Sharon Stone, Untamed
Our intrepid reporter has a second encounter with the silver screen's best bad girl, and finds that although she's working and playing in Hollywood's fastest lane, the fastest thing about her is her way with a smart remark.
The late afternoon solitary drinkers in the St. James's Club bar lounge are agog. Sharon Stone, clad completely in black, slithers across the top of the baby grand while Jim, the pianist, teases out the vamp in her with his silkiest chops. "Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it," she croons huskily. "Let's do it, let's fall in love." Just moments ago, we were chatting at a table, when suddenly, Stone rose, crooked her finger for me to follow, and snaked her way over to the piano man, whispering to me on the way what everyone in the room--what everyone everywhere--is absolutely sure about: "I know how to be a movie star."
Word of Stone's impromptu performance spreads like wildfire. Waiters and club members stream in to ogle. Before I know it, she has us trading off verses, competing to see which of us knows more of Cole Porter's racier double entendres. When it's my turn, she tries to distract me from the task at hand by mentioning, "I'm a game fanatic. Did you know I was the answer on 'Jeopardy' last week?" It looks--for a second--like she might be trounced by my "Electric eels, I might add, do it, though it shocks 'em, I know," but then she shoots up a gam like a flare, cocks it atop her knee, lowers her blouse over her shoulder and growls, "Why ask if shads do it? Waiter, bring me shad roe." A balding, dumbstruck businessman mops his forehead and nearly swallows his martini olive.
Stone purrs the number to a finish, accepts her applause, and busses Jim's cheek. When a bar-tender asks whether her assistant, who's perched nearby at the bar, is her sister, Stone rasps, "No, darling, my lover." The piano man, mad for her, twinkles, "Sharon's always so up." "Good drugs," she shoots back, saluting him with her cup of decaf.
"Oh, honey," she says to me, feigning sudden exhaustion, "it's like my acting teacher tells me, 'I know it's lonely at the top, but it's so crowded at the bottom.'" She decides not to get off the piano, and suggests we continue talking over Jim's hit list of torrid torch songs. Why not? The gal who turned the simple act of parting her legs into the screen's greatest special effect since Charlton Heston parted the Red Sea is, today, in rare form. "Maybe I should play a singer," she muses in that Southern Comfort-and-raw-honey voice, adding, "I mean, these days, they'll pay me to play anything I want--they'd pay me to play Lassie."
All Hollywood does seem to be hounding her. She bagged $2.5 million plus 10 percent of the gross to act scared in Sliver, the $30 million thriller about a spooky Manhattan high-rise. Within hours, she's due to begin collecting over $3 million for acting wifely toward accident victim Richard Gere in the romantic drama Intersection. For tons more than the half-mil she got for the original, she's committed to another Basic Instinct, aside from several other Joe Eszterhas projects. And that's not even counting the $6 million-plus Dino De Laurentiis offered her to star in The Immortals, providing the script gets rewritten so that she winds up playing not Marilyn Monroe, as in the novel of the same name, but one of those countless, ahem, hypothetical '60s sex queens who bedded presidents and their senator brothers. Not to mention the intriguing romantic thriller Manhattan Ghost Story, originally tailored for Julia Roberts by Rain Man Oscar-winning screenwriter Ronald Bass. And she's turned down overtures from several studios proferring multipicture deals, including an offer from Mike Nichols to play opposite Jack Nicholson, and one from Clint Eastwood to co-star with him. Hot enough for you?
"There have been a lot of flashbulbs since I last saw you," she observes, belly-down on the Steinway, twirling her ankles in the air. She's grown so bloody famous she's forced to plaster an alias on her mailbox and her travel reservations just to minimize hassling. More later on how playing an ice pick killer has gotten her spied on, dogged, trashed, followed and nearly attacked. For now, I just ask whether she is recognized everywhere she goes.
"I'm soooooo recognizable," she laughs, "that I reported to work on my new movie one morning at 5:30--wet hair, sunglasses, in a coma--buzzed down my black-coated window and announced to the guards at the gate, 'Shaaaaron Stone,' and they said, 'No, you're not.' I went, 'Yeah, I am.' I looked in the rearview mirror and checked: 'Un-hunh, that's me.' And they're still going, 'No, you're not,' so I say, 'What the hell would I be doing here at 5:30? Do I look like the kind of girl who gets up early for fun?' and they say, 'Sharon Stone was here the other day, you look nothing like her. So, back it up!'" She throws back her head and adds, mock-evilly, "Now I've got an electric gate key all my own so I never have to talk with any of them anymore!"
I remind Stone that she was at a crossroads when we last met, which was on the occasion of an earlier Movieline cover story. Despite over a decade of such barkers as King Solomon's Mines and Action Jackson, she had been chosen by Paul Verhoeven, her Total Recall director, to partner Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct. "When I was young, all I wanted to be was a movie star," she recalls. "At a certain point, I started to grow up and really care about what I did. Once I'd studied acting with Roy London for years, I lost all the pretense about movie stars. When I got Total Recall, I realized, 'Gee, here's an opportunity. If I can get famous, I can get better parts.'" Hollywood, however, was skeptical. Sharon Stone, when Verhoeven had considered Michelle Pfeiffer, Julia Roberts and Geena Davis? Stone herself told me at the time that if Basic Instinct punked, she was going to consider job retraining. "Which I meant," she asserts now. "I thought I might go to law school. Do some writing. Maybe teach acting." Instead, Basic Instinct became a gold mine, and she wound up Hollywood's hot thang.
