Below is a sample from my new book on the film career of SHARON STONE. It goes through her whole career, including Basic Instinct, Casino and Diabolique, plus has interviews with directors who have worked with her. Also included is a Q and A with Sharon herself, which I conducted for Hound Dawg.
The book can be bought here:
Five years following their last gangster movie Goodfellas became a worldwide cultural phenomenon and four years since their last actor-director collaboration all together with Cape Fear, De Niro and Scorsese teamed up again for a crime epic of a different sort, the wonderful and ambitious Casino. Based on the true story of a Jewish gangster appointed the role of casino-head for the mob, the film charts a decade at the top, taking in an avalanche of excess from the years 1973 to 1983, that is destined to come crumbling down. It culminates in the downfall of the mob's hold over Las Vegas. A violent gangster film it may be, but Casino really is so much more than that. It's a study of greed, lust and friendship, complexly explored in a devastatingly powerful three way drama between three very different people.
As Sam "Ace" Rothsein, De Niro brings a certain realism to the table. Here is a man who made his name making bets for the mob, but who was so serious about his job that "he never enjoyed himself". He's a strict professional suddenly thrust into the colourful, shady world of Vegas, seeing over the huge Tangiers hotel and casino. The mob then send in Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), a short tempered enforcer, to watch Sam's back. But Nicky isn't happy just been the muscle for the casino; he assembles his own dodgy crew and starts robbing homes and banks, turning the heat not only on himself, but on Sam and the whole mob itself. Then Sam meets and marries Ginger (Sharon Stone), an ex hustler who agrees to set up home with Sam once he promises her guaranteed wealth for the rest of her life. It's clear from the get go that she doesn't love Sam and this relationship soon starts to break down. On top of this, Nicky draws the FBI in with his increasingly reckless and violent escapades. As Sam yearns for a straight business role, shunning Nicky more and more throughout the film, it's clear that these three individuals all have separate goals which when together can only tear the whole thing apart.
Nicholas Pileggi, the same man who penned the book Wiseguy on which Goodfellas was based, worked alongside Scorsese for several months on the screenplay for Casino. Pileggi had read an article on the true story and thought it would translate well to film. The end result is a mammoth effort and if viewers thought Goodfellas was ambitious, this one totally blew it out of the water. In fact, if you really do have to compare two very different movies, which people seem to do time and time again, I may as well comment that in many ways Casino is a much better film.
Firstly it looks amazing, and there is a wider scope to the story and narrative. Scorsese's directorial touches are even more imaginative and three dimensional than ever before, bringing the story to life with never ending whirls and constant hypnotic movement. When conscious of it, you notice the camera barely stays still and there are clever edits by the brilliant Thelma Schoonmaker. The expert use of narration enhances further the feel of being invited inside this murky world, this time by both De Niro and Pesci. The film is visually stunning, and the constant costume changes, dazzling lights and filming techniques make sure it never becomes slow or dragged out. At three hours long, the whole thing flies by and is constantly gripping.
"We tried to lay out a story as clearly as possible that had happened in the 70s," Scorsese said at the time. "These characters reflected the end of an era."
Rather than construct a full set, Scorsese and the crew made the brilliantly inspired decision to set up at the real Las Vegas casino Riviera, to add to the feel of realism. The decision worked very well, and we believe we have been transported directly back to 1970s Vegas, and been allowed behind the scenes access to its shady cogs at work.
Then we come to Sharon Stone, who is absolutely explosive as Ginger, and rightfully won an Oscar nomination for her work. Given that it's undoubtedly her finest performance, it's pretty unbelievable she didn't go on to more dramatic heights straight after. At first she's all class, a high flying free spirit, whose only set back comes with her allegiance to ex lover pimp scumbag Lester Diamond (played by James Woods). As soon as she settles with Sam, that's it, the longing begins and Ginger is endlessly dissatisfied with a life that gives her everything. She is reckless and self destructive, to the point that we feel for Sam tremendously.
The fact that De Niro's portrayal of Sam makes him seem like a "nicer" person in comparison to Pesci and Stone's characters was a facet of the film's acting that interested Scorsese himself. "That is disturbing to me," Scorsese said. "He should be as a bad as they are. He is in a way. But we are basically watching these people sell their souls and lose them in a way. Pesci's character is about more money, it's about power and respect and her (Sharon Stone), it's about being on top of the world."
Paired with the turbulent Sharon Stone, De Niro has one of his best dramatic sparring partners, with the dialogue frequently exploding into undiluted rage and often physical violence through sheer frustration. The scenes where their marriage is dissolving are electrifying and Stone later recalled the crew were terrified of the two, as they were so into the flow of the scene. When looking at De Njro's closest co stars throughout his varied career, the ones who shared considerable screen time with him, there are few that can match the chemistry and fireworks that go off between him and Sharon Stone. The work he and Stone did for Casino is extraordinary and it's a shame they haven't shared the screen since.
Interviewed for The Guardian in 1996, Stone was thrilled with her latest film and working with her famous co star, seeing the experience as a personal revelation. "I think for a long time people just did not know what to do with me," Stone said. "And finally I got together with Marty and Bob and they were like, Give it all to us, baby, just let her rip if you've got it, we want it, let's see what you can do. I see the film and I realise... it's true! I haven't been deluding myself all these years. I really can do it. And because I got up to bat with my dream people, the one actor that all my career I strived to work with, that was the apex for me."
Stone embodies the shallow glamour so rampant in 70s Vegas, all fur coats, cocky peacock strides and folded up bills going neatly into hands. She's attractive, carries herself well and is her own woman. But there is darkness beneath that is much more dangerous than Sam could ever know. Once he convinces her to marry him, the whole look changes. Ginger looks drunk, sweaty at times, stumbling round the house in skimpy outfits looking out of her head. In the end, Stone looks a mess, her hair cut short, her body seemingly thinner and her face curling up into all kinds of contortions when in fits of uncontrollable rage. It soon transforms into a fearless performance without vanity, her body becoming an untamed, volatile human bullet heading madly for the heart of the gangland empire.
When she begins her affair with Nicky, the sex scenes are animalistic, unloving, sweaty and ugly. There is nothing more than a weird lust there, as if both parties are so mad with Sam that they have chosen the one thing that will cut him up the most - their sleazy affair. Here are two people he once really cared for, and in turn who cared for him, getting together for the ultimate betrayal. It makes Stone's Ginger McKenna even less likeable. Playing such a vile woman, without seemingly any redeeming features whatsoever, Stone gives a brave, daring and bold effort.
For her, it represented a shift in her career. For the first time she was accepted fully for her acting ability rather than her sex appeal.