Sharon Stone Looks Back on Infamous 'Basic Instinct' Scene, Health Scares and More in Debut Memoir

The Beauty of Living Twice
Knopf, Rich Polk/Getty Images

In 'The Beauty of Living Twice,' out Tuesday, the actress also details her near-fatal stroke, addresses her controversial China comments and reveals childhood abuse. THR also shares an audiobook excerpt.

Sharon Stone is sharing her journey thus far in her debut memoir.

In The Beauty of Living Twice (Knopf), out Tuesday, the Oscar-nominated actress candidly looks back on some of her pivotal roles, the highs and lows of her personal and professional life, and her journey to healing after her near-fatal stroke and brain hemorrhage in 2001. To offer more insight into her health scare, Stone's memoir opens dramatically with the actress reenacting being in an ER on the brink of death and feeling an out-of-body experience in which she felt "a feeling of falling" and saw a "luminous" light. "It was so … mystical. I wanted to know it. I wanted to immerse myself," she writes. She writes that she then felt "like I had been kicked in the middle of my chest by a mule," and ultimately "made a choice to survive."

Throughout her 256-page memoir, Stone’s underlying thread is her survival, as she grew stronger after her past traumas and found a way to begin again with a new second life. Though Stone has been known for her unfiltered candor and recognized as, she says, "the last living movie star," her memoir is by no means a Hollywood tell-all. Instead, the 63-year-old offers readers the opportunity to meet the real woman outside of the spotlight and understand her journey to survival and who she is today.

Below, The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at some of the highlights in The Beauty of Living Twice and an excerpt of Stone reading the audiobook.

2001 Stroke and Brain Hemorrhage 

Stone’s memoir begins in late September 2001, where she was in the ER at the California Pacific Medical Center. With her brain bleeding and near death, Stone details the terrifying scene as doctors tried to determine ways to help Stone survive, in particular the moment she learned that she was signed up for exploratory brain surgery without her consent. She writes that she fired one of her doctors because he had spoken to People magazine to tell them false information about her health status: "Ultimately he had given them an incorrect diagnosis, which they ran." 

After five days of her brain bleeding, Stone reveals that she was "unable to get up, stand up or think clearly and function." She had also lost 18 percent of her body mass. In a haunting recollection, Stone reveals that she "awoke" to her late grandmother standing at the foot of her bed telling her, "We don’t really know what’s wrong with you — we are working on it. But whatever you do, don’t move your neck." Doctors would later discover that Stone’s right vertebral artery was torn and bleeding into her face, brain, head and spine. "I had a 1 percent chance of survival," Stone writes. She eventually had surgery and credits her grandmother for saving her life. "She had put her hand on my family and on me and guided us through," Stone reflects.

Removing Tumors 

After Stone had an operation to remove tumors in her breasts, she writes that she needed reconstructive surgery. "Remarks were made about my 'plastic surgery issues.' This, in fact, was my issue: I went to get reconstructive surgery assuming I would wake up looking exactly as I had before this process. Instead, my plastic surgeon thought that I would look better with bigger, 'better' boobs," she writes. She reveals that following her surgery she realized that she "had a full cup-size bigger breasts." Unaware as to what happened, Stone writes that her doctor said he gave her bigger breasts because they would "go better" with her hip size. "I'm certain you look better now," she recalls the doctor saying. "He, in all of his self-determined knowledge, had changed my body without my knowledge or consent. I was humiliated," she writes.

Stone's Rigorous Preparation for Total Recall

In later moments of Stone’s memoir, the actress looks back at some of her pivotal roles, including in Total Recall, which she starred in opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of her co-star, she writes that she "fell in friend-love with Arnold and his lunkheads." She also said to prepare for her role, she trained for "a million hours a week. … "I was trying to figure out how the hell I was going to catch up to be even remotely believable as someone who could threaten Arnold Schwarzenegger. Yeah, that makes sense. All 128 pounds of me, beating the shit out of Arnold, in space," she quips. Stone would go on to consistently work out — she would deadlift, single-arm curl 35 pounds and do karate three hours a day — however, she admits she still couldn’t master a choreographed leg kick over her head. After finally succeeding, Stone recalls Schwarzenegger tricking her by asking her if she had worked with knives for their knife fight, which Stone says she was told she wasn’t doing. "Now I realize he did that to get me going," she writes of her co-star. "I kicked the crap out of poor Arnold. He was just covered in bruises."

