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4 August 2004

Sharon's new Stone age

By James Cartwright, Metro Life

Sharon Stone is a bitch. Or rather, no one plays bitches better than Stone, and the proof is right there in the summer blockbuster, Catwoman. As Halle Berry's whip-cracking nemesis Laurel Hedare, Stone has a terrific time acting her biggest bitch since the part of sociopathic bisexual Catherine Tramell shot her to fame in Basic Instinct. And she ends up stealing the movie from under the leading lady's twitching nose, turning Berry's $100-million vehicle into a white-hot personal comeback. Indeed, tell Stone how much you enjoyed the cartoon romp and how she should always choose roles of sublime evil and old-fashioned glamour and the star throws back her head and fairly roars, 'Well, you know what they say - good girls go to heaven but bad girls go everywhere.'

Lately, Stone hasn't had much to laugh about. 1995's Casino was the last project she had that might be called a hit. Hollywood more or less stopped calling the day its once hottest sex symbol turned 40, six years ago. 'Pardon me for having the audacity to admit I was getting older,' says Stone. There were a string of miscarriages as she and new husband, newspaper editor Phil Bronstein, attempted to have a child. In September 2001 she suffered a stroke which left her bleeding into her brain for 11 days. The world was told the haemorrhage was minor but, in truth, Stone was partially paralysed and left to conquer a speech impediment. Then her marriage to Bronstein, begun in such hope, unravelled publicly and messily, with accusations that the San Francisco Chronicle executive was seeking $1 million in spousal support, leaving her to raise adopted son, Roan.

Stone doesn't hold back. 'You know how they say your life goes in seven-year cycles? The last seven years have sucked - like it's been raining shit. I had a long recovery from my stroke. In the beginning, I lost all my physical endurance, all of it. I lost the feeling in my left leg to my knee for eight months. When I would write my name, I would write it off the page. For the first year I didn't do anything that would raise my blood pressure. And I couldn't discuss it, because I didn't want to be ostracised. You have to be insured to make movies, you know? So to be making Catwoman and doing the physically demanding stuff - hanging from one arm half-naked on my full body weight till three in the morning - that was a big walk back for me.' Stone's voice turns suddenly thick. 'I feel emotional talking about it. I'm just ready for that stage of my life to be done.'

Not that adversity hasn't proven educational. Previously legendary for confrontational toughness - Basic Instinct writer Joe Eszterhas once described her as 'the most ruthless blonde in showbusiness' --Stone found herself swamped by the real life that celebrity had removed her from. A child of the Mid-West, Stone was raised by strict but loving parents who insisted on solid moral values, values that their daughter - a Mensa member - lost sight of while struggling as the eye candy in junk such as Scissors, Action Jackson and Police Academy 4.

'When I stopped working I was totally tapped out. I felt I needed to go to the supermarket in my pyjamas, and look at the cereal boxes for an hour. I had gotten to the point where I was licking the back of stamps, and when they didn't stick I threw them away. Because I was so out of touch I didn't know you peeled the back of them off. I didn't even know how to buy my own pants. To wake up and there wasn't any milk in the fridge, 'cos I forgot to get it. I had missed it and it turned out to be a blessing.'

A renewed interest in spirituality means Stone, a practising Buddhist, counts her blessings everyday. 'I had a near-death experience,' she says. 'That profoundly changes you. You can see your mistakes and try hard to avoid repeating them. I believe in the Tao. I believe in God, too. Having a relationship with God brings you peace.'

There's certainly a radiant calm to Stone's beauty that wasn't evident before. Today she's striding Beverly Hills in formfitting Versace, the hair is a blonde crop highlighting cheekbones swept a subtle pink and, frankly, at 46, she's looking hot. If the much-rumoured Basic Instinct II ever gets the green light, I remark, she looks like she's in perfect shape to reprise her role. 'You think?' comes the answer. 'Aren't I getting skinnier? In 10 years time I'm going to look like Christopher Walken. Actually, that's what my boyfriend said to me at dinner the other night. My hair was standing on end, and he says, "You look like Christopher Walken." I said, "Honey, by the time I'm 70 I'm just going to be tits on a stick."' The boyfriend is hotshot lawyer Bernie Cahill and Hollywood predicts wedding bells.

Not that Stone gives a damn what Hollywood predicts. Older and wiser, the starlet who used to play the game - and won --now has little patience with the system she once seemed to exemplify. It's the ageism and shameful waste of a talent at its peak that sticks in her craw. 'I used to think that I should be a representative because I had the spotlight on me, and I should behave with integrity. Now I think it's funnier if I wanna go out like I'm a rock star. Except people are critical of me when I do. They say, "Just because you can doesn't mean you should, and she's over 40, what the hell is she doing?" and they're angry. But luckily, I've got to this wonderful place where I think, well, you know, blow me.'



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