Basically known for playing femme fatales and enigmatic women on screen, Sharon Vonne Stone was born on 10 March 1958 in Meadville, a small town in Pennsylvania to Dorothy Marie, an accountant and Joseph William Stone, a former factory worker and a toolmaker. She is partly of Irish ancestry, her Irish ancestors arrived in the United States during the Great Famine in Ireland from 1845 to 1852. Later in her life, Sharon alleged that, as a child, both she and her sister were abused by their maternal grandfather. Nevertheless, as an intelligent child with a high intelligence quotient, she was considered academically gifted and entered the second grade when she was only 5 years old.
Gradually, she became a bookworm and after graduating from Saegertown High School, Pennsylvania in 1975, she entered the Edinboro State University of Pennsylvania on a creative writing scholarship at age 15. However, she was very much fond of the black-and-white movies and grew an attraction towards the glamorous life.
While attending the Edinboro State University of Pennsylvania, she participated and won the Miss Crawford County beauty contest in 1976, at the age of 17 and was selected a candidate for Miss Pennsylvania. During the contest, one of the pageant judges told her to quit college and move to New York City to make a career as a fashion model. Sharon took the advice seriously as she quit college in 1977, moved in with an aunt in New Jersey and was signed by the Ford Modelling Agency in New York in the same year. Interestingly, inspired by Hillary Clinton, the first woman to win a presidential nomination by a major US political party, Sharon Stone later went back to Edinboro State University to complete her degree in 2016.
Apart from working part-time as a McDonald's counter girl, Sharon soon became a successful Ford model, appearing both in print media and TV commercials.
Later, she moved to Europe and after living a year in Milan and then in Paris, decided to quit modelling and moved back to the States to try her luck in the movie industry After trying and waiting patiently, she could finally make her debut in the minor role of a pretty girl in train in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories (1980), although her first film with dialogues came a year later, in Wes Craven’s horror film Deadly Blessing (1981). After that, she was included in the casing of French director Claude Lelouch’s Les Uris et les Autres (Bolero 1982), although her screen presence was only for two minutes, which was finally deleted. In her next film Irreconcilable Difference (1984), starring Ryan O’Neal, Shelley Long and a young Drew Barrymore, she played the role of Blake Chandler, a starlet, creating a gulf between the marriage of a successful director and his screenwriter wife. While the film performed fairly well at the box office, both Long and Barrymore were nominated for Golden Globe Awards. During the remaining years of the 1980s, Sharon Stone had to struggle for roles even in B-grade films and appeared as Jesse Huston in King Solomon’s Mines (1985) and its sequel, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (1986), in the action drama Action Jackson (1988) and Above the Law (1988), directed by Andrew Davis.
However, after struggling hard for a decade, Sharon Stone came to light in Paul Verhoeven’s science fiction film Total Recall (1990) opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger, in which she played the role of the seemingly loving wife of a construction worker. Apart from favourable reviews, the film made more than US$ 260 million and gave a booster move to Sharon’s career.
In the same year, she also took the daring move to pose nude for the Men’s magazine Playboy, which also worked in her favour. During the next year, she got the opportunity to prove her worth in several films, which include the romantic comedy He Said, She Said (1991), romantic thriller Year of the Gun (1991), horror film Scissors (1991) and the crime drama Diary of a Hitman (1991).
But the film that made her a star is the erotic thriller Basic Instinct (1992), directed by Paul Verhoeven, in which she appeared as Catherine Tramell, a bisexual sociopath novelist and an alleged serial killer. Although the critical response towards the film was mixed, Stone received profuse critical acclaim for her star-making performance and earned a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress. While the film also became one of the most financially successful productions of the 1990s, Sharon was described as hot and sexy as she is ice-pick cold. The role, which was turned down by several actresses because of the required nudity, established Stone as a bombshell, especially her interrogation scene, in which she exposed her pubis while crossing her legs, has become a classic in film history.
According to her version, she was asked to remove her panties to allude to the concept that she was nude, but the white underwear was creating a problem as it was reflecting the light. But she was not aware of how explicit the shot would be and was shocked to discover it in the screening. However, Paul Verhoeven, the director of the film and Joe Eszterhas, the screenwriter, who later befriended the actress, both claimed that she was fully aware of the level of nudity involved.
After the huge success of Basic Instinct, Sharon played the role of the victim in Sliver (1993), another commercially successful erotic thriller, followed by a cameo appearance in Last Action Hero (1993), an action film, in which she reunited with Arnold Schwarzenegger. During the decade, she appeared in the role of the estranged wife of an architect opposite Richard Gere in Intersection (1994), the action thriller The Specialist (1994) with Sylvester Stallone, a gunfighter who returns to a frontier town to avenge her father's death in The Quick and the Dead (1995). But her performance in Martin Scorsese’s epic crime drama Casino (1995), as the self-absorbed beautiful wife of a top gambling handicapper, played by Robert De Niro, was unanimously praised and she received widespread critical acclaim.
She also earned the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her contribution to the film. During the decade, she also appeared in the psychological thriller Diabolique (1996), along with Isabelle Adjani, portraying the role of the wife and a mistress of a sadistic schoolmaster; in Last Dance (1996), playing the role of a woman convicted of murder and sentenced to death; and a biologist in the science fiction thriller Sphere (1998). She received her third Golden Globe nomination for The Mighty (1998) in which she played the mother of a 13-year-old boy suffering from a rare metabolic disorder. She played her first comedic role in The Muse (1999), which gave her another Golden Globe nomination.
Sharon Stone had a life threatening cerebral haemorrhage in 2001 and had to take a break, but made a successful comeback in Cold Manor (2003) with Dennis Quaid and Catwoman (2004) with Halle Berry. After that, she appeared in Broken Flower (2005), directed by Jim Jarmusch, but the release of Basic Instinct 2 (2006), the sequel to 1992's Basic Instinct, was delayed due to legal proceedings, reportedly due to Stone's dispute with the filmmakers over the nudity in the film. Finally, the film was released, following numerous cuts, with an R rating for nudity, explicit sex scenes, strong language, violence and some drug content. The film was strongly criticised and flopped at the box office. Her other notable films include Alpha Dog (2006), When a Man Falls in the Forest (2007), which was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, Five Dollars a Day (2009) and Lovelace (2013).
In her personal life, Sharon Stone married television producer Michael Greenburg on 18 August 1984, whom she met on the set of The Vegas Strip War, a television film he produced and she starred in. But they separated three years later and officially divorced in 1990. After that, she briefly dated with comedian Garry Shandling and met William MacDonald in 1993, on the set of the Sliver, which he co-produced. Within a few months after their first meeting, William left his wife Naomi Baca for Stone and became engaged to her. But they separated one year later in 1994 and Stone returned him the engagement ring through FedExpress. She then became engaged with Bob Wagner, an assistant director of The Quick and the Dead, whom she met while working on the film in 1994, but married Phil Bronstein, an American journalist and editor, on 14 February 1998. However, the marriage did not last long as Bronstein filed for divorce in 2003 due to irreconcilable differences and the divorce became final on 29 January 2004. As she was unable to have biological children, Sharon adopted three sons with whom she resides in West Hollywood, California.
In her career spanning over four decades, Sharon Stone has won 10 awards from 41 nominations, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1995 and was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award. In March 2006, she visited Israel for promoting peace in the Middle East through a press conference with Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres of Israel and was elected the guest of honour at the Pilosio Building Peace Award in Milan in 2015.