Playboy, December 1992
A candid conversation with the red-hot star of Basic Instinct about sex, brains, macho men, killer women and "that scene"
PLAYBOY: A break from what?
STONE: My life. And, you know, Police Academy 4 changed me tremendously -- for the good, really for the good. I worked with twelve stand-up comedians every day. Not actors, but stand-up comedians. You've no idea what a joy it is to go into a room and hang out with those people -- the brilliance and the politically astute, fun, intellectual, strange, inspirational conversations you'll have with them.
STONE: When you're making Action Jackson, you know what you're making. But it's awfully nice to be making it with someone who's so sweet. Thank God for Craig T. Nelson. He played my husband. He's such a dear, wonderful man.
PLAYBOY: Above the Law?
STONE: I will refrain from comment.
PLAYBOY: Tears in the Rain?
STONE: [Laughs] Fun. Shot in
PLAYBOY: Blood and Sand?
STONE: Just horrible. Nobody spoke English, everybody started drinking wine at ten o'clock in the morning. Everybody was bombed during the entire making of the picture. It was more like Drunken Spanish Keystone Cops Make a Bad C Movie.
PLAYBOY: He Said, She Said?
STONE: I had fun working with Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins. They're good actors. The movie as a whole didn't really work, but we had some fun making it.
PLAYBOY: Stardust Memories?
STONE: It remains one of the sweetest experiences I've ever had as an actress.
PLAYBOY: You had never acted before that one.
STONE: Right. I stood in line to be an extra. Woody sat with the casting person and watched, and when I walked up, the casting person leaned over and said, "Mr. Allen would like you to stay." I sat there for a while watching hundreds of extras hand in their pictures. Woody never spoke to me. After a while I thought, Fellini should be shooting this! I'm gonna go now. I left and got called: "You're an extra. Come. Wear white." The set was in a high school cafeteria. I was waiting with all the extras, hanging out, reading a book. Woody came up and talked to me for half an hour. We had this weird conversation about infinity, because the book I was reading was a children's book that explained infinity to a child. Woody left, and his assistant came out and said, "Hey, Woody really liked you. Would you like to have a part in the movie?" I'm like, "All right! When do I start?" They took me over to wardrobe.
PLAYBOY: In your moment of glory in the film, you plant a kiss on the window of a passing train. In how many takes did you have to kiss the glass?
STONE: I did one take, and then Woody came over and said, "Do it like you're really kissing me, OK?" So, of course, I really laid one on.
PLAYBOY: Moving on. King Solomon's Mines?
STONE: Hmmm. A bad hairdo running through the jungle.
PLAYBOY: And the sequel, Allan Quatermain and the
STONE: The same bad hairdo running through the same bad jungle.
PLAYBOY: It was reported that you were hated on the set of that movie.
STONE: Yeah. My husband was a producer of the movie. At the time, I was a very uptight girl, a real goody-goody. My marriage was falling apart, and the pressure of that was just tremendous for me. I'm sure I was a bitch. But if you see that I spent a year of my life in
PLAYBOY: But Verhoeven has also said you're difficult to work with. He's said you have a mean streak.
STONE: Don't you?
PLAYBOY: He also said you flirt, seduce and change in a split second.
STONE: That sounds like a man who is completely captivated, doesn't it?
PLAYBOY: Do you use flirting and seducing to get your way?
STONE: Women are emotionally complex. Actresses are much more in touch with their emotional range because we constantly have to address it. You need to be aware of the power of your emotional range. Everybody uses whatever assets they have in their business.
PLAYBOY: Let's back up. What were you like as a kid?
STONE: I was, like, forty at birth. When I wasn't even a year old, I spoke, I was potty trained, I walked and talked. That was it. Then I started school and drove everybody crazy because they realized I had popped out as an adult. I had adult questions and wanted adult answers. I was a very intense, weird kid. I was the kid in Little Man Tate. My mother would just look at me, horrified. Recently we had a very deep, revealing conversation in which she told me that she had no idea what to do with me when I was a child. I was so different from the other kids that it was frightening, scary for her. She never knew how she was supposed to treat me.
PLAYBOY: Did your rigidity come from your mother?
STONE: My father was very rigid when we were young. Since I had the ability to do things that other kids didn't, he drove me toward perfection with a whip and a chair. That's very overwhelming. He's not like that now. Now he's the sweetest guy. We've all grown.
PLAYBOY: As a child, were you aware that you were special?
STONE: I didn't think I was special. I thought I was wrong.
PLAYBOY: Wrong because of the things you thought about?
STONE: Just wrong. I never fit in. Everything I did and said made everybody uncomfortable.
PLAYBOY: Because you were intelligent?
STONE: I don't know. All I know is that I was a weird little kid.
PLAYBOY: Did your parents acknowledge that you were different?
STONE: They knew that I was smart. They tested me like I was a guinea pig or a hamster running on the wheel. I took endless IQ tests and put pegs in holes and matched colors with colors. I took Rorschach tests and evaluative tests about what you're predisposed to be and do.
