But Stone isn’t mean spirited; she’s just forthright. Ask her about her rise to fame when she was 32 and crossed her legs in Basic Instinct and showed that she wasn’t wearing underwear (the most paused moment in the history of the movies!) and she’ll speak of it as one looks back on childhood. “It was a blast. We stayed at the best hotels, ate at the best restaurants, everyone kissed our asses. But that was then. And as for that particular scene in that movie, I think it empowered women in their feminine identity; it allowed women to say what they really wanted to say. At the time, I didn’t expect it to be so life-shifting.” Now ask her about losing some of her movie stardom, as she gets older, and she shrugs. “You grow. What was great before isn’t now. A woman should have many faces through her life, not just one face. You want to keep rediscovering what’s fun for you.” No longer a leading lady? Then she’ll settle for smaller roles. She’s happy to be part of an ensemble, as she was in Bobby and Alpha Dog and Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers. If Albert Brooks wants her to play a Muse, she’s up for it. If she’s asked to go to Brussels and Cologne to appear as a U.N. anti-terrorist ambassador in Burma Conspiracy, a fast moving multi-language film that was released in Europe in 2011 before making it to the U.S., she’s game. And then she’ll promote it by letting the world know that it’s “hot, fast, exciting, like a video game. I loved the way the director Jerome Salle worked.” She’ll promote films that will eventually bomb, happy to still be asked to appear in them. And ever since she won an Emmy for her appearance in the TV series The Practice, she’s been aware that her future as an actor may be for the small screen.
“I’ve enjoyed doing both comedy and drama on television,” she said. “It was comedic for me doing Law & Order: I felt like Lucy at the chocolate factory. They do scenes where everyone says a part of a line, just rapid fire. I never did anything like that. I went blank. Seven of us sitting around a table and I’d have no idea what was going on. I really felt like Lucy, to keep shoving the candy in my mouth, even though I don’t know what’s happening. It wasn’t the acting I knew or had studied. They kept looking at me like, ‘She’s a dumb ass. How did she ever get to be an actress?’ I was barely able to get through it. I even thought that maybe I lost it.”
Lately, both TV and film producers, like the producers of Will & Grace and of Twilight, have approached her to star in a TV series of her choosing. So have the heads of ABC TV. “The business is changing because of the economy,” she acknowledged. “These gigantic movie producers are now getting into television. The money is moving around. The quality of writing is moving dramatically around. What’s really good quality is moving towards television. The good work, the good money, and the good producers are moving this way. I have to take it more seriously, because everything I’ve done on TV has had spectacular ratings. So TV has been a very successful medium for me. It’s just figuring out what I may want to do and with whom.”
But acting is no longer at the top of her list of things that fulfill her life. For over a decade now, Sharon Stone has had her priorities in order. She’s a mother, an activist, an auctioneer for charitable causes, and then an actor. She knows that she may not get another chance to work with Martin Scorsese, who used her so well in Casino, but that she will always be a star, because….well, because it’s been her providence. “I was going to be a star if I lived under a hay pile in Idaho. It was part of my destiny. I don’t feel a sense of entitlement because of it, or a sense of shame. It just is. And I’m okay with that.” And since she’s escaped death a number of times, Sharon Stone is a big believer in destiny.
The first serious death-defying incident occurred when she was on horseback at the age of 13 or 14. She hit a clothesline, went down, and woke up with a permanent scar on her neck. Then, when she was 17, she was hit by lightning, which came through the water faucet as she was filling an iron. “It lifted me like a giant had picked me up and thrown me,” she remembers. “I hit the refrigerator and slid down. My mother was there and she slapped me to straighten me out and then took me to the hospital. I had an EKG. There was so much electricity in my body after that.” Her third brush with death was after she had made Total Recall and was driving alone on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when a woman in another car smashed into her. “I called the police but they didn’t show up. My car was destroyed. A friend picked me up and dropped me at my house. I had so many things wrong with me. I was just lying in my house for days, crying. I didn’t know how hurt I was until several days later when I was unable to get up off the floor. Then someone took me to a chiropractor, who did x-rays. I had three compressed discs, a dislocated shoulder, a broken rib, a herniated disc in my neck, my jaw was cracked; tons of injuries. I wound up in a back brace and cervical collar.” Adding insult to injury, when she finally felt fit enough to go outside, “a skateboarder came over the hill and knocked me down and I was back in that brace again. So it took a very long time to recover.” When she was 22 she got meningitis—“that was really unbelievable. I woke up and couldn’t move from the waist down. Couldn’t move. I was put in a quarantine hospital. I lost twelve pounds in the first four days.”
