"But once you do it, you walk away with a tremendous amount of confidence," the actress told PEOPLE of taking on uncomfortable roles
Sharon Stone is reflecting on the experience of filming Basic Instinct and the other '90s-era erotic thrillers that have defined her Hollywood career.
Discussing the renewed appreciation for the movie genre at VultureFest on Saturday, the actress, 65, told PEOPLE that making Basic Instinct was a "scary" process that led her to examine herself in oftentimes uncomfortable ways. The film, which also stars Michael Douglas and Jeanne Tripplehorn, sparked controversy when it was first released in 1992 due to its sexually explicit scenes.
"I got to confront my whole self, and that's a scary journey," she admitted. "But once you do it, you walk away with a tremendous amount of confidence because you've had to look at all of yourself, parts of yourself you would never have to dig deep and look at, scary parts, dark parts, concerning parts. And once you do that, you get quite a bit of confidence because you've really looked into the dark mirror."
Stone said it's been "fun" to see the genre experiencing a revival more than 30 years later. "I think people like that. It's fun and it's exciting and they're sexy. I mean, what's wrong with that?" she told PEOPLE.
Stone said the process of digging into her past to write her 2021 memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice — in which she recounts painful childhood traumas — was equally introspective. "It was very freeing because it's the same thing," she explained. "You can't pull any punches when you're writing. You have to sit down and write the truth and not worry about how other people feel about it."
She continued, "I think when you do that, you can't keep telling yourself pretty truths. You have to confront your own, the actual thing that's real and true for you. And that was helpful. That's always helpful."
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During a VultureFest panel discussion with film critic Jerry Saltz, Stone also opened up about her newfound passion for painting — and the surprising moment that inspired her to pick up a brush.
The Casino star recalled experiencing a seizure after getting anesthetized for a root canal. She decided to continue with the procedure, so the dentist attempted to distract her by discussing her work in prisons teaching forgiveness.
Stone said hearing the dentist's testimony was incredibly eye-opening and helped her realize that she could be forgiven for her own mistakes — including her missteps as a mother. In 2004, she lost custody of the son she shared with her then-husband Phil Bronstein. Earlier this year, she revealed on the Table for Two with Bruce Bozzi podcast that the judge in the case made assumptions about her parenting because of her brief nude scene in Basic Instinct.
The simple lesson of forgiveness has given Stone a new outlook. "It really changed my life," she explained. "It changed my life about everything, about to be my best in the circumstances that I was in. And that's how I ended up painting."
Now, Stone paints daily and even shows her work publicly. "I bought real brushes and I started to regain my control, my brush movements," she told The Art Newspaper in March. "I painted and painted and painted, and I re-found myself. I re-found my heart. I re-found my center."
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