Sharon Stone’s face appears on the poster for Basic Instinct, but not her name. Michael Douglas is the movie’s top-billed star, the one who earned $12 million for playing a detective who sleeps with his murder suspect. But the movie belongs to Stone—and not just because she acts her pants off in the sex scenes. Outstripping Douglas in every sense, she displays a power and range that should make her a major star. After 10 years of trying to get noticed, the 33-year-old exmodel is quickly rising to the ranks of the A-list actresses who shied away from Basic Instinct—names including Michelle Pfeiffer, Geena Davis and Julia Roberts. “All they have done is create new competition,” said Douglas. “Sharon was wonderful. I’m very proud for her.” Recalling the experience of working with Stone, he added:
“She is very professional. And she has a great sense of humor, almost a jock mentality.”
Orgasms; Stone explained right away that she was feeling sick. Perhaps it was the flu, she said, or just exhaustion. Maybe she was just hungry. Slathering mini-croissants with cream cheese and sticking them into her mouth with no concern for delicacy, she recalled her first reac-
tion to the Basic Instinct script—“that it would be a break of a lifetime and that they’d never give it to me.”
On screen and in person, Stone displays an aggressive candor, a wit that quickly undercuts the stereotype of passive glamor. Last week, taking a break from a heavy schedule of interviews, Stone talked to Maclean ’sin an office overlooking the Hollywood hills.
She was dressed for power in a loose Armani jacket, unfaded black Levis that fit like stockings and cowboy boots in cream and caramel. With green eyes, a strong jaw and a sensible mouth (no bee-stung pout for her), she projects a no-nonsense beauty—more sex subject than sex object.
Unlike some of the stars who turned down the role of Catherine, Stone says that the sex scenes did not worry her. “My fear was that I could play such a multifaceted character,” she recalled. “I mean, taking off your clothes is what you do to take a shower. But taking off all this psychological armor is a lot harder. Catherine is a very male kind of character,” she added. “Playing
her, I started to think how hard it must be to be a guy, to get up every day and win, to have the best girl, be the strongest.”
As for the sex scenes, she said, they were “boring, stupid and technical to perform. And they really are like male fantasy sex. Look, she has three orgasms in four minutes. That’s the way it happens for me at home. Come on.
Right. Michael ought to get $17 billion for shooting a movie if he can do that.”
Stone says that she did not feel sexually exploited by director Paul Verhoeven, except in one instance. Early in the movie, there is a scene of Catherine making Nick (Douglas) and his police colleagues squirm as they interrogate her. She is sitting on a stool wearing a micro-skirt—and no underwear. “Paul said I had to take my underwear off because they were reflecting white light,” said Stone, “and it
was a story point in the scene before that I wasn’t wearing any. Paul said, ‘You won’t see anything. It will be shown in shadows.’ ”
In fact, the shot is extremely graphic. “I felt violated, humiliated—pissed,” Stone recalled. “I could have put out an injunction against the release of the picture, but I believe too much in it as a whole.” Besides, except for that shot,
she says she loves the scene. “Men
have been able to flaunt their sexuality for centuries and shove it down your throat,” Stone declared. “And you see Catherine sitting there going, ‘How do you like it, buddy? Does that make you uncomfortable? I bet it does.’ ” Her eyes flashing cruelty, suddenly Stone had become Catherine. Did she take the character home at night?—“She sort of came along uninvited.”
Punch: Stone’s own background is far removed from Catherine’s decadence. One of four children, she grew up in the small Pennsylvania town of Meadville, where her father worked in a tool-and-die factory. She won a writing scholarship to a state college, muddled her way through two local beauty pageants (which she lost) and fell into a lucrative modelling career.
Studying acting on the side, Stone won her first bit part French-kissing a windowpane in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980). At 21, she moved to Los Angeles, only to spend nine years playing blond accessories in forgettable movies. But in 1990, she finally put some punch into her career by appearing as a kick-boxing wife opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in Verhoeven’s Total Recall. Then, she posed semi-nude for a black-and-white spread in Playboy—a career move designed to get attention.
Now, with Basic Instinct, her face is on bus-shelter ads all across the continent. “But my name isn’t on them,” she said, “and that’s kind of a
blessing—it’s better that people say, ‘Who is she?’ at this point.” Popping another croissant into her mouth, Stone said that she was feeling better. “I’m filling out the bottom skirt of my Oscar dress,” she said with a laugh. No, she is not nominated, but she has been invited to appear as a presenter. And is she excited? “Are you kidding?” she said. “It’s like I finally get to go to the prom.”
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