The star opens up about speaking her mind, paring down her life and being ready to meet Mr. Right.
Back in 1998, when Sharon Stone turned 40, the images she kept in mind were supercool, 1960s-era French actresses of a certain age. "I thought, oh, I’m European! I’m Anouk Aimee! I’m fantastic and sexy and amazing!" Hollywood, however, reacted differently to her milestone birthday. "It was like, ‘You have leprosy,’ " Stone says, recalling how both the roles and the luxury freebies dried up. "I couldn’t get a dress—or a job."
Although she was surprised by her abrupt has-been status, Stone had already been wondering if turbocharged fame was still for her. Since transforming herself into a marquee name in 1992 by playing Basic Instinct‘s ice pick-wielding murderess, she had comported herself like an old-school movie star, showing up at klieg-light events in designer gowns, ready to throw out a witty remark. But in 1995, she says, she had a crisis of faith after making Martin Scorsese’s Casino, which scored her a Golden Globe award and an Oscar nomination for her performance as a Vegas hustler. "I could have had another rocket ride, but I ran away like my hair was on fire," Stone says. "I didn’t want to face another Basic Instinct avalanche. I didn’t want to be ‘Sharon Stone’ all over again."
In the past 10 years, Stone has carved out a different kind of career for herself. (For argument’s sake, let’s overlook her taking a giant paycheck to look indisputably gorgeous at the age of 48 in the critically savaged Basic Instinct 2.) What Stone excels at now are compact, delicately observed supporting turns: the faded-beauty ex-girlfriend of an aging lothario (Bill Murray) in Broken Flowers, the shrilly terrified mother of a kidnapped boy in Alpha Dog, the cheated-on hairdresser in the RFK assassination film Bobby. If these performances seem to come from a more complicated side of her, Stone says she owes that to parenthood. "It gives you tremendous perspective," says the actress, a single mother of three adopted sons, 8-year-old Roan (who lives primarily with his adoptive father, Stone’s ex-husband Phil Bronstein, in San Francisco, where he attends school), 3-year-old Laird, and 2-year-old Quinn. "I don’t need to go through the whole malarkey of ‘Do I know how to do it? Can I do it?’ I just do it—otherwise it’s a big waste of time and energy." (The downside to all that perspective? Waving good-bye to private time. "With three kids," she says, "you never pee alone.")
No one can say Stone is shy when it comes to speaking her mind—or that she hasn’t occasionally paid a price for it. She made headlines in May at the Cannes film festival for comments connecting the earthquakes in China to the Dalai Lama and karma. "I’m not perfect," she says. "I don’t live my life trying to be a mellifluous sound bite. But it’s never my intention to be mean or unkind to anyone, certainly not to people who are already being hurt."
Stone, whose earliest memories of growing up blue-collar in Meadville, Pennsylvania, include her mother’s insistence on donating to the less fortunate, has helped raise tens of millions for causes such as amfAR and Planet Hope. So it’s not surprising that in February, just before turning 50, Stone threw herself a divesting party and gave away more than half of her belongings, from clothes to furniture. Paring down, she says, "was the most exciting and freeing thing. Coincidentally, I got a letter from Mariska Hargitay and Hilary Swank about a charity for abused women, and here was a gigantic, refrigerator-size bag, and could I fill it with clothing? So I called them and said, ‘Can you send me 20 of these?’"