Posted by lebeau
Hollywood is a treacherous place. It take a certain kind of person to
make it as an actor. But however hard actors have it, actresses have
it that much worse. For an actress to make it in Hollywood, well,
they have to be strong. Some might even say they need to be made of
stone (get it? I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist.) Whatever it takes to
climb to the top of the A-list, Sharon Stone had it in spades. She
had the looks, the talent, the determination and she was more than a
When Sharon Stone finally took Hollywood by storm, it seemed like she
was an overnight sensation. But that was not the case. The truth is
that Stone had a long uphill climb to the top. She fought tooth and
nail for years to make it in Hollywood.
Sharon Stone started off as a model and a beauty pagent contestant.
She was a contemporary of Michelle Pfeiffer. The two models bonded
while auditioning for the role of an extra in Woody Allen’s Stardust
Memories. Stone got the role. But Pfeiffer’s acting career would
take off while Stone’s languished.
Stardust Memories is one of Woody Allen’s favorite of his own films.
But pretty much anyone who isn’t Woody Allen hates it. Although Allen
denies that it was his intent, the movie plays like the director
telling off his fans.
The image of a young Stone in glorious black and white blowing kisses
from a train is a memorable one. I also liked the bit where the
aliens told Woody they liked his earlier, funny movies better.
Stone paid her dues the hard way. On Silver Spoons.
While Pfeiffer was paying her dues in Grease 2, Stone was relegated to
guest roles on TV shows like Silver Spoons, Remington Steele and
Magnum PI. By 1985, Pfeiffer had done Scarface and Ladyhawke. But
Stone was still stuck on TV with parts on shows like TJ Hooker.
“I grope all the guest stars. Get used to it. Just don’t touch the
In 1985, Stone finally got the opportunity to break away from TV.
Unfortunately, it came in the form of a low budget action franchise
that deliberately ripped off the Indiana Jones films.
King Solomon’s Mines was loosely adapted from the novel of the same
name to capitalize on the success of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Richard
Chamberlain was cast as a poor man’s Harrison Ford and Stone played
his love interest.
In a bit of a gamble, the producers of King Solomon’s Mines filmes a
sequel simultaneously. The double-down didn’t pay off. King
Solomon’s Mines flopped.
The following year, saw the release of Allan Quatermain and the Lost
City of Gold. The King Solomon’s Mines sequel got all the fanfare you
would expect for a sequel to a movie most people had never heard of.
Stone did get some recognition for her role. She was nominated for
her first Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress of the Year.
Ultimately, she lost to Madonna. But I’m sure it was an honor just to
When the Allan Quatermain films flopped in back-to-back years, Stone
went back to paying her dues. But at least she was paying her dues on
the big screen. In 1987, she appeared in Police Academy 4: Citizens
I know what you are thinking. Police Academy 4? Really? Is that any
better than Silver Spoons or TJ Hooker?
Well, before you get too judgemental, Police Academy 4 was the last
film in the series to feature Steve Guttenberg. If it’s good enough
for the Gute, we shouldn’t be turning our noses up at it. I’m sure we
can all agree that the series didn’t fully come off the rails until
Police Academy 5: Even the Gute Said “No”.
In 1988, Stone appeared in a couple of low budget action films I have
personally never seen. The first was Action Jackson. Action Jackson
wasCarl Weathers’ bid to turn his Rocky role into a legitimate movie
career. That went about as well as you would expect from a movie
called Action Jackson starring Apollo Creed..
She also appeared in the Steven Seagal film, Above the Law. Bearing
in mind that I have never seens a Steven Seagal film that I have
liked, I’m tempted to go back and try to catch this one. It is
generally regarded as one of the movies that made Seagal a star. And
director Andrew Davis went on to direct The Fugitive. Of course,
Davis also went on to direct the dreadful Chain Reaction, so maybe The
Fugitive was just a lucky break.
Although Above the Law helped to catapult Seagal to stardom (or at
least Seagal’s B-grade action hero version of it), it didn’t do a lot
for Stone. In 1989, Michelle Pfeiffer was wowing the critics in The
Fabulous Baker Boys. But Stone was still stuck in crap like Beyond
the Stars and Blood and Sand.
