Kim Basinger on Good Kissing, Her Academy Awards Outburst, and Conversations with God
LG: Do you find the movie business in general one bad experience after another?
KB: Not really. I've had some creative problems with certain people in certain areas. I've experienced deceit and absolute treachery. I've learned there are some big powers in this town - I don't want to say who - that hire people that they can keep down, because they're such little people themselves. A lot of them are not creative people, they have no interest in anything but themselves and in power and money. They hire little people so they can keep them squashed down in the corner and beat them up, just beat them to pieces. And then they hire a lot of actors and actresses who, no matter how big a name they have, can be beaten to hell. The psychological makeup of a lot of actors is that they are weak people. They are weak because they are childlike and you can control them. It's all about control.
LG: You sound cynical.
KB: No, I'm not cynical at all. I think that's just cancerous, cynicism. I just need to hold all the knowledge I'm learning. And what I've learned in this last year is devastating to me as a child and as a woman. I am a very highly creative and experienced person. I know what my abilities are and people will know what my abilities are, and they can judge for themselves. After that, certain things will be undeniable. I actually feel sorry for the people who I found out about. It's going to be a terrible truth for them on the way down.
LG: Are you talking mostly about studio executives?
KB: Actors and actresses are the only ones with an ounce of creativity in them. Bad directors, bad production people, it's really sad what people don't know about Hollywood. After we finish this interview I'll take you aside and tell you some things you won't believe about some of these people.
LG: Will this be part of that book you could write called Tricks in Hollywood?
KB: The title of my book has always been Between Action and Cut. Because that's all I care about. That's the only part of this business that I condone. But it's so sad how many people in this town have no training, they just have rich daddies or rich mommies. It's that old Hollywood story. The money and the power that's been handed down. How pathetic!
LG: So who are the people you like to work with?
KB: I love truly talented people who aren't bullshitters. I enjoyed immensely working with Robert Benton because of his integrity and because he's so absolutely and ultimately talented.
LG: How about Robert Altman?
KB: Loved him. Altman's a big rebel bear. He might scratch you, you might have little ins and outs, but Altman either likes you or he doesn't. It's real simple with him, and he's not a bullshitter.
LG: Did you get along with Jack Nicholson when you made Batman?
KB: Oh, I loved Nicholson. I'm not a fan of anybody's but I think he's done some wonderful performances. He's not afraid to do anything, so that's cool with me. But it was hard, it was tough. Jack and all the producers made money. Peters-Guber, they made money. And Warner Bros., of course, made money. But none of the rest of us made anything. We got raped, everybody did. It was a rape deal, it really was.
LG: You and Jon Peters were rumored to have been an item at the time. You called Jon a catalyst who shook up something inside of you. Can you talk about him?
KB: Jon is very street-wise, he makes things happen. He was a friend. He's also a chance-taker and I like that. He's willing to take you on. I looked at Jon Peters and I said, "There is something lacking from this script." If you knew the truth about Batman you would faint. So I said, "We've got to make this into a love story." And we spent hours and hours looking at film and me showing him film about things that should be. We had a lot of problems on Batman and I'd go home at night and write over the weekend. Jack Nicholson just came in and wanted to work every day, he wasn't about to be part of the writing team on this. He was thinking about The Two Jakes. And Michael Keaton had done four films in a row and he was exhausted out of his mind. I got to know [director] Tim Burton pretty well, and Tim didn't want to write this. He had enough problems. The magnitude of this film was unbelievable. But I saw a lot that was missing from Batman. I saw the reconstruction work that should be done. I've rewritten a lot of the stuff I've done in movies, so I just rewrote a lot of this crap, period.
LG: Did you consider asking for a writing credit?
KB: No, I didn't. I learned a lot from Batman. I learned about being screwed and I learned about how not to ever get screwed again. I have got seventeen projects in the works in my own production company, most of which I have written myself. I don't need somebody patting me on the back about credit. I just want to see things done. And I want to see the right people getting the right money.
LG: Speaking of money, you and some partners plunked down a considerable amount to buy Braselton, the town near Athens, Georgia, where you grew up. What possessed you to do that?