PLAYBOY: What did the tests reveal?
STONE: That I had a high IQ and was predisposed to do technical things: science, engineering, math. I'm sure a career as a chemical engineer would have been appropriate for me, though my personality is more fitting for a lawyer.
PLAYBOY: How did the testing affect you?
STONE: It set me up as being even more peculiar in an environment where peculiarities are avoided at all costs.
PLAYBOY: You've also said that you felt unattractive.
STONE: I was pretty unattractive. I was tall, unbearably skinny, wore thick glasses and had no sense of myself as a female. My senior year I started to wake up to the possibilities. I looked at magazines, saw all these make-overs and thought, I can do that. I tried to dress cooler. I dyed my hair black, then brown, then red. It was like a math problem: How do you get it to equal what you want?
PLAYBOY: What was it like growing up in
STONE: Well, there were eighty-seven people in my graduating class. It was a small rural community. The people would get up early, do their chores and go to work.
PLAYBOY: Did you see a lot of movies?
STONE: There was only one movie theater in my hometown, so I saw whatever was there a million times. I loved movies and painting and literature -- everything artistic and aesthetic. It all inspired me.
But my parents did not put me in a private school, so I didn't have an opportunity to achieve my full potential academically. When I was fifteen, I went to high school half a day and college the other half. Then I went on to a local college, one that was not really very stimulating. The dean let me take course overloads and I didn't have to be in all my classes all the time, so long as I maintained a certain grade point average. The classes were very helpful to me, but it soon became clear that I could take a course overload and drugs and still be bored. I needed to be in a different environment in order to be inspired to go on with academics.
PLAYBOY: Was there anything in college that inspired you?
STONE: Well, I took a course in the history of modern architecture in which I learned about Christo. I ended up minoring in modern architecture because it was so inspiring to me to think of artists as architects and architects as artists. It was a revelation that an artist wasn't defined by his medium.
PLAYBOY: So why did you ultimately select acting as a career?
STONE: Of all the arts, I thought I had the least talent as an actor -- so I picked it. [Laughs] It was the furthest reach.
In reality, I figure I'll go back to school at some point. I mean, what am I going to do ultimately? Be a producer? Go back to school and be a lawyer? I'm not going to be a leading lady forever, that's clear. So I think I'll sock away the bread now so if I want to go back to school, I can do that. We'll see.
PLAYBOY: After college, you started off as a model, right?
STONE: Yeah. Being a model was a good gig for me. I'm obviously not like your model chick. I don't look like those girls. I can get it up and look good, though I look better on film. But I'm not size three, ten-foot-tall perfect. Being in that world always seemed like such a scam to me. I was always uncomfortable. But at the same time, I was able to do it and make great money so that I didn't have to be a starving artist while I studied acting and lost my
PLAYBOY: Before long, you were married and acting in B movies. Did you feel trapped at that point?
STONE: I did, but I was trying desperately to be normal. My husband was a real straight guy and we had sort of a squeaky-clean little relationship. I wanted us to be the perfect couple. He had been the captain of the football team and the golf team. I wanted to be the perfect wife. Like everyone else, I wanted to be normal, I wanted life to be easier. But I was very rigid -- I wanted to be perfect. Maybe I thought being perfect, being better, was being different from whom I actually was. It has taken me a long time to understand that who I am is enough.
PLAYBOY: What were your feelings toward your husband?
STONE: I loved my husband from the minute I laid eyes on him. I think my behavior was a result of wanting to be different, but my love for him was an instantly magical thing that had nothing to do with any of that.
PLAYBOY: Still, you were constantly discontent.
STONE: Yeah. And when we had trouble in the marriage, I tried to negotiate with him for some kind of middle ground, but he wouldn't negotiate. Because he really was----
PLAYBOY: What was middle ground for you?
STONE: I don't know. [Pauses] This is getting too private. I don't really want to talk about it.
PLAYBOY: Let's not talk about it in terms of your relationship but in terms of yourself. What were you trying to attain?
STONE: I guess this is it: I never, ever thought I was lovable. Ever. I didn't believe that my husband loved me. That was the worst thing I did in my marriage, because I was perpetually freaked out over it. I've had experiences in the past couple years that have let me know the depth of the love and loyalty that I have with my friends and my family. But I never knew that before.
PLAYBOY: How did you figure it out?
STONE: After my marriage, I was alone. It was difficult for me for a long time. There's a song I heard on the radio the other day that sums it up. It went something like: "If it wasn't for you, I'd be here right now."
PLAYBOY: You were devastated.
STONE: I loved him completely. It was very difficult to move on. I wasn't aware emotionally that it was over even after I was divorced.
PLAYBOY: How did that affect you?
STONE: I went around not having relationships because I thought they would impinge on the possibility of getting back together with my husband.
PLAYBOY: Until when?
STONE: Now. [Laughs] No, about a year and a half ago. I started having relationships again. One ended right after I finished Basic Instinct. I was heartbroken.
