Screen siren, opinionated diva, and one of the few actresses in Hollywood who can claim to be both a Paul Verhoeven muse and a MENSA member, Sharon Stone is nothing if not a legend in her own right. Beginning with her notorious disinclination to wear underwear during a police interrogation in Basic Instinct, Stone went on to become one of the most talked about actresses of the '90s, earning both admiration and infamy for her on- and off-screen personae.
Almost as famous as Stone's glamorous image are her working-class roots. Born in the Northwest Pennsylvania town of Meadville on March 10, 1958, Stone grew up a bookworm in a large family. Highly intelligent in addition to being a local beauty pageant queen, she won a scholarship to Pennsylvania's Edinboro University when she was 15 years old. After studying creative writing and fine arts, she decided to pursue a modeling career, and after moving to New York, she signed on with the Eileen Ford agency. Stone became a successful model by the late '70s, appearing in print and television ads for Clairol, Revlon, and Diet Coke.
In 1980, Stone branched out into acting, making her screen debut as the "pretty girl on train" in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. Following this role, she spent the '80s appearing in one forgettable film after another, often cast as the stereotypical blonde bimbo. She finally got a break in 1990, when she appeared as Arnold Schwarzenegger's kickboxing secret-agent wife in Verhoeven's Total Recall. Any recognition she gained for that role, however, was more than eclipsed by the notoriety she earned for her starring turn in her second Verhoeven feature, Basic Instinct. The 1992 film, in which Stone portrayed a bisexual author/sexual adventurer who may or may not be a serial killer, did her a huge favor by making her a star but also a sizable disservice by further typecasting her in blonde seductress roles. Stone's subsequent effort, the erotic thriller Sliver (1993), was an example of this: the actress attracted notice less for her acting than for her willingness to simulate masturbation. Her role in the following year's The Specialist was also fairly limiting -- an action flick co-starring Sylvester Stallone, it called for Stone to run around in a tight dress in heels when she wasn't seducing various characters.
In 1995, Stone managed to break into the "serious actress" arena with her performance in Martin Scorsese's Casino. Cast as an ex-prostitute, she won an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe for her work, as well as the general opinion that she was capable of dramatic acting. Stone branched out further that same year with The Quick and the Dead, a revisionist Western directed by Sam Raimi in which she starred as a tough-talking, hard-drinking broad bent on revenge. Unfortunately, the film was a relative flop, as were her subsequent 1996 films, Diabolique, a remake of the 1954 French film by Clouzot and Last Dance, a drama that featured Stone as a woman on death row.
By this point winning more notice for her off-screen role as an arbiter of fashion and old-school Hollywood glamour than for her onscreen acting work, Stone next lent her voice to the animated Antz in 1998. The film proved to be a success, unlike the actress's other projects that year, the lackluster Barry Levinson sci-fi thriller Sphere and The Mighty. The latter film, which Stone produced as well as starred in, was a heartfelt story about two adolescent misfits; although it did win a number of positive reviews, audiences largely kept their distance. The same couldn't be said of Stone's next film, a 1999 remake of Gloria; not only did audiences stay away from it, critics savaged it with vituperative glee. Never one to let a bad review get her down, Stone soon rebounded, receiving a more positive reception for her performance in The Muse and then starring as Jeff Bridges' long-suffering wife in Simpatico. If her roles in the years that followed weren't as high profile, that's certainly not to say that they were any less challenging. After taking a turn towards the small screen in the lesbian-themed made-for-cable drama If These Walls Could Talk 2, Stone broke for comedy with Alfonso Arau's Picking Up the Pieces and essayed the role of an unpredictable bad girl in Beautiful Joe (all 2000). Having veered increasingly towards family-oriented fare in recent years, the trend continued with vocal work for Harold and the Purple Crayon. Of course, all was not child's play in Stone's career, and with the release of Cold Creek Manor the following year, audiences were indeed in for a frightful chill.
A series of continual highs and lows marked Stone's career path in successive years. In 2004, the actress appeared as Laurel Hedare opposite Halle Berry in Catwoman. Though eagerly anticipated, the effects-heavy vehicle opened that July to abysmal reviews and devastating box office returns. Despite Stone's confession that she was toning down her oft cited diva-like ways after suffering a brain aneurysm in 2001, rumors of outrageous behavior on the film's set began to circulate. She fared much better on all fronts when she essayed a role as one of Bill Murray's ex-girlfriends in Jim Jarmusch's Golden Palm winner Broken Flowers (2005) - and walked away with the most memorable and endearing role in the picture - a role that showcases her skills as a disciplined thespian. Stone then contributed a cameo (as did many stars) to that same year's disappointing Martin Short vehicle Jiminy Glick in LaLa Wood
Early 2006 gave rise to another embarrassment, as Stone appeared (at the age of 48!) in
the sequel Basic Instinct 2: Risk Addiction. Despite a somewhat respectable pedigree (the gifted Michael Caton-Jones helmed the picture) the public and press scoffed. Incredibly, Stonespoke of a possible third entry in the franchise, and even explored the option of assuming the position of director. No such luck: much to the chagrin of viewers who relish Hollywood stars in humi roles, the picture failed to materialize.
But soon after, a couple of potential triumphs surfaced, defiantly challenging the tabloids hungry for a 'losing streak' in Stone's career. She joined an exemplary cast in Emilio Estevez's hotly anticipated November 2006 release Bobby, an ensemble piece that intertwines multiple substories in the Ambassador Hotel just prior to RFK's assassination. She also appears in
Nick Cassavetes's Alpha Dog (2007), alongside an A-list cast that includes newbie Emile Hirsch and Bruce Willis. The picture dramatizes the true story of a drug dealer in his early twenties who gets in over his head; Stone plays the traumatized mother of the child he kidnaps, a boy who is in hock for a massive drug tab. Universal slated it for release in January 2007. In that same year's drama When a Man Falls in the Forest, directed by Ryan Eslinger, she plays a kleptomaniacal Midwestern housewife. The cast also stars Timothy Hutton, Dylan Baker and Pruitt Taylor Vince. She continued to work steadily in projects such as Streets of Blood, Largo Winch II, and the biopic Lovelace.
Wed to MacGyver producer Michael Greenberg from 1984 to 1987, and George Englund, Jr. (Cloris Leachman's son) prior to that, Stone married her third husband, San Francisco Examiner editor Phil Bronstein, in early 1998, with whom she adopted a son. They divorced in early 2004. She runs an LA-based production shingle, Chaos Productions.