KB: I know I have to develop this area. It just came to me as clear as anything. I said, "I'll buy it." Then I looked up at God when I was there and I said, "God, you know what I did?" And this voice went, "Yes, we know." And I said, "Okay, are you going to help me?" "Absolutely." So I said, "Fine." So I bought this town to develop to build a major studio there. I've got a big job ahead of me.
LG: Is it going to be anything like Dolly Parton's Dollywood?
KB: This is not Dollywood at all. No offense to Dolly. This is going to be a major, major playground. We hope to bring in a major musical park. It's going to be a huge surprise. Also I hope to build a music recording studio, seven or eight recording studios. This is the area to do it because it's so fast-growing, right on I-85 where the trucks can get off. God's little 2,800 acres. And I'm about to buy a bunch more land so it's going to be bigger.
LG: So you know what you want to do with your money.
KB: I know exactly what to do with money, because I do not have any interest in it. But I know people and I know things that need it desperately. I'm not trying to sound like Mother Teresa, I'm just saying if I had power over all the money there was, I'd know where I'd put it. I am not a things person.
LG: You posed in the nude for Playboy in 1983. What did your parents think of that particular career move?
KB: They didn't like it, just like anybody else. I'd never done anything like that in my life. I was just totally frustrated and Playboy had asked me to do that so many times. And then I needed a worldwide exposure - ha ha - I needed a film. And that served as a silent film for me throughout the world. Playboy gave me carte blanche: you pick the pictures, you do the writing, you do anything you want. It had nothing to do with money, believe me. It was just meant to happen. I don't regret it.
LG: Was it hard to do?
KB: I'm basically a shy girl. I like to underplay things. So at the time I had to reckon with the fact that it was just nudity. Now what is nudity? We're all born into this world naked. So I went through all this stuff in my head. Then finally I just said, what is it, man? I am what I am, I take a shower every day, and that's the end of that.
LG: Did it make you feel sexier than you are?
KB: Sexiness has nothing to do with all that, really. You don't play for sex, you don't pretend to be sexy, you either are or you aren't.
LG: Who's the sexiest actor on film?
KB: I am very strange who I'm attracted to and who I am not. There are guys in the movies that are sexy, very sexy. And then I pull into a gas station in Iowa and see some guy and I'll say, "You want to make more money than you're making here?"
LG: How about the sexiest actress?
KB: God, I never thought about that. That's a very hard question.
LG: Who came to mind when I asked it?
KB: Marilyn Monroe. She exuded more with a kiss from her hand to a bunch of soldiers than most women do in a whole lifetime.
LG: Do you think Monroe's beauty destroyed her in the end?
KB: I don't want to think that. I think she got out of hand. She had it all. She spent her whole life running from the legend and running back into the arms of the legend. It's as clear to me as a clock. And when you run so hard someone's always caught you before, like the arms of your own legend have always caught you. And one day the arms aren't there. That's what killed her. The legend wasn't there to catch her the last time around.
LG: Have you ever felt particularly close to Monroe in any way?
KB: When I came to this town I didn't know anybody. I needed a gynecologist and I remember reading a People magazine and a doctor was mentioned there. Can you imagine getting a doctor from this? This is why I believe that for certain points in your life God just leads you to certain things. So I saw this gentleman, he was an old man, now dead. To make a long story short, we got to be very, very close friends for the last years of his life. And he was Marilyn's doctor up until she died. He was the one who pulled her through the pregnancy and the loss of her children. He told me, "I want you to be careful in whatever you do and whatever you go through. This is a very hard place, these people aren't sweet, they aren't nice people." He didn't talk about Marilyn much. He said, "I always warned Marilyn about drugs and alcohol - that's what messed her up. I tried a million times."
LG: And have you heeded his warning?
KB: Oh, I've tried things, we've all tried things, but I was never, ever a heavy user in anything. After a while you just see so much demise and it's boring.
LG: One thing that's definitely not boring to you is kissing. You've been quoted as saying it's the chanciest thing you can do.
KB: It's the most intimate thing. It's the tell-tale thing of anything, sexually. Tons of people have sex and there are all kinds of ways to have sex, sex, sex...but really to have to face-to-face...mouths are neat things, mouths are sweet, even on babies, mouths are beautiful. I have great respect for every part of the body, believe me! This is a funny conversation! But other parts of the body just don't seem so intimate as that. And so revealing...and so free.
