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The word is out: Sharon Stone's engaged. This time the shameless 35-year-old Basic Instinct star, who divorced her sole surviving husband, TV producer Michael Greenburg, in 1985, is set to wed one Bill MacDonald, an executive producer of her just wrapped erotic thriller, Sliver. Of course a few complications need to be worked out before the pair finalize their nuptials. MacDonald moved in with Stone this year—just months after marrying his live-in love of eight years, to whom he is still legally wed.

If love is a battlefield, then Stone is General Sherman, scorching the earth as she marches over men. Music executive Chris Peters (son of producer Jon and actress Lesley Anne Warren, and 11 years Stone's junior) was devastated when she dumped him with scarcely a public comment. But as country singer Dwight Yoakam now knows, with Stone, silence can be golden. She broke the heart of that heartthrob after a six-week affair—and shrugged it off by saying that she was "incredibly disappointed that I still have to see photos in the press of such an unimportant relationship." Last month she sniffed that "a dirt sandwich is better than Dwight Yoakam." Hunky actor Hart Bochner, another recovering beau, now reportedly refers to Stone simply as "the anti-Christ."

In her professional life, Stone can be just as cocky and coolly self-assured. In the wake of the $116 million-grossing Basic Instinct, her per-movie asking fees have skyrocketed from $500,000 to the neighborhood of $4 million, and producers are lining up as if on command. One quivering director vying for her services has been sending her $100 floral arrangements every day for a month.

Stone's modus vivendi is nothing if not clearly stated. "I've learned to get what I want by being direct and fearless," she has said. "I am not a sucking-up type person." In short, what Sharon wants, Sharon gets—and Sharon is not alone.

Something is happening in Hollywood. The studios still may not be making movies with great women's roles. But lately, a gang of bright and beautiful actresses have adopted a take-no-prisoners stance on life, love and career, and they are emerging as Hollywood's latest breed of badass—women with heaps of attitude and absolutely no regrets. Some members of this willful bunch are bankable names; some are not. Some, like Stone, live in palatial homes in the Hollywood Hills; others are living from party to party. Last month an L.A. landlord started eviction proceedings against Shannen ("I don't care if people call me a bitch") Doherty, claiming that the Beverly Hills, 90210 star was $14,000 in arrears on her rent and had caused serious damage to her house.

If any one thing defines these women, it's their abject refusal to play by the old rules. Says Sean (Love Crimes) Young, no stranger to controversy since her highly publicized fracas with actor James Woods: "Hollywood is just a bunch of weenies who are concerned about their backsides."

Of course, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis conducted a few weenie roasts of their own, albeit behind closed studio doors. This generation of female stars publicly flouts convention, decorum and—what the hell?—good taste. "If you have a vagina and a point of view," Stone has noted, "that's a deadly combination."

No Hollywood heart is Stonier, of course, than that of Madonna, who deserves credit for coining its cri de coeur. "I have the same goal I've had since I was a girl," she said. "I want to rule the world." Like her, these actresses have parlayed the shock factor into smart career moves. Why did Stone bare all for Playboy in July of 1990? "My greed and avarice. I was making $500 a day." Had she ever dated lesbians? Only once, because "men can be annoying." And what kind of girlhood did she have? "I was a poor black child."

Not surprisingly, the in-your-face approach does not ensure popularity. Stone was said to have been so despised on the set of 1987's forgettable Allan Quartermaine and the Lost City of Gold that before her bathing scene, crew members urinated in the water. "So maybe they didn't like me sometimes," she later said. "Tough s—t."

Stone's comrades-in-charms include Kim Basinger, who has less hope for salvation in Hollywood than she did for the Georgia town that she bought for $20 million in 1989. "You know what the term difficult means [in Hollywood]?" she once asked rhetorically. "Difficult means that I'm a woman and I can't be controlled." Indeed, Disney executives became so irked by Basinger's petulance on the set of 1991's The Marrying Man that they leaked tales of the actress' demands for gallons of Evian to drink—and for washing her famously blond hair—as well as an emergency mid-production trip to Brazil to consult her personal psychic.

What some might categorize as bitchiness, others could say is behavior no different from Eddie Murphy's on Coming to America: In addition to $8 million in base salary and 15 percent of gross receipts, he demanded $5,000 a week for a living allowance, $4,920 a week for a chauffeured limo and $1,500 a week to install a personal trainer. But last week, Basinger lost an $8.9 million lawsuit alleging that she reneged on an oral contract to star in an unreleased movie called Boxing Helena. As part of her deal, she had wangled $3 million in compensation for approximately six weeks' work, as well as the services of a $3,000-per-tint hair colorist—but changed her mind about the movie anyway. On the stand (the courtroom's windows were papered over, at Basinger's request, in order to thwart photographers) the actress told jurors that she wasn't sure that she could trust the film's director "with my body on the screen." (No trivial matter, to be sure, since the plot line had a deranged surgeon amputating her arms and legs.)

However, the bodies, hearts and minds of former lovers are another matter for this new breed of Hollywood women. Mimi Rogers (The Rapture; Someone to Watch Over Me), who broke up with husband Tom Cruise in 1990, ended a discreet silence on the subject in last month's Playboy to set the record straight. Toward the denouement of their three-year marriage, she said, "Tom was seriously considering becoming a monk, and he thought he had to be celibate to maintain the purity of his instrument." Her own instrument, she reported slyly, "needed tuning."

Music lovers don't hold title to frankness on the romantic front. Just over two years ago, Knots Landing's Nicollette Sheridan was enthralled with L.A. Law's Harry Hamlin. "There was a full moon, and there were many stars in the sky, and there wasn't another person within miles," she dreamily told a reporter of the night she became engaged—noting that at the time, her suitor "was on both knees."

That's where Hamlin landed again a scant 10 months after their 1991 wedding, when Sheridan informed him that they were history. Reports a friend of Hamlin's: "She told him, 'You're boring, stupid, and I don't have any fun with you. Goodbye." Sheridan, who quickly moved on to singer Michael Bolton, is certainly no sentimental fool. "When people meet me for the first time," she once said, "they usually think I am a real snoot." At the Jan. 30 party to celebrate the final Knots Landing episode after a 14-year run, Sheridan surveyed the roomful of weeping actors and crew members and said, "It's been a kick in the ass. We're outta here."

The ultimate live-for-today type, though, is probably Shannen Doherty, who plays both showbiz and real-life bitch. The founders of The I Hate Brenda Newsletter had no trouble finding rich material in Doherty's bratty misbehavior on the 90210 set or in her slapfest with a would-be actress at an L.A. nightclub. So flinty is Doherty that she dissociates herself from the rest of Hollywood's new and bumptious breed. "Like I would ever wash my hair with Evian water!" she said recently, responding to an allegation raised by someone who had obviously confused her with Basinger. "For one, how do you get your hair totally clean that way?" Ah, yes, finally someone who's not afraid to ask the basic questions!

SUSAN SCHINDEHETTE with the Los Angeles bureau