Sharon Stone Opens Up About Her Brain Aneurysm: "I Spent Two Years Learning to Walk and Talk Again"

In THR's Women in Entertainment issue, the 56-year-old actress reveals that because of her health scare, she doesn't hesitate to reveal her age: "Growing older is my goal"

This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Hello. My Name Is Sharon Stone. And I'm 56.

People keep asking me why I tell people I'm 56 all the time. It's a bit judgmental, but I think it's soft to pretend anything. The Dalai Lama says, "No matter what you say, that's what you are!" The truth is upon us. You can be a walking mess of lies, but you will look like a walking mess of lies.

I love it when people say, "In Hollywood, you're not allowed to get older." Really, who gives a shit what Hollywood thinks about anything? I've been here a long time: I've seen 'em come and I've seen 'em go -- studio executives, like Kleenex. The few that have stayed in their jobs really know their jobs, they're talented and they're not the bullshitters.

But it's not like I go into a room thinking, "I'm 56." It's not the way I greet people or think about myself. I go to an audition or meeting and think, "Even if this part wasn't written for me or a female, I might be the best one to play the judge or the policeman." Yes, I've gotten parts that way. I've said, "I think the film is too male-heavy. You don't have a woman in it. It would really benefit the film." And yes, I've found people respond well to that. I've said: "It would benefit you to consider me." For whatever -- the part you might have hired Gene Hackman to play.

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And, yes, I believe there can be a movie plot where the leading hot guy who's 43 falls for me instead of the 25-year-old girl. Jesus, every time I go into a Starbucks, some 20-year-old guy throws himself at me! Although it might be because he knows there's a meal at the end of it. But these young guys know the sex would be better.

Of course, at 56, I do experience that men look at me differently, but guess what? That's a great time-saving device! All those guys who were dogging you 'cause you were the young hot girl: That's like throwing a pork chop out into a field of wild animals! That's not saying anything! It's better and means more if they look at me now.

I actually find aging a benefit. I don't choose to make growing older a negative. I choose to get older. Growing older is my goal.

That's because in 2001, I had a massive brain hemorrhage. So I know what the alternative to growing older is. I bled in my brain for nine days. I spent two years learning to walk and talk again. I came home from that stroke stuttering, couldn't read for two years. I was in an ICU for nine days and the survival rate for what I went through is very low. I don't need someone to make me feel bad about growing older. I'll tell you what makes you feel bad: when you think you might not. So I feel really good about talking and having my full vocabulary. It's been a humbling journey: I was on Law & Order (which is not what I'd hoped for; you get sent all the way to the back of the line to guest star on Law & Order) and I had a hard time with my lines. I can talk about it now because I'm OK now.

And how am I OK now? I work for it. I work at everything. To me, discipline is a kind of freedom. I belong to 24 Hour Fitness and go four or five times a week. It forces me out. Celebrity can be so introverting. I'm inspired by watching what other people are doing there. I eat clean, I always have. I'm off gluten. People don't want to see a fat Sharon Stone, do they? I know my brand!

Perhaps another reason for the way I look is that I don't drink. Any alcohol. I drank so little to begin with. But seven years ago, I was training and I wanted to get really cut up. I looked at Madonna -- we're the same age -- and I asked my trainer, "What am I not doing? Find out what she's doing!" She came back and said, "I don't think she drinks any alcohol." So I decided to try zero for three months. And I saw a huge difference! And that's when I started to notice people shove alcohol at you. "What's your problem?" "Loosen up!" "Why won't you drink?" People became uncomfortable and aggressive. So after eight or nine months, I started telling people I was sober. And the clarity I started to have about myself and others was astounding. I've watched actors and actresses go off the rails with drugs and alcohol for years. Particularly when it all happens so fast when you're young. I want to feel all my feelings, to have every feeling a person can have and never not feel it. Now I'm a big tea drinker, though rarely ones with caffeine. I have an apothecary of tea.

Read more Sharon Stone to Star in TNT Drama 'Agent X'

The key to looking good as you get older is, it all comes from the inside. You have to do what you like to do. If you hate to go to the gym, don't put yourself on a gym regimen. Do what you like to do, but do it every day. I love to dance, and I dance hard. When I started thinking about aging, I thought, "Who do I want to look like as I age?" And the answer was dancers.

One way to make sure you keep working in this town (if you want that) is to leave your shit at home. Don't go on a set and be a neurotic mess. Most people walk into a room and all they see is themselves: their fears, their desires, it never stops. Pull your shit together! Walk into the room and give yourself three minutes to see the other person. "How are you? What's happening with your world?" As soon as you see how they're doing, you can get on the same page, and the person sees you in return. Then it's not about being 22 or 36 or 66 or black or white or Hispanic. It's about the human soul I'm sitting with.

People want to hire people who are present and say "good morning" and actually mean it instead of doing blow in their trailer or having a hooker there and being four hours late. That is so annoying. We're making films and television in less and less time; we don't have all day to deal with a bunch of bullshit. As a woman in a film, you have to be very together. You don't want to be labeled "dramatic" or "diva." Do not take what's bothering you out on other people. It's not about you. But between "action" and "cut," that's the time to be a tiger.

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I'm so lucky that I had these women mentors to advise me when I first became famous. The kind of fame I had, the first time you get it, you think, "These people all really like me." They don't. They're not your friends. But I had great women -- Shirley MacLaine and Faye Dunaway and Angie Dickinson -- to advise me, to remind me to be a lady, to say "please" and "thank you" and not be photographed with alcohol, and not to mess it all up with drugs and alcohol and destructive behavior. And as soon as your star fades and you feel dead, you have to realize, it's not a low. My life has gone on in so many other amazing ways. I don't think I did a movie for two entire administrations! When I felt shut down, I got to start looking at other things. It opened up opportunities for me to work with amfAR and A Better LA, which works to end gang violence. I've done lectures with Desmond Tutu and spoken to the prime minister of Israel on the phone. And I created that. No one will do that for you. So why not just be alive and free in the truth of what you are?

Sharon Stone is currently developing and will star in Agent X for TNT.

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