From New York Times Magazine - November 16, 1997

The Actresses
Lili Taylor
Sharon Stone

Lili and Sharon
It's 6:30 on a fall evening when Sharon Stone arrives at Pier 59 Studios in Manhattan, a little late. She had been uptown in Harlem, on the set of her next movie, "Gloria," a studio remake of the film by John Cassavetes, who was an independent film maker when there weren't many.
"You are not what I expected," Stone says, fixing her gaze on Lili Taylor. Taylor takes the comment in stride--she's used to it. Stone, who is 39, is the 90's version of a leading lady, an international star; Taylor, 30, starred in "I Shot Andy Warhol" and "The Addiction" and is, arguably, the pre-eminent dramatic actress working in indie films.
"We're both dangerous women," Stone says as the two settle down to talk.

TAYLOR: I Think it's so neat that you've been able to combine the business and the acting so well, which is something I'm actually not doing that well with.

STONE: Do you want to?

TAYLOR: I'm having trouble getting some independent films, because either my stock's not high enough or I'm not a smart enough businesswoman.

STONE: Well, I had gotten to a point when I'd done so many B movies, I couldn't get a good movie. I did "Total Recall," which was, like, the 30,000th action movie I'd done. And I realized, I've got to figure out how to get famous, because if I get famous I can get better movies. People had consistently said that I wasn't sexy.

TAYLOR: Really?

STONE: So I said, Maybe we should try to sex me up a little because I can't get the sexy jobs. The studios didn't want anything to do with me. You know, I was, like, a bimbo. Big hair and a bathing suit. But, fine, I learned my craft while no one was looking. You get young actors who get a hit right off the bat and in one second they're a movie star, and then everybody is so viciously judgemental of them, and they're green. They don't have any experience.
When you make B movies or, today, independent movies, I'm sure you're dragging cable around to get the shot. You're hauling monitors. There's no chair with your name on it. You're working as a team to make it, so you really learn how films are made. And that's what is so great about independent movies.


TAYLOR: I keep thinking, what kind of price do you have to pay? If you heighten the businesswoman aspect, can one hold on to the other thing, the artist?

STONE: I sense a lot of times as a woman that the more successful you become, the more loathsome to the industry you become. It's like there is a certain limit to the amount of power and success that people are comfortable with you having. Once you go beyond that, you begin to feel a sense of resistance.

TAYLOR: Do you think that it's that the business builds you up and then they sort of want to control you? You don't have an agent. Is that good, it that helpful?

STONE: For the most part, I don't feel that I need to have an agent because my manager, Chuck Binder, is so fabulous at his job. But I don't feel a resentment within the community that I am functioning without an agent, although Kevin Costner doesn't have an agent, and for a long time Harrison Ford didn't. I think I'm the only woman who doesn't have an agent.
So then I'll go, All right, well why don't I sort of get an agent and see if everybody will settle down a little bit, because I don't need to create more resistance. So, I get an agent, but I don't notice anything changing about my career. I mean, you can go out and make a blockbuster every time. It's not that hard to figure. You know you need this and this and this element and it's going to make money. And you have this and this and it probably won't. Or this and this and it's iffy. But it isn't about going out and being in a blockbuster every time. And I think that there's a view of me out there that if I'm not in a blockbuster, then I'm making a mistake.


TAYLOR: Even if it's, like, a beautiful film that you love? That's one reason I like to stay in New York. In L.A. there's that value system, and if I'm out there I start to question my art a little bit, and I start to adopt a value system that isn't mine. Unfortunately, that's the way everything's operating.

STONE: Are you really missing out on anything you want, though?

TAYLOR: Kind of, yeah. Independents have changed since I got involved with them. You really need to have some good stock to get a role.

STONE: There are ways to do that.

TAYLOR: I've always been wary about strategizing. Because for me, whenever I've tried to plan something, it doesn't work the way I was hoping it was going to.

STONE: Nothing ever goes the way you want it to. Believe me, I didn't plan to be this. I mean, I thought, O.K., it would be great if people thought I was a little sexy. I had no idea it was going to turn into a three-ring circus.

TAYLOR: I gotcha.

STONE: But I do think that you can get someone who works in your corner who has a strategy. Sometimes you make a deal. You know, my manager was really insistent that I do "The Specialist." I was kind of like: "I've done so many action movies. I don't really think there's anything more I can get out of doing an action movie." And he said: "You really need to do this. I want you to do this." And he was so insistent that I eventually did it to get him off my back.
I had a terrific time, and it made a ton of money, so I got to do "Casino." They weren't going to pick me to be in "Casino" because they thought I would be good in the part. I was told by the studio that they picked me because they needed a box-office person.
But you don't have to do it through a studio film.


TAYLOR: Well, I'll tell you , I was hoping that I could do it through independents.

STONE: No. You have to do it through some other thing, some other ancillary thing. It's something about having people have a sense of you that's separate and apart from you in a movie, that's you as an individual, that makes you interesting. You know, I mean, if you think about it, Robert DeNiro is great. But I don't go to the movie to go, "I wonder what he's going to do with that." I go to see Robert De Niro. Because I love Robert De Niro, more even than I love all the characters that he plays.
The thing is that people have a sense of you as these characters and not a sense of you as an individual. You could do a line of clothing. I mean, you could do anything you fell like. But it's got to be something about being out in the world as a person so that it just isn't you being known only for all these wonderful performances. Because you play fringe characters, I think it's important that people know they can get in a room with you.