LG: Have you ever kissed someone whom you felt so connected with, that your tongues seemed two pieces of one puzzle, and your mouths fit as if they were a single unit?
KB: Yes, absolutely! YES!!! YES!!! [laughing] Boy, I'd like to be a fly on the wall to watch you ask that question to other people you've interviewed. And that's the end of that question.
LG: I've never asked that question before.
KB: Well, that's my answer: YES!!!
**LG: If a UFO landed and offered to take you away, would you go? **
KB: Definitely. Absolutely.
LG: Do you believe they are out there?
LG: So Close Encounters must be among your favorite films?
KB: Being There is my favorite film of all time. That and Amadeus and The Little Mermaid.
LG: What about your own favorite films?
KB: I have favorites. 9 1/2 Weeks and Nadine, because they did special things for me.
LG: 9 1/2 Weeks did special things to a lot of us. I hear the outtakes make the final cut seem tame.
KB: It went as far as anybody would take it but I've got the 14 hours on tape. What everybody else saw is sort of the MTV version.
LG: Was that film like a psychological rollercoaster for you?
KB: Oh man, beyond. Also we were wiped out, Mickey and I, physically, emotionally. I'm an actress, so when they say "Action" I put on the high heels and I go to work, and when I get in my trailer it's over for me. But 9 1/2 Weeks followed me around all the time, because I was so emotionally attached to it.
LG: There's talk about a sequel.
KB: Let there be talk.
LG: There was also talk about your appearance at the Oscars last year, when you reprimanded the Academy for ignoring Spike Lee and his Do the Right Thing. What made you do it?
KB: Never wanted to do it, never intended on doing it. I don't know what happened to me. I'd seen Do the Right Thing three times and I'm affected by certain films. I don't put anybody up in the high sheets of God's clouds for any reason, but I saw Do the Right Thing and the one thing that I really condone is the truth. Whatever truth is, let it come out. I don't care if you're going to get tarred and feathered. They can kill you but they can't eat you. So on top of my horrifying, terrifying, out-of-my-mind fear, this was the biggest audience we were ever going to have on the face of the map. This is like getting up in front of one billion people. The room is pretty big, as Billy Crystal would say. So I said let's let the truth get out more than it's been getting out lately. I saw all of these nominated films and I saw that Spike Lee, who I hadn't even met, had done the truest film of all. Take Driving Miss Daisy - I saw something that I've seen ever since I was a child, the depiction of something about the South that has always irritated me, okay? This is something I couldn't stand. I wasn't standing up for blacks or whites or any color, I was just saying, "Guys, you all are liars, you are leaving out another truth here." I didn't mean for it to be a shocking thing.
LG: Nonetheless, you did raise some eyebrows. What reaction did you receive?
KB: When I came off stage there wasn't a word. I just ran back and stripped off that gown, because it was taking up four seats in the audience, and I had to sit through the rest of this. And I'd see people looking at me. I passed Dan Aykroyd and he was shocked. When I sat down I looked to the left of me and in that whole auditorium who would be sitting at the end of my row but Spike Lee and he passed a note all the way down to me saying thank you. A lot of people wouldn't get near me after the Oscars. I walked across to this Governor's Ball and walked out and went home back to the hotel. No parties, no Spago, I just couldn't do anything else political. But I don't care what people think.
LG: Do you care what they think about some of the revealing dresses you wear at public occasions?
KB: To each his own. I mostly dress for me. I find myself, too, dressing for fans, because they have fun. And I love humor in this life. What does this word movie star mean, anyway? It's not medical student. It's movie star, right? So I go, God man, let's have fun in here. It's a game here, it's a party. I love clothes and I design stuff, so...get ready, it hasn't even started yet!
LG: With all that you're learning, do you have any regrets?
KB: I have no regrets, no nothing. So I'm the luckiest girl in the world. Every day in my life something extremely interesting happens. This is not a boring life I live, man.
Lawrence Grobel is the author of The Hustons, and he interviewed Charlie Sheen for our August cover story.
Photos by: Alberto Tolot, Sidney Baldwin
Styled by: Derric Lowe for LA Moine
Hair by: Enzo Angileri/Cloutier
Makeup by: Steven Abrams
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