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March 9th, 2006

Sharon goes back to basics

It's 14 years since Sharon Stone uncrossed her legs
and leapt to global stardom as the ice pick-wielding killer
Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct.
Many had given up on the sequel to the classic trash thriller,
but now Stone returns, with Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction.

By Mike Goodridge

This time, the potent mix of sex and murder takes place in London, Stone's director, Michael Caton-Jones is British and her co-star is David Morrissey, best know for his TV appearances in State of Play and The Deal.

He plays the criminal psychiatrist Dr Michael Glass, brought in by Scotland Yard to evaluate crime novelist Tramell after the death of a sports star (played, would you believe, by Stan Collymore). Naturally Glass falls for her and she in turn brings out his baser instincts.

This is Basic Instinct the European version, not Basic Instinct 2," Stone announces when she arrives 40 minutes late for our interview. She may be 47, but she's still the diva. She looks impeccably elegant in a Fendi dress, her fingers and neck heavy with Bulgari jewellery and her blonde hair cascading around her shoulders, skirting her heavily made-up face. "They held me in hair and make-up prison because guess what, I don't look like this when I get up," she quips.

"We looked at Basic Instinct 2 as a psychological investigation," she goes on expansively. Which sounds grand. Yet, though the film hasn't been screened yet, details are leaking out about its sexual content and it sounds more steamy than smart.

In the opening scene, she and Collymore race through the streets of London in a sports car while engaging in a spot of high-speed, ketamine-fuelled sexplay that leads to them crashing through a barrier into the Thames. That's the end of Collymore.

There are also familiar scenes of Stone naked with other women, Stone naked with Morrissey, Stone tightening a belt around Morrissey's neck mid-coitus. "Yes, there are scandalous things in the film," Stone admits. "Yes, there are evocative sexual moments."

Then, of course, there's the essential Stone full-frontal, which comes about two-thirds of the way through the film, in a Jacuzzi with Morrissey. "I felt we should hold off on the full nudity for a while in the movie and then I thought that when I ultimately did do the nude scene it should be done in a startling way that would be disturbing and threatening," she says.

"By the time the film is released, I will be 48 and I wanted to do the nudity in a way that's quite brazen. I wanted her to be very masculine, like a man in a steam room, and I wanted the audience to have a moment where they realise she's naked and then realise she's a fortysomething woman and naked. Because we're not used to seeing that in movies. We're used to seeing Sean Connery and his granddaughter, you know what I mean? Or Mel Gibson and his daughter."

This is one of Stone's most lucid moments during our interview, in which she sporadically says things I can make no sense of (such as describing the Jacuzzi scene as an "emotionally cubist" moment).

She comes across as headstrong and opinionated, and famously touts the fact that she has a high IQ. As she talks, she gesticulates wildly, those cold blue eyes almost popping out of her face, pausing for dramatic effect every so often. Age discrimination in Hollywood has been a theme of Stone's for some years now.

Her beauty still gets her endorsements - she is the face of a new Christian Dior skincare range - but even then she admits that there is bravery on the part of Dior. "It is so terrific of Dior to pick a grown-up lady to do it," she says wistfully.

Her career post-Basic Instinct has been chequered, to say the least. She may have won an Oscar nomination in 1996 for her bravura turn in Martin Scorsese's Casino, but there have been more misses than hits: famously awful films such as Diabolique, Last Dance, Sliver, Gloria, Sphere, Intersection, Cold Creek Manor, Catwoman, and even some that went straight to video (who saw Beautiful Joe with Billy Connolly? Or Picking up the Pieces with Woody Allen?).

No wonder she wanted to return to her finest hour at the box office. She even went so far as to sue the film's producers for the $14 million they supposedly agreed to pay her to reprise the role when they planned to abandon the project. They almost had no choice but to get the film made.

She stole the film from her original co-star, Michael Douglas. And, while Basic Instinct 2 is bound to be The Sharon Stone Show, she compares her new co-star, David Morrissey, to Russell Crowe or Leonardo DiCaprio, both of whom she worked with when they were on the way up. "I just knew they were going to be big stars."

"When our guy walked into the room, even before he read, we just kind of knew it was him," she says of Morrissey. "I think casting is a lot like falling for somebody. You just know. David is really funny and smart and yet he's kind of tricky and you can't quite pin him down. He's enigmatic and elusive and it makes him very intriguing."

During filming last Summer, Stone was about to leave the temporary London home she'd moved into with her two adopted children, when the suicide bombers struck.

"It was just all too much," she says. "I moved the baby into the back of the apartment, we secured water and supplies inside before deciding it was OK to go to work. Then it turned out we had driven through all the terror and bombings all the way to work and when we got there, we couldn't get home. You just thought it was never going to end."

The baby, Laird, is her second son, her first, Roan, is now two and both were adopted by Stone after she split up with her third husband, San Francisco journalist Phil Bronstein, in 2003.

"It's been an interesting journey for me to find an appropriate partner, so I finally got to the part where I recognise I am not looking any more," she says. "That's the first step for me. The next part is to recognise that I am a special person and I deserve someone special and I'm waiting for the right person to arrive.

"I'm 47, and I don't have the partner that allows me to have kids myself so I believe that adoption is God's other big birth canal."

Raising a family alone must be a challenge. But if it has been a struggle, it's nothing compared to the brain aneurysm that nearly killed Stone in 2001. "Compared to that illness," she has said, "nothing has been so difficult. It was as if I had been shot in the head."

By the end of our interview, I am completely seduced by the charms of Sharon Stone. Beneath the glamour, there is a person to believe in. She is very persuasive. She almost convinces me that Basic Instinct 2 will remove sexual taboos and break through barriers of permissiveness. Can a trashy movie really have so much impact?

"Wasn't it Martha Graham who said that's our job as artists?" she responds, deadly serious. "To push that envelope to its uncomfortable limit so that we show others what is there. I think that is what this movie will do again. We are in a time of odd repression and if a popcorn movie allows us to create a platform for discussion, wouldn't that be great?" Wouldn't it indeed.



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