Forget every label you ever imagined for Sharon Stone. The best feature of the actress that imprinted forever in our minds that iconic leg-cross in Basic Instinct is that she is above any label. Including that pivotal moment in the history of Cinema.
“When I entered the business the term ‘fuckable’ was used to see if you were employable. The studio executives sat around a large table and discussed whether or not each of us was in fact ‘fuckable’. They thought I was not.”, the actress tells Vogue Portugal. “I gave this some hard thought as I wanted to work, so I did a strategically planned semi-naked Playboy shoot. Did I fit the part? Obviously not. Did I use my brain to figure out how to appear ‘fuckable’? You bet. (…) So no, is the answer. I didn’t and I don’t [feel like a sex symbol].” Why on Earth would someone lose time thinking of a way to kick off an article about Sharon Stone when you have the icon herself doing it in her own words in the best way possible?
Before the #MeToo movement, the hyper-exposure surrounding the fight for gender equality in Hollywood, before women’s voices were louder than ever before, Stone, now 61, was already playing the game by her own rules. That’s why she disregards the expression sex symbol. When we ask what it means to her, she replies with a very relaxed “Not much”, leaving us thinking why disregard something that was partly responsible for her success. The thing is it wasn’t: Sharon Stone never assumed she was a sex symbol, she used her mind to give the public - and the industry - what they wanted from her so she could then show them she was much more than they would expect. “I’m pretty sure Marilyn Monroe really didn’t talk like that either in real life.”, she reminds us. “But she learned how to play the game.”
Her curriculum would prove that, in fact, Stone was much more than that seminaked woman in Playboy, more than a leg-cross, more than your typically blonde californian blue-eyed girl - she wasn’t even from La La Land. Born in Meadville, Pensylvannia, USA, she’s the small-town girl about whom songs can be written, moving to New York when she was 19 to be a model (she ended up signing for Ford Agency). But not before getting a scholarship for Creative Writing and Fine Arts, at Edinboro State University of Pennsylvania - she was only 15 when she got it (she was the child prodigy that got to second grade at only 5 years old, being in university at 15 was an expected consequence) - and she was even told that, with a brain like that, she should follow Law. Stone ended up pausing her studies, but went back to school in 2016, inspired by Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign and the belief that she could do anything she proposed herself to. She was 58.
Her passion for Cinema made her interrupt the campaigns and commercials she started in 1977, when signing for Ford, and the build up of an acting career that everybody would love to have, including making her debut in a Woody Allen movie, confirmed it was the right move. The decision was made in Europe, where she had moved when her career in Fashion started, pursuing a life as an actress instead of one as a model. The return to New York happened so she could be an extra in Stardust Memories (1980), by Woody, but film by film she conquered her close-up rightful spot, collecting experiences in the big screen as well as in the small one.
Maybe it’s in Total Recall (1990) my first memory of Sharon Stone on camera. Maybe it’s yours as well (though we can remind you that, before that, in 1987, you would probably have seen her already in Police Academy: Citizen’s on Patrol): the movie featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger was responsible for a major push in her cinematic journey, though Basic Instinct (1992) was the first to really imprint her image in the minds of the audience - both male and female - and Casino (1995) was the one to award her with a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama). It wasn’t her only award nor were her movies scarce as time went by. In fact, Stone has collected a lot of great TV series, accumulating praise for her roles in the small screen, as well: “Films, good films are a dying art. Television has more quality opportunities now”, the actress tells us, after guiding us through her latest project, Ratched, a television series that’s a “Ryan Murphy [American Horror Story, Glee, Eat Pray Love] project set in 1947. I play a wealthy woman with an invalid son. Per usual, it’s rather horrific and funny at the same time.”
She knows what she’s talking about when the industry is concerned. She has enough experience in the biz to speak with authority on the matter, since she has dedicated herself to the métier, always playing roles passionately - or almost always: “I loved doing most of my films. Hated? Well, I worked with a director on Basic 2 who asked me to sit on his lap each day to receive his direction, and when I refused he wouldn’t shoot me. This went on for weeks. I had a two-week-old baby when this started. I can say we all hated that and I think the film reflects the quality of the atmosphere we all worked in”, she reveals, with a cutthroat honesty that you can feel in each word, from the most mundane answer to the most revealing. That’s why, once again, it’s not surprising the way she talks about Hollywood neglecting women - and how it always has -, justifying her choice in roles whilst doing it: “Neglecting women? Yes, they have. And demonstrating women as women, quite frankly, are not. Most films are written by men, directed by men, made by men, with the male mentality. Not at all considering how women actually are, how we do think and feel. That is why many of my characters are drunk or drug addicts or crazy, that is the only way I could support their behavior honestly.”
