Sharon Stone's eyes teared up twice during the interview: when speaking about her adopted children and when telling about her work with HIV-positive patients.
The last film of actor Rock Hudson was released in 1984. He played a high-roller in Las Vegas and co-starred with Stone. After he died of AIDS the following year, hundreds of people who had worked with him in various stages of his life were tested for traces of the virus.
"I had to go to a clinic, and when I got there they gave me a number," recalls Stone. "They didn't want to hear who I was, and when I tried to give them my name they refused. Just a number. And with this number and a test-tube of blood that was sealed inside two rubber gloves, I had to go to a different clinic, where they had to test to see if the virus was in my blood."
Stone tells the story, emphasizing the fact that there was a time when people being tested for HIV, and doubtless also those who had the virus, were nothing more than "numbers." The volume of her voice rises, her eyes begin to moisten. For the past 12 years, she has chaired amfAR (the American Foundation for AIDS Research), one of the leading AIDS groups in the world. The situation of people with the disease has changed beyond recognition, not only thanks to medications that have extended their lives, but also in terms of society's attitudes, she says. Human beings are no longer numbers.
She has already been in Israel for a few days as a guest of the Peres Center for Peace. When talking about her activities to promote peace, she offers an example drawn from her work on AIDS.
"When we started working we were certain that we were working on a cure for the disease," she says. "But the more we progressed, we began to understand that along the way we were dealing with a lot of other things - such as enabling women with AIDS to bring healthy children into the world. Or seeing to the availability of clean water: Because if the medication exists, but people in Africa are taking it with polluted water, then what's the use? In my life, I have seen so many people who died of AIDS, and I am working for them.
"Just like peace, no one is going to bring you the cure for AIDS on a silver platter. It starts with you. Maybe the dollar you donate is the one that will enable the researcher to spend another 20 minutes in the lab, and suddenly scream out, 'Eureka.'"
In general, wherever she has spoken, Stone's motto was "Go get it." She presents herself - "A girl from a poor home in Pennsylvania who wanted to be a movie star, and did it," as she puts it - as an example of the fact that everything is possible. Peace, in Stone's opinion, is not something that politicians are supposed to achieve for the citizens, but something every human being should work for.
"The more I travel around the world," she says, "the more I understand people's need to understand the other. Who is telling you that the woman sitting next to you is not your sister or your cousin? And if she is, then how can you hate her?"
To prove her point, she tells about a phone call she had with a man who told her that their grandmothers were cousins. "'Great,' I said. 'But I'm black,' replied the man. 'Great, fantastic,'" Stone says she replied.
On Friday, the day Stone conducted an interview with a few Israeli reporters, she was celebrating her 48th birthday. She flew to the Dead Sea by helicopter, saw Masada from above, and received a history lesson. She had mud treatments at one of the hotels, and had dinner that evening with Ronit Raphael, owner of a chain of medical-cosmetic clinics, and another 48 people - the same as her age.
"They say that how you spend your birthday is how you will spend the rest of the year," she says. Stone was dressed in a flattering white suit, her hair pulled back and a constant smile on her lips. "And it is a great honor for me to celebrate my birthday here, with you."
Stone emphasizes that her visit to Israel does not reflect her support for any side (she did not visit the territories), but only for peace.
"I have a deep friendship with the king of Jordan," she relates, "and it is hard for me to believe that he will end our friendship because I am in Israel. I am not for or against one side. When my children fight, I don't choose any side, either. I love them equally."
Her connection to Israel seems authentic. Perhaps because she has been married to two Jewish men - Michael Greenberg and Phil Bronstein.
"I've always been attracted to Jews," she says. "I like dark men who are drawn to study, to art."
Last night, Stone took part in a gala dinner at a Tel Aviv hotel with wealthy Israelis; participants paid $1,000 a couple to dine in her company. All of the proceeds of the event will be earmarked for projects by the Peres Center for Peace on behalf of Israeli and Palestinian children.
Stone visited Yad Vashem yesterday, and flew to London last night to take part in the public relations campaign for Basic Instinct 2, which comes out later this month. In the film, she reprises her role in the original film as the seductive and dangerous Katherine. And yes, she once again appears in the nude.
"It's not such a big deal," she says. "I don't get why people are making such a thing about it. People try to diminish me by saying, 'I saw you in the nude.' That's so nice for you. The fact that at age 48 people are still talking with me about my nudity is a huge compliment. Once I was asked if I wasn't concerned that people weren't taking me seriously. Oh c'mon, I have a family, kids, friends, I've made movies and I've been all over the world. How much more seriously do I need people to take me?"