Many of us in India would be familiar with Sharon Stone. Maybe for the wrong reason. Remember her famous “crossing her legs” scene in Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 Basis Instinct? Of course you do. But her cloak of female fatale is only one side of her acting career. She is a wonderful performer, who has given us memorable characters in Sliver, Casino and The Laundromat. Now, at the ongoing Red Sea International Film Festival, she opened up about how difficult her life had been despite her phenomenal success as a enigmatic writer and prime suspect in Basic Instinct.
She said the other day that she would have liked to have sat in the director’s chair after Verhoeven movie. But was discouraged from doing so because she was a woman. “I went to the studio and asked them for a small budget. And I was laughed out of the room; I was told ‘women don’t direct’.”
Stone was speaking at an in-conversation event as part of the Festival.
There was a huge difference in the salaries between her’s and co-star Michael Douglas’. “I made USD 500,000, and Michael Douglas made USD 14m,” said Stone. “Michael could afford the car, driver, bodyguard. I had to move because people were on my roof and breaking my door down. I couldn’t afford the things I needed because of the sudden fame I had.”
While Basic Instinct launched her career, she lost her peace of mind at a personal level. “To break down these barriers, for women to be powerful in film, for women to be paid, to have equal rights – it was very conflicting to the masculine industry.
“There was this backlash that I must be like my character – I must be killing people and naked and showing my vagina in the supermarket. It became personally traumatic in my life; I lost custody of my baby in my divorce, because the judge decided I was making sex movies.
“I was greatly punished – it destroyed my personal life, my personal rights. It destroyed the way people thought about me as a human being – people went around saying ‘she’s like that character, because she couldn’t play that if she wasn’t that.’ I wasn’t acknowledged for the quality of my work until 20 years later.”
Recalling the Cannes debut of the film in 1992, Stone said she hid in the back of a car while being driven along the Croisette. “I was so afraid, I didn’t know what was happening,” said Stone, who added that when she went back to her hotel after the premiere, all her stuff had been stolen – “my contact lenses, my camera, my film, my underwear”.
Stone said that life had been unfair to her in other areas as well. She has been an active member of an AIDS foundation (amfAR). “I was told if I said the word condom, all funding would be removed… My life was threatened repeatedly. Many things happened; the more those happened, the more I thought, ‘I really need to stick with it’.”
Stone also mourned what she sees as the end of film stardom. “Because of cellphones, there’s not that mystique. When I was a kid, movie stardom meant a lot to me – I thought film stars were unbelievable. I wanted to be a great actress, but I also wanted to be a movie star, because I thought stardom was something unique in itself. And I miss that.”
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