Her uncanny intelligence is even more palpable in the times she is brutally honest. Each answer seems to happen with one filter only - the unconditional truth one. That’s why, when we ask Sharon Stone what would she say to her 21-year-old self, knowing what she knows now, there’s no comeback with a cliché like “just be yourself” or “never give up” - all of them true, but all of them common places. Instead, we get a very thought of “get an investment manager but NEVER give them the power to sign ANYTHING for you. And make sure you know where your money is at all times. Also buy things that are solid matter, like real estate, gold bars, and blue-chip art. So that way you have your money where you can see it and not in something fluctuating and abstract”. Pragmatic, wise and an activist - what you would expect of Stone, basically, specially if you’re a attentive fan, seeing that she always brings up this side of a woman fighting for justice, for her beliefs, knowing what she wants and how to get it, and a women who left little things to do, including being a mother. Sharon adopted three boys, Roan Joseph Bronstein, Laird Vonne and Quinn Kelly Stone, in 2000, 2005 e 2006, respectively. Obviously, they’re her whole life: “having them. Being with them. Loving them. Putting them before everything else”, the actress tells us when we ask her what changed the most since they’ve entered her life. In an interview to AARP, in 2012, Stone confessed that adopting was always something she wanted - even at a young age, she would research about it. After two miscarriages - both pregnancies with her second husband, Phil Bronstein -, the process for adopting her first child, which was happening at the same time she was trying motherhood the conventional way, was approved. Now, her three kids, when they watch her movies, “think I am a badass”, Stone tells Vogue Portugal - notably proud, we might add.
What maternity hasn’t changed was her ability to feel sexy. Because sexy, she explains, is very different from sex symbol, the concept she disregards: “Sexy is another thing entirely. And yes, I still know I am sexy” - there’s that fiercely raw and sincere filter, again. Then again, how could she ever lie when the answer is there for everyone to see. At 61 years young, Sharon Stone is confirming the sexy in sixty. Even though the aging process can be just that - a process. In 2015, she said in an interview that “You have to sit down and take a good look at yourself, particularly as you grow older and your face changes. People are afraid of changing; that they’re losing something. They don’t understand that they are also gaining something (…) I think that in the art of aging well there’s this sexuality to having those imperfections. It’s sensual.” To Shape magazine, when she was 55, she confessed that “there was a point in my 40s when I went into the bathroom with a bottle of wine, locked the door, and said, ‘I’m not coming out until I can totally accept the way that I look right now.’ And I examined my face in the magnifying mirror, and I looked at my body, and I cried and cried and cried. Then I said to myself, “You’re going to get old now. How do you want to do that?”. It’s obvious that phase is gone and she still believes in every word of encouragement, but was it always like that? “Well, aging is a process. As we know it happens slowly over time if you are lucky. And I am lucky.”, she admits to Vogue.
We’re lucky too. Lucky to have been able to portray all that luck in a story that will add up to the “countless” Vogue covers she’s been gathering. “I used to have all of my covers up in my offices. But there are so many it got a bit obnoxious so I put them in storage”, the actress tells us. This one won’t be archived for sure. Allow us our lack of modesty as we say it’s her best to date. Not because she’s 61 and she is stunning - both image and confidence-wise. Not because her self-care seems to have increased over the years and that manifests in her ease. Not because she’s a sex symbol still - never stopped being a sex-symbol - even if the definition for it is completely neutral to her. But because she is honest, inclusive, breaks taboos, and writes history with her battles and honesty.
“The photographer is a genius. He found light where even I didn’t see it. And I could find a match in a stadium”, Stone says about our very own Branislav Simoncik. In the May issue, where she uncrosses her legs to show that a Sex Issue[s] can - must - have a sixty-year-old showing sexiness knows no age, Sharon destroys any preconception about aging, favoring the sensuality of the mind over the irrelevance of years gone by.
I wanted to ask her if her next shoot could be in Portugal, instead of Los Angeles, so she could teach me that amazing leg-cross (yes, the one she says it’s neither a blessing nor a curse. “I look at it as a scene in a movie I did twenty-five plus years ago. Other people have their own perspective.”). But the questions she most hates being asked are the ones related to Basic Instinct: “I am sick of talking about basic instinct. I have so many other real accomplishments, it just seems lazy to me. There are so many other valuable things to discuss. For example: can we all simply choose not to be afraid of this new dictator mentality and remember who we are and why we are here?”
Alright, forget about the leg-cross. Just teach me how to be this Sharon Stone.
Originally published in Vogue Portugal's April issue.
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