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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

Any living and breathing, red-blooded American male hasn't forgotten, and will probably never forget, the interrogation scene in the 1992 thriller Basic Instinct. Novelist Catherine Tramell, accused of murdering her boyfriend with an ice pick, is dressed in stark white, with her hair severely pulled back. Sitting in a chair with one arm draped casually across its back, Tramell nonchalantly smokes a cigarette as she faces a phalanx of gritty, perspiring San Francisco police detectives. She uncrosses and recrosses her legs slowly to reveal one of the most infamous shots in American film history.

You might imagine that the actress playing Tramell, Sharon Stone, would regret that defining cinematic moment or at least exhibit a tinge of embarrassment about it. You might think that a serious thespian would wish that a part of her movie legacy didn't revolve around whether or not she knew that her exposed private parts would appear on the big screen, even for a fleeting second or two.

You would be wrong.

"I was spectacularly good in that scene," Stone says, her face alight with salacious laughter. "It's not because people saw up my dress. If they only saw up my dress, they wouldn't remember the character's name. It's been a decade, and everyone remembers her name. In fact, I may do the sequel now!"

It's true. Not only do people remember Catherine Tramell, everyone remembers Sharon Stone. Despite a virtual five-year exile from Hollywood, she has lost none of her magnetism. People approach her table at the Polo Lounge in the Beverly Hills Hotel to remind her about when they were introduced at a party. Passersby gawk. The restaurant staff fawns.

But you would also be wrong to think that you are seeing the same Sharon Stone who cut such a wide swath through Hollywood and the male psyche 12 years ago. She's lost some of the hard edge that she became notorious for, and she always has a laugh or a smile at the ready in conversation. As she runs down the litany of traumas that occurred during her hiatus—a marriage gone awry, a near-death experience due to a brain aneurysm, her husband's heart attack, her father's bout with cancer—Stone makes a clear case for why she's come back as a changed woman.

"After you've been through all that stuff, the rest of this is just kid's stuff," Stone says, matter-of-factly. "As Winston Churchill says, when you're going through hell, keep going."

The 46-year-old Stone has survived her trials in fine style, looking and feeling better than ever, and she is ready to reinvent herself for another go-around in the fickle arena of Hollywood, and with any luck, the fame that accompanies it. Like her previous stint, however, success will only be measured on her terms. "A woman has to have many faces, many styles, many inventions. I don't want to be one of those actresses that has a baby doll hairdo when I'm 90. Like, get over it already! I'm done with that. I'm glad you thought I did it well. But you may have noticed I don't look like that anymore. My body is skinny now. And let's gracefully surrender the things of youth, shall we? I just don't abide by that absurd notion that we don't tell how old we are…I'm really excited by my age, my accomplishments and my future."

This summer, Stone returns to the big screen in Catwoman. She portrays Laurel Hedare, who, along with her husband, Georges, played by French actor Lambert Wilson, owns a cosmetics company that is involved in criminal activities. Halle Berry, who has the titular role, is on a mission of revenge and will stop the duo at any cost. The $100 million movie is slated to be one of Warner Bros.' big summer releases and is sure to put Stone back in the limelight, although audiences will feel as if Stone never left it. Watching her—the eyes, the cheekbones, the legs and the easy, gutsy laughter—it will also be easy to fantasize about her having been there all along, or certainly never very far from public view.

Stone's decision to sign on to Catwoman resulted from a simple plan: "I just wanted to have some fun." She selected the role partly to work with French director Pitof, who is best known for doing visual effects for Alien: Resurrection and for directing Vidocq, a 2001 French thriller with Gérard Depardieu in the title role. "I met the director, who is very interesting," Stone says, leaning forward in her cranberry red, deep-necklined dress. "I would say that for me it's always easier working with European directors. They don't need to fit me into an idea that they already have. The school of European directors is more ready to trust the actress, like, 'Let's see what her talent will create.'"

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