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July 8th, 1999  

Gloria

Hollywood's hardest - and smartest - beauty
takes on little boys, bad hair and great waitresses

by Bob Strauss
E! online

The evolution of Sharon Stone continues along its ever surprising, sometimes confounding track.

The decade's most outrageous movie sex symbol turned 40 and got married last year (to San Francisco Examiner editor Phil Bronstein). But those big strides toward maturity haven't made the Basic Instinct star and member of Mensa (that's a club for people with really high IQs) any less outspoken. Or any less tolerant of fools.

On the professional front, she still has a knack for making odd choices that turn out great. For instance, films like Sliver and The Specialist were box-office disappointments in the U.S. and huge hits overseas--turning Stone into one of the Industry's most powerful actresses.

And her role in Casino, one of Martin Scorsese's least lauded efforts, earned her a Golden Globe, an Oscar nomination and, at long last, the respect she craved.

Recently, Stone captured another Globe nomination for her supporting work in The Mighty and followed that with one of the biggest hits of her career, the computer-animated Antz, a film that revealed her wry gift for deft verbal comedy.

Now she's back with Gloria, in the kind of sexy/dangerous role that made her infamous. A remake of John Cassavetes' 1980 thriller, it tells the story of a tough moll who winds up saving a six-year-old crime witness (Jean-Luke Figueroa) from a Mob hit.

How will it fare? Well, Hollywood has learned never to underestimate Sharon Stone. And never to get on her bad side.

The Mighty was a little art film. Gloria is a little art film. Your next movie, Albert Brooks' The Muse, is an arty little comedy. Is this any way for a huge star to behave?

"I feel like so many rules are made for so many stupid reasons. I break rules; I often feel there's a healthy level of sociopathy. [Laughs.] To really achieve any level of greatness, you have to be willing to say yes no matter who says no, and to say no no matter who says yes. Sometimes it's so difficult. So difficult. But you have to take risks, and you have to take things you know aren't going to make a buck-fifty. You have to do things to grow. You can't just always go for the next hit--unless you're willing to keep being that thing. Now, I know you make more money doing it that way, but I don't care. There's no quality of life in that for me.

Gena Rowlands, Cassavetes' wife, is considered one of our greatest actresses. She created Gloria in 1980; you recently worked with her on The Mighty. What did she say about your remake?

The production people said they'd talked to her, that she was into me playing it and thought it was a good idea. That was very important to me; I didn't want to do it otherwise. Then I went to make The Mighty, and of course, they'd never spoken to her. So, I wrote her a letter and asked if I could have drinks with her. She said yes, which surprised me. I don't know if I would have if I were her--and I don't think she was thrilled, either. But we talked for quite a long time, and then we worked together. She became very supportive and encouraging, called me a lot while I was making the movie, came to New York and took me out to dinner. She's wonderful.

How is the new Gloria different?

Well, it's a very different time. You can't just shoot people in the street, then run around New York. There's CNN, computers, helicopters, surveillance cameras. It's all really different, so it isn't like that. Children grow up much faster now; that kid was 10 or 11 and our boy was 6. And I wasn't in love, or soulmates, with [director] Sidney Lumet. Actors love working with him, though. I learned a lot working with Sidney, because you have to do everything in one take. If you want another take, he tortures you. (Imitating an old New York man's voice): "Oh, Shaaaron needs another take!"

And what about working with a little boy?

Generally, you have another actor to work with. I had a six-year-old who, like, had to pee. "I have to pee, I have to pee." I'm like, "I understand, honey, but you have to let go of your penis because we have to do this scene."

A statement like that from Sharon Stone could affect a boy for life. But it seems you're trying to move away from that image of a woman who has power over men.

The work is so different for me now. It used to be about sex and money and power and love and life and death. Someone like [Basic Instinct's] Catherine Tramell was a power character for me at the time, but if I played her today, she would have to be a love character, because it's all about that for me now. Of course, that would be excruciating.

So, the ongoing rumors about a Basic Instinct sequel are just rumors?

I turned down the sequel. I don't believe it's time for that now, and I don't want to be Catherine anymore. I had a home run with that movie, but I'm happy to just be at bat now.

Has marriage influenced that attitude?

Well, I'd been very much like a lone warrior. But now I have less to lose because Phil can take care of me. Boy, there's a lot of comfort in that.

And, amazingly, you found that with a journalist. A little ironic, considering you've been the target of so much tabloid coverage.

I married a journalist, a fine journalist. I didn't marry those idiot, trendy, trash-mongering people who buy a camera or a pen and pretend they're professionals. I have great respect for good journalists, always have.

He's the editor of a Bay Area newspaper. You're a Hollywood star. Do you guys, like, meet in Fresno on weekends?

I can't be on the road all the time and expect my marriage to be growing, too. I'm up there all the time...except when it gets too dreary, then I come down to L.A. for a weekend, just for the sunshine. But I love it in San Francisco. Love the people.

Must be a big change for someone who was so thoroughly part of the Hollywood scene.

Enormous periods of change are my favorite things. I love people who are willing to change; that's why I love my husband so much. And that's why I really want to do something new every time. And no matter what you do, you bring it into your next work. It doesn't matter whether it's comedy or drama, subtle or operatic; it informs you.

Speaking of change, it's nice to see your hair long in a movie again. Going to keep it that way?

When I have long hair, I don't have great hair, I have thin hair. We do my hair in the morning, and I sit under the dryer or use the curling iron or some other thing. I come back after lunch, I have to go back into hair. This is why I cut my hair. I feel like I have my life back. I wore a three-quarter fall in Gloria, and it was a much nicer life.

Do you still deserve your reputation as a demanding, driven collaborator?

I'm an overachiever, so I always overwork and overdo things. But I'll tell you, the older I get, the easier it is to say to myself, "You know what? I can't do it today, and I can't do it tomorrow, and I'm just going to stay in bed all day and watch TV." I just don't feel I have to do everything like I used to.

Sounds suspiciously like admitting burnout, a strange thing to hear from someone so ambitious.

Oddly, the lessons keep getting bigger, so, actually, it gets tougher. You know, you think, Oh, I'll get to be a star or I'll get acknowledged as an artist or I'll get to make money...and then it'll all be fine. But somebody said that with each of life's great gifts is the shadow of its tragedy, and that is really true.

Have you thought about what your life would be like if you weren't a star?

Sure. Back when I was accepting all of those crappy movies, I got to a point where I was willing not to have jobs. I had been a waitress, and I really, really, really enjoyed it. So I thought, Well, I'll waitress, and I'll do theater in my garage. In fact, sometimes on holidays, I'll waitress at a Salvation Army mission or something, and it's so fun because these people don't go to the movies, they don't have a TV, they don't know me from Adam. They just think I'm a darn good waitress. And I really like that.

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