August 1999 By Philip Berk
Try as she may, Sharon Stone can’t escape making headlines.
The last time I interviewed her the tabloids were full of stories that she was pregnant.(She wasn’t.)
This time, at her press conference for The Muse, her first comedy, she has to respond to questions about her husband, who was rushed to a hospital with chest pains. Later he had to undergo angioplasty.
She and San Francisco Examiner editor Phil Bronstein were married last year in another media frenzy.
How is he doing? I ask her.
“He’s doing really well. He bounced back like a champion. It’s quite miraculous to me. And he’s doing great.”
A year ago she got angry when asked about a rumored pregnancy.
“My duty to the public has to stop on the outside of my skin. It’s very hurtful, it’s invasive, and very oppressive. It’s a complicated thing for women anyway.”
This time she’s prepared to talk about about adoption.
“I’m in touch with a terrific adoption agency,” she tells me.
So don’t be surprised.
In The Muse she’s nothing less than spellbinding. When I tell her she’s finally found her niche,in comedy, she agrees.
“I felt really good about working with Albert (Brooks, her writer-director and costar), and I had a fabulous cameraman, Tom Ackerman, who has a lovely way of lighting which gives you a ton of freedom as an actor. And I got to sleep in my own house which was so much better than staying at a hotel. So it was all really nice.”
In the film she play’s a writer’s muse.
How would she define a muse?
“To be one, or to need one, you have to open your heart to the possibility of magic everyday — the possibility that there is more out there than meets the eye.”
She provides some of that magic by appearing nude in the film.
Was that her idea?
“Well, yes. I was the one who came up with that idea. I told Albert, ‘I want to be naked in the scene.’ I think he thought I was kidding. My feeling was, if you really want to wig someone out, someone who’s kind of straightlaced, there’s nothing funnier than surprising them with your nudity.”
Did her husband object?
“He’s pretty good humored about it. He told me I’d finally found my niche. Nude comedies.”
How magical is her life right now?
“We are grateful to be alive and to have each other. When you have an experience like this, you find out who your friends are. You turn around and your real friends are just standing there. We have a lot of gratitude for our friends and family. Being at he hospital, there’s no bull shitting anybody and I have to say it was really refreshing.”
Did she have any second thoughts about working with Anne Heche and Ellen Degeneres on If These Walls Could Talk Part 2?
In it she plays a lesbian?
“Just the opposite. I found myself doing more than I thought I’d do, only because I was in the presence of two of the finest, most decent, most loving, sincere, truthful, and generous people I’ve ever known. Anne wrote and directed this segment, and Ellen played opposite me. She had a chance to do some really dramatic work. They were both incredibly kind filming the love scene.”
What did she give them that surprised her?
“Probably the nudity. Going in I didn’t think it would be appropriate, but it turned out so beautiful. Usually when you see homosexual love scenes, it’s done fully clothed, which is not the way people really are in a relationship. There are more gays in long term relationships than gays who are single. This film shows what a long term, loving relationship really looks like. And being with Anne and Ellen allowed me to be free about all that, really free.”
Did she have prejudices going in?
“I always thought of myself as someone who was open-minded, accepting, and loving, but when it came to doing the love scene, I panicked. So we had to sit down and I had to regroup. Suddenly you’re confronted with things that are different and it frightens us. We think of them as wrong because it’s foreign to us. But we have to be big enough to get over it and move on. Fortunately I had spent time with a friend, who has no prejudice of any kind whatsoever, and he taught me to address every personal prejudice I’ve ever have and how to deal with it.”
She once named her former drama teacher, Roy London, as her muse (inspiration.) “He taught me to accept myself for who I was, to stop trying to be like other people.”
Who inspires her now?
Out of nowhere, she replies, “Little fat faces on kids. They seem to possess all the magic of the world. When you look into the face of a child, you really can see the truth of the world.”
So kids are really important to her?
And yet some of the most horrendous crimes in recent times have been committed by kids.
After the Columbine shootings, she turned in her guns to the Los Angeles Police Dept.
Was she making a statement about gun control?
“I can’t say I’ve taken a position on gun control, but I have taken a position about personal responsibility. I didn’t feel responsible when I had a bunch of guns in my house, although I come from a family that is big on hunting and fishing. In that rural part of Pennsylvania where they live, hunting is a way of life. My family hunt deer, and that’s how they survive during the winter.
“But we were all taught to respect guns. When we were old enough we were given a full picture of how scary and dangerous they are.”
After a pause she added,“Guns don’t kill people. Bullets do. They rip a hole through your body. When I read about a fourteen year old kid with a gun, I have to ask myself, ‘Are these kids who are shooting other kids, monsters?’ No, they’re children.
