Sharon Stone isn't wrong about Hollywood worshiping Meryl Streep
Zoomer is a Canadian magazine for readers 45 and older, and until yesterday — Meryl Streep's 72nd birthday, in fact — its April/May cover story featuring 63-year-old actor Sharon Stone had flown under the radar. Midway through a dramatic, lengthy interview, she took issue with the way a question was phrased, which made it sound like working with Streep on 2019's The Laundromat was a privilege for the seasoned movie star. "I like the way you phrase that, that I finally got to work with Meryl Streep," Stone interrupted. "You didn’t say, 'Meryl finally got to work with Sharon Stone.' Or we finally got to work together."
If you read the Zoomer feature, the journalist was trying to ask about that exact dynamic, ironically. In her memoir, Stone talks about how women are pitted against each other in Hollywood. "It was put to us that there could be room for only one," she writes.
Back in the interview, Stone didn't let writer Johanna Schneller get a word in edgewise to apologize and clarify her intent. The actor launched into an extended tirade (Schneller called it a "galactic wormhole") about the inequities of the movie business, centered on how Streep is overhyped.
"The way you structured the question is very much the answer to the question," Stone said. "The business was set up that we should all envy and admire Meryl because only Meryl got to be the good one. And everyone should compete against Meryl. I think Meryl is an amazingly wonderful woman and actress. But in my opinion, quite frankly, there are other actresses equally as talented as Meryl Streep. The whole Meryl Streep iconography is part of what Hollywood does to women."
On a roll at this point, Stone began listing names: "Viola Davis is every bit the actress Meryl Streep is. Emma Thompson. Judy Davis. Olivia Colman. Kate Winslet, for fuck’s sake. But you say Meryl and everybody falls on the floor." Interestingly, a clip of Davis talking about being called "the Black Meryl Streep" went viral last year, where the actor says she's as talented and lauded as her white contemporaries but not privy to the same opportunities or hefty paychecks.
The way Stone chose to make her next point was rather... chaotic. She was trying to say that there's a seat at the table for all types of performers. "I’m a much better villain than Meryl, and I’m sure she’d say so. Meryl was not gonna be good in Basic Instinct or in Casino," the latter film earning Stone an Oscar nomination in 1996. "I would be better. And I know it. And she knows it."
The movie star touched on how women are pigeonholed by Hollywood: "We’re all labelled the Queen of Something. I’m the Queen of Smut! She’s the Queen of That! We all have to sit in our assigned seats. Are you kidding me?" Stone objected. "We’ve been taught that everybody doesn’t get a seat at the table. Once one is chosen, nobody else can get in there," she concluded.
Predictably, the internet latched on to the drama on Streep's birthday, propelling Stone's criticism of Hollywood's sexism into feud territory. But though her delivery was combative, she wasn't wrong about the tendency, in many professions, to make it seem like there's only room at the table for one woman or person of color, while everyone else has to fight for scraps. It's a dynamic people are increasingly calling out and trying to dismantle, especially in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
Speaking of which, Stone also held Streep's feet to the fire, metaphorically, for not condemning predators like Harvey Weinstein. "It can’t just have been this blip in Hollywood, where one guy went to jail. Harassment is everywhere. Until there are real laws, #MeToo was just the opening sentence," Stone said. "I’m sure Meryl has a story. But I’m also sure if Meryl told you her story, she wouldn’t be being Meryl, and she wouldn’t be getting those jobs. Meryl can’t be the envelope pusher. Because then she wouldn’t get the jobs. Meryl’s a smoother. That’s what she does."
In case you haven't noticed, Stone seems to give very few fucks about what people think of her. That's partly because she suffered a massive stroke in 2001 that nearly killed her, which put a premium on telling the truth. (As an aside, the Dalai Lama told her she reincarnated into her own body, which is wild.) Her honesty hasn't sidelined her either; Stone has projects coming out soon with Andy Garcia and Lena Waithe.
"Don’t ever, ever doubt your instincts. When you doubt your instincts, you’re going to get hurt. Any mistake you make following your instincts will be okay," Stone said toward the end of the eventful interview. Not able to help herself, she circled back to Streep: "I’m doing that now [...] even by saying that — though Meryl Streep is fabulous — the idea that she’s the queen, and only she, has gotten absurd. I know that sounds sacrilegious. But it’s enough already."