Sharon Stone at the Red Sea International Film Festival
Sharon Stone has been in the entertainment industry for more than 40 years, but there was one role that nearly halted her career in its tracks: becoming part of AIDS research fundraising organization amfAR. The actor reflected on her involvement with amfAR during an emotional talk at the Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia, per Deadline.
“I had pretty big shoes to fill with Elizabeth Talyor at amfAR… When I was approached in Cannes, I was like, ‘Can I take Elizabeth’s place?’” She recalled of being asked to fill in at the annual fundraiser for Taylor, amfAR’s chairwoman, in 1995. Her then-publicist Cindy Berger warned Stone against it: “She said, ‘If you do this, it will destroy your career.’ At the time you weren’t allowed to talk about AIDS. She got hives on her neck. I said, ‘I know, but I am going to do it, you’re gonna kill me.’ She replied, ‘And if you don’t, I am gonna kill you.’”
After deciding to continue working with amfAR, Stone said, “I had no idea of the resistance, cruelty, hate and oppression that we would face. So, I put on a hazmat suit and I had them show me it [the virus] under the microscope. I thought I really need to see this thing that is making everyone go nuts.”
She went on, “I stayed for 25 years until we had AIDS remedies being advertised on TV like we have aspirin. It did destroy my career. I didn’t work for eight years. I was told if I said condom again, funding would be removed. I was threatened repeatedly, my life was threatened, and I decided I had to stick with it.”
A perusal of Stone’s IMDb shows that she did not disappear from Hollywood completely in the late ’90s and early 2000s, though the projects perhaps weren’t to the level of Basic Instinct. But as she noted at the festival (per The Hollywood Reporter), “[My] success is to break the envelope,” which includes traveling to Saudi Arabia.
“Everyone said, ‘Aren’t you afraid?’ I’m afraid not to know. I’ll go and see what it really is and then I will tell you. What everyone says is not necessarily how it is. You have to see things for yourself,” she told the crowd. “For me to be in Saudi Arabia. I’m a kid from Pennsylvania. I grew up with the Amish, who drove onto my driveway with their buggy. There was no way I was going to come to Saudi Arabia. This is a big deal for me.”
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