“All of us have to be more responsible. If you don’t trust someone under eighteen at an R movie, maybe you ought to keep them out of the Armory.”
So what is the solution?
“Kids need parental guidance. At the root of the problem is the breakdown of the family — the loss of generations living in a household. In Europe grandma’s there to talk to a teenager when mom or dad is at work. I had that growing up. Today there’s nobody there for the kids. And if you’re feeling unloved you start to act out just to get attention.”
Would she favor censorship?
“You can’t censor artists because who is to decide who is an artist and who isn’t. If the ratings system for movies was enforced it would help. But then there’s the Internet. which seems totally out of control. But (my husband) Phil’s good friends have found a solution. After the Columbine incident, they moved their son’s computer into the living room. They turned it in a computer centre for the entire family, a family place. I thought that was a very smart way to handle that.”
How spiritual is she?
“I am a Christian and was raised a Christian, but I really like the Taoist studies, the teaching of Lao Tsu. When I got married I carried that book down the aisle because it gives me great comfort and great focus. It offers a very balanced way of living with integrity. I came to this through Richard Gere, when we worked on Intersection. Since then Richard introduced me to the Dalai Lama and even though I’ve met a lot of people in high positions, both spiritual and political, I’d have to say that he is by quantum leap a cut above any body in a position of that kind of leadership. He was just stunning. And to be in his presence was like a cleansing experience. Even though I have a strong belief in God I find great peace in the Taoist studies.”
At her last interview, she joked about what Hollywood would make of her turning forty.
“They’ll be happy if my movie makes money.” was her witty reply.
But then she added, “There are actors ten years my senior who say I’m too old to work opposite them. And there are actors twenty years my senior who are costarring with girls fifteen years my junior. And you wonder, ‘Just what the hell are they thinking?”
Obviously she was referring to Michael Douglas who thought Sharon too old to play his wife in A Perfect Murder. (Gwyneth Paltrow got the part.)
Is she planning any changes?
“I’m taking the rest of the year off. I’ll still do the charity things. But I’ve moved to San Francisco so it’s really time for me to sell my house down here (in Los Angeles) and get a little house. We’re moving into our new house next week and I’m very excited about that.”
Is maintaining her glamorous image a priority?
“It was my fantasy as a kid, but because it all came to me later in life, I was kind of surprised that it was working, that people liked it, and that people were made happy by it. It was fun, and I kept doing it. But no one thought I was so gorgeous until Basic Instinct, and in fact it was often said that I wasn’t sexy enough to be the lead in a movie.
“Now that I’m older, I’m not as committed towards creating the illusion of glamor as I used to be. It was really fun at the time, but I’m much more devoted to creating my work now. It started with Casino and the Quick and the Dead, I began to understand what it was like to create characters from a deeper place than I had before. The glamor thing was fun, but now I’m getting much more fulfillment out of my work and my personal life.’
Why did she choose the name Chaos for her production company?
“For a lot of reasons. I’m a person who works well in a chaotic environment and mythology tells you that chaos comes before creation.”
Turning forty how has it changed her?
“I always thought I was forty from the day I was born. Now that it’s happened, I’m exhilarated. I always felt that being young was boring. My attitude was, ‘I can’t wait till I get to be a real woman.”
After Basic Instinct, she took control of her life and her career. Was that the smartest thing she’s ever done?
“I don’t feel so smart when I think of how long it took me to figure those things out.”
“It took me a long time to figure out the purity of my work. It took me a long time to realize that I was enough, that I didn’t have to gild the lily, or try to be someone else, that I could bring my talent, my heart, my ideas, my imagination to my work, and that would be enough.
“You can be too smart for your own good when you out-think yourself and you don’t stay in the purity of your heart. You think that you should be more or different, and then suddenly you’re planning this whole life and you’re missing the one you’re having. It took me a long time to be less smart and a little wiser.
“But now I’ve stopped resisting my life. I think I got in the way of myself for a long time. When I finally determined my own path, I became a star. That’s why I have this existentialist point of view. It was my destiny. There really isn’t an explanation for why things happen. You just have to accept them.”
Is she looking forward to the Millennium?
“I love beginnings and endings. It’s such a terrific opportunity to straighten out. You don’t have to look for a reason. You can just say, it’s 2000 and things are different now. It’s a great excuse and opportunity for people to be their better selves.”
Among up and coming actresses she admires she named Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie, and Charlize Theron. She’s not too fond of Gwyneth Paltrow who lampooned her on Saturday Night Live.