Sharon Stone Explains Why She Lost Custody Of Her Son After ‘Basic Instinct’

And it happened far more recently than you might think.

Sharon Stone with her son Roan and Michael Douglas in "Basic Instinct" Silvia Elizabeth Pangaro/; sharonstone/Instagram

Sharon Stone has revealed that, in a devastating show of sexism, she briefly lost custody of her son after starring in "Basic Instinct."

It's a truth so obvious that to even state it borders on platitude—men and women get treated differently, from pay disparities to media portrayals and everything in between.

Thankfully, we've made some progress in these areas over the years, but if we need a reminder of how intensely misogynistic our society and culture used to be compared to today—and how recent that dark age was—a story legendary actress Sharon Stone shared in a recent podcast interview should do the trick.


Sharon Stone revealed she lost custody of her son because of her appearance in 1992's 'Basic Instinct.'

"Basic Instinct" was an erotic thriller by director Paul Verhoeven in which Stone starred opposite Michael Douglas. The film's nudity, frank sexual content and LGBTQ themes sparked outrage and protests in 1992. 

In the film, Stone plays Catherine Trammell, a writer and psychopathic murderess who is the prime suspect in the killing of a rock star. Douglas plays the San Francisco detective on her case, Nick Curran, who becomes romantically and sexually involved with Trammell over the course of the investigation.


The film became a media circus before it was ever released because of its graphic sexual content that included a rape and passionate sex scenes between Stone and Douglas.

It also included portrayals of LGBTQ characters and sexuality—Trammell is bisexual and is depicted in sexual encounters with both men and women in the film—which was considered outrageous at the time.

But by far, the film's most infamous scene was a blink-and-you-miss-it moment when Stone, dressed in a slinky white dress and sitting in a chair while being questioned by law enforcement, uncrosses and recrosses her legs, revealing split-second glimpses of her genitalia.

In 1992 this all but stopped the world from spinning, despite the fact that "Basic Instinct" never actually shows Stone's anatomy—the lighting and camera angle keep her private parts as more of an implication than a reveal.


But in 1992, a time of relative hysteria over sex particularly as the AIDS epidemic was reaching its apex, it was more than enough to brand Stone a whore and a Hollywood laughingstock—a reputation she says stuck with her more than a decade later, to disastrous results.

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Sharon Stone's performance in 'Basic Instinct' lost her custody of her son Roan during her 2004 divorce from ex-husband Phil Bronstein.

Stone married San Francisco newspaper executive Phil Bronstein in 1998, and after several miscarriages due to endometriosis, they adopted a son, Roan Joseph Bronstein, in 2000.


In 2003, Bronstein filed for divorce, and a lengthy custody battle ensued during which Stone's appearance in "Basic Instinct" became an issue—one they directed at four-year-old Roan himself during proceedings, according to Stone.

Appearing on the podcast "Table for Two With Bruce Bozzi," Stone spoke at length about how difficult it was to make "Basic Instinct" and how hurtful the response to the film was. But none of it held a candle to the devastating impact it had on her custody battle with Bronstein.

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"I lost custody of my child," Stone told Bozzi, going on to say that the judge asked her son Roan inappropriate questions about his mother's career.

"When the judge asked my child – my tiny little tiny boy, 'Do you know your mother makes sex movies?'" Stone said, sounding choked up at the memory. "Like, this kind of abuse by the system, that it was considered what kind of parent I was because I made that movie."

Stone also used her new household-name status to advocate for causes like LGBTQ rights and the AIDS crisis, work she continues to do to this day.



But she has previously revealed that her work on such causes "destroyed" her career at the time, and the pearl-clutching such causes inspired in the 1990s likely did her no favors with the judge in her custody case either.


"People are walking around with no kind of clothes on at all on regular TV now," she went on to tell Bozzi, "and you saw maybe like, a sixteenth of a second of possible nudity of me. And I lost custody of my child."

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The stress and trauma of losing custody of Roan sent Sharon Stone to the Mayo Clinic with heart damage. 

Bozzi asked Stone the question likely on all of our lips—how on Earth did she survive the experience of losing her son? The answer is—she very nearly didn't.

"Are you kidding?" Stone told Bozzi. "I ended up in the Mayo Clinic with extra heartbeats in the upper and lower chambers of my heart...I went in to get a mammogram and they said 'something's wrong, we need you to do a treadmill test.'"


She went on to compare her experience to those of actors like Evan Peters, who played notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer on Netflix's "Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story" last year.

"No one thinks that he's a [person] who eats people," she told Bozzi. "It doesn't turn him into a serial killer who eats people or make him an antisocial person."

But Stone, of course, was not so lucky. "When you say it broke my heart? It broke my heart," she told Bozzi emphatically. 

Thankfully, times have changed since Stone's harrowing experience, and she and her son Roan, now 22, are deeply close. 


But as we experience a new surge in Puritanical views about sex and LGBTQ people nowadays, and a disturbing growth in virulent misogyny among certain right-wing demographics, we'd do well to remember experiences like Stone's.

It's only been 20 years since it happened, and with the pendulum on issues of sexuality, gender and women's rights seemingly swinging ever more backward with each passing day, it could easily happen again.


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John Sundholm is a news and entertainment writer who covers pop culture, social justice and human interest topics.