Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

Kim Basinger Interview -

Doug with Kim Bassanger

As a pastime between movies she used to sashay the catwalks for Armani and fly from California into Milan and Paris to check the fashions but for the past couple of years Kim Basinger has been found in Mothercare.

She's still in that stage where her baby daughter isn't going to eat meat or play with anything but environmental friendly toys but Big Macs and polyester Mickey Mouses loom beyond kindergarten. And even the woman who was said to wash all that gossip and fuss our of her hair in Evian water admits that there are tolls to be paid on the parental turnpike:

'I went through these things when I wanted to wear short skirts up to my you-know-what. Children need to grow up and make their own decisions -- how they want to pierce their bodies or do whatever they need to.'

On such parameters, Basinger,44, has been child-like in her career. You last heard about her four years ago when she was starring in a not very good remake of the classic Steve McQueen/ Sam Peckinpah partnership 'The Getaway'. McQueen worked with wife Ali MacGraw. Basinger shot her way in and out of trouble with husband Alec Baldwin.
They married five years ago and their daughter Ireland Eliesse Baldwin -- she quickly became the more rockaby Addie-- was born in October,1995. They've been a couple since 1991's 'The Marrying Man' when they were also called lots of other things on the infamous production. They are the pair who wondered if the author of the movie, the legendary Neil 'Odd Couple' Simon understood comedy. That, at least, got a laugh.

Baldwin,41, and Basinger were badmouthed from Malibu to Manhattan but she is quick to point out that the waters have broken since then. And bridges have been built for it to run under. And she is back at work. In the genre of the moment.

Film noir has returned with a string of projects which recall the movie 1940s of John Garfield and Lana Turner, a trenchcoated Alan Ladd or Mitchum chasing Veronica Lake or Jane Russell, Bogart and Bacall, and stories revolving around scruples and irredeemable characters who haven't got any.

'L. A. Confidential' based on the novel by tough guy author James Ellroy delivered its big box office expectations, Oscar recognition and awards. Basinger found herself an applauded millennium moll.

'After Addie was born I wanted something like "Jane Eyre". I'm my own worst enemy sometimes when I pick projects. I read "L.A. Confidential" against advice. But it was a wonderful part for me because until now dramatic, serious pieces have eluded me. But the director Curtis Hanson had in his mind who he wanted as the Veronica Lake character.

'It had to be a special project for me to come back to work. My priorities had been changing before I had Addie but after she was born they changed completely. I don't count -- my daughter sort of owns me. I feel very spoiled having done this film for these sort of roles are thin on the ground.'

She played the 1950s Hollywood mysterious good time girl mixed up with all shades of characters; in the land dreams she's a platinum shadow. Danny DeVito, Kevin Spacey and tomorrow stars like Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce made up the ensemble.She providd the ssexual frisson.

Talking in the corner of a Beverly Hills hotel restaurant the star who graduated from model to sex spots on 'Charlie's Angels' to Sean Connery Bond girl in 'Never Say Never' before bursting onto and then out of the stapled pages of 'Playboy' as a movie superstar plays down the glamour. There's a dash of lipstick but the grey-black shift dress and hurried manner are of a working mother. Her daughter and home are over the freeway in Woodland Hills in the suburban San Fernando Valley which although it doesn't sound it is a world away from Beverly Hills.

Her hair is styled short -- easy for a quick exit from the shower. But with much of Kim Basinger there is a back story:' Today you put highlights in your hair but women in the 1940s used to dye their hair solid. Veronica Lake, Grace Kelly, had really beautiful blonde silk angel-looking hair but what they had to do to get that! I 've never dyed my hair -- just put highlights in it.

'But for "L.A. Confidential" I volunteered to let it be dyed. My hair rebelled. I was there in the sink with this wet hair and my head was burning. I asked if that was normal and they said yes, it's supposed to tingle. So I lay there for another four minutes and then asked them to rinse it out because it was burning badly.It continued to burn.

'By the next morning I had blisters on my head and down my neck.I had to have wigs because my hair started falling off. Not out -- off. There was no damage to the root. My hair was just dropping off in big pieces. In the last two scenes of the movie we cut my hair short. And at the end of the movie I told the hair stylist to just cut my hair all off. I was kind of happy with the idea of just getting rid of that hair for awhile. And did I get my wish. I was almost bald. Alec called Mrs Bald One.'

It says much for the mellowing effect of marriage and motherhood on Kim Basinger the way she tells this tale. She certainly appears more adjusted following her legal hassles with Hollywood and becoming a parent:'I'm stronger, clearer and happier because of it. I let go of a lot of faults and ambitions.

'It was all about my will, my agenda -- and I learned to take my hands off that control panel.

'I consider everything I've been though just a gift, I really do. I wouldn't trade anything no matter how good or bad or difficult. I'm the luckiest girl in the world as far as I'm concerned.'

