By the end of Sharon Stone’s new memoir, The Beauty of Living Twice, you’re almost shocked that she has survived to share her story. The book documents the 63-year-old actress’s life, from growing up in Pennsylvania Amish country to achieving international fame for her roles in films like Casino and Basic Instinct. And while she may be well-known for playing a serial killer in the latter, she’s no stranger to life-or-death experiences herself. Stone has packed her memoir full of close encounters, including a near-decapitation as a teenager, and a 2001 stroke, after which she was given a one percent chance of survival. So, yes, the book does expand on her iconic career, her many abusive relationships with men (both in Hollywood and as a child), and countless celebrities run-ins, but here are nine times she looked death squarely in the eyes and lived to tell the tale.
She was almost decapitated while breaking in a wild horse.
At age 14, she was attempting to tame a “bitch of a horse” while her mom hung laundry in the yard. The clothesline sliced into her neck, and Stone slipped through the stirrups. Her mom pulled her free as the horse began to drag her. “My neck was hanging open, wet and ripped from one ear to the other,” Stone describes. After a trip to a hospital and a surgery from a doctor who didn’t know how to do plastic surgery, she healed but with a scar — which she still has — that makes it look like there is a “red, then pink, then white rope tied around” her neck.
She bled excessively after a secret abortion in college.
Stone’s first serious boyfriend got her pregnant when she was 18. Sexually inexperienced, she writes that she didn’t realize it would happen. Because it was difficult to get an abortion at her age in her home state, the two drove to a clinic in Ohio. “I was bleeding all over the place and far worse than I should have been, but this was a secret and I had no one to tell,” Stone describes. “So I stayed in my room and bled for days. I was weak and scared and then just weak.” When she finally came out of it, she torched her bloody sheets and clothes in a burning barrel at school before heading back to class. Eventually, a local Planned Parenthood opened that provided her with birth control and counseling. “This, above all else, saved me: that someone, anyone, could talk to me, educate me,” Stone writes. “No one ever had, about anything.”
Her family was threatened after her brother went to jail for cocaine.
Stone’s brother, who had once overdosed and passed out in her apartment, was imprisoned for selling the drug. Stone says people threatened the family after he went to jail because they didn’t want him to reveal who he had been working for. Part of the reason her parents supported her career in entertainment, Stone says, was because they wanted her out of town.
She had a hemorrhage in Zimbabwe and had to wait for it to stop without treatment.
Stone traveled to the African country in the ’80s to film King Solomon’s Mines. She remembers beginning to bleed — potentially a miscarriage, she doesn’t know for sure — and going to a hospital:
I was put on a gurney in the hall and left there. There were no meds, nothing to stop or sop up the bleeding, no doctors with time for me. There were too many tragically dying men, women, and children: on gurneys, on the floor, in all of the rooms, streaming in through the doors. What the hell was happening? They were so sick, so terribly sick, writhing in agony, suffering, screaming out in pain.
Stone eventually stopped bleeding and left the hospital without meds or a transfusion. She later realized the hospital had been treating HIV/AIDS patients, and went on to advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and research throughout her career.
She thought she accidentally became a murderer while filming the opening sequence for Basic Instinct.
In the scene from the 1992 film, Stone’s character stabs a victim to death with an ice pick. She remembers the director screaming for her to hit harder and demanding more fake blood as they shot. When the actor stopped responding, Stone worried that the prop had malfunctioned and she’d actually killed him. Instead, she had apparently hit him so many times in the chest that he had passed out. “I was horrified, naked, and stained with fake blood. And now this,” Stone remembers.
She hit black ice while driving on a road that ran directly down into a lake.
In her 30s, Stone was on her way to visit friends at a country club when she hit the ice. Thanks to training from stunt double Donna Evans (who did the “all the crazy driving” in Basic Instinct), Stone was able to aim for a telephone pole instead of the water and prepare herself for impact. “I … took my hands off the wheel and my feet off the pedals, crossed my arms across my chest, took a big deep breath, and exhaled on impact,” she remembers, adding that she crashed so hard that the engine was pushed into the cassette player and began playing a tape. The car was totaled and the telephone pole was split in half over the windshield, but she was left without a scratch.
She skipped all her medical needs for a decade.
Stone says she was not able to start to repair her physical “war wounds” until after she started working less. She writes of ignoring a host of conditions during the “on fire” part of her career:
Dislocated shoulder: suck it up. Root canal in my trailer with no novocaine at lunchtime: that was not a great one, I can say; I had that redone twice— and then had total jaw surgery to repair the damage from this absolutely stupid behavior. Bursting ovarian cyst: get some
super-strong meds, and change it from a standing scene to a
sitting scene. Broken foot from an overzealous stuntman: get a
bigger boot for that foot, finish the show, and then get it rebroken and repaired after the show wraps. In other words, shut up and deal. There isn’t room for babies in this biz, especially if I, as a woman, want to prove my mettle.
After a stroke, she was told she had a one percent chance of survival and stayed in an operating chamber for nine hours.
In 2001, one of Stone’s arteries was torn into a shred and bled into her face, brain, head, and spine. When she left the ICU, she had lost directional hearing in her right ear and a significant amount of weight. She also describes stuttering, seeing colors, sudden pain, and experiencing a loss of short-term memory and some long-term memories. Two weeks before presenting with John Travolta at the Oscars the following year, she was still struggling to walk. At the rehearsal, she says she looked around and could see “how hard everyone else was working to be liked,” while she was “working hard to stand.” She asked Travolta if they could dance onstage as a personal goal for herself.
She had a prolapsed valve in her heart after losing primary custody of her son.
Stone was told that there was an extra beat in her heart’s upper and lower chambers. “My heart, it seemed, was actually broken,” she writes. Because she signed a confidentiality agreement, she says she can’t talk about what happened, though she describes her custody battle as punishment for changing the rules of how women are viewed. She created a Buddhist altar for her son during this time, and says her Buddhist teacher told her that this condition reflected her heart expanding to accept this part of her destiny.