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Catwoman - Things have evolved because a lot of us have held the course of being proud of being 40



Feature by: Jack Foley

ONE of the few success stories to have emerged from the film Catwoman is the re-emergence of Sharon Stone, who would appear to be back in the glare of the Hollywood spotlight after years in the movie-making wilderness.

Stone became one of the highest paid, A-list actresses of the Nineties, following high-profile performances in movies such as Total Recall, The Quick and the Dead, The Specialist and, of course, Basic Instinct.

And she reached a career pinnacle, in 1995, when she was Oscar nominated for her performance in Martin Scorsese’s Casino (for which she did receive a Golden Globe).

But the past four years have been something of a personal nightmare for the actress, who disappeared from the limelight largely around the same time she turned 40.

"I think that they [film-makers] mis-heard that I had leprosy," she quipped, in reference to her cavalier attitude to turning that age. "And suddenly, I didn’t work."

Her performance in Catwoman, however, looks set to change things, and there is even talk of a long-anticipated Basic Instinct sequel on the horizon, as well as a directorial debut.

Speaking at the London press conference for Catwoman, Stone says the experience has helped her to focus on the important things in life, most notably in the form of her son, Roan Joseph.

Work, she says, is still enjoyable, but it no longer dominates, even though she admits to seeing an attitude change in the minds of casting directors.

"Things have evolved because a lot of us have held the course of being proud of being 40, and being interesting, and having life to bring to film, and not being particularly interested in pretending to be 35," she explained.

"So there has been an evolution, where you can be 45 and work in films, and say you’re 45 and have an interesting career."

Catwoman may not have been a hit with critics, and failed to perform to Box Office expectations when it opened in America last month, but it does address some important issues, according to Stone, who maintains that it is a good movie.

She plays the villain of the piece, a beauty-obsessed former model, turned cosmetics company boss, who kills one of her co-workers, in the form of Halle Berry’s advert designer, when the truth emerges about the side-effects of some new anti-ageing cream. The victim in question, however, re-emerges as Catwoman.

The film provided an excellent opportunity for Stone to work with Berry, whom she has long-respected and considers a great role model to other women.

When asked to elaborate, she turned to her co-star and said: "You’re a terrific step-mother and have shown that in so many beautiful ways; and you have made such enormous strides for women culturally, and you’ve made such great successes as an actress and philanthropist. I think you are an amazing role model."

Then, explaining what it means to be a role model, she continued: "I think to be a role model, and this is probably true of both of us, you have to be willing to fail in public, and that it’s so important not how you fall, but how you get up.

"And I think that both of us have fallen, in public, and we’ve both gotten up in public. Neither of us have tried to pretend that we’re perfect in public. We both have had crises in our lives, and we’ve both had successes in our lives.

"We’re both mothers, and we’re both mothers in non-traditional ways, and we both try to succeed in our craft as actresses in non-traditional ways. We don’t believe that we have to be actresses who can only play certain roles to show your talent.

"I think that we both feel that you can be attractive and not use your beauty just as a shallow thing, but explore the fact that sometimes being beautiful means that you feel that you are so not beautiful, because you are being seen as a shell.

"And there’s so many ways that we have wanted to show women that you can be more, and so when you want to do that, very often the press wants to show how much less you are.

"And so I think a way to try to be a role model is to say that ‘you may say what you want to say about who I am, but I will be able to stand the distance of the glare of that’, and, for me, sometimes just standing there, while that happens, is enough."

The subject of women’s attitudes towards beauty is something that strikes a chord with both women, even if they have differing attitudes towards it.

Stone does not believe in plastic surgery, personally, but feels it is up to the individual to decide what’s best for them - or what makes them happiest.

But Berry, addressing many of the themes that Stone touched upon, is keen to comment on the issue wherever possible, and believes that the film is a good vehicle for placing it under the spotlight.

"I do think that we [women] have become obsessed with beauty and searching out the fountain of youth. And personally, I’m really saddened by the way in which women start to mutilate their faces today in search of that.

"In terms of getting plastic surgery and pulling themselves this way and that, it’s like a slippery slope. Once you start, you pull one thing one way, and you think, ‘oh God, now this looks wrong and you pull it that way’ and you start pulling again at the other side. And then you have this plastic-plastered copycat sort of face and that’s frightening for me, so I try to use my voice in any way that I can to say just what I’ve said right now.

"It’s really insane and I feel sad that this is what society is doing to women. And I think our movie sort of addresses that in a real subtle way. I mean it was a real popcorn eating, rip-roaring, hopefully visual spectacle, but there were little messages to be had if one wanted to see them.

"This was one, that women invest so much time and energy on their physical self, and go to such extremes, that what happens to Laurel Hedare [Sharon Stone] is a metaphor for what is really going to happen to the rest of them."

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