BY ANDREW MOODY
“When I was at my lowest, I was so grateful that people came to see me in the hospital and that people prayed for me…People I barely knew and some I didn’t know at all prayed for my survival. I know for sure that these people kept me alive. I am bathed in gratitude. It is for that and for them that I live a life of service.”
Back in the nineties, Sharon Stone was on the cover of every magazine, on every TV show, invited to every premiere, and publicly regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world. Her much-paused, iconic leg cross in Basic Instinct turned her from a D-List wannabe into a sex symbol for Generation X, and money and fame followed.
Now in her sixties, Stone’s recent memoir The Beauty of Living Twice comes at a strange crossroads in Hollywood. The ruination of Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey has opened a door into the movie industry hinting at horrifying past abuse, and celebrities are clamouring to publish their own account of the #MeToo phenomenon, often to get a public statement out early regarding abuse charges.
Whilst the actress writes smoothly about ‘that scene’ in Basic Instinct (Stone reportedly slapped director Paul Verhoven in the face for filming her genitalia without her consent), and her humility working for Martin Scorsese in his 1996 classic Casino, (co-starring with movie greats Joe Pesci and Robert deNiro), no mention is made of her 1993 mega-budget flop Sliver, an exploitation picture where she is physically and sexually dominated by a creepy William Baldwin, widely panned at the time. Thirty years later, and Sliver has been carefully excised from Stone’s recovery memoir. It may come as no surprise that Stone has adopted children, common practice for Hollywood superstars. As you’d expect from an eccentric movie star, she is fascinated by new age medicine, smokes weed and drinks infused herbal teas.
From her nineties persona as a man eating, beautiful dominatrix, when Basic Instinct was first released (there were silly protests by Gay and Lesbian groups for the fact that Stone played a lesbian psychopath) to a brain bleed in New York two weeks after 9/11, the memoir is a little shaky to get going, but then Stone the writer finds her feet. Unlike most people who write memoirs, Stone is already iconic, already an intrinsic part of media history, with nothing really to prove to anyone. The memoir has a series of help and guidelines for abuse support charities at the end, and Stone’s earnest battle to recreate herself after a film career that had been misleading and traumatic.
Stone is American Irish, she knows the value of a hard day’s hustle, and her reminiscences of her family life before she became an actress are compelling and deeply affecting. Stone presents herself very differently to the Succubus’s she has become known for. In her narrative, she is the underdog, fighting valiantly to make it in Hollywood in spite of a culture of hidden abuse and wealthy, predatory males. Unlike Woody Allen’s Apropos of Nothing, which still leaves the reader with troubling questions, and former enfant terrible Bret Easton Ellis’s awful, dishonest memoir White (which reads like a really bad alibi for a gay former associate of Harvey Weinstein), Stone writes as transparently as she can, but always with the fierce pride of a woman who understands men better than they understand her. Released after Trump lost the presidency, there is a certain satisfaction behind her writing, like a cultural war has been won for her side for a change, and now is the time for reflection.