That Basic Instinct Scene 

When she first came to Hollywood, Stone writes that she was "striking out a lot" and to nab a role in the 1992 film Basic Instincther manager called director Paul Verhoeven every day for seven or eight months to get her a screen test. "I had already done Total Recall with Paul, but Michael Douglas didn't want to test with me. Hey, I was a nobody compared to him, and this was such a risky movie," she recalls. She eventually landed the role, but the career highlight would bring some disturbing memories. 

After filming, Stone writes that she had joined a room full of agents and lawyers ("most of whom had nothing to do with the project," she writes) to watch the final cut. But things took a turn when Stone realized she was actually tricked into her revealing leg-crossing shot: "That was how I saw my vagina-shot for the first time, long after I’d been told, 'We can’t see anything — I just need you to remove your panties, as the white is reflecting the light, so we know you have panties on,' " she reveals. Though she acknowledges that "there have been many points of view on this topic," Stone argues that since she is "the one with the vagina in question" the "other points of view are bullshit." Angry over the scene, Stone says she slapped the director across the face and called her lawyer. After facing pushback from the director, Stone says she eventaully decided to keep the scene because "it was correct for the film and for the character; and because, after all, I did it."

Apart from that scene, Stone also shares that during the filming of Basic Instinct, which she describes as the "most stretching" role she's done, she sleepwalked three times during production and knocked an actor unconscious after filming the movie's opening scene. "It seemed I had hit the actor so many times in the chest that he had passed out. I was horrified, naked and stained with fake blood," Stone writes. She also reveals that a line producer on the film would consistently call her "Karen" and reiterated to her that she was their 13th choice for the part. When looking back at Basic Instinct's impact on her career, Stone says it also helped her personally to learn how to "be less weak on the outside" and "less available to be eaten alive." She writes, "I was still faking it till I made it. I was sort of good at it. But for the first time, I was asking to learn how to know something new. I was asking for the world to change. I was asking for permission to say why. I was asking to be seen, and respected. I was asking to be known."

Casino 

In the 1995 film Casino, Stone starred opposite Robert De Niro as ex-hustler wife Ginger. Stone writes that she told her acting coach Roy London that her goal was "to be good enough to sit down opposite Robert De Niro and hold my own." She writes in detail about the scene in which she sits down at a restaurant and has "very little dialogue," yet holds her own with De Niro like she always hoped she would. "It is the scene I do for Roy. I have held what became our dream," she writes. Writing further about the film, Stone describes Martin Scorsese as "the greatest director of my life" and someone who worked with her "so deeply" and guided her "so gracefully." Meanwhile of her co-star, Stone praises the actor for teaching her by "the example of his incredible work ethic [more] than any other actor I have ever seen work in my 40 years in the business … He is the master." Stone’s role in Casino would land her an Oscar nomination for best actress. 

The Quick and the Dead

Stone also looks back on her 1995 film, The Quick and The Dead, in which she starred alongside Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio. In particular, Stone writes that she thought Hackman was "one of the greatest actors alive" and recalls asking the studio to offer him the lead and give him top billing. "I wanted this guy they had never heard of for the other male lead, the Australian guy I had seen play a very dangerous skinhead in a movie called Romper Stomper. His name was Russell Crowe," she writes of Crowe — the actor has since expressed his gratitude to Stone’s belief in him for the role. Then of DiCaprio, Stone writes that out of all the teens who auditioned, DiCaprio "was the only one who nailed the audition." She adds, "He was the only one who came in and cried, begging his father to love him as he died in the scene."

Woody Allen 

She may not address the allegations surrounding Woody Allen, but Stone does briefly mention the director when detailing a lighthearted recollection of attending a casting call for his film Stardust MemoriesWhen another actress failed to show up to play her part, Stone writes that she got asked to replace her after catching Allen's interest. "I was reading a children's book about infinity; explaining infinity to a child is an interesting concept to me. When Woody came out, he seemed to think so too, and we talked for about half an hour," she writes of landing a part in the film. While filming her scene, Stone recalls everyone laughing when she first kissed the window, but when she "really laid one on that window," Allen and the team ended up writing her part up a bit more. The role, Stone writes, "inched open the door of my dream world." 

