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Nov. 6-8, 1998

Style is about confidence.

In a Gap T-shirt or designer gowns, Sharon Stone
continues to redefine Hollywood glamour.
Style, she says, has nothing to do with the exterior.
How to get it? Nurture the soul.

Interview By Lorrie Lynch
www.usaweekend.com

In the movie-making world of the new millennium, Sharon Stone will be a standout.

The ever-evolving glamour and style of Stone - considered a blond bombshell since her star turn in Basic Instinct six years ago - are evidence of well-earned confidence. It will only get better. "Our style," says the woman who dared to wear her husband's white shirt to this year's Oscars, "reflects what we think about ourselves. It's more attitude than the event of the clothes."

The 40-year-old actress, whose newest movie, The Mighty, is in theaters now, has plenty of both. She's never been one to pull punches. A British tabloid once claimed she makes grown men quake. And there was that ex-beau, Dwight Yoakam, she described as a "dirt sandwich." Nor does she follow fashion's fickle finger. She points her own way. Past a "hyper-glamorous period," she's now at home with "a kind of a hippie-chic bohemian thing."

Either way - in a clingy Valentino or a cashmere hooded sweatshirt - Stone owns her look.

Ten minutes in her company and it's clear this is an actress who doesn't suffer fools gladly. "I think everybody's pretty clear about who I am and what's up with me," says Stone, who has her own production company and co-produced The Mighty. "I've been in the business long enough where everybody knows I make waves for the good of the picture. I don't make waves where it's about my own personal gain."

Albert Brooks, who directed her in his 1999 comedy The Muse, says, "She's larger than life. There were days I felt like I was working with Marilyn Monroe."

Unlike Monroe, however, Stone has a professionalism that "blew my mind," Brooks says. "In my whole life of doing movies, I've only met one or two actors as prepared as she was. If you pared away all the layers, you'd find someone who'd be willing to do summer stock."

Not that she'll ever have to. She makes about $7 million a movie now, and - as her good friend designer Vera Wang predicts - Stone may well be a sex symbol into her next decade.

Two years ago, she shook things up at the Oscars with a black Gap T-shirt.

The same prediction might have been made when she was growing up in Meadville, Pa., the second of four children. Her father, Joseph, was a factory worker who raised her to believe her career choices were limitless. Her mother, Dorothy, who Stone says has great taste and style, was a homemaker who nurtured her daughter's creativity. "I was always picking flowers for the house, making summer tops out of my mother's kitchen towels."

Even then Stone was a combination of brains and beauty. She was Miss Crawford County in 1975, queen of her high school's spring festival, and she entered the Miss Pennsylvania contest. She also spent some time in the principal's office, a rebellious student who was bored. She won a creative writing scholarship to Edinboro (Pa.) University at 15, where she studied while concurrently finishing high school. (Stone still writes short stories and recently had one published.)

She's a member of Mensa and reportedly has an IQ of 154. Still, by age 19, she left academia for the lure of $500-a-day pay with Eileen Ford's New York modeling agency.

"I was a lousy model, but I got to live all over the world and see the greatest art and architecture," says Stone, who believes "you have to inform and refine a creative mind. It doesn't do anything if you don't feed it."

She can talk couture like the editor of Vogue and dispense beauty tips as if it were her business - she even cuts her own hair ("I like to avoid the middleman whenever I can") - but what makes her style unique, says San Francisco columnist Pat Steger, is Stone's ability to "mix couture with what's in the back of her closet."

It's precisely Stone's penchant for the unusual that makes that arbiter of the best dressed, Richard Blackwell, call her style disastrous. This year's Oscar look, Blackwell sighs, "wasn't cute or funny. In the very beginning, I had hopes she'd be another Lana Turner. I thought Sharon Stone was exquisite."

Of course, Mr. Blackwell, who each year puts out a list of best and worst dressed, wants nothing less from all of today's Hollywood women than the meticulous attention to image paid by '40s and '50s icons such as Turner, Joan Crawford and Katharine Hepburn.

Stone always will be meticulously avant-garde. "I'd go to dinner in my bathrobe if I felt like it," she says. "I have gone out in my pajamas and a pair of high heels."

 

Stone studied art and architecture because "form and line is my kind of taste. I'm not a person you're going to see in lace and fruffles and ruffles." Her favorite magazine is World of Interiors, and she has as much fun decorating beautiful homes in San Francisco and Los Angeles as she does dreaming up an unusual Oscar ensemble. She confesses that she might have become an interior designer and still thinks about being a set decorator. But she decided against painting as her life's work because "I was never going to be great."

For many years she wasn't considered a great actress, either. Woody Allen - her romantic lead in the hit animated feature Antz - gave her a start with a bit part in 1980's Stardust Memories. She moved from New York to L.A. and slogged her way through B-list pictures for at least a dozen years. Then her Oscar nomination for Casino in 1996 gave her talent cachet.

"I've met movie stars who are more interested in being movie stars," says Brooks. "But we're talking about her because of the acting substance there."

Ironically, just as her Hollywood stock hit all-time highs, the actress fell madly in love with San Francisco newspaper editor Phil Bronstein, 48, whom she met when she was filming the flop Sphere in his city. They married in a surprise Valentine's Day ceremony orchestrated to the last detail by the bride herself. Now she's looking for ways to balance home and work. She said yes to voicing the character of Princess Bala in Antz, for example, because it could be done in San Francisco.

Those who know them say the couple seems blissful. Stone says they keep passion alive in spite of absence with frequent rendezvous, the cell phone and the written word. "He writes me the most beautiful letters," she confides. And love poems. She sent him a compilation of New Yorker love stories; he gave her beautiful journals in which to write her own.

Stone says she wants to spend more time with her husband. (He makes it a policy not to talk about her.) They bought a beautiful house, not far from Robin Williams', overlooking the Golden Gate, and occasionally are seen at art exhibit openings or book readings in nearby Berkeley.

And though Stone sidesteps the issue of children, she leaves little doubt she's ready. She was outraged at false reports in September that she was then pregnant because she hates having her privacy invaded.

Once divorced, Stone says she has concluded marriage is for grown-ups. She's even begun to believe in arranged marriages, she says, tongue not entirely in cheek.

"The success rate would be at least as good as it is when you pick for yourself. I've got to say I was not good at picking. I got lucky with Phil. He picked me, thank God."

 

Stone on style

Style, as Stone defines it, is expression. "Glamour is a larger-than-life thing. It could be a silver rose or a Romanov tiara."

Who in Hollywood has it? "Jack Nicholson ... Anjelica Huston. ... Angela Bassett is glamorous and beautiful and elegant. ... Steve Martin, Martin Scorsese ... Albert Brooks ... Jessica Tandy, Helen Hayes. Josephine Baker had just off-the-charts glamour. ... Glenn Close ... Robert Loggia ... Bette Midler....Anne Heche has the most sophisticated style of all the [Hollywood] women."

Outside of show business? "Hillary Clinton, Walter Cronkite, Oscar de la Hoya ...Sugar Ray ... Magic Johnson. ... My mother."

How to get it? Style has nothing to do with the exterior, says Stone. She advises nurturing the soul. "Make sure you see as many shows as you can in museums ... travel abroad and notice people in the street ... look at the sunset and really see the color. Talk to interesting people; avoid vexing, shallow people."

 

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