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Who is Sharon Stone?

A self-described "übergeek" who couldn't get a date to her high school prom, Sharon Stone proved that brains (an IQ of 154) were certainly no impediment to forging a career in the entertainment industry, especially when capitalizing on naturally blonde good looks as a fetching piece of "eye candy" in movies both good and bad. The former beauty pageant contestant and Ford model made her film debut with a non-speaking part as a beautiful woman fleetingly glimpsed from a moving train in Woody Allen's "Stardust Memories" (1980) and then survived more than a decade of mostly mediocre parts to claw her way to stardom. A journalist's dream, she is one of the best interviews in Hollywood, talking smart, tough and funny (she once described former beau Dwight Yoakam as less appealing than a "dirt sandwich"), and bringing back an old-fashioned, high-octane glamour to her role as a "movie star.” Despite demonstrating considerable range as an actor, Stone has shown her true genius to be self-invention, creating a persona to rival that of stars like Joan Crawford and Betty Davis from a more style-conscious, bygone era.

The high points for Stone through the 1980s were few, though she did attract notice as Ryan O'Neal's conniving actress girlfriend in "Irreconcilable Differences" (1984) and as Robert Mitchum's daughter-in-law in the much-watched ABC miniseries "War and Remembrance" (1988). Mostly, she persevered as a stereotypical blonde in lackluster films like Wes Craven's "Deadly Blessing" (1981, whose saving grace was meeting best friend Mimi Craven, the director's ex-wife), "King Solomon's Mines" (1985) and its sequel "Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold" (1987), "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol" (1987) and a remake of "Blood and Sand" (1989, in a role that had done considerably more for Rita Hayworth). She didn't fare any better on the small screen either, including a regular role as the wife of a bed-wetting baseball pitcher in the short-lived "Bay City Blues" (NBC, 1983).

Stone's first real break came playing Arnold Schwarzenegger's kick-boxing secret agent "wife" in Paul Verhoeven's sci-fi actioner "Total Recall" (1990). After five more forgettable thrillers and comedies, she finally achieved the proverbial "overnight" success as a voracious bisexual crime writer in Verhoeven's controversial and popular erotic thriller "Basic Instinct" (1992), written by Joe Ezsterhas. Her panties-less, leg-crossing scene brought Stone much notoriety but has haunted her ever since. Though she really didn't want to do "Sliver" (1993), another sizzling sex melodrama written by Ezsterhas which did middling business stateside and smashing box office overseas, she couldn't find any other part she liked better, so she made the mistake of retreating into the much more familiar and conventionally sympathetic role as the victim of a psychotic voyeur. Trying to escape the sex-bomb trap, she begged for the frigid wife role (they offered her much more to play the girlfriend) in "Intersection" (1994) and scored great reviews despite its limited success.

Stone again flexed her international box-office clout paired with Sylvester Stallone in the explosive actioner "The Specialist" (1994), and though she couldn't make Sly sexy, her good work helped make the picture (which James Woods walked off with) worth watching. She liked the script for "The Quick and the Dead" (1995) and became its co-producer, paying half of Leonardo DiCaprio's wages out of her own salary when the project ran into difficulties. Stone looked terrific in Western duds playing something of a distaff version of a Clint Eastwood-like gunfighter, and director Sam Raimi helmed the smartly derivative tale with style to spare. Unfortunately, the critical reception was uneven, and the public stayed away. She rebounded as Ginger, the Vegas hustler who wins the heart of Robert De Niro, in Martin Scorsese's "Casino" (also 1995). No part before had ever made such heavy demands on the actress, and she was a revelation, letting loose with a corker of a performance as the beautiful and unstable, ultimately pathetic moll with no inner life that yielded a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

The now highly-paid, much-in-demand diva, boasting her own production company (Chaos) and a first-look deal with Miramax, filmed a remake of the noir classic "Diabolique" with Isabelle Adjani and Chazz Palminteri and played a death-row inmate whose lawyer (Rob Morrow) works to save her from execution in "Last Dance" (both 1996). The former (a pale imitation of the 1955 classic) was notable more for her battle with its producer over refusing to bare her flesh, while the latter, despite presenting a uniquely drab, unglamorous Stone, was in the wrong place at the wrong time, following so close on the heels of the previous year's "Dead Man Walking.” Protecting her hard-won stardom, Stone had became a clever manipulator of her public image, on heavy press days reportedly changing outfits between each interview and photo session, a practice unheard of since the days of Carole Lombard and Norma Shearer. Onscreen and off, she understood that her power resided in her unwillingness to relinquish her femaleness.