PLAYBOY: Were you involved with someone on the movie?
STONE: I am not prepared to reveal that. [Grins] But the person will know. [Laughs] Actually, probably not. There'll be all these people going, "It was me, it was me!"
PLAYBOY: So you were heartbroken?
STONE: Yes. And that's when I saw it. My friends were so loving and supportive when I was in so much pain. One day I was just lying on the sofa, crying, and it occurred to me out of nowhere that I was loved. I realized that meant I was lovable. And my life changed.
STONE: Until then I could never figure out what I did wrong in my marriage. I never believed that he loved me. Now I recognize that he really did.
PLAYBOY: Was Dwight Yoakam your next serious romance?
STONE: I occasionally went out with Dwight for a six-week period, during which time we were photographed far too much and quite by accident. I am incredibly disappointed that I still have to see photos of such an unimportant relationship.
PLAYBOY: Who is your boyfriend now?
STONE: I don't want to put that in the press. Let's just say I'm very happy in my current relationship.
PLAYBOY: Do you want children?
STONE: I do. I will have children someday.
PLAYBOY: Has your relationship with your parents changed, too?
STONE: Oh yeah. I realize now how peculiar they are. [Laughs] It's not just me.
PLAYBOY: And what about the future? Do you see yourself staying the "sex babe" of the Nineties?
STONE: Some days you'd like to be able to just shut it all off: "We won't do that today." But you don't get to pick a day like that. It's very weird.
PLAYBOY: How are men, in particular, affected by you now?
STONE: They know that I know -- like, they can't pull one over on me. They talk to me in a certain way. I was in a room at a press junket when the movie came out. Reporters came in, one after the other, for their seven minutes. They'd seen the movie that morning, so they were still very impacted by it. From the moment they sat down, you could tell exactly where they were at. Men would sit down and start to sweat and shake.
PLAYBOY: In one skit on your Saturday Night Live appearance, men approached you in a bar and suddenly became tongue-tied. How much of an exaggeration is that?
STONE: Not too much, but that happens to any attractive woman. Men make up an idea of who you are. They don't take the time to find out. It's a version of, "I love you, you're beautiful" or "I hate you, you're beautiful." Whatever it is, they think they know what you're all about.
PLAYBOY: In the sketch, you didn't even have a chance to respond to one guy before he retreated to his friend and said, "She's a bitch."
STONE: It's sad. An attractive woman can find herself in a relationship for three or four months before she realizes that the person not only doesn't know her but, even more frightening, doesn't want to know her. They just want her to be the thing.
PLAYBOY: And what is "the thing"?
STONE: It's different for everybody. For me, I was the diet Coke girl, the Clairol girl, the Charlie girl in
PLAYBOY: Are men more intimidated by the Basic Instinct girl than by any of the other beautiful girls you've been?
STONE: Well, after the movie came out, I did so much publicity in which I was such a wiseass that people realized that I was and wasn't Catherine Tramell. After a while it's hard to be thoughtful and deep when you're asked the same question endlessly. So, yes, people get in my space in a different way now. They feel like they have to knock before they come in. Carefully.
PLAYBOY: Is that good or bad?
STONE: I kind of like it because it's less scary than having people charge at you.
PLAYBOY: What about the power that comes from all the attention? Is any of that fun?
STONE: Everybody enjoys the power of sexuality. Actresses are asked to inspire people sexually by the nature of their job. The fun part is that I get to do a lot of good for people. I can step out and say something and have a real effect.
PLAYBOY: For instance?
STONE: If I do a press conference and people ask me my point of view, I know it will be printed in USA Today. It'll affect somebody.
PLAYBOY: Do new responsibilities come with that?
STONE: Yes. I've shaped up. I'm still pretty flip about a lot of things, but I try not to be flip about real things. That's why I didn't openly support a presidential candidate. Instead, I decided to campaign for people to get out and vote -- to make a choice -- rather than use my position to try to influence people to vote for a particular candidate. I've also been asked by the United Nations to go to
PLAYBOY: Lots of actors achieve stardom in their teens and twenties. You're in your thirties. How is that different?
STONE: All I know is that I'm really glad to be my age. I always knew older was going to be better. I knew I was growing into my personality. Now I'm old enough that it all makes sense, it's all fine now. When I had this voice, this attitude, this intensity and these opinions at seventeen, well, people thought I was this fucking vampire.
It's like my boyfriend once told me: "Looking at you," he said, "is like looking at a hummingbird. If you stand real close, the wings are going so fast you can't see them. It's overwhelming and you don't know what's going on. How is this creature staying in the air? But if you step back just a little bit, you can see the wings move, barely. You can see this beautiful thing moving around from flower to flower. And it's not scary anymore."
PLAYBOY: Some say that hummingbirds are not supposed to be able to fly -- that their wings are too small for their bodies.
STONE: Then I really am like a hummingbird, I guess, because my mind is far too heavy to do what I do. [Shrugs, smiles] Yet here I am.