“Because I saw in him this intense but vulnerable masculinity, I found an intense yet vulnerable femininity,” she tells me, taking a big breath. “The death of my dad was huge for me. It doesn’t make me feel like a child. In fact, it makes me feel like a woman.”
A woman determined, more than ever, to feel no shame.
SHARON STONE is fine with nudity. Just as she’s always been. Everyone knows about her star turn in the 1992 thriller Basic Instinct, which featured plenty of sweaty sex scenes. She went clothes free again in the 2006 sequel, Basic Instinct 2, which she likes to call “the naked movie” or simply “Naked 2.” Most recently, she was pictured topless on the covers of Paris Match and Italian Vanity Fair, in photos shot by Alix Malka, looking better—fitter—at 51 than most other women ever look.
“Is there an age when one shouldn’t be allowed to do certain things, to show one’s body?” she said in Paris Match. “Midlife is not the end of life.”
But while Stone says she has no hang-ups about nudity, she hasn’t always felt at home in her body. As a child in Meadville, Pennsylvania, she never knew whether she was the right size. “Nobody is in sync with their body growing up,” she says. “As my 10-year-old would say, It’s just awkward.”
Part of Stone’s confusion stemmed from the fact that because she was so brainy, she rarely went to school with people her age. At five, she started school in the second grade. She went to college and high school simultaneously at 15. As a result, she says, “I have no comprehension of what being integrated to normalcy means.”
No wonder she became an actress. Her long slog toward stardom has become the stuff of legend: After moving to L.A., Stone toiled for years in B movies without breaking through. “I couldn’t get hired because no one thought I was sexy,” she says, recalling how her manager diagnosed the problem. So, without shame, she set them straight by posing for Playboy.
Her big break came in 1990, when director Paul Verhoeven featured her in his futuristic thriller Total Recall. But it was his next film, Basic Instinct, that finally put her on the map. She’d won the part by arriving at the screen test with Michael Douglas wearing an Armani pantsuit and a sheer blouse with no bra underneath. The message: I’m proud of—and comfortable with—my body.
What’s interesting, though, is that Stone says it wasn’t until Basic Instinct that she began to realize she was pretty. She remembers the moment, at a prerelease screening of the film for several pals on her birthday. “I turned to one friend, and I was like, ‘Look how great they made me look. It’s unbelievable.’ He goes, ‘That’s how you look.’ I’m like, ‘No. No. Really, look what they did!’ He says, ‘Would you shut up? I’m trying to watch the movie. That’s how you look.’”
But it was her willingness to expose herself emotionally, not physically, that earned her a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for Casino, Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film, in which she played the wife of a Vegas mobster (Robert De Niro). Somewhere along the line, Stone had grown into herself enough to really get naked.
Today she says she isn’t vain about her body. She takes care of it: She is a devoted student of Pilates and consumes very little caffeine. But fundamentally, she sees her physique as an instrument of her work.
“If I’m in an action movie and I’m holding the gun and my elbow is right in the camera, I will say, ‘I think my elbow looks baggy or bad,’” she says matter-of-factly. “Or I say, ‘I have cellulite today.’ I tell them what I think is the problem. Because I’m looking for the better visual, the right thing.