Not too long ago, Sharon Stone released her memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, and it’s candid, to say the least. The A-lister decided it was high time to reveal who she truly is and what she had to go through to get where she is today. The A-list actress has been through it all – childhood trauma, near-death experiences, a stroke, losing custody of her child – and has survived it all to tell her story.
Stone is in a no-shame state by this point. She’s here to bare it all, this time with full awareness, which is something she hasn’t been privy to in the past. Like how a surgeon performed an enhancement procedure on her without her consent. Oh, and that infamous racy scene in Basic Instinct? Well, according to Stone, that was without her knowledge, too.
Not only did Sharon Stone suffer a stroke at a relatively young age, but she was also given a one percent chance of survival. In September 2001, the actress began feeling numbness in her leg as well as a “terrible pain” in her head. At the same time, her body temperature was low and her blood pressure high.
Once at the hospital, she immediately passed out. Doctors could tell she was suffering from a brain bleed and a stroke, but they couldn’t figure out what caused the bleed. For nearly a week of going in and out of consciousness and not eating, she was unable to stand or function. Still, “the general consensus was that I should go on home and stop faking it,” Stone recalled.
A friend of her was able to convince the doctors to perform an angiogram (a medical imaging technique) on Stone, and once they did, they found that her right vertebral artery, one of the two connecting your head to your back and spine, was torn to shreds, “and I was bleeding into my face, my brain, my head, and my spine.”
Yeah, it’s incredible she even survived. Especially since the doctors gave her a one percent chance of survival. She was beyond lucky, but that doesn’t mean her recovery was easy. “Piece by piece, I lost everything,” she wrote in her memoir. Her left leg dragged when she walked; the left side of her face was distorted. She talked without knowing she was actually stuttering.
She lost an incredible amount of weight, turning into a size two (at five feet, eight and a half inches). She lost her short-term memory and had “an incomplete sense of what was going on around” her. Nonetheless, she was alive. She wondered if she would ever be able to work again, but she made an effort.
Her friend, record producer Quincy Jones, referred her to a doctor who put her on the correct medication. Yet, two decades later, she still suffers from side effects. She wrote that as she sits here writing her memoir, “the right side of my head still hurts. This is where the brain damage is, where the scarring is.”
Stone took a two-year hiatus from acting to rebuild herself, but she is sure that it stunted her career. She went from the top of her game, after 1992’s Basic Instinct and 1995’s Casino, to struggling for seven years to find work. To make matters even worse, she lost primary custody of her adopted son Roan.
Stone said that people were “brutally unkind” to her. From other women in the business to the female judge who handled her custody case, people weren’t really grasping just how “dangerous a stroke is for women and what it takes to recover.”
Stone has three adopted sons: Roan, Quinn and Laird (Quinn and Laird are biological brothers). She adopted her first, Roan, when he was “just a wee babe,” and Stone was “deliriously happy” to be a mom (after experiencing a very traumatic abortion as a teenager and suffering three miscarriages).
Once she and journalist Phil Bronstein divorced in 2004, she lost primary custody of Roan, who was just a toddler at the time. Although Stone has been candid up to this point, she said she “can’t” disclose why she lost custody of him. It’s not just the confidentiality agreement; it’s also out of respect for Roan.
She married Phil Bronstein, executive editor of The San Francisco Examiner, in 1998. During their marriage, she suffered several miscarriages and was deemed unable to have biological children. In 2000, they adopted Roan. Three years later, she and Bronstein divorced.
The custody loss came after her 2001 stroke – it was one of many things she lost in the wake of her health issues, including her marriage, career, and savings. After losing custody, she “couldn’t function.” She fell into a deep depression where she could do nothing other than sleep.
“I had stopped eating and fallen apart and hadn’t even noticed… I had just lain down and given up. My heart, it seemed, was actually broken.” Stone fought for custody of Roan for over a decade – 13 years to be exact. She put him ahead of everything else.
She played a “very long, very difficult game of custody chess in an effort to get him everything I could for his health and well-being.” These days, her home and family are “complete.” As of 2018, she is living with her three sons in her home in West Hollywood.
Pain is, sadly, something Stone is all too familiar with. Another thing she has chosen to expose is the abuse she suffered at the hands of her father when she was a young girl. Between her grade school years and the age of 14, Stone claims that she was physically abused by her father, Joseph Stone (he died in 2009).
Her father would “yank me down with him or throw me down in front of him.” At other times, she was “dragged through the kitchen to the basement” to get strapped with a belt. As Stone explained, the abuse continued until she was sure not to do what she was being punished for – when she lost “all fear, all concern… all feeling.”
