Kim Basinger has some kinda resume. A Bond girl in Never Say Never Again, an S&M pioneer in 9½ Weeks, Vicky Vale in Batman, the icy femme fatale of neo-noir classic L.A. Confidential (which won her an Oscar), the list goes on. She is also, as ex-husband Alec Baldwin attested, “one of the most beautiful women that ever lived.”
But it’s been a while since the acclaimed actress has been given a juicy role worthy of her talent—seven years, to be exact. The last was 2008’s The Burning Plain, where she inhabited the role of philandering mother to a disturbed young gal, played by a little-known actress named Jennifer Lawrence.
The 11th Hour, in theaters June 12, rights this ageist-Hollywood injustice. Basinger appears in almost every scene of Anders Morgenthaler’s film as Maria, a successful business executive in Germany who’s struggled to have a baby of her own. So, she takes matters into her own hands, leading her down a dark road paved with desperate prostitutes and a crack-smoking dwarf named Petit (Jordan Prentice). It’s a staggering turn by Basinger, who vividly renders Maria’s demented, single-minded pursuit of the one thing missing in her life.
In a wide-ranging conversation, The Daily Beast spoke to Basinger about everything from the unnerving film to that time she crossed off an item on many people’s bucket lists by dating The Purple One.
The 11th Hour is a very disturbing film. It messes with your head a bit because you want her to succeed in her quest, so you’re empathizing with this person who’s mentally unstable, and it takes many dark turns.
Look, here’s a tough businesswoman, yes, and you see that she wants a baby. A lot of working women have this want and this plight, and they come to this time where they reach the only window they have left, and they long for a baby. But I don’t think that’s what we were reaching for. I felt like I knew her for one reason: In a childlike way, in the fairy tale-ish part of this—not the insanity that I also had to display—she saw the truth. Her convictions were so astute and present that they could not be denied, even by her. You’re just propelled to keep going. One of my favorite films is Lars von Trier’s Breaking the Waves, and some people hated it, but I understood the whole journey of that woman, and the end was almost a celebration because it was so honest, and so true. With Maria, she too knows something within her that she can’t deny.
I also viewed it as a commentary on how difficult it is for working women to also be mothers, and that this is due to societal double standards. In the world of this film, it’s not necessarily her that’s evil, it’s the world that is, and she’s forced to descend to the depths to extract a child. It has a bit of Dante’s Inferno to it.
Absolutely. I totally agree with that. She has to enter that “Inferno” in order to have that moment of exaltation. She has to go to the depths, and she was willing to go there. And yes, I think it is a huge metaphor for businesswomen and making choices in life, because today, many professional women choose not to have families, and all of a sudden they wake up and they want that.
But some don’t.
Oh, completely. That’s why I’ve always admired professional women—and I’ve had a few around me—who decided not to have kids. They knew they either couldn’t handle it, or just didn’t have that maternal instinct, or it just wasn’t for them.
You also just don’t see too many roles like this in mainstream Hollywood—that of a strong-willed, independent businesswoman of a certain age who takes matters into her own hands, and the story is completely hers. A lot of times in film, women like this are relegated to the sidelines, and their story is used to service the male lead’s.
I know! I’m always talking about “evolved men,” and when I say that, I mean men who understand what it’s like to stand in each gender’s shoes. You have to try. There’s a masculine side to myself, too, and I try to understand men—and the mind of a man. And the director, Anders, really tried to capture the mind of this woman, so the camera was always very close to my face, which was a bit overwhelming at times!
But I think it goes in cycles. I think there are tough women films about to come on the horizon. A lot. They’re doing an all-female Ghostbusters, and they’re writing these tough women. I think there’s a trend of “move over, macho” coming around the corner, and I like to be a part of that train, and I’m talking to several people about taking matters into my own hands, so to speak. I’m blessed to have the longevity that I’ve had and be in this business, but I still have great hope in the cycles for women. I think a lot of women do fall into the trap of thinking things aren’t as fair for women, but at the same time, it’s absolutely true.
Right. There’s always been a Cary Grant or a Colin Firth on film romancing a twenty-something.
Exactly! But it usually is that way in real life, too. So when you mix things up, it makes it so much more interesting. It’s like Harold and Maude, you know? That’s so much more interesting. I just don’t want to be pigeonholed in any way when it comes to Hollywood clichés about men, women, whatever.
Have you seen Fifty Shades of Grey?
You know, I was invited to a private screening but I haven’t seen it.
I only ask because that film got me thinking about sexy films, and as far as modern sexy films go, 9½ Weeks is really up near the top.