We leave the club now to repair to her house, where she strips herself of makeup and shoes. Settling us down into her overstuffed couch before a wall of glass offering a view of the entire San Fernando Valley, she asks her assistant to turn off the young Elvis on the crackling stereo. "The speakers are strobing like they're possessed," she complains, "and the volume switch in the bedroom still doesn't work and you know how I like the music to strobe while I'm having sex." She adds, smiling but not laughing, "One thing I find since becoming famous is that I get to torture a higher class of men than I used to. My favorite line in Paris Is Burning is when one of the drag queens says, 'I think all men are dogs, I honestly do. You know, every man starts barking sooner or later.' So, you know, in my boudoir, I keep one hand on the light switch and the other on the stereo controls. It's an E-ticket Disneyland ride, honey. Ya-hoo!"
As Stone pours us champagne and we clink glasses, a handsome, unruly hound named Jake vies for her attention by shredding an expensive pair of shoes, then, when caught, making irresistible puppy eyes at her. "I'm dog-sitting," she explains, "and learning oh, so very much about myself in the process. Namely, that I'm a cat." At this point she addresses herself to the dog. "We're doing 'movie star,' here, Jake, which means your cute 'boy stuff is not going to cut it. Do you see yourself as a big, dead pile of blond hair? Next week, you're gonna be the answer on 'Jeopardy.' You know, 'The girl who was the killer in Basic Instinct had a dog. What was his name?' Answer: Jake." Refusing to be ignored, Jake is soon exiled to the backyard.
Since Stone is Movieline's women's-issue cover woman, I point out, why don't I sound her out on a few women's issues? "Like what kind of tampons I use?" she shoots back. "I always cut straight to the vulgarity." Actually, I was wondering what she thinks about other women dogging her for resurrecting the movie image of the Barbie go-go doll. Suppressing a sneer, she observes, "I'm not very interested in that kind of energy. I let it pass. I don't take myself very seriously. I like to make people laugh. You know, it's like, if a woman can't be happy for another woman's work, they have to go work on that." Could she see her self towing a more politically correct line by lending her presence to any of Hollywood's many in-the-works movies about sexual harassment? "If they ever make a movie where a man is sexually harassed, I'm their gal," she says.
Now that she mentions it, I tell Stone that Ellen Barkin once told me how she's pulling for stone to become our female Terminator, if only so she can be the first woman whose salary bulges to Schwarzeneggerian dimensions. Is Stone ready to go head-to-head on salary with the Schwarzeneggers and Cruises of the business?
"Believe me, when people say, 'We want to pay you X-million to do this movie,' I won't be the girl who hangs back saying, 'Oh, I really don't deserve it,'" she says. "I'll be, 'Un-hunh, hand it right over.' In fact, referring to what Ellen Barkin said, I may make Pin Cushion, which isn't The Terminator, but a big action picture that has a woman's purpose to it. The script isn't completed, it has huge gaps, but it'll come about when it's ready."
What does Stone make of Hollywood's newfound fascination with lesbians? "You've certainly come to the wrong girl for details on this score, haven't you?" she volleys with a wry look. "Nevertheless, before I answer, I want details that support your theory." I first cite the upsurge in scripts in development featuring lesbian characters. "A short-lived trend," Stone predicts. "To prove it, want to go read those scripts with me? They're probably waiting for me in the next room." Then I bring up that highly publicized, in-the-works book by Julia Phillips which deals with Hollywood lesbians. "A Hollywood idiot," Stone growls, of Phillips. And how about that paean to "lipstick lesbians" that William Baldwin, her Sliver co-star, unleashed in a recent interview? "Well, he may be a lesbian," she says with a laugh.
When I encourage Stone to let fly on what she really thinks of Baldwin, who plays one of her mysterious suitors in Sliver (the other is Tom Berenger), she sighs and remarks, "I mean, Billy's 29 and seems so young. I come from Pennsylvania, where guys are just sort of regular. No bullshit. They're the guy, you're the girl. In Hollywood, it seems to me, the lines are a lot fuzzier. I like most people I've worked with in the business. My vote's out on Billy. I never really quite got his trip. He plays a character that was very weird, but I never got up to speed on his deal, like whether he was, 'I'm in character' or, 'I'm out of character,' know what I mean?" Tom Berenger, on the other hand, is, to Stone, "a complete gas, a seasoned professional. Once during rehearsal when I was moaning, 'Tom, I don't know what to do,' he said, 'You're a soldier of the cinema, march on!' He's a good, old-fashioned guy, happily married, kids. Regular, you know. I like regular."
Berenger may be the only thing regular about the movie, in which Stone plays an unshowy, troubled woman. Catherine Tramell would probably never give her a second thought. Or a second look. "I play someone fragile, damaged, vulnerable, insecure about sex," Stone says. "I have this scene where I masturbate in a bathtub. What my character doesn't know is that the whole building is wired so that there's a camera in every room in every apartment, and she's being watched. [Director] Phil Noyce was mind-bogglingly supportive, he provided a space where I could try stuff, let this kind of honest female behavior be filmed. The cameraman, Vilmos Zsigmond, told me that I reminded him of Liv Ullmann.
"Anyway, the sex scenes are very unusual because those guys let the truth of how some women feel about sex, privately and with a partner, really be seen. It didn't become an exhibitionistic sort of male fantasy of what a moment like that means to a woman. You know--" she breaks off, and demonstrates what she means by assuming a porn magazine parody of breast-rubbing, back-arching, tongue-flicking ecstasy. "I suppose something so sexually direct, yet so nonexhibitionistic, is going to unsettle people, but you know how it is with sexuality. My mom said it best when she said that the shocking thing about Basic Instinct was that people were more concerned whether or not I was homosexual than whether or not I was a psychotic killer."
Knowing that Stone waited months before committing to another movie after Basic Instinct, I ask why she chose Sliver.
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