When she reached the age of 14, she started to see her father as “weak.” She emasculated him by asking him, “What’s the matter? Do you need to hit me some more to feel like a man?” The young teen made her father cry by telling him she didn’t love him – never had and never would.
“He was so heartbroken. He never hit any one of us again. I was free. From them both. From then on, I was my own guide.” Stone wrote that she now has “respect” and “love” for her late dad.
Are you wondering where her mother was in all this?
Stone had issues with her mother growing up, too, but they eventually reconciled after Stone was able to see her mother (now in her mid-80s) as a “person, separate from my childhood experiences and judgments of her.”
In an interview with The New York Times in March 2021, Stone said that both she and her sister were sexually abused as kids by their grandfather (their mother’s father). It took most of her life to learn to accept her mother, but she said she doesn’t need to forgive her. Despite her experiences, Stone wrote that she’s “not bitter.”
Stone was born and raised in Meadville, Pennsylvania, and at the age of 14, she broke her neck while trying to tame a horse. While her mom was busy hanging laundry in the yard, Stone was riding the horse, but the clothesline sliced into her neck, and Stone slipped through the stirrups.
Her mom had to pull her free as the horse started to drag her. “My neck was hanging open, wet and ripped from one ear to the other,” Stone described. At the hospital, a doctor “who didn’t know how to do plastic surgery” performed surgery on her. She healed, but with a scar, which can still be seen.
Speaking of surgeries, Stone underwent a surgery in the ’90s to remove benign tumors from her breasts. The operation required reconstructive surgery, but the results were nowhere near what she expected. She assumed that she would wake up looking exactly as she had before the process began, but instead, her plastic surgeon thought that she “would look better with bigger, ‘better’ boobs,” she claimed.
She left the hospital bandaged, and when she unwrapped herself, she discovered that she was a full cup-size bigger. According to Stone, her surgeon said her new size would “go better with your hip size” and that he was “certain” that she “looks better now.”
It sounds unbelievable, yes, but this is coming straight from the horse’s mouth: “He, in all of his self-determined knowledge, had changed my body without my knowledge or consent,” Stone wrote. Because of his choices, she was left feeling “humiliated.”
After all of these years, Stone says she’s still uncertain about the whole situation. She wondered if she should still be angry at the “now-dead plastic surgeon,” or whether she should get further reconstructive surgery to look like herself, or if she should “simply be happy” that she doesn’t have cancer.
When Stone first came to Hollywood, she was “striking out a lot,” as she put it – she would almost get cast then didn’t. One day, a friend of hers told her: “You really need a great acting teacher. I know this man who is so amazing that if he doesn’t completely change your life, not just your acting, your life, I will pay for all of your lessons.”
She was reluctant but went to see him anyways. Later, she said, “that guy changed my life.” That guy was a man named Roy London, and he ended up teaching a lot of major stars, including Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Forest Whitaker, Geena Davis and Garry Shandling, to name a few.
The lesson that sticks with Stone the most was from the last class she took with London. He had called her up and announced, “You have graduated. You don’t have to come back.” Panicked, Stone said, “But I’m not done; I haven’t gotten it.”
He told her that she had played every woman’s part and that there was nothing left to do. That’s when she said, “Then I need to come back and play the men’s parts.” He agreed, reluctantly. He assigned her Glengarry Glen Ross. After her first performance, he told her to go home and not work on it for a week.
The next week, she performed it again to a silent and awed audience. London was stunned. “I will never forget the look on his face as he slowly turned to the class, and then to me, and said, “Well, what have we learned?” Stone said, “That I am enough.” He said, “You have graduated, class dismissed.”
Her manager at the time, Chuck, wasn’t as supportive. He had told her that no one would hire her because “everyone said [she] wasn’t sexy.” Stone recalls herself being “shy and introverted.” But it was London who kept pestering her, asking her, “If you keep leaving your sexuality at the door, how do you expect to play anyone at all?”
Six weeks later, she was cast in Basic Instinct. But it wasn’t easy. According to Stone, her manager broke into the casting director’s office (like they do in the movies, with a credit card) and stole the script so they could read it. Why? Because no one would give it to them.
After reading it, Stone instantly knew that she wanted the part. Chuck called director Paul Verhoeven every single day for seven months to get her a screen test. Stone had already worked with Verhoeven on Total Recall, but Michael Douglas (already cast in Basic Instinct) didn’t want to test with her.
Compared to him, Stone said she was a “nobody.” And beyond that, it was “such a risky movie.” Verhoeven agreed to give her an audition, and after she did, he kept playing her test after those of everyone else who had tested.
Only after they had offered the part to 12 actresses who turned it down, Douglas agreed to test with Stone. They may not have been buddies at that point, but Stone asserts that she and Douglas are friends now and that he taught her a lot.