9½ Weeks is one of those that I’m so proud of. I know it took some hits initially—whether tomatoes were thrown—or that we stayed in a theater in Paris for a number of years, but I’m very proud of that collaboration with Mickey, and with [director] Adrian Lyne. I hadn’t seen Adrian Lyne since the day we wrapped, and the other day, I’m on the street in West Hollywood and I hear, “KIM! KIM!” and it was Adrian! And he hugged me, and I said, “That movie has taken me so far,” and he replied, “Me too.” And that’s all we needed to say. There’ve been a lot of sexy, nudie films around, but in some strange way, we pioneered our way into that arena, and I remember how welcomed I was—especially in Europe—with that character. And it strengthened my film and personal relationship with women.
Speaking of sexiness, what was it like to date Prince? Because that is the coolest thing ever.
[Laughs] Oh, really? Oh god! You sound like my teenage daughter! He’s a brilliant talent. There’s no doubt about that. You know that, I’m sure. Hey, listen, I don’t really have boundaries, so I enjoyed that time of my life. It was a really special moment in time, and I have great memories. I don’t put a lot of restrictions on myself, let’s just put it that way. If there’s someone I connect with, we’ll go on these rides together. So that was a neat time in my life.
Was his whole house purple, still? I hear that’s what it’s like today.
[Laughs] I… won’t touch that one! I’ll leave that one be! That’s not for me to comment on at all.
There is that song that’s been immortalized, allegedly of you two making love—“Scandalous Sex Suite.”
[Laughs] That song. Oh, I know. Oh dear! Ah, yes. Sex runs the world in a lot of ways! If only women knew how powerful they were, they’d just say “no, no more babies,” and then we’d run the world. So there you go!
As far as legendary musicians go, you were also involved in what I consider to be one of the greatest music videos ever—Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
Now that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was classic, wasn’t it? He was a doll, and he was so sweet and asked me to do it, and both of us are extremely shy so we just said three words to each other the whole time. I’ll never forget how heavy that dress was! And I had to be dead the whole time. You know, it’s really one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, because I had to be completely weightless to be in his arms the way I was. It won all those awards, and the kids love it—even today!
Well, another thing the kids love today is Batman. Did you see the new Christian Bale ones?
Yeah, I did. They’re beautifully, beautifully done—especially The Dark Knight, the Heath Ledger one. It was cinematically beautiful, and very well-written. But I’m still very proud that I was in the first one.
Maybe it’s just because it’s the one I grew up with, but to me, the first Batman will always be THE Batman.
Oh, me too. Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson? Listen, if I were an audience member I’d say the same thing. Where do you go from Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson? You don’t get better than that.
Some serious dueling eyebrows.
And Michael Keaton, I love him in that scene with Vicky Vale when she says, “Look, you can tell me anything! It’s OK. Are you married? Oh my god, are you married?!” And he goes, “N-n-n-no, b-b-b-but,” and he’s trying to say Batman. Nobody could deliver that better than Michael Keaton. Nobody.
Another film that I really love that you were in is L.A. Confidential, which is not only one of the best movies of the ’90s, but one of the best film noirs.
I agree with that, too. Whether I was in it or not, it doesn’t matter—it’s one of the most beautifully executed films.
Totally. And the cast is perfect. I remember watching the Academy Awards as a kid and I was very bummed that Titanic won all the Oscars over it—except yours, of course.
Well, thank you so much, because really, the truth of the matter was that every director across the board said that Curtis [Hanson] should’ve gotten that, and he certainly deserved it.
You’re reuniting with Russell Crowe in Nice Guys, which is also a noirish flick.
That’s a bit of a secret because no one knows I’m in that, and it kind of comes out of nowhere, so it’s a fun surprise. But it was really nice to work with Russell again, and meet Ryan [Gosling]. I love him. He’s a doll.
All the ladies love The Gos.
Oh, he’s just a sweet man. He’s a sweet person. I pray to god he’s that nice in life! He’s adorable, though. He’s for real. So, lucky… what’s her name? Eva? Lucky for her. He’s beautiful, she’s beautiful, and I’m sure they’ve made a really beautiful baby.
Another film of yours that I grew up with was Wayne’s World 2, and you’re hilarious in that as the femme fatale Honey Hornée, who seduces Garth.
God, you’re hitting all the high notes! With Honey Hornée, we made her up as we went along and just tried whatever we wanted. It was Lorne Michaels, and those two [Mike Myers and Dana Carvey], god, they were hilarious. They’d take any chance at all. I’ve really been blessed with all the characters I’ve played. I really have been blessed.