Stone's acting teacher Roy London had told her that audiences could love to hate her, and the advice made her a star. In her personal life, however, the wreckage of femme fatalities left in her wake solidified her image as an "ice princess,” a tag she sought to lose in order to be taken seriously as an actress. Stone went to work on changing the public's perception of her, crediting Miramax executive Harvey Weinstein with having the foresight to see she could convincingly play a relatively normal, single mother "when everyone else said it was impossible" (of course the fact that her production company ultimately provided financing for 1998's "The Mighty" made his decision infinitely easier.) That said, her strong, emotional performance in a secondary role confirmed her range, and her marriage to San Francisco Examiner editor Phil Bronstein helped with her transition from sex bomb to domestic goddess.

Having reached the age of 40, she intended to keep her clothes on, and her superstar clout led to the diversity she had craved in movies like "Antz,” the 1998 animated film which vocally reunited her with Woody Allen, "Sphere" (1998, cast as a biochemist in the lackluster Barry Levinson venture), "Gloria" (1999, a remake to unsettle John Cassavetes' final repose) and, terrifically, in "The Muse" (1999, playing the titular role to writer-director-star Albert Brooks, a Greek muse who lends her inspiration to Hollywood types, but not without turning their lives upside down with her demands). She appeared, in fine form, in a brief but pivotal appearance as the alcoholic wife of a horse breeder in the otherwise dismal "Simpatico" (also 1999). Although Stone would sometimes resurface in low-profile projects—including "Picking Up the Pieces" (2000), "Beautiful Joe" (2000) and in a charming turn opposite Ellen Degeneres in HBO's lesbian-themed "If These Walls Could Talk 2" (2000)—but her 1998-2003 marriage to San Francisco Chronicle publisher Phil Bronstein kept her away from Hollywood—geographically and on film—for many years (and produced at least bizarre anecdote: the publisher was bitten on the foot by a komodo dragon at the Los Angeles Zoo during a birthday visit there arranged by Stone in 2001). Also in 2001, the actress suffered a brain aneurysm that nearly proved fatal.

After filing for divorce from Bronstein, Stone returned looking as fit and fabulous as ever and lit up the big screen again in director Mike Figgis' sly reinvention of a haunted house thriller "Cold Creek Manor" (2003). Stone gave one of her most campy—and unsatisfying—turns as the villainous model-cum-mogul Laurel Hadare opposite Halle Berry in the lackluster "Catwoman" (2004) on screen, while off-screen she was the subject of a courtroom battle after producers backed out of an alleged verbal $19.36 million agreement for her to star in a sequel to "Basic Instinct"—she later settled, with part of deal including a planned sequel. After a brief appearance in the unsurprisingly rotten “Jiminy Glick in La La Wood” (2005), Stone played one of four ex-girlfriends tracked down by a man (Bill Murray) who received an anonymous letter from the mother of his unknown son in Jim Jarmusch‘s “Broken Flowers” (2005).

At 48, an age when most actresses have had trouble even landing a role, Stone returned to the territory that made her famous when she starred in the long-talked-about sequel, “Basic Instincts 2: Risk Addiction” (2006). As promised, the nearly-50-year-old actress bared all in her return as the ice pick-wielding crime novelist Catherine Trammell, creating what she hoped would be a big enough stir to lure curiosity seekers into the multiplexes. But “Basic Instinct 2” took a critical and theatrical drubbing, while the actress received unbridled scorn for a performance that was deemed embarrassing and comical, though nothing compared to the media savagery she got for saying that she would “kiss just about anybody for peace in the Middle East” at a press conference in Israel. In a surprising turn later in the year, Stone was the recipient of warm praise for her mature and grounded performance in “Bobby” (2006), first time director Emilio Estevez‘s engaging look at the 16 hours prior to Senator Robert F. Kennedy‘s assassination at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles as seen through the eyes of several guests and employees. Oscar talk was high in the weeks following the film‘s debut at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, where it received a nine-minute long standing ovation, particularly for Stone and costar Demi Moore.

Sharon has appeared on Integral Naked:

Like a Fine Diamond, This Stone Shines in All Dimensions.  Part 2.9/24/2007
Like a Fine Diamond, This Stone Shines in All Dimensions.  Part 1.8/20/2007

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