When Stone was asked to meet with Verhoeven, she was so nervous and excited she “could hardly hear.” She first met with the line producer, “an older, kind of dodgy man, in his messy office.” He sat down and told her she wasn’t their first choice. He told her that she was, in fact, the 13th choice for this film.
If that isn’t insulting enough, he kept calling her Karen – not in just that meeting, but through the entire making and postproduction of the movie! After that meeting with the producer, she got into her car, “put on rap music super loud, and backed into a semi three feet behind me.”
Throughout her career, Stone says she’s been subjected to sexism and inappropriate comments. One of the more scandalous incidents in her career was the whole Basic Instinct fiasco. In her memoir, she claims she was deceived about the scene, which exposes her “nether regions.”
You know the scene: The one where her character, Catherine Tramell, is being interrogated by Detective Nick Curran (played by Michael Douglas). She crosses and uncrosses her legs while wearing a short white dress. That scene in the film, directed by Paul Verhoeven, is one of the most paused movie scenes. That makes sense (I guess), but what’s a little harder to understand is how she was deceived…
Stone explained that after they shot the 1992 film, she was called in to see the preview. But it wasn’t a private screening with the director, as one would anticipate. No, she was in a room full of agents and lawyers, “most of whom had nothing to do with the project,” she wrote.
That’s when she saw her private parts on the big screen, right there in front of her – in front of all these men. Stone explained that this was long after she had been told, “We can’t see anything. I just need you to remove your panties, as the white is reflecting the light, so we know you have panties on.”
What did she do? Well, the 34-year-old actress slapped the director across the face after seeing the scene. Then, she called her lawyer, Marty Singer, who assured her that “they could not release this film as it was.” It came to the point that Stone needed to decide how to go forward.
She explained that she fought for that part; that the director had stood up for her. “I thought and thought, and I chose to allow this scene in the film. Why? Because it was correct for the film and for the character; and because, after all, I did it.”
Stone did a movie in Italy, and the director told her to do something to which she told said, “Women don’t act like this anymore.” When he asked why, she said, “We respect ourselves.” He made one remark to her after that: “Next time, get a mother who loves you.” Ouch.
“I wasn’t shocked,” she said of that conversation. “At the time, I was convinced that my mother didn’t love me.” She explained her thought process: She was a grown woman who “learned what life had done to my mother. And he? He was a man from the generation that had done it.” Stone stopped working for that director that day.
To clarify, she stayed and finished the picture. But she made sure that she “gave every thought to its complete disaster. Why? You can’t shame me.” Moreover, she had zero tolerance for anyone even considering shaming her mother. That was just one of the many unpleasant incidents Stone said she had to experience in Hollywood, a place she considers “toxic.”
She didn’t name names, but there was one director who wouldn’t direct her because she “refused to sit in his lap to take direction.” At the time, her middle son was a newborn. This man had called her into work every day for weeks, despite having a newborn to take care of.
After all the hair, makeup, and wardrobe, he decided not to shoot with her because she refused to sit in his lap. She pointed out that this was a multimillion-dollar studio film, in which she was meant to be the star, and “the studio didn’t say or do anything.” Then, there was another film, where a producer told her that she should sleep with her co-star in order to have authentic on-screen chemistry.
Instead of hiring a “co-star with talent, someone who could deliver a scene and remember his lines,” she wrote, they expected her to “fix” it by sleeping with her co-star. (Ladies, can we join hands and roll our eyes together?) Since Stone’s response was not “popular,” she was soon “considered difficult” on set.
Since getting herself into the film was such a mission, Stone fully examined the character and the dangerousness of the role. She said she came to work ready to play Catherine Tramell. For her, this role was “by far the most stretching” that she had ever done when it comes to considering her dark side.
“It was terrifying,” she recalled. During production, she walked in her sleep three times, twice waking fully dressed in her car in her garage. She remembers having “hideous” nightmares during that period.
Basic Instinct proved quite traumatic for Stone for a number of reasons. There was one scene from the film where her character stabs a victim to death with an ice pick. Stone recalls the director screaming at her to hit harder, meanwhile demanding more fake blood as they shot.
At one point, the actor stopped responding. Stone immediately thought that the retractable fake ice pick had malfunctioned and that she had, in effect, killed him. What actually happened was he passed out from her hitting him so many times in the chest. “I was horrified, naked, and stained with fake blood. And now this,” she said.
In the end, Stone’s name wasn’t on the top of the movie poster next to Michael Douglas’s. Stone attended the premiere of the film with Faye Dunaway since her family was dealing with “Uncle Beaner’s” death at the time.