Her attitude resounds with California-positive speak but it spools on the tape machine:' I've conquered major fears this past year through things I care about.'

The major one is her family which includes nine dogs and seven cats. Her daughter goes everywhere with her and her husband who in spent months in the Canadian outback with Sir Anthony Hopkins making 'The Edge' -- the actors play 'plane crash survivors stranded in Alaska in the 1998 film -- is her cheerleader in chief. His message is that his wife has been misunderstood:
'Kim is very reclusive, very private -- people don't know her really. She doesn't do a lot of self-promotion. When she does people fall madly in love with her for she's very adorable.

'I think one of the reasons we've had some unusually tough times is that we have tried to live a normal life. We've never retreated behind the velvet curtain where it's all limousines and bodyguards. We've tried to walk down the streets and live like normal people and drive our own cars and live in places where people told us we shouldn't -- like our tract house in the Valley which is constantly described as our "mansion". We go to restaurants where ordinary people go.

'Some celebrities try to do what we've done, realise they can't and give up. And they live only in 90210 among their own kind.

'We've stayed together and we've had a baby. I hope people look at us and say: " well, they're not just two crazy Hollywood people!". But when I read and hear some of the things about us I stand amazed.'

His wife is as adamant:' We've been together for more than seven years and have gone through a great deal of ups and downs which have made me a stronger and better person. We have the real foundation a partnership needs. We're very different in a lot of ways but we're very much alike in key ways. We're just normal people like everybody else'.

Well, maybe.

However, she insists she's changed:

'I'm very happy with where I am in my life right now.I've traded in being Miss Ambition -- and I truly admit I was very ambitious a long time ago for many right some wrong reasons.

'I love being an actress.I have many things I love to do. I have a lot of irons in the fire but now they're not all burning at once.

'The bad publicity I've had has helped in my acting. It helped me find emotions I didn't know I had. Before it was all about my looks -- in Hollywood it doesn't matter how brilliant you might be for all they know is how you look. People don't want to give you a chance to prove yourself in other ways. I've learned and matured.'

She began as the pouting starlet, graduated to luscious leading lady and then when she got up there on the silver screen pedestal Hollywood began talking about Kim Basinger as a mixed-up personality.There were stories of psychics and demands that her hair only be washed in Evian water, that she was power mad, a sex-pot, a control freak, she was this and she was that. One tale gossiped into another around her classic 36-24-36 siren of a figure.

She's had to be sharp for the 'Nineties were not kind. At one point it looked as all had finally finished for this ravishing creature from America's Deep South. She was sued for jilting the movie 'Boxing Helena' which was about bizarre and besotted love.

Instead of starring as a woman with no arms or legs who is kept in a box by an obsessed admirer she was accused of reneging on an oral agreement. A jury awarded $8.9 million dollars against her and it was revealed that her net worth was $5,387, 382 dollars and 19 cents. The arithmetic of that court decision added up to her filing for bankruptcy in the case which finally cost her more than $3 million.

Alec Baldwin said of the verdict:'The jury thought they handed down a bill that surely she could pay. I guess they felt that everyone who did "Batman" got $40 million dollars.'

But the determination that got Basinger from Athens, Georgia, to California in the first place kicked in. She went to work. And kept things in the family by co-starring with Baldwin in the remake of 1972's 'The Getaway' The reaction to her -- if not the film -- worldwide was remarkable. 'She seems to have come to the role at a perfect point in her career,' wrote one critic adding:' Like the character she plays she's clearly been round the block a few times, made a few bad decisions, but she's looking better than ever.'

She and Baldwin seemed to have come to terms with the result of the court case.

A smile on her pale face -- she strictly avoids the sun -- she says the case has not made her cynical: 'I don't have that in me'. She does not in person live up to her 'difficult' reputation. She's arguably too eager to please.

Now at an age when most pouting starlets are normally languishing rather than lounging at the shallow end of some producer's swimming pool and attention span she is in demand.

'I came up with an idea the other day asking if the girl inside of me could get to stand beside me and go walk down the street with the girl that's on the outside if they'd stick together or leave each other.They're so different.

'It's very difficult to be taken seriously in a town as small as this one and in an entertainment business like this. There are so many beautiful girls and they're this and that and the other thing. It's very hard. There are a large percentage of people who don't have the guts to stand up for what they believe in and they'll go with the crowd. It's only the very few who will say:"I'm going to judge for myself" before they make a choice. I had to learn this, I really did.'

