Stone initially didn't like being smart. "It was like being a freak," she says. But her freethinking Methodist parents encouraged her to explore her many interests, among them religion. Describing herself as a Buddhist today, Stone nonetheless claims an abiding belief in a traditional God. And long before she revealed an interest in acting — "I kept a lid on it in Meadville because it would have been like saying, 'I want to be an astronaut' " — Stone dreamed of being a mother with a house full of kids. "I always thought I would adopt," she says. "Even when I was young, I used to look up how to adopt."
So at the height of Stone's career, after she'd landed her breakout, sexually provocative acting role in Basic Instinct in 1992 and won acclaim for Casino, she moved to San Francisco in 1998 to settle in with second husband Bronstein (her first marriage, to producer Michael Greenburg, ended in 1987) and start a family. While the couple tried getting pregnant in the traditional way, they also met with attorneys to start the adoption process. Stone, who has a lupus-related rheumatoid factor that can cause problems in sustaining a pregnancy, had suffered a miscarriage some years earlier and, with Bronstein, endured two more, both at five months.
The sad memories bring tears to her eyes. "The last time I lost the baby," she says, "I went into 36 hours of labor. While we were at the hospital, our adoption attorney called."
Bronstein and Stone returned the call on their way home and learned that they'd been approved to adopt an infant. "I thought, 'This is such a godsend,' " Stone says. " 'This is so right.' " When Roan Joseph Bronstein was born on June 1, 2000, Sharon Stone finally became a mother.
Her brain hemorrhage — doctors were unable to determine the cause — occurred 15 months later. She spent the next eight months in bed. "I came out of the hospital with short- and long-term memory loss," says Stone. "My lower left leg was numb. I couldn't hear out of my right ear. The side of my face was falling down. I thought, 'I'll never be pretty again. Who's going to want to be around me?' "
Her arduous recovery period was complicated by problems in her marriage. Stone says she can't pinpoint when they began nor what caused them. "He just didn't see me, talk to me, look at me," she says of Bronstein. She now believes "his initial intention with me was probably corrupt. I was suckered. I'm embarrassed to say that."
Stone was invited to serve on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2002. "Going into an environment of film, which I knew and where I felt supported, really, really helped," she says.
But her most difficult struggle was yet to come. In 2003, Bronstein filed for divorce (he has since remarried and has two children with his new wife), and Stone moved back to Los Angeles, where on her own she adopted Laird in May of 2005, then Quinn in June of 2006. Bronstein and Stone initially shared custody of Roan, settling on a two-year rotation with each parent. But a San Francisco judge awarded Bronstein primary physical custody in 2008, ruling that it would be disruptive to move the boy from his Bay Area community back to Los Angeles to live with Stone. Offering an explanation for how she lost the battle for her son, Stone says, "I had had a brain hemorrhage and was an actress who had made sexy movies." She forces a laugh. But the ordeal brought her, literally, to her knees. "I would go to these [philanthropic] events where I had to get on stage. I would be in the wings, with people looking at me, my head on the floor, praying: 'God, please help me. I know I have to go out there and raise money. But I've lost my child, I've lost my health, I've lost everything.' I was just broken."