Sharon Stone might be ready for her interview when I’m ushered into her presence, but she is not visible. Mind you, it is a large room and after a while I spy her – splayed out horizontally across a large animal-print footstool, in a laser-sharp black Dolce & Gabbana trouser suit, a pair of killer black heels dangling off her toes, while a dark brooding male model and luxuriantly bearded stylist, Paris Libby, flit about her person, like modern-day punkah wallahs, minus the actual fans.
So far, so Hollywood. You want Sharon Stone to be at the very least a minor diva.
She is, however, only prone for a few minutes, which just gives me time to make the acquaintance of the Dark Brooding Model. Sam Webb, from Manchester, is one of Stone’s co-stars in the Dolce & Gabbana campaign for its Devotion bag. They had such a good time on the shoot, Sam tells me, which is also par for the course. Sharon was a laugh. Also par.
What’s less predictable is that Webb is 35 and Stone is 64, which is a kind of progress in terms of age stereotypes. But let’s wait for more on that from Stone herself, who has now risen from the footstool and is sitting next to me on more animal-print, pouring herself a glass of water. “Would you like some?” she asks. It’s a small thing but Hollywood actors don’t normally do their own pouring, let alone someone else’s. With her ramrod posture, flawless skin – with nothing much on underneath that suit – and onwards-and-upwards cheekbones, it’s a bit how one imagines taking tea with a slightly rebellious royal would be.
We’re in Milan because of a Dolce & Gabbana show. She loves both of the designers (Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana), has worn their clothes forever and identifies with two self-made upstarts. Stone arrived in Italy only “seconds” before we met, she says, and that moment on the footstool was her version of a reset. “That’s how I deal with jetlag,” she says. “A few minutes is all it takes.”
Stone seems to be one of those women whose whole life has been an exercise in mind over matter. Although it seems hard to credit, she says she wasn’t considered especially good-looking when she arrived in LA in the mid 1980s – always in the running for roles, but always coming in second.
She slogged away at acting lessons with Roy London, who also taught Forest Whitaker, Geena Davis, Robert Downey Jr. and Brad Pitt, studied every major female role and then every male one. In 1992, Basic Instinct, a role so raunchy it was turned down by Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathleen Turner, Meg Ryan, Greta Scacchi and Kim Basinger (among others), made her.
But when it should have been smooth going from there on, in 2001, she had a brain aneurysm that “felt like a death”. When she eventually woke up, Stone “had to learn to walk, hear, write, talk, remember, and everything all over again”.
I know this because she recorded it all in The Beauty of Living Twice, her autobiography. It’s a visceral stream of consciousness which, while sometimes being disordered, shines with honesty and intelligence.
On Hollywood’s much-vaunted love of a comeback kid for instance, Stone is sceptical. She has had her share of career lulls and has commented that “people treated me in a way that was brutally unkind”. I ask how she remains optimistic about human nature. “By not being a bad person,” she responds. She’s no hippy, but she seems earnest about this.
She’s bringing the same immediacy of her memoir to the novel that she is currently writing. “I hope it’s as much of a roller-coaster as Living Twice,” she says.
Stone has also optioned Lisa Barr’s Woman on Fire, a New York Times bestselling thriller about a young female journalist enmeshed in an international art scandal centred around a Nazi-looted work of art.
This is Stone living by her own adage – namely that if you want things to happen, you have to put the moves in place. When I ask her whether she thinks women have more agency in Hollywood these days, she takes a long pause. “You have to take the agency,” she notes. “It’s not like Hollywood has a new idea. You have to tell them what your new idea is and keep negotiating a place for it.”
Besides, acting is not all she does. Stone has her own interior design business – school of classic good taste, focussing on neutral colours, light and comfort. She is writing. She has three adopted sons, aged 16 to 22 years of age, and is licensed to marry couples.
She also has her causes. After famously serving as amfAR’s (Foundation for AIDs Research) Global Campaign Chair for 15 years, she took on an unglamorous but vital role as advocate for brain-ageing diseases that disproportionately affect women.
Only one third of Alzheimer’s patients are men, for example. “This is why I do it,” she told Variety. “My mother had a stroke. My grandmother had a stroke. I had a massive stroke – and a nine-day brain bleed.
“From other women in my own business to the female judge who handled my custody case, I don’t think anyone grasps how dangerous a stroke is for women and what it takes to recover. It took me about seven years.”
Does she think on balance that fame has brought her more pleasure than grief? “I couldn’t choose my destiny,” she replies. “ But it was up to me to choose what to do with it.”
And now with Dolce & Gabbana, she is modelling again. Physically, her recovery makes her something of a miracle. As well as determination, Stone must have good genes. She’s as beautiful now in her 60s as in her 30s and has always worn clothes well, managing to make Catherine Tramell, her character in Basic Instinct, look classy as well as sexy.
Meanwhile, Ginger McKenna, who she played in the 1995 film Casino, must be one of the most glamorous, well-dressed hustlers in screen history. Stone’s famous turns on the Oscar red carpet in Gap – once in 1996 in a black polo neck and velvet blazer, and in 1998 in a white Gap shirt and lilac-silk Vera Wang skirt are in the style hall of fame.
Stone may have had tweaks – who in Hollywood hasn’t? But nothing looks out of whack or vulgar. She is small and toned thanks to Pilates, total body stretches, strength training, yoga, and dance, which she alternates depending on what she feels she needs.
She also eats small amounts of healthy food – no distinguishing fads – has classic-with-some-fire elegance, and has looked after all her clothes over the decades, preserving the film costumes and donating the most show-worthy ones to film institutes and charities.
“Once there was nothing for actresses over 40, even though an 80-year-old actor could play opposite a female 24-year-old,” she says. “I’m not ageist, but at least make the age discrepancy gender neutral.”
She chuckles wryly, too experienced to believe that Hollywood has belatedly unearthed its conscience. “They’re finally telling stories about women over 40 because they’ve discovered there’s a market for them.”
The Daily Telegraph