Dancing With John Travolta at the Oscars 

After being asked to present at the 2002 Oscars, Stone explains her fears she had as she was still enduring the aftermath of her surgery. Stone enlisted help from her friend Quincy Jones, who had survived brain aneurysms, to refer her to a doctor that eventually treated her as she continued to recover. "Within a couple of weeks I went to the Oscars rehearsal. I tried to fit in. I was introverted, like someone who had been in deprivation therapy. Everyone was very busy being fabulous, and I was working hard to stand." She says she asked John Travolta to dance onstage with her as a way for her to "push myself toward a bigger goal." She writes, "Just weeks before, I had struggled with walking. Now I would be dancing." 

Childhood Abuse

In one of the memoir's most chilling moments, the actress details disturbing memories of witnessing her then 5-year-old sister being "robbed of innocence" by their maternal grandfather. "I stood, paralyzed, in that dusty, dimly lit, awful place, trapped there by a woman standing in the exit so we couldn't get out," she writes, as she reveals her grandmother would block her from exiting the room — she later revealed that her mother never knew of "her father’s perverse behavior." When attending her grandfather’s funeral, Stone admits to having felt "glee and relief" because there would no more suffering, and she even "poked him" in the casket to make sure he was gone. With internal trauma and anger from the abuse, Stone says she channeled that anger she felt toward her grandfather to portray serial killer Catherine Tramell in Basic Instinct: "When I played a serial killer in Basic Instinct I tapped into that rage. It was terrifying to look into the shadow self and to release it onto film for the world to see … Even more, to let myself know that I have or had darkness within." 

#MeToo 

Though she doesn’t name names, Stone does reveal that there was a director she worked with — she describes the director as a "#MeToo candidate" — who wouldn't direct her because she "refused to sit in his lap to take direction." She writes, "Yes, this was a multimillion-dollar studio film, of which I was the star, and the studio didn't say or do anything." Though she was "a superstar," Stone emphasizes that she "had no say" because she was a woman in the industry: "That was how it was in my day. Even a high, abusive director had more power than I did." She later reveals that a producer once suggested she sleep with her co-star as a way to "have onscreen chemistry." She writes, "I felt they could have just hired a co-star with talent, someone who could deliver a scene and remember his lines. I also felt that they could f— him themselves and leave me out of it," confirming that she never did anything with her co-star. She also reflects on how she was subject to criticism, told that "men are intimidated" by her and recalls that she was "often alone on a set with hundreds of men." She adds, "Can you imagine what it was like to be the only woman on a set — to be the only naked woman … And now I am the intimidating one." 

That "Bad Karma" Comment

Stone addresses her controversial comments in which she suggested while at the Cannes Film Festival that China’s earthquake was "bad karma" for Beijing’s policies in Tibet. She recalls a journalist startling her with a question and responding with her now-infamous line, "Is that karma? When you’re not nice that the bad things happen to you?" Stone explains, "Yes. I said this. And yes, I was not and am not happy with the way the Chinese treat the Tibetans. I am not happy with the way large parts of the world are treating one another, to be honest." She reiterates that her comment was "solely about the Chinese government and was not directed at the Chinese people" but argues the reporter "meant to create scandal." She admits that she "felt used" and "was ill-prepared for an unvetted, ill-intentioned man with a video camera to jump out and ambush me and twist my off-the-cuff thoughts regarding the Chinese earthquake into something bad or disrespectful." Following her comment, Stone notes that apology statements were issued on her behalf without her knowledge or approval, including that of Dior, with whom Stone had a modeling contract at the time: "This was the way the world thought a woman should be treated and respected. As if I could not speak for or explain for myself." 

Looking Ahead

While the actress takes a trip down memory lane throughout her memoir, she also takes readers on her journey to finding contentment and healing both physically and mentally: "It took many years and almost dying for me to work my way back to myself." While in recovery from her health scares, Stone admits her career went on the back burner, but now, years later, she enjoys acting "more than before" and feels "less pressure" than in her early career. After being close to death, Stone says over time she has "learned how to see differently" and "forgive the unforgivable." She adds, "My hope is that as I share my journey, you too will learn to do the same. I learned them from dying, from living, and from being what I’ve often been called: 'The Last Living Movie Star.' "

The Beauty of Living Twice is available now. Listen to an excerpt of Stone narrating the audiobook below.

PRH Audio · The Beauty of Living Twice by Sharon Stone, read by the author - excerpt

Audio excerpted courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio from The Beauty of Living Twice by Sharon Stone, read by the author.