Her career has fanned much fantasy into fact and vice versa. It was from hometown beauty queen -- it was in the Georgia cornfields that she says she first discovered oral sex -- that she went to New York model to Hollywood television series walk-on and stapled naked in eight pages of 'Playboy'. Her Bond girl in Sean Connery's 007 return in 'Never Say Never Again' began a busy big screen acting career.
Since then she's been the disquieting sexual presence in many films. She was Mickey Rourke's love slave in '9 1/2 Weeks', tempted Robert Redford in 'The Natural', gave Bruce Willis a difficult time in 'Blind Date', Richard Gere the runaround in 'No Mercy' and 'Final Analysis' and, of course, got Batman's wings flapping as Vicki Vale in 'Batman'.

As she did the gossips. She was involved with Prince who was doing that movie's music and also dating Jon Peters the Streisand Svengali who co-produced the box office giant.

Her marriage to make-up man Ron Britton ended after eight years and she swore she was never getting married again. It was just her and her cow Henry and the dogs and cats -- she picks up strays all the time. Alec Baldwin changed her viewpoint.

They married four times in 'The Marrying Man' and then finally for real. For them it may have been romantic. Many involved in the making of the 1991 film talk of it as a nightmare and Mr and Mrs B as the principle demons.

It was said that she contractually demanded that her hair only be washed in Evian water. That she asked for filming to be stopped so she could fly to Brazil to consult a psychic. One crew member said that was 'only the tip of the iceberg.' It was, in fact, 'much, much worse.'
She shakes her head in a shrug movement:' You hear a lot and good and bad about yourself and then you hear remarks about your hair...my father always told me to judge for myself.

'I think when you change your life and you really have the guts to change your life some people take notice in a good being and others in a negative vein. After I divorced my husband everything started happening. I had been married for eight years and then after that I free and I was happy and I could make choices.

'In doing that you cause more attention and then you start really saying how you feel. I am shy but I think the easiest thing in the world is to tell the truth. When I started telling the truth about the way I felt and even made it publicly known people didn't want that.
'It was never intended to cause trouble but people view saying how you feel as causing trouble sometimes.'

One such very public time was at the Oscars when, while watched by one billion viewers, she scolded the voters for not nominating director Spike Lee's movie ' Do The Right Thing.'

'I would do it all over again. I felt it was a shame to leave out that film. Everybody had been talking about truth and I thought presented the biggest truth of all. I wasn't reprimanding the Academy or anything like that. It just truly came from the heart, from inside. One billion people were watching and I said:"Well, Lord, help me get thought this because it's the biggest audience I'm ever going to have in my life.'

And, to explain another point, she says God is her only psychic. 'He knows everything.' About the Evian water? 'You mean the gallons and gallons I wash my hair in? I drink it. But I drink all kinds of other waters as well.'

The designer water storm in a bottle turns her on to her health habits:' I'm a vegetarian. I don't eat dairy products or meat. I love to exercise -- it's like brushing my teeth.' She wasn't always so careful:

'When I came to Los Angeles I said:"I want to take everything. I want to try it all." And some friend said:"Oh, try this." That's always the way it gets started. I tried cocaine and I found that it made people sleep during the day. Every time I took it I said:"This is a joke." The next day I couldn't even... it's a debilitating drug. I hated that it made me so physically worn out.

'I thank God, I really do, with all my heart.Because I saw a lot of people use cocaine every day. So many girls got hooked into it, some because they were working in the industry and wanted to stay thing. And believe me I know exactly
what it does to your body. Watching these girls just completely lose everything they had and then try and get themselves back in balance -- it was bad.

'What cocaine did for me was make me very smart in one way. It made me know that you can never use it and get buy. Because I've always been very physical. I work out every day. I love any physical activity. I'll run with anybody, do whatever they want to do.

'Believe me I'm no mother Teresa. I've done a lot of wildass things in my life. It's just that I can be wild without drugs and alcohol. And so can anybody. Cocaine doesn't break your inhibitions like you think it does.

'I don't think there is anybody alive who can really handle drugs.'

If drugs is one curse of Hollywood so is ageism. Is she frightened about being in her forties?

'I don't really have time for that. Number one, I don't know what the future is going to hold. We never know hoe long any of us is gonna be around. I think staying and looking and feeling young have a lot to do with your beliefs. It's only society that put 24 hours in a day. Twenty four hours a day, 365 days a year -- from one year old to 60 or 70 or 80-years-old. The clock just rules the hell out of all of us and it's so sad.

'I don't really live in a time zone. I don't abide by the rules here on earth. We're not talking about police or crime or anything. I'm talking about clocks. Boy, when it comes to clocks ticking' away it all depends how you grow.'

And she wants her family to grow:' Alec and I want lots of kids. I'd love to have another baby. We've also thought about adopting. Our family is what matters.

'How much faith do we have in each other and in life? There's not much trust in the world on a daily basis. In business and between spouses and families -- you don't see it very often.

'But I trust Alec. He trusts me. Together we will overcome all the obstacles.'