Interviews


Kim Basinger


Occupation: Actress
Date of Birth: December 8, 1953
Place of Birth: Athens, Ga., USA
Sign: Sun in Sagittarius, Moon in Capricorn
Relations: Father: Don (loan company manager); mother: Ann (model); siblings: Mick, Skip, Ashley, Barbara; ex-husband: Ron Britton (makeup artist); ex-companion: Prince (singer-songwriter); husband: Alec Baldwin(actor); daughter: Ireland Eliesse
Education: University of Georgia

 

MAKING the leap from top-tier fashion model to A-list (or even B-grade) screen star is no easy business  just ask Cindy Crawford,Elle MacPherson, or Kathy Ireland but the career of cover girl-turned-Oscar-winning actress Kim Basinger is sure to be an inspiration to any brave soul hoping to make that peril-ridden leap from the catwalk to the silver screen. By her twentieth birthday, Basinger was a top model raking in $1,000 a day (a phenomenal sum at the time) doing everything from magazine covers to shampoo ads; by the time she hit 40, she was a top actress earning a seven-figure salary per film. Along the way, she bought (and was later forced to sell) a small town in Georgia; had a fling with '80s pop icon Prince; suffered through a very public bankruptcy filing following a breach-of-contract suit; and met and married a Baldwin brother.

A middle child with two older brothers and two younger sisters, Basinger was born and raised in Athens, Georgia. Both of her parents came from entertainment backgrounds: dad studied at Chicago's American Conservatory of Music and spent a few years playing big-band jazz before marrying Basinger's mother, a champion swimmer and model who performed water ballet in several Esther Williams movies. Though as a toddler she told her father she was going to be a great actress when she grew up, Basinger was extremely shy as a child  so much so that her parents once had her tested to see if she was autistic. Eventually, she followed in her mother's footsteps, becoming a diver, dancer, and gymnast in high school. She was just 16 when she entered the Athens Junior Miss contest, and sang her way to the tiara with a number from My Fair Lady, "Wouldn't It Be Loverly." From there, she went on to win the Junior Miss Georgia title, and traveled to New York to compete in the national Junior Miss pageant. While there, she met fashion modeling magnate Eileen Ford, who on the spot offered the blue-eyed blonde with the bee-stung lips a contract with her renowned Ford Modeling Agency. Though she initially declined Ford's offer, hoping to pursue a career either in singing or acting, the young beauty queen had a change of heart when she got back home to Georgia, and promptly returned to New York.

Moving to the Big Apple was a big switch for the small-town Georgia girl, and Basinger never grew more than just barely tolerant of the city and the social circle she joined there. She later recalled of her peers: "[They] put on makeup like great painters. They were very cool, they spoke other languages. I guess I was intimidated. I never felt like one of them." Though she may have fancied herself a social misfit, Basinger proved quite adept in terms of her new career. Throughout the early '70s, she appeared on dozens of magazine covers and in hundreds of ads, most notably as the Breck shampoo girl. She never abandoned her dreams of performing, and made time in her busy schedule for acting classes at the prestigious Neighborhood Playhouse and open-mike-night performances in various Greenwich Village clubs, where she sang under the stage name "Chelsea." Weary of modeling and fearing that her acting ambitions were slowly slipping away, Basinger moved to Los Angeles in 1976, looking for a fresh start.

After spending her first six months in the city living at a motel overlooking the Hollywood Freeway, Basinger broke into television doing episodes of such hit series as Charlie's Angels and The Six Million Dollar Man. She nailed down her first series role in 1977, as one-half of a male-female LAPD patrol team in the speedily-canceled cop drama Cat and Dog. Her unaffected portrayal of a fallen beauty queen in NBC's Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold won her the female lead in the network's 1980 remake of the screen classic From Here to Eternity, and just one year later she made her feature-film debut in Hard Country. Convinced that she needed to heighten her public profile, Basinger took it all off for an eight-page Playboy layout in 1983. Though her Playboy pics doubtless had the desired effect of raising eyebrows around Hollywood, 1983 would also prove a breakthrough film year for the unabashed actress: she held her own opposite Sean Connery as Bond girl Domino in Never Say Never Again; and romped withBurt Reynolds in the Blake Edwards remake of Frantois Truffaut's The Man Who Loved Women.

Suddenly a hot property, Basinger shared the screen with fellow sex symbol Robert Redford in 1984's The Natural, and blew the lid off the box office in 1986 with a fearless performance opposite Mickey Rourke in director Adrian Lyne's sex-drenched relationship drama 9 1/2 Weeks. The latter film was roundly reviled in the national press, but its sky-high ticket receipts established Basinger's status as a highly bankable star. Shortly thereafter, her marriage to makeup artist Ron Britton, whom she'd met during filming on her first movie, fell apart, and by the time she arrived on the set of 1989's Batman as an eleventh-hour replacement for Sean Young, Basinger had struck up a casual relationship with diminutive rock god Prince. As Vicki Vale, the photojournalist who becomes the object of desire of both Michael Keaton's Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholson's Joker, Basinger reached a career pinnacle that marked the beginning of a long dry season: seven straight cinematic flops followed the mind-boggling financial success of Batman.

Also in 1989, Basinger headed up an investment group that purchased the tiny burg of Braselton, in her native Georgia, for $20 million. Just four years later, Basinger filed for bankruptcy after a judge ordered her to pay Main Line Pictures $8.1 million for backing out of a verbal commitment to star in Boxing Helena. Though she eventually appealed that ruling and reached an out-of-court settlement with Main Line, Basinger was forced to sell her interest in Braselton for just $1 million; court documents revealed that her monthly expenses at the time of her bankruptcy filing totaled $43,100, including $6,100 for clothing and $7,000 for "pet care and other personal expenses." On the heels of all the bad tidings, Basinger rebounded in 1994, with a high-profile marriage to actor Alec Baldwin, who had assiduously wooed her for three long years after first striking up a relationship with her on the set of 1991's The Marrying Man.

The couple welcomed a baby girl into the world in 1995; Baldwin marked the happy event by flattening a photographer who attempted to snap a few shots of little Ireland Eliesse as her parents brought her home from the hospital. After taking a couple of years off to stay at home with her newborn child and devote her energies to animal rights issues, Basinger put all of her troubles behind her by upstaging such heavyweights as Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito with her luminous, Oscar-winning performance in 1997's highly regarded noir smash L.A. Confidential. After a three-year hiatus, Basinger returned to the screen in the starring vehicle I Dreamed of Africa, which recounts the true story of a woman who transplanted her family from Venice, Italy, to a secluded rural Kenyan ranch.

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