Kim Basinger: No Regrets
The inimitable Kim Basinger talks about the talk about her, praises her new husband Alec Baldwin and the film they've made together, The Getaway, and gives her verdict on Boxing Helena: "Let's just say I made the right decision."
The first time I interviewed Kim Basinger she'd had a blinding-hot relationship with her co-star Alec Baldwin during the troubled making of The Marrying Man, which served as fodder for the gossip columnists, and she'd put up money and garnered investors to buy a small town called Braselton in Georgia. What's happened since is much more soap-operaish. Kim was approached by Jennifer Lynch. David's daughter, with a project called Boxing Helena, about a woman abducted by a man who becomes so obsessed with her that he cuts off her arms and legs so that he alone can possess her. Kim expressed interest, but when she talked it over with her advisors, she began to have second thoughts. When she backed out, producer Carl Mazzocone and Main Line Pictures decided to sue her for breach of an oral contract. The jury found for the producer and said Basinger must pay $8.9 million, plus court fees. During this ordeal, one man has stuck by her: Alec Baldwin, her new husband and co-star in the upcoming The Getaway.
So, that's where we stand today. But would Kim be as forthright as she had been during our earlier interview? I had my doubts, which were reinforced when she told me that she'd been thinking of canceling because she'd done only one magazine interview since her ordeal and she felt it was full of lies and distortions. "It's no pleasure anymore to publicize a film or to celebrate a moment or to say anything to anybody."
But slowly she began to warm up. We talked for four hours and when we were done, I felt, as I had the first time, that Kim is a unique woman in a tough business. I like her. She's definitely not out of any mold.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: How agonizing was the lawsuit and trial for you?
KIM BASINGER: It was the worst experience I've ever been through in my life, are you kidding? As shy as I am, do you honestly think I wanted to be in front of 12 jurors and a courtroom full of people that looked like "Night Court"? I've never been that scared in my life.
Q: Why'd you put yourself through it instead of settling quietly out of court?
A: The other side wanted to settle so many times it's unbelievable. Up until the court steps on the first day of this trial they were saying in my lawyer's office, "Just give us the money and we'll go away." It's all about money. And I don't have the money.
Q: Last time, you said that from your experience with Batman you learned about being screwed and how not to ever get screwed again. Would you say you were screwed over Boxing Helena?
A: Because it's in appeal I can't really talk about it. You know what a lot of people think? That I've lost this case. Are you going to write that it is in appeal? Serious appeal. We have the truth on our side: I am not guilty, and I take this far more seriously in 20 million different ways than they ever thought anybody would.
Q: It's a big issue in Hollywood.
A: I'm surprised that you think it's a big issue.
Q: Your husband isn't. He wrote a piece in the L.A. Times in which he said, "This verdict is not a victory for anyone in this business, a business where the climate of deceit and distrust, self-serving and self-seeking is high enough already ..."
A: I was sitting in a courtroom when this was all happening. I guess it is an issue. I'm so incredibly sad. It always takes the truth a little bit longer to cross the finish line. But God, it's just devastating for me to think that creative people cannot sit in a room and say anything to each other. I just wish it had been a legitimate team of moviemakers, not someone trying to be a producer and a director.
Q: The producer who sued you said: "This case should send a message to actors that when they commit, they commit."
A: I don't know what message he's going to end up sending because I didn't commit to anything. That's why I don't see the importance of this case. I know where you're coming from, but I just see this as a gigantic publicity stunt for a movie. These people were the only ones who spoke to the press during the trial. We didn't speak. In fact, when I first got to court and saw all the press, I honestly thought they got the wrong courtroom and were there for Rodney King.
Q: How shocking was the verdict?
A: It was devastatingly hurtful, but it wasn't shocking because of the plaintiff's lawyer's opening argument, when she said to the jurors: "Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Now we all know what it feels like, since we were in school, for the pretty girl to get everything she wants." I knew right then, the case was never going to be tried, I was.
Q: What was it about Boxing Helena that initially interested you?
A: Mainly what I thought to be, then, the sincerity of this girl, Jennifer Lynch. I felt some compassion for her. She put on this act of being this girl who really wanted to get this film.
Q: Why do you say it was an act?
A: I would like to think it wasn't, but look what's come down. It was both her and the producer who did this.
Q: Have you seen the movie she finally made?
A: We saw it with the jury.
Q: Did you feel it vindicated your decision not to do it?
A: Let's just say I made the right decision.
Q: Your legal fees must be...
A: Astronomical. Don't even know the amount yet.
Q: With you and Alec married, can they go after his money?
A: Absolutely not, cannot touch him in any way. I make my own money, I pay my own bills.
Q: Okay, let's move on to a happier topic. What was your wedding like?
A: It wasn't crazy, we didn't do anything outlandish. It was a Cinderella, magical afternoon. Alec took care of everything. He wanted it to be for himself and I was all for it, because I had no idea how I wanted to do it, and it's very important that he now has a wonderful memory for himself. The press actually was wonderful.
Q: How would you distinguish your first marriage from your current marriage?
A: The first marriage was about protection and not seeing clearly. The second one is about as much clarity as one could have right now. I didn't instantly fall in love--though I fell in love rather quickly. But this was about having gone through a lot of things together, having seen the worst and the best parts of each other. This is about being in love and being attracted to this human being, really loving him, who he is.
Q: How nervous were you the second time around?
A: Not for a moment. Alec had wanted to get married four years ago. He wants a family so badly. He wants everything yesterday.
Q: Do you want a family?
A: I do, definitely.
Q: You're almost 40, does that concern you?
A: I know women who are having babies at phenomenal ages and are not having any trouble at all. As long as I'm healthy I'll have my own kids. But we also want to adopt.
Q: Does turning 40 make you nervous careerwise?
A: If you know how short a stop this life is, I don't have time to think about that. If you look at people, they don't change that much over the years, especially from 30 to 40. I don't put that much emphasis on five or 10 years.
Q: Meryl Streep has said that movies usually call for one aspect in women--their sexuality. Having a brain doesn't help an actress.
A: I can't believe that she said that, because she's been a very brainy actress.
Q: Which shows you how cynical she has become.
A: That's very sad. I think beauty has its place, but at the same time, look at all the people in movies today, it's not all about beauty. And it's not all about sexuality--which, coming from me is a pretty big statement. My whole career has been somewhat that way so far--but nobody knows me in this world yet. Women are cynical about being used as sex objects. Which is a shame, because it's fun to use your sexuality. But there are very few