In 1990, Stone finally caught a break. She was cast in a villain role
in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s summer sci-fi flick, Total Recall. Stone
plays Schwarzenegger’s wife (or does she)?
Stone got to chew a lot of scenery, look great and kick Arnold’s ass.
Of course her character was dispatched with a one-liner. But still,
Total Recall was easily Stone’s most high profile roll to date.
To capitalize on Total Recall, Stone also posed nude for Playboy. But
the pictorial may have been a bit too much exposure. Stone came
across as desperately chasing fame.
While I’m sure some viewers rushed out to grab a copy of the issue
with the hot chick from Total Recall nude, I don’t think it really
advanced her acting career at all.
In 1991, Stone appeared in no less tha 5 movies. The only one you’re
likely to have heard of was the Kevin Bacon rom com, He Said, She
Said. Even after Total Recall and a Playboy cover, Stone was still
paying her dues.
That came to an end in 1992 with Basic Instinct.
Pretty much every actress in Hollywood passed on the part to play
Catherine Tramell in Paul Verhoven’s sexy thriller. Michael Douglas
wanted Kim Basinger, but she said no. Meg Ryan, Michelle Pfeiffer,
Kathleen Turner and Geena Davis also declined.
I doubt Stone would have ever been considered for the role save for
the fact that Verhoven knew her from Total Recall and the fact that he
was desperate. Realizing that no known actress was going to gamble on
the part of a lesbian femme fatale, Verhoven had to cast an unkown.
And Stone was hungry enough to fit the bill.
Verhoven is an interesting film-maker. It’s easy to view movies like
Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers and Showgirls as crap. However,
it’s also possible that Verhoven knows they are crap. Viewed as
satire, these films are higly entertaining.
Verhoven clashed very publicly with screenwriter Joe Esterhas over
Basic Instinct. Both Verhoven and Esterhas are big personalities with
big egos. However, where Verhoven tends to push the sex and violence
for the purposes of satire, Esterhas is just kind of sleezy.
Ironically, it was usually Esterhas who was reigning in Verhoven on
Basic Instinct was huge. It was controversial for its depiction of
lesbians as ice cold serial killers. But it was also a critical and
commercial smash. Stone was nominated for a Golden Globe and became
an “overnight” sensation.
The question was, how could Stone possibly follow-up a break-out film
like Basic Instinct?
The success of Basic Instinct inspired a lot of copycat movies. The
“sexy thriller” genre turned into a glut. 1993′s Sliver had the
distinction of starring Sharon Stone and being based on a screenplay
by Esterhas. But it also replaced Michael Douglas with a lesser
Baldwin (ie. any Baldwin not named Alec – in this case Billy).
Without Douglas or the over-the-top direction of Verhoven, Sliver was
just another Basic Instinct rip-off. The reviews were terrible and the
box office was only so-so. Stone was nominated for her second Golden
Raspberry and once again lost to Madonna. This time the Material Girl
won for (you guessed it) a Basic Instinct rip-off, Body of Evidence.
In 1994, Stone appeared in two films. The first was the Richard Gere
turkey, Intersection. The second was The Specialist with Sylvester
Stallone. Both films got lousy reviews. But The Specialist was
actually something of a surprise hit.
At this stage of Stallone’s career, hits were few and far between. So
credit for the success of the film went largely to Stone and her
The combination of Intersection and The Specialist finally won Stone
her first Golden Raspberry. Madonna was not nominated that year.
1995 was a pretty good year for Stone. She started it off with Sam
Raimi’s ode to spaghetti westerns, The Quick and the Dead. The Quick
and the Dead is one of those movies where just about everyone involved
would go on to bigger and better things.
Director Sam Raimi would go on to make the Spider-man films. This is
clearly a transitional film for the director as he learns to put his
Evil Dead tricks behind him. He shoots a mean gunfight, but he has
not yet mastered his story telling technique.
Russel Crowe originally auditioned for a smaller role. But at Stone’s
insistence, he landed the male lead. Stone also insisted on casting a
young Leonardo DiCaprio. When the studio balked at casting unkowns in
the roles, Stone paid DiCaprio’s salary herself. (Hey Leo, how about
paying it forward? Sharon could use a job. Inception 2, maybe?)
