Sharon Stone speaks about equality, spirituality and fame at the Red Sea Film Festival: ‘There are no movie stars now’

“Aren’t you scared?” Oscar-nominated actress Sharon Stone was asked by friends and colleagues as she said she was traveling to Saudi Arabia for the second edition of the Red Sea Film Festival. She laid out the answer to that question to thunderous applause from an eager audience at the Vox cinemas in Jeddah: “I’m afraid I don’t know. I’ll go and then I’ll tell you.”

During the nearly hour-long conversation, Stone opened up about her career as an actress and women’s rights advocate. Speaking about empowering women, the ’90s star was categorical: ‘God didn’t create anyone to serve more than others. Not only are women here to minister to men, men are here to minister to women as well. If we don’t serve equally, we don’t respect our Creator. We are here to serve the common good. We are here to serve humanity, not cruelty, not disrespect, not unkindness, and do not look down on another person for any other reason. We are here to see each and every human being with the love and grace that God gave us when we were created. That is the grace given to us in having life at all.”

The statement naturally ended up backstage in the Arab city as a powerful message, with the interviewee dignifyingly ending her response by stating: “I have lived and worked in many countries around the world. I’ve seen the best in life and the worst in life. Even in the worst of war zones, I’ve seen the best of life, and that comes when we’re not afraid to be our best, kindest, loveliest selves.”

Stone, who rose to fame for her legendary role as serial killer Catherine Tramell in Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 erotic thriller Basic Instinct, commented on the hard work of fame. “There was this backlash that I have to be like my character, I have to be vulgar, I have to kill people and show my vagina in the supermarket. So it became traumatic in my life personally. I lost custody of my baby because the judge ruled that I make sex films. [Fame] destroyed my private life, it destroyed my privacy rights, it destroyed the way people thought about me as a person.”

“When I was nominated for a Golden Globe,” she continued, “they called my name and people in the room laughed at me. It wasn’t until 20 years later that people in the room at my work applauded women’s rights.”

The actress’s political stance was the focus of the conversation, with Stone reflecting at length on how her important role as spokesperson for amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, has impacted her career. On the night she was called to take Elizabeth Taylor’s place as host at one of the charity’s galas, the actress recalled believing that AIDS would be “done in three years” and declared she had “none inkling of the resistance, the cruelty, the hate, the oppression we would face.”

“It really destroyed my career,” she said of her community service with amfAR. “I haven’t worked for eight years, I haven’t had a single job. I was called into offices and told that if I said the word condom all funds would be removed. I’ve been threatened, my life has been threatened repeatedly, and the more times it has happened, the more I’ve felt like I have to stick with it, if it’s causing this backlash, it must really matter.”

The actor got visibly emotional at several points in the conversation, especially when he was talking about spirituality. Stone, who suffered a massive stroke in 2001, said a 1% chance of survival connects her deeply with a sense of spirituality. “I hear spirit. I speak and I hear an answer. I hear guidance from the Spirit, especially when I’m painting. Every single brushstroke, every single color. Some people would say I’m crazy. It works for me, I hear it in my heart.”

One of her sons, who went to Oxford to study medicine at the young age of 14, when asked why he wanted to be a heart surgeon instead of working with the brain, told her: “Because even if the brain dies if you stay When the heart is beating, all other organs can be valuable to someone else.” This prompted Stone to discuss recent studies suggesting the heart possesses think cells, a poignant framework for her family’s decision to donate her nephew’s organs donate, who died prematurely six days before his first birthday.

“I suggested that we donate his organs and that he would live on that way. It really saved my family, this idea that his organs would live and let other people live. We gave away his kidneys, his heart, his lungs and about four other people were allowed to live. Now that I know that his heart was thinking and will think throughout another person’s body throughout their lives, I feel blessed, renewed and relieved. I have a feeling he’s not gone,” she said, brought to tears before concluding with another round of thunderous applause, “His name was River, and the flow goes on.”

When asked if the notion of celebrity had changed in the years since her breakthrough role, the actress said, “In the last 10 years, there hasn’t been as much mystique because of cell phones. Maybe it’s just me, but I love movie stars. For me, film star is a very big thing and now there are no more film stars. I like to keep that kind of a secret because I really enjoy being a movie star because I think it’s special and wonderful and challenging. When I was a kid, the whole movie star thing meant a lot to me. It really meant a lot to me… Yes, I wanted to be a great actress, but I also wanted to be a movie star.”

Stone nostalgically noted the times when Frank Sinatra was in her kitchen while she cooked and when she went to dinner at Shirley MacLaine’s house. Stone also teased the audience by saying, “Today I woke up and had a message on my phone from Faye Dunaway, I bet you didn’t!”

Before leaving the stage, Stone got emotional one more time and ended her conversation with a heartfelt thank you to the hosts. “I’m a kid from Pennsylvania. I grew up with Amish people riding their horses in my driveway. There was no way I would come to Saudi Arabia and meet you. It’s big business.” Sharon Stone speaks about equality, spirituality and fame at the Red Sea Film Festival: ‘There are no movie stars now’

Charles Jones

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