Since picking up a paintbrush again during the COVID lockdowns, Stone, 65, has thrown herself into painting full-time, putting on her latest exhibition, Sharon Stone: Welcome to My Garden.
She chats to Jenny Davis about having her creative life back within her control, and the relief that brings after a series of traumatic personal setbacks.
You’ve had an incredible acting career, but in 2001 you had a catastrophe. Tell us about that.
I had a massive stroke, a nine-day brain haemorrhage. There are a thousand details I could share … I was put in an MRI tube, and I came out, there was all this stillness. I looked up at the doctor, who was standing over me, looking at me with this face of the most horrific compassion I’ve ever seen. I said, “I’m dying, right?” And he reached down and stroked my head, which is not what you want your doctor to do. He said, “You’re bleeding into your brain.” And I said, “Am I going to lose my ability to talk soon?” He said, “Probably.” And I said, “Well, then I should call my mum.” My mum arrived from Pennsylvania in her gardening shorts with mud on her feet and legs.
So she flew to California?
Yes, and by then they had transferred me to a second hospital for people with traumatic neurological injuries. Before the transfer, they had moved the gurney over to the middle of the room, and I guess I died. I left my body. I saw those things that people argue about whether it’s, you know, a science thing or a spiritual thing, where you see the white light, you go up, you see people who have already died … I don’t know whether they defibrillated me or what happened, but I felt this impact in my chest that was unbelievable. I grew up in the country, so I liken it to being kicked in the chest by a farm animal. I sat up and I was like, “What the f--k?” Like taking that gulp of air when you’ve made a mistake swimming.
Then I woke up in this other hospital. They gave me an angiogram and they missed it because I’d had surgery for the breast tumours, and I was still bandaged. I was laying on my side and apparently the blood had pooled on one side, and it didn’t demonstrate what was happening correctly.
You were given a one per cent chance to live?
Yes. Eventually they wanted me to go home because they thought I was faking it. Because I’m an actress … They gave me another angiogram and they realised they’d missed it.
You had 23 metal coils inserted, right?
They are tiny little coils, I think they’re platinum – because I’m fancy [laughs] – and they go, instead of an artery, down through the back of my neck connecting the artery, like a stent almost. I don’t have a blood supply, so I’m functioning like a regular blonde now [laughs].
Is it hard to talk about your trauma or is it therapeutic?
They say that you’re supposed to write it three times, and that writing your things that are traumatic three times is supposed to cleanse you of it. But I can tell you, it takes more than three times to work through this. But then I lost everything because it took about seven years to really recover.
You’ve said you were almost broke, right?
I was down to nothing. I had to pay the kids’ school on my credit card and hope for the best. I just got on my knees and I was like, “I need a sign … and could you make it big because I’m going to need something that I can’t miss because I’m in a coma here. So like, help me out.”
You’ve been through so much in your life. What makes you feel most free?
While I was recovering from my stroke, I reassessed everything. I decided that I would never not be myself again. And people could love me, hate me, like me, dislike me, judge me, do whatever they wanted. But take it or leave it, man. I feel free pretty much all the time.