According to Stone, Dunaway “knew just what to do.” Basic Instinct was garnering a lot of hype and the crowds were almost unmanageable. When the film screening ended, there was absolute silence. Dunaway grabbed her arm and whispered, “Don’t move,” and so, she didn’t. Neither did Douglas, who was sitting in front of them. After a moment that seemed like forever, the crowd began to roar.
Stone turned to Dunaway and asked her, “What now?” to which Dunaway replied, “Now you are a big star and they can all kiss your ass.” Basic Instinct was her 18th film, and she felt like it was her last chance to make a big hit. Luckily for her, it did exactly that.
When they took the movie to the Cannes Film Festival, Douglas made a toast to Stone. She explained that in that moment, she was wearing her beach cover-up as an evening gown (people had broken into her room and stolen her belongings).
“I was a star and one with no money to buy new clothes.” After that toast, she said she went upstairs to dry heave into the toilet. As her friend put her feet in a bathtub of cold water and gave her a Valium, she told Stone the new rules of what it meant to be famous.
When Stone went to the Oscars for the first time after Basic Instinct, she sat next to that same line producer – the one who called her Karen – at the dinner after the ceremony. But this time, he didn’t call her Karen.
The day Basic Instinct debuted in theaters, Stone hired a limo. With her friend Mimi, she started in Harlem and went to all the movie theaters in New York City, well into the wee hours of the morning. They came dressed up in a lowkey disguise and watched about 20 minutes at each theater, she recalled.
Stone said that the theater in Harlem was her favorite because people in the audience were yelling and screaming at the screen, cheering her character on. “We were having a ball, seeing the reactions all over town.”
Stone was on a high, but the next morning, over a “celebratory breakfast,” she felt a real low when reading the critics’ reviews of the film. Now, decades later, the film is considered “cool,” and gained somewhat of a cult-classic status.
But back in 1993, when Stone went to the Golden Globes as a nominee, they called her name as a finalist, and “everyone” laughed. But it wasn’t really “everyone,” she explained. It was “enough of the room so that I was told where I sat.”
Sharon Stone is 63 now, and as you can tell by now, she’s lived one heck of a life. She was 18 when her first serious boyfriend got her pregnant. Since it was difficult to terminate a pregnancy at her age in her home state, the young couple drove to a clinic in Ohio.
The loss of blood was profound, so much so that it took days, and she was extremely weak. The thing was, though, that it was a secret, so getting help wasn’t just something she wanted to call out for.
Once she finally came out of it, she burned her sheets and clothes in a barrel at school before heading back to class. What she said saved her was the local Planned Parenthood clinic that opened. Finally, there was someone she could talk to and learn from.
Stone has had multiple near-death experiences. Another was when she hemorrhaged in Zimbabwe and had to wait for it to stop on its own without treatment. She had traveled to the African country back in the ’80s for the film King Solomon’s Mines. She recalls starting to bleed (likely a miscarriage, she doesn’t know for sure).
At the hospital in the hallway, she was put on a gurney and left there. “There were no meds, nothing to stop or sop up the bleeding, no doctors with time for me.” Sadly, there were just too many dying men, women, and children, on gurneys, on the floor, streaming in through the doors.
Everyone was terribly sick, in agony, suffering, and screaming out in pain. It was a horrific sight. Once she stopped bleeding, she left the hospital – without any meds or transfusion. Only later did she realize that the hospital had been treating HIV/AIDS patients. Ever since, she has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and research.
There is yet another near-death experience to mention. When she was in her 30s, Stone was driving to a country club to see friends when she hit the ice. Thanks to the stunt double Donna Evans (who did the “all the crazy driving” in Basic Instinct), Stone learned a thing or two.
She knew to aim for a telephone pole instead of the water, and then prepared herself for impact. “I took my hands off the wheel and my feet off the pedals, crossed my arms across my chest, took a big deep breath, and exhaled on impact,” she remembers vividly.
The impact was so hard that the engine pushed itself into the cassette player and began playing a tape. The car, obviously, was totaled, and the telephone pole split in half over the windshield. Amazingly, she was left without a scratch.
Stone said she didn’t get the chance to mend all her “war wounds” until she started working less. When she was in her “on fire” stage of her career, she ignored many physical ailments, like a dislocated shoulder –which she told herself to suck it up.
She had a root canal in her trailer with no Novocain at lunchtime! When an ovarian cyst burst, all she did was get “super-strong meds” and changed it from a standing scene to a sitting scene. Then there was the time she had a broken foot from an overzealous stuntman.
To that, she told herself to get a bigger boot for that foot, finish the show, and then get it rebroken and repaired once the show wrapped. In other words, she would always tell herself to shut up and deal with it. “There isn’t room for babies in this biz,” she stated, “especially if I, as a woman, want to prove my mettle.”