Stone’s new memoir is called a The Beauty of Living Twice.
Men fear Sharon Stone,” wrote a magazine profile in 1996. “She is feral and forthright, quick and cunning. Often, she appears simply nuts.”
Back in the Nineties, no actor was written about more carnivorously nor more dramatically than the star of Basic Instinct, who uncrossed her legs as an alluring murder suspect in Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 thriller and became an icon of screen sexuality as a result.
She was 34 when she achieved international fame in the role, having spent the previous decade in largely uninspiring films, hungry for her big break. Once she got it, she made sure everyone in the world had an opinion on her.
Stone was the only movie star of the late 20th century who seemed to love being a movie star. She played the Hollywood game with delicious panache. Always dressed in attention-grabbing outfits, she turned journalists into putty, and demanded the same sky-high salaries as her male peers – $5m for the action film The Specialist, $6m for the thriller Diabolique. Over the course of her fame, she’s been called a temptress and box-office poison.
She served as a nostalgic throwback to the racy, dangerous blondes of the Forties, Fifties and Sixties – think Veronica Lake if she were swaddled in Kim Novak’s coats in Vertigo. She had a husband who was nearly eaten by a komodo dragon at the zoo. Subsequently, all of the above has made her a bit of a punchline. Today, it makes her worthy of a reappraisal.
Stone’s new memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, which is published today (1 April), isn’t revelatory in the way that the juiciest celebrity autobiographies tend to be. It is often quiet, contemplative and filled with folksy tales of Stone’s life before Hollywood. We learn of the tragedies that shaped her, and the vaguely surreal number of near-death experiences she’s had. Buried in it, though, are moments that suggest who the real Sharon Stone is hiding beneath that tough, shimmering carapace.
“When I am not busy being Sharon Stone, I am rather shy,” she writes early on. After Basic Instinct makes her a star at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, newfound fans break into her hotel room “to steal Sharon Stone’s belongings”.
After she suffers a brain haemorrhage in 2001, she has to pull her body back together: “I didn’t know if I would ever be well enough to work again. To remember my lines, look presentable, and be photographed as Sharon Stone.” Years later, and still experiencing the side effects of brain damage, she asks: “Was I no longer Sharon Stone?”