The Quick and the Dead bombed. The reviews were mixed. It’s not a
good movie. But it’s a fun movie to watch for Raimi’s technique.
Up to this point, most of Stone’s hits (and a few of her bombs) had
one thing in common. Nudity. Stone was looking to be taken seriously
as an actress and not just a sex symbol. Her best bid for legitimacy
was Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas follow-up, Casino.
In Casino, Stone appeared opposite Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci playing
DeNiro’s self-destructive wife. It was a tour de force performace
that won Stone an Oscar nomination. But she lost to Susan Sarandon.
Casino got good reviews and did well enough at the box office. But it
suffered in comparison to Goodfellas.
1996 saw Stone continue to struggle to be taken seriously. First, she
starred in the American remake of the French film Diabolique. Then
she appeared in the death row drama, Last Dance.
Diabolique got horrible reviews and bombed at the box office. Last
Dance also bombed, but it got mixed reviews. Most critics singled out
Stone’s performance for praise.
The thing that strikes me about Last Dance is that if it had been
better, it could have done for Stone what Monster did for Charlize
Theron. But Last Dance was nowhere near as good a film as Monster.
In 1998, Stone appeared in three films. The first was Barry
Levinson’s sci-fi thriller Sphere. Sphere must have looked great on
paper. It co-starred Dustin Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson and was
based on a book by Michael Chrichton. But the movie didn’t make a bit
of sense. Reviews were poor and the movie flopped at the box office.
The Dreamworks animated feature Antz, saw Stone reteam with former co-
stars Woody Allen and Sylvester Stallone for a pre-emptive rip-off of
Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. Like most voice work, the success of Antz
didn’t have much of an impact on the careers of any of the stars.
Stone also appeared in The Mighty. The Mighty was a tiny little movie
which I would not even bring up save for the fact it won Stone another
Golden Globe nomination.
1999 saw Stone struggling in more middling fare. She started the year
with another disappointing remake. This one was Gloria. She also
appeared in Simpatico with Nick Notle and Jeff Bridges. Both films
are essentially forgotten. Stone received another Golden Raspberry
nomination for Gloria.
In between, Stone appeared in Albert Brooks’ comedy, The Muse. It was
a great role for Stone allowing her to show off her comic chops. This
rare comedic role won Stone another Golden Globe nomination.
Unfortunately, like all Albert Brooks comedies, it was seen by a very
How I wish I lived in a world where Albert Brooks was more popular
than Adam Sandler…
By 2000, Stone was no longer A-list. She got good notices for the HBO
movie If These Walls Could Talk 2 opposite Ellen DeGeneres. But her
film roles were forgettable.
In 2003, Stone appeared opposite Dennis Quaid and Stephen Dorff in the
god-awful thriller, Cold Creek Manor. I had the misfortune of seeing
this movie in the theater. I remember something about snakes and
being bored out of my mind. Cold Creek Manor was yet another bomb for
In 2004, Stone appeared as the villain in the Halle Berry Catwoman
movie. I don’t really think I need to tell anyone how terrible
Both Stone and Berry were nominated for Golden Raspberry awards. When
Berry won, she actually showed up to accept the award and called the
movie a “piece of shit”. Stone might have done the same if she had
won, but I doubt it.
After years of “development hell” Basic Instinct 2 (hilariously
subtitled “Risk Addiction“) finally got released in 2006. It was at
least 10 years too late.
By 2006, Basic Instinct and Stone had become punchlines. Absolutely
no one had any interest in a sequel. Replacing Michael Douglas with
David Morissey couldn’t have helped. And neither did the toxic
reviews. However, Stone did win one last Golden Raspberry for the
Basic Instinct 2 bombed and killed any hopes of a third film. Sharon
Stone continues to work. But she can be seen primarily on TV where
she spent so long paying her dues. Her days as an A-list movie star
are definitely behind her.
So what the hell happened? This one is pretty simple really. Stone
made her name as a sex symbol and she never really broke free of
that. Hollywood is merciless to actresses who dare to grow old. But
that’s even more true for an actress whose star power is so closely
tied to her sex appeal.
Beyond that, Stone has a reputation as a nut. She famously lied about
being a member of Mensa. She can be counted on to mistate facts and
make stupid quotes. And he career choices beyond lucking into Basic
Instinct are largely pretty terrible.