TAYLOR: Right. Accessible.

STONE: In some way, but not accessible like the girl next door.

TAYLOR: Right. I was thinking that if I was in a big studio picture, maybe my stock would go up a little bit. I hate to talk in such crass terms....

Lili and Sharon
STONE: I don't think it changes whether you're in a bunch of studio pictures that succeed or not, because there's always going to be somebody that's in a hotter movie that you. For example, "Basic Instinct" made so much money. It made, like, half a billion dollars. So every movie I've done since then, people think, It's not quite as big of a hit. You know, how do you ever live up to that? It's possible you're never going to do that again. I mean, who does that? Maybe Schwarzenegger and Stallone, but that's because those movies don't have dialogue, so there's no subtitles and there's no foreign translation. They're like cartoon strips. They're acceptable in every culture. You can't go out and make movies like that. It's inconceivable. Even if you went out and had 42 blockbusters in a row, you would still be making these kinds of choices.

TAYLOR: I'm not asking even for that much. But everybody today wants someone who can bring a little bit more money to the table. It's all distribution. And the distributor is saying you don't have this name.

STONE: I just did a Miramax movie, and I know that they only offered me the part because they knew I would bring financing to the picture. They certainly didn't pick me because they thought, We need someone to play the mother of a 10-year-old --- lets get Sharon Stone.(laughter) You know, Lili, you're great-looking.

TAYLOR: Oh, thank you.

STONE: They always make you look interesting, but you're beautiful.

TAYLOR: Thank you.

STONE: You could do anything. You could look any way you want.

TAYLOR: In the scripts that I've seen, if a woman is pretty, she loses some of her depth. But I'd love to play, you know, a beautiful woman who has depth.

STONE: How old are you?

TAYLOR: Thirty.

STONE: I used to think, Oh, 40, you're done. And with women, it's dog years when you're 40 -- it's as if you're 1,000 years old. It's over. But there is no 25-year-old alive that knows what I know about the world. A 25-year-old is going to bring something marvelous for 25. It's only now, it's only as you're growing up that you really know anything about anything.
But believe me, when they call me up and they tell me that I'm too old to work opposite Mel Gibson in "Conspiracy Theory," I want to walk over to the studio and blow somebody's brains out. Sometimes I think, It's going to be over for me now. But it just isn't.


TAYLOR: No. And I know that. I have a lot of faith. And I'm not talking about a big change.

STONE: Go to a premiere.

TAYLOR: Huh?

STONE: Go to a premiere. Wear a low-cut dress.

TAYLOR: It's the little things.

STONE: Well, not necessarily a lowcut dress. Pull your hair off your face. You have a gorgeous face.

TAYLOR: Or something. Because I think I've been blocking myself in a way, and that doesn't feel good when you're too tight or saying no just for the sake of some principle that's empty or something. Do you know what I'm saying? I have to just remain open and flexible and loose and let new things come in and grow with myself.

STONE: Maybe celebrate a little more? There's nothing more fun than having a makeup artist and hairdresser that are really fun come over to your house and get you all decked out. Get some great designer to lend you some great, and you go out and you feel like a million bucks.

TAYLOR: Right.

STONE: It's like you're getting away with something. It's an incredible thing. You get to be an actor. Yes, it's unbelievably hard work. Yes, you're ripping your heart out. But you get to be an actor -- it's a great thing.
Someone asked me this one time, "How come you get dressed up when you go out to things?" I said, "Because when people go see my movies, I want to say thank you, not [expletive] you." And I think if you go out in that way, like you're saying thank you, then they want to say: "Oh, you're welcome. Do some more."


Lili and Sharon
TAYLOR: I don't want to make myself out to be this starving actress who can't get a job. It's not that way at all. But it's kind of amazed me a little bit because I thought: Well, this is like my little family, my little independent family. I'm accepted. That's great. I'll be doing this all my life. And then I was, like: Oh, no. Oh, geez. They're playing by different rules now than when I started out.
Maybe I've gotten locked into an image. People think I'm only interested in on thing.

STONE: We're all typed. They still won't let me be funny in a movie.

TAYLOR: They won't let you be funny?

STONE: They don't think in a million years I could do a comedy. And everybody I work with goes: "You're so funny. You should do a comedy." "Yeah, I know." But no one ever offers me one.

TAYLOR: It's confusing. A lot of my impressions have been sort of overturned, and I kind of don't know anymore. I really don't know. For a while I thought: Oh, just doing the work is enough. Being true to my heart is enough. I don't know anymore.

STONE: Well, the truth is, no actor has any real power. Every single one of us is in service to somebody.

TAYLOR: That's true.

STONE: And you know, it's a service profession. But it's also an incredible gift. I get to be a star.

TAYLOR: I don't think I'll ever be a major star.

STONE: Why not?

TAYLOR: Well, who knows?

STONE: I'm telling you, go to a few premieres. Anything could happen.

Moderated by Lynn Hirschberg Photographs by Michael O'Neill


Back to Articles Page

Back to Lili Taylor Home Page