At age 60, Sharon Stone is having more than a moment. In January, the actress received the best reviews of her career since Casino for HBOs Mosaic. In a starring role written specifically for her, Steven Soderbergh recast the Basic Instinct sex symbol as an accomplished childrens-book author with a naughty sense of humor, and a tragic fate. The same month, she blew collective minds by walking the Golden Globes red carpet with Mariah Carey. She served up a viral #MeToo moment in January when a TV interviewer asked whether she has ever faced sexual harassment—and Stone replied by laughing at the absurdity of the question. (After she finished, she calmly explained that she has looked like Sharon Stone for the 40 years she has been in Hollywood—so yes, she has.)
She rang in her recent birthday on a beach, looking deliriously happy alongside a handsome beau. And now she is debuting a romantic comedy, for which she managed to upgrade herself from mother-of-protagonist—the role she was initially pitched—to producer and star.
So, how is Sharon Stone these days?
“Im pretty darn good,” the actress tells Vanity Fair by phone, a few days before said birthday. When I lament the fact that Mosaic lasted just six episodes, she asks whether we watched the limited series via app or television. (Soderbergh cut the show so that it could be viewed differently in two different formats.) I watched them on HBO, and this bothers Stone.
“What kind of TV do you have?” she asks, before leading me through a tutorial of how to get the app and project it onto my Apple TV by something called “screen mirroring.” She is personally invested in me getting this right, and charismatic in her technological-support approach. “There are about 30 more hours for your viewing pleasure,” she assures me—having solved this crisis in record time. Clearly, Sharon Stone doesnt do anything in half measures, including phone interviews.
She is disarmingly straightforward and uninterested in small talk, yet smooth and charming. She also has a pretty clear understanding of how her disarming personality has occasionally worked against her: “I think for a long time people just did not know what to do with me,” she told the L.A. Times in 1995. “I looked like a Barbie doll and then I had this voice like I spend my life in a bar, and I said things that were alarming and had ideas that didnt make sense.”
Her next film is one of those ideas, at least on paper. In All I Wish, out in theaters March 30, Stone plays Senna, a flighty stylist who wears fedoras, drives a Vespa, smokes hand-rolled cigarettes, and has one-night stands. Senna cant figure out her career, her love life, or how, in one scene, to successfully play beach volleyball. This seems puzzling, until you know that Stone convinced filmmaker Susan Walter to cast her in the role rather than some twentysomething actress—but also insisted that Walter not adjust the story to account for the protagonists new age.
“[Sharons] aware that what we see on the big screen can become our reality,” Walter says. “Sharon said, Dont explain it. Just let these characters be vibrant and alive and sexy. Just do it! Show people in their fifties doing amazing things, she said, and audiences will subconsciously take that on.”
It took Stone some time to find her whole self. She grew up the second of four children; her mother was a homemaker, her father was a factory worker. Even though she worked as a model before acting, Stone says she never identified as an especially good-looking person: “Where I grew up in Amish Country, Pennsylvania, people werent discussing the way that I looked, you know? My parents were telling me to climb out the window so that I could shovel the snow away from the door, or mow the lawn, or paint the barn. Growing up in that environment is not about a dress or shoes or looks.”
It wasnt until the night of her senior dance that an observation pierced Stones typical teenage myopia.
“I had gotten a new dress, which was so rare,” Stone remembers. “As I was walking out the door, I looked back to say goodbye to my mother and saw that she had a hole through the toe of her shoe. Only then did I realize that we really didnt have any money.”
Stone spent her modeling years feeling insecure about a scar on her neck, the result of a horseback-riding accident in her early teens. In the 1980s, she rerouted her career to acting. But it wasnt until she booked Basic Instinct that she nailed her ice-cold on-screen avatar—and became her straight-shooting self.
“Before [Basic Instinct director Paul Verhoeven] would let me audition for the part, he told me that no one believed in me for the role, and that I was going to have to make people believe in me,” she says. Something about that clicked inside Stone, rattling her out of her daze.
“That freed me tremendously from trying to behave in a way that was likable, and I think that that is what really freed me in my career. I was able to stop caring about the pretense of how were told were supposed to behave, and I was able to play the parts in front of me.”
The lesson has applied as much to her personal life as it has to her professional one.
“I dont think that people can really love you until you fully let that pretense go, because I dont think that we can be great at anything while were trying to be good. I think we have to allow our greatness to emerge and stop the pretense of all of this other false stuff, all of the imagined rules and boundaries that dont really come with the truth of humanity, you know? Free yourself to be the fullness of who you are. The rest of it is just a bunch of malarkey.”
While Verhoeven helped Stone tap her inner strength, she also credits Basic Instinct costume designer Ellen Mirojnick with showing her that the right clothes can be armor. When Stone saw the film in a movie theater, she didnt recognize the person on the screen: “I dont think I had any idea, really, that I could look so great,” Stone says. “Then I was like, Oh, I could look like that all the time. Maybe I should get with it. Ellen really taught me how to feel empowered like the character I was playing.”
The issue of empowerment is a timely one, given the #MeToo and Times Up movements. Two months since sparking that viral moment—when she laughed off Lee Cowans question about whether shes faced sexual harassment—Stone feels relieved that women are using their voices, demanding their truths be heard. But she also cant help feeling a little regretful about the timing of this tidal change.
“I wish wed reached this moment for my grandmother, her mother, the women before them,” Stone says. “I wish that my mother didnt have to go through the childhood she went through. Its devastating when I think about the kind of relationship I couldve had with my mother if this had happened before her childhood, or the grandmother I mightve known. What relationships would I have had? What would I have learned? What would I have known from these women, if their life had been different, if they had been loved by the world and protected by the world in a different way, if they had been respected and cared about and heard, who would they have been?”
Get Vanity Fairs HWD NewsletterSign up for essential industry and award news from Hollywood.Julie MillerJulie Miller is a Senior Hollywood writer for Vanity Fairs website.