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The Transformation Of Sharon Stone From Childhood To The Flight Attendant

After playing the instantly iconic and dangerous Catherine Tramell in the 1992 thriller "Basic Instinct," actress Sharon Stone became known as one of the great femme fatales of Hollywood. However, the real Stone told The New Yorker that she doesn't identify with evil characters like Tramell and eventually got tired of playing them: "It's a little bit tedious, because my life is not remotely villainous. All I do is endless philanthropic and humanitarian stuff."

Stone has had more chances to branch out recently, starring in both the Netflix film "The Laundromat" as well as the HBO murder mystery "Mosaic." Stone even released an autobiography last year entitled "The Beauty of Living Twice" (via The Washington Post). But for many 1990s film fans, Stone will be forever remembered as one of the most enigmatic and charismatic lead actresses of the decade, if not the whole entertainment industry.

With a new recurring role in the second season of "The Flight Attendant," it's time to look at the trajectory of Stone's life, from her childhood to the popular HBO Max series.

Sharon Stone was born and raised in Pennsylvania

Sharon Stone's perspective on her childhood in the small town of Meadville, Pennsylvania was that she was a bit of an outsider. The actress told The New Yorker that as a girl, she was much taller than those around her and "a social disaster, like I still am, because I tell the truth constantly." Yet, Stone was also an extremely bright child, even entering the second grade at just age five.

Unfortunately, tragedy persisted in her life as she grew up. Stone witnessed her sister being abused by a relative, and at age 14, Stone's neck was injured while she was breaking a horse. Many years later, Stone would acknowledge using the anger and trauma from her past to play Catherine in "Basic Instinct," writing, "It was terrifying to look into the shadow self and to release it onto film for the world to see" (via The New Yorker).

When she was 15, Stone received a scholarship to the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, where she studied creative writing and fine arts. However, after winning the Miss Crawford County, Pennsylvania beauty pageant (via Naples News), she moved to New York and began pursuing a career as a model (via Biography).

Her first film role was in a Woody Allen drama

By the late 1970s, after signing with the Ford Agency, Sharon Stone was a successful model, appearing in both print and television ads (via TV Guide). Soon, however, she decided to pursue acting and landed her first big-screen role in the 1980 Woody Allen film "Stardust Memories."

Over the next decade, Stone filmed guest spots in several hit 1980s series, including the sitcoms "Silver Spoons" and "Remington Steele." In 1984, she had her biggest film role yet in "Irreconcilable Differences," playing a young star who steps in between a married director and his screenwriter wife. The talented actress continued to grow and explore new opportunities, and the end of the decade saw Stone tap into increasingly bigger parts mainly in genre movies, including "Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol," the thriller "Cold Steel" — in which she plays the first of many beautiful but mysterious women — and the 1988 action film "Action Jackson."

It was clear even from her flop "Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold," which only made a little less than $4 million at the box office (via Box Office Mojo), that Stone had incredible charisma and intelligence on the screen. The next decade was when her gifts finally made her a star. 

Basic Instinct made Sharon Stone an icon

A key figure in Sharon Stone's career is director Paul Verhoeven, who cast her in 1990's "Total Recall" as Lori, the seemingly loving wife of Carl Hauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who is actually a manipulative double agent. The over-the-top science fiction film became a massive hit, and as a result, Stone was cast in five new films by 1991, including "Year of the Gun," neo-noir thriller "Where Sleeping Dogs Lie," and "Scissors."

But it was reteaming with Verhoeven in the 1992 erotic thriller "Basic Instinct," in which she plays the seductive murder suspect and novelist Catherine Tramell, that made Stone a movie star. However, the film was a difficult shoot, in part because the sexual content was so daring at the time. Stone later commented that "this was a feature film for a major studio, and we had nudity, sex, homosexuality, all these things that, in my era, were breaking norms" (via The New Yorker).

Grossing over $350 million in theaters (via Box Office Mojo), "Basic Instinct" made Stone incredibly famous, but she found it hard to cope with her new celebrity. The already introverted actress said, "I had the kind of fame where people chase you down the street, and stores have to lock the doors and hide you." She was also amused to discover interviewers believed she was actually Catherine and were slightly afraid of her as a result. For better or worse, the role of Catherine would define her movie career from then on.

A stroke halted Stone's career trajectory

Sharon Stone's follow-up to "Basic Instinct" was a thriller with a similar tone called "Sliver." The 1993 film was another box office hit for the actress, but she struggled with the strange and improper demands of notorious producers like Robert Evans (via The New Yorker). That same year, she produced and starred in the 1995 Western "The Quick and the Dead" (via IMDb), and her epic performance in "Casino" as the tragic Ginger earned Stone an Academy Award nomination.

Unfortunately, her subsequent films, including "Diabolique," "Gloria," and "Sphere," didn't win over critics or audiences (via Rotten Tomatoes). In 2001, the actress had a major stroke and chose to take a break from professional acting to recover. The medical emergency completely changed Stone, both physically and mentally, and it led her to rethink her path in life. She later commented to The New Yorker on the difficulty of the career move, as "no matter why you step out of the business — somebody dies, you get hurt, you go to prison — you go to the back of the line."

Stone finally returned to acting in 2003 with "Cold Creek Manor" and a celebrated guest role in "The Practice" as a lawyer who seemingly communicates with God, even nabbing an Emmy as a result. She also played another villain in the 2004 DC adaptation "Catwoman," starring Halle Berry. Yet both "Cold Creek Manor" and "Catwoman" didn't do very well at the box office, with "Catwoman" earning about $82 million on a $100 million budget, and the former barely nabbing $29 million

Lately, Stone has become a popular television actress

After 13 years, Sharon Stone tried to regain the same success as she had in 1992 when she returned to the role of Catherine Tramell in 2005's "Basic Instinct 2." It seemed like a sure thing after the original's smash success, but instead, the sequel was critically maligned and did poorly at the box office (via Box Office Mojo).

Since then, Stone has embraced supporting roles in independent comedies and dramas, including the Bill Murray-led dramedy "Broken Flowers," the crime film "Alpha Dog," and the biopic "Lovelace." She's also done more television lately, playing a key role as a missing children's book author in the Steven Soderbergh HBO experimental drama "Mosaic" and the "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" TV prequel "Ratched." In her personal life, Stone seems content and happy raising her three adopted sons on her own (via People).

As Stone explained in The New Yorker interview, part of this new phase of her life, which includes more versatile performance choices, is that, "I don't have a manager or agents anymore. I just felt like I [needed] to start making some of my own decisions, instead of just constantly having to play the villain." With an upcoming recurring character in the HBO Max thriller series "The Flight Attendant" as well, it seems like Stone is finally in control of her career and public image. Hopefully, this gets her the great roles she deserves as a veteran actress.