Hollywood actress, model and philanthropist Sharon Stone speaks to us about women in Hollywood, being sexy at 58 and starring in Airfield’s S/S16 campaign
"I like myself and my body. Being nude to me means having fun – fun with myself and my looks.” Twenty-four years after her legendary performance in Basic Instinct and Sharon Stone is still unafraid to bare all and this is why at nearly 60, she is as sexy as ever. Recently landing the role in Austrian fashion label Airfield’s S/S16 campaign, the American actress exudes confidence and glamour as a jet-setting woman in a series of striking images that show off the brand’s latest range – comprising a hybrid of classic, tailored pieces with more relaxed, sporty styles and elegant, evening numbers.
For Sharon Stone, being sexy is not simply about looking great (although this is something she has fortunately never struggled with). “Only women who feel good about themselves and have self-confidence can also be sexy,” she argues. “Sexiness comes from deep inside. It's the feeling of being present, having fun and liking yourself enough.”
Despite her status today as one of the most desirable women in film of all time, this was surprisingly not the case from the outset. Growing up in Pennsylvania, Stone began her career as a model, winning a beauty pageant in her native hometown before moving to New York to pursue modelling further. During the 1980s, she made a number of TV appearances before being given her breakthrough role in Paul Verhoeven’s sci-fi film, Total Recall (1990). However, the actress has always insisted that it wasn’t until she posed nude for Playboy that the industry woke up to her sex appeal. Moments later, Verhoeven starred her in the erotic thriller, Basic Instinct, which catapulted her into Hollywood stardom.
Stone has never appeared to have any qualms discussing her performance in Basic Instinct (although this is perhaps tactical to beat prurient journalists to the punch). The infamous scene when she flashes her vagina during a police interrogation has become iconic, but understandably sparked controversy not simply for its licentious nature, but also due to her having claimed that she was unaware of how explicit it would be. Verhoeven has since categorically denied having tried to hoodwink the actress and said: “As much as I love her, I hate her, too, especially after the lies she told the press about the shot between her legs".
While this has never been cleared up, it evidently didn't hinder Stone's career as following the film's success, she went on to star in box office hits such as Martin Scorsese's Casino (for which she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress), The Mighty and Albert Brooks’ 1999 comedy The Muse (receiving Golden Globe nominations for both films). From a bisexual femme fatale (Catherine Tramell, Basic Instinct), a hustler (Ginger McKenna, Casino), a sexually repressed dermatologist (Dr Parker, Fading Gigolo) and a suicidal mother suffering from the death of her son (Olivia Mazursky, Alpha Dog), Stone has certainly shown her versatility as an actress over the years, playing many diverse and complex roles. One thing many of her characters share in common is their confidence and empowerment as women who do not fit the conventional mould in society. “I guess it’s because I exude that,” she comments. “I know very well that it requires a lot of discipline and focus to be successful in Hollywood. Only if you have both do you have a realistic chance. And apparently, my characters also reflect this.”
Stone has demonstrated her impressive work ethic time and time again. In an interview in 2009, she compared working alongside Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro as being akin to training for the Olympics, requiring so much hard work in order to compete. “To go in having them sure that I'm not going to keep up... and getting them to let me play, let me be part of it…can I get to be one of the guys? Can I be good enough? Can I keep up because they like to work 20 hours a day…that was it for me…”
“I know very well that it requires a lot of discipline and focus to be successful in Hollywood. Only if you have both do you have a realistic chance. And apparently, my characters also reflect this.”
The actress admits to having often felt undermined as a woman in a male-dominated industry: “Absolutely I did! Even after Basic Instinct, I never earned as much as my male colleagues. I could do what I wanted – but there was never any financial equality.” Having proven herself capable of holding her own alongside such Hollywood greats was a dream come true for her. However, she still believes there is some way to go before actresses achieve equality. “I think it all depends on whether there will be more women in key positions in the future because that's the only way to guarantee equality,” she says. “I haven't seen this yet, though.”
“Absolutely I did! Even after Basic Instinct, I never earned as much as my male colleagues. I could do what I wanted – but there was never any financial equality.”
I wonder whether it frustrates her how looks and youth continue to play such a huge part in landing the big female parts. “No, by no means. Because that way I have the chance of playing new and exciting roles. If I were 20 or 30 years younger, I would never have been able to play the role of Natalie Maccabee in Agent X.” Sharon Stone has shown herself to be fearless, making bold but wise decisions (she reportedly has one of the highest IQ's in Hollywood) that have made her a pioneering figure in the film industry. Stone confides how her favourite role of all time is being a mother, believing it to be “the most beautiful thing in the world”. She has three adopted sons – Roan, Laird and Quinn – so she is kept very busy and jokes how holidays are never dull. She still travels a good deal for work and regularly visits the Côte d'Azur and the regions around Cannes (where the annual film festival is held). Dressing for the red carpet isn't easy, but the actress has never made a fashion faux pas and argues that the key to her success is dressing with comfort in mind. “On the red carpet, it is very important to feel at ease. No matter how elegant an outfit may be, you must be able to move and nothing must be squeezing.” This is something she applies to all aspects of her life, explaining how her handbag essentials when travelling are typically leggings with a long sweater and a pair of sunglasses.
Stone loves Vienna (making her partnership with Austrian-brand Airfield all the more fitting) and occasionally treats herself to its delights: “Once a year I have a Sachertorte flown in and eat up it all by myself.” But don’t be fooled. Her sense of discipline very much extends to her strict diet, hence her fabulous physique to this day. “I have refrained from alcohol and gluten for years now. I also exercise daily and avoid the sun. Exercising with a Power Plate is particularly effective."
Stone is a passionate philanthropist and in 2013 received the Peace Summit Award for her work with HIV/AIDS sufferers. Last year, she managed to raise enough funds in an impromptu auction at the 2015 Pilosio Building Peace Award in Milan to help build 28 schools in Africa. The actress has had her own fair share of troubles, having suffered a life-threatening brain hemorrhage in 2001. She is now fully recovered and has said how the experience gave her a new perspective on life, having become less worried about what people think of her. Although given the amazing work she has done over the years, I cannot imagine Sharon Stone receiving anything other than praise.