Why Did Sharon Stone’s Career Go South?
She’s barely recognizable under an unflattering mop of black curls—and maybe that’s the point—but that’s Sharon Stone on the cover of the new straight-to-DVD release Border Run. Arguably Hollywood’s hottest star (in more ways than one) back in her Basic Instinct days, Stone hasn’t exactly been on a roll lately. Is this a case of Hollywood’s ageism/sexism, discarding a pinup when her sex appeal starts to fade?
Stone turns 55 next month, and still looks pretty great despite her Border Run coif, if you ask me. But it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that means she was nearly 35 when Basic came out, which is like 50 in movie-starlet years. Before that, she’d mostly toiled in forgettable b-movies like Action Jackson, Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol and Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold. Arnold Schwarzenegger put her on the star map when he blew her away in Total Recall—”consider that a divorce,” he coolly quipped, prefiguring his messy split from Maria Shriver by two decades. But as bisexual murderess Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct, it was her crotch shot seen round the world that made her a global megastar.
What followed was a nearly uninterrupted decade-long string of commercial and/or creative bombs—Sliver, Intersection, Diabolique, The Specialist, Last Dance and Sphere among them. Some weren’t bad ideas on paper (playing the title role in Albert Brooks’ disappointing comedy The Muse). Some were (needlessly remaking John Cassevetes’ Gloria with Sidney Lumet). And some weren’t bad movies—Sam Raimi’s underrated Western The Quick and the Dead, for example, not to mention her Oscar-nominated turn as a prostitute-turned-trophy wife in Martin Scoresese’s Casino.
But her luck soon ran out. The Quick and the Dead started to describe her movies’ run in theaters. They weren’t The Mighty, nothing was Simpatico and she found herself Picking Up the Pieces. The 2000’s were a lost decade—anyone remember Beautiful Joe, Cold Creek Manor, Broken Flowers, If I Had Known I Was a Genius, When a Man Falls, The Year of Getting to Know Us or $5 a Day (and no, that’s not what she was getting paid, although it might not be far off)? Stone probably wishes we could forget her catfights with Halle Berry in Catwoman, her role as an obese, suicidal mom opposite Justin Timberlake in Alpha Dog and the underexposed sequel Basic Instinct 2 (from which costar David Morrissey has only recently recovered with his work as the Governor on The Walking Dead). But try as we might, we can’t.
With the simultaneously preachy and exploitative Border Run—an unwatchable “thriller” about a right-wing journalist (Stone) who changes her views on immigration after her relief worker brother (Billy Zane, who’s sunk a long way since Titanic) is kidnapped by “coyotes”—Stone may have finally hit rock bottom. So there’s nowhere to go but up, and she may be headed in that direction as Amanda Seyfried’s titular porn star’s mother in Lovelace, which recently played at the Sundance Film Festival. She’s also part of the impressive ensembles of a pair of promising indie comedies, Gods Behaving Badly (she plays a modern-day Aphrodite, alongside Christopher Walken, John Turturro, Oliver Platt, Edie Falco and Rosie Perez) and Fading Gigolo (with Woody Allen, Liev Schreiber, Sofia Vergara and John Turturro again!).
Gigolo marks a belated and unlikely reunion for Stone, who made her big-screen debut in 1980 with the wordless role as “Pretty Girl on Train” in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. One can only hope she leaves us with more than that.
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