's an extraordinary thing. Of all the things in my life that I have received, their relationship is the biggest gift of all."

The rest of the world, especially the Hollywood establishment, may be having a hard time reckoning with the new Sharon Stone. "Sometimes, they think I'm on drugs, or drunk. I've gotten feedback that when I walk down the red carpet at some of these award shows that I'm so happy, I must be drunk," she says, laughing out loud. "I guess it has been so long since they've seen anyone who is genuinely content that they think I must be high." She describes in detail walking into the 2003 Golden Globes where she was presenting the Best Actor award, which was won by her good friend Richard Gere for Chicago. "Somebody said I looked like I was drunk, and that I was too old to be wearing the dress I was wearing, no matter how good I looked in it…." Stone pauses and then says, "Meowww…and then Joan Rivers asks this thing about my mom, 'Who is that prop I brought with me?' Well, I think you just let those things hang out there and stay attached to the sayer. I think they belong to the person who said them. My friend Queen Latifah called me up later and said, 'They're just not used to your bliss. You got to break them into your joy slowly, girlfriend.'"

Stone is not quite ready to dismiss the years she spent under the microscope of the tabloids, part of what still fuels the catty swipes at her in this current phase of her life. "They're still following me around," she says with a sigh. "But I never put that much stock in what the tabloids said or did. They are people that just don't know me." She recalls that more than once she had respectable publications call her with scandalous accusations, saying they were going to print the story, even though she told them she wasn't even there, so it couldn't be true. "Once I had the studio show a publication timed and dated film to prove that I was at work when they said I was somewhere else." Stone says she became so disenchanted with the entire publicity machine that she just stopped doing interviews. "Toward the end, I walked into the interview and said, 'OK, what's the story? I know you've already written the story, so what is it?' I don't want to be that kind of person anymore," she says.

"I look as different as I feel," Stone adds. "I don't want to adorn this look with the old look or the old me. The different me feels more comfortable, since I look skinny and startled. I'm having more fun without a pudge.

"Sometimes I think if we are awake, life traumas are a gift. Those things that shake us up. My illness. I think you come out of it a different person and your life needs to change," Stone says. Speaking generally about life and relationships and the lessons we learn, she adds, "I'm not a conventional thinker. When I look at any relationship, and I've had ones that lasted longer than my marriage, we can look at the good things…but we are an amalgam of those relationships that make us what we are."

When asked about the biggest success in her life, Stone answers without any hesitation: "my son." She and Bronstein adopted Roan in 2000. "It's the best decision I ever made. It was something I wanted to do, and had been trying to do, and hoping to do for a long time. Roan is exactly the boy I dreamed about for probably 15 years. I always knew him. I knew that soul. Roan is familiar to me. I knew what he looked like. It's hard to explain how fantastic it is and how every single day that I see him, it's a surprise all over again. That he is. That he exists. And now, he's getting a really complex personality. My kid is fascinating."

For now, Stone is juggling the demands of motherhood with trying to carve out space in the minds of Hollywood's power structure in the quest for new roles. She has finished a film titled A Different Loyalty, directed by Marek Kanievska and co-starring Rupert Everett, which is still awaiting a release date. Other than that film, she says nothing is in the pipeline.

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