As if this wasn’t enough, she actually contemplated dying when she had her first stalker, who threatened her life. At first it was through letters, but then it got more serious when they were hand-delivered to her house. One of the letters said that she had come to him in a vision and he was coming to take her away where no one could find them. “That’s more frightening than death. A death threat, yeah, okay, you die. The other thing? No. That’s a bad thing.” Eventually they discovered that the stalker was not an American citizen and Interpol got involved and the man was deported. There were other scary stalkers after that. And there were also two ex-military guys “who wanted to start a Hollywood security system. Their concept was that they would scare a celebrity and then save that celebrity, and by that reference they would be able to start a company. Can you imagine that? We were able to track them through the international police because they would call and talk to my manager for a long time.”
And then, in September 2001, came the scariest near-death experience of them all when she was rushed to the hospital and treated for a brain hemorrhage. It happened when she was living in northern California and married to San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein (who has since remarried after being with Sharon for 5 ½ years).
“I walked into our TV room and it was almost as if I was shot,” she told me. “I had this feeling of two unbelievably painful shots in the left side of my head that went across the back of my head and physically knocked me over onto the couch. The pain was searing and so, so strong.
“I was by myself. Phil wasn’t there. I called him and said, ‘I think I’ve had a stroke.’ Phil didn’t think so. Because I’m a person who also thinks I’ve had a brain tumor for years. But after I got off the phone I stayed up all night, I knew something was terribly wrong. Then I got a headache…and I just can’t say enough about this: if you get a headache that is like no other headache that you have ever had, go to the hospital immediately. Call an ambulance. Because this will save your life. The fact that I did not is a miracle that I’m still alive—because I didn’t go to the hospital for three days, until Phil came back from his trip. I was delirious. This was the week after September 11th, so the whole country was out of their minds. Nobody got it. They thought I was just crazed too. I was saying things to people, it’s a wonder they didn’t put me in an asylum. I remember driving and my foot was numb, thinking there must be anthrax on the tree leaves.
“When Phil came home, he was out in the garden reading and I went to talk to him, but I was so ill. He got me a comforter and some tea. I went inside, he came upstairs and I was on my hands and knees holding the area outside my head. Not my head itself. Rocking, saying, ‘The pain. The pain!’ My behavior was so delirious that he called my doctor, who told him to take my blood pressure. It was like 155 over 140, just off the map—my blood pressure usually just barely keeps me upright. I went to a neurologist.
“First they went in through my femoral artery up to my brain, but they missed it. Days went by and they thought I was okay, like I might have had a ruptured vessel that had bled itself out. But I began hallucinating. My friend Mimi came to the hospital and said, ‘They think you’re fine.’ I grabbed her and said, ‘Mimi, I’m dying.’ Nine days later they agreed to go in again, and thank God they found it. My artery had torn to a thread, just pumping blood into my brain. As I have later learned, the most toxic thing that can go into your body is your own blood. They thought I’d stroke out and die if it burst, or it could break and clot. It was a high risk for a stroke, but they thought they should go in and put these coils in. The possibility of my dying if they didn’t do it was enormous.
“They put these ten platinum coils into my artery through this tube into my brain and shut the artery down permanently. The potential complications were that I could go blind, deaf, be paralyzed, have a stroke.”
Sharon has never gotten an explanation determining what caused this hemorrhage, but it did profoundly affect her. “I just had to surrender the remainder of my resistance. I’m so clear that I didn’t live for nothing. It’s not that it changed me as much as it relieved me, the remainder of my fears. Now, when fear comes up for me it’s a very short-lived thing. I have a place to go to surrender it. What’s that song, ‘A Closer Walk with Thee’? I have a closer walk. I do still have fear come up, but mostly now I get when it does, it’s as an example of what I might not want to be doing.”