- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 8, 2000

Much has been made of the fact that Sharon Stone's IQ is reported to be 154. That puts the blond actress among the nation's gray-matter elite. Accepting that Miss Stone is Mensa material, one still wonders how she has picked her projects of late. She has been drawn to playing "dames" and "molls" with disappointing results.

Miss Stone was an unconvincing tough gal in the remake of "Gloria" and a death-row inmate in "Last Dance." She was perfectly cast as the ethereal ditz in Albert Brooks' sweet comedy "The Muse." Her latest film is "Simpatico," an adaptation of a Sam Shepherd play. This time, she's the disillusioned spouse of Jeff Bridges, forced to get reacquainted with an estranged old friend, played by Nick Nolte.

Given the reality that Sam Shepard's lean and mean plays always make a difficult translation to the big screen, "Simpatico" is another odd choice for Miss Stone. But she's quite proud of the film, which was produced for a fraction of her star-studded Hollywood movies.

"Not just of my work, but because all of these people involved in this movie are really special," Miss Stone says during a recent interview in Beverly Hills. "If you think of my career, all of the artists I've been involved with are really special people. Everybody came together. Nobody got paid. And there wasn't any time. A studio couldn't pay all of us to make a movie together. But a studio wouldn't have the sense to make a movie like this."

Miss Stone describes "Simpatico" simply. "It's about three people, 20 years of age, who decide they need to get out of their little town in California, so they pull this scam at the track to make enough money to change their lives. They get caught but blackmail the person who catches them. All kinds of things happen from there, and that's cut together with those three people living with the consequences of their actions. It's about what happens when they finally face each, the person they betrayed and the betrayal of their own hearts."

The role also required some shots of Miss Stone riding a magnificent horse. Fortunately, she's an old hand.

"I've been riding since I was a kid. Now that I get to ride in movies, I've gotten to ride a horse at a level that you never, ever get to normally ride. In fact, the owner was very freaked out every time I got around the horse, because he was so valuable. I'm a good rider, but unless you ride for a living, you're not a good enough rider for this horse. Even as fast as you see this horse go, it was only a quarter of its potential."

If her performance cuts a little deeper than her work in any of her recent films, it may be because she was exorcising lingering personal demons. "Simpatico" was adapted and helmed by fledgling director Matthew Warchus. His father was an Episcopal priest in England who also performed exorcisms. Miss Stone found this both fascinating and inspirational.

"Wow," she enthuses. "What's it like to have your dad be an exorcist? That's really out there. But it made Matthew a really deep, interesting person with a great sense of humor. He asked me to address this part as an exorcism. And I did. I was truly a mess.

"I didn't feel better about dragging everything up, but now it seems like I've found peace from that process," she concludes before closing off the line of inquiry. "The things that compel work like this are the things I can't talk about."

Perhaps a settled relationship contributed to Miss Stone's newfound inner harmony. She will celebrate her second wedding anniversary on St. Valentine's Day. She resides in San Francisco with her husband, newspaper editor Phil Bronstein. As a concession to marriage, she no longer maintains the harried schedule of a major movie star. In fact, she has become something of a homebody.

"We moved into our new house a couple of months ago. I have an office downstairs. I get up, drag my rear end to the gym. All of this is done in my pajamas. I go to the office. My assistant arrives with a big box of mail, checks, requests, all the stuff we have to do. I have two big desks. She sits at one desk and me at another. I put on my headset, and we go to work. It's like going to an office. When a script comes in that needs my attention, she only talks to me if it's absolutely necessarily."

Miss Stone remains one of Hollywood's most beautiful leading ladies, but she was grateful to play such a devastated character as Rosie in "Simpatico."

"I had to try to look good today so you actually know I don't look like that," she says.

It was while watching the film for the third time that she had a liberating epiphany.

" 'I'm not the girl in the tight dress anymore,' " she recalls thinking. " 'I'm not that girl.' I had a moment of pause. Remember that I was the girl in the bikini in those Coppertone ads. And I thought: 'Fabulous.' " She laughs. "It means I actually learned my job and get to do all this wonderful stuff. What a life."

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