Sharon Stone has a cold. Or, she may be getting one, though she's trying her damnedest not to let that happen. "I'm not getting it," she tells me by phone, her raspy voice even gravellier than usual. "I'm fightin' back."
It's the week of Stone's 60th birthday, and no sniffles or stray cough is going to stop the "unending" celebration. "I'm drinking Airborne and taking those things in the tube that no one can say," the actress laughs. With a few days to go until her actual birthday, she's already been thrown a fantastic party by her kids' godparents and a hangover brunch the next day courtesy of her best girlfriend, then another party -- "the most amazing birthday party" -- from her three sons. She spent the day following our call on a beach in Miami with her boyfriend, real estate mogul Angelo Boffa, looking in great health in a string bikini and wearing what was presumed to be a diamond engagement ring.
"I thought it was going to hit me in the head like a boulder off the side of the hill while driving on Mulholland," Stone says of turning 60. "But it seems that I'm landing on doves, because of all of the love, and just --" She pauses, then sighs contentedly. "Love. There's so much love in my life, and it's so touching and beautiful." Her voice cracks as she grows momentarily emotional, before laughing it off. "It's just so beautiful. It's just so beautiful."
It isn't inconsequential that at the same age most are beginning the countdown to retirement, Stone is making what many have been calling her comeback. "I'm OK with that!" she says. Though the actress never completely disappeared, this year sees her return in a big way, in Steven Soderbergh's whodunit HBO series, Mosaic, and in All I Wish, out March 30, playing a flighty, fedora-wearing, aspiring fashion designer whose story unfolds on the same day each year: Her birthday. ("It's so darling that it's coming out on my birthday. I can't even stand it!")
"You know, I did a lot of the foundational work after I was sick and didn't work at all for quite a few years," she says of the stroke and ensuing cerebral hemorrhage she suffered in 2001. Following the near-death experience, "I wanted to work differently," she explains. Stone and her agent decided she would focus on "character films," allowing her time to recover while also guaranteeing that she was not away from her three sons -- Roan, Laird and Quinn -- for longer than two weeks.
"I had to make my choices very differently, as a single mother of a 6-year-old, a 1-year-old and a newborn at one point. It was like the woman in the shoe, I had so many young kids," she recalls. "You only have two hands and it's not like people are holding doors, so, it was a busy time. And recovering from brain trauma doesn't all happen at once." Following her stroke, Stone was forced to relearn many basic motor functions, including speaking and writing. "It really took quite a bit of time for me to get my feet firmly planted."
With her boys -- aged 17, 12 and 11 -- having grown enough for her to focus on her work, Stone has her eyes set on becoming a principal player again. This time, a quarter of a century after her star-making turn in Basic Instinct, it's by her own rules. Take her role in All I Wish, which writer-director Susan Walter conceived for a 25-year-old. (Stone was asked to play the mother.) It's no secret that opportunities become scarcer for actresses after a certain age, so Stone winning the role feels like a coup, her comeback perfectly coinciding with a larger movement within the industry.
"It used to be the only stories about women knowing another woman or other women were either if they f**ked the same guy, they were f**ked over by the same guy or they were stuck together," she says, her voice lowering to a deadpan. "While men may want to think we create our relationships all around the idolization of men, this is not how women relate to each other."
"Once the initial cork is blown off the bottle and the rancid thing on the top is gone, this bonding is going to create something very, very extraordinary."
Stone has enthusiastically embraced Time's Up and its long-overdue moment of reckoning. She was among the actors wearing black in solidarity at January's Golden Globes. Later that month, when asked in an interview if she ever faced harassment in the industry, she responded by laughing in the reporter's face for nine full seconds, then telling him that she has "seen it all."
"I really, particularly, applaud these younger women who organized themselves and created a distinct, thoughtful group to allow us all to have a place to not just publicly but also privately vent and tell our stories, to speak," she says of attending the Time's Up meetings. Stone singles out Reese Witherspoon, who has been at the forefront of the initiative, as a woman who has done so much for her personally. "I can't even begin to say how much gratitude I have for her," Stone says. "To have someone who is so strong and so powerful, who gave me a place to talk, gave me a place to turn to someone and say, Y'know, I have some feelings about this..."
Now, at 60, Stone is finally seeing something new. "I see women looking different!" she says. "I see women celebrating themselves differently. I see women happier."
"It is so exciting to not be pitted against one another," she adds. She'd never felt this sort of unity before, that she could commiserate with another woman on set or celebrate good news with another actress. She was explicitly instructed not to do the latter. "You would be told, 'Don't do that. That person will be jealous of you and they won't like you,'" she remembers. "There were all these ideas made up so that women would never become bonded with each other."
Amid these changing tides, Stone has lined up her next leading role in a movie, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, playing the mysterious childhood friend of an equally indelible lady: Bette Midler. "I think what we're starting to realize is we really like each other! Not only that, we really love each other!" Stone giddily exclaims. "I believe that once the initial cork is blown off the bottle and the rancid thing on the top is gone, this bonding is going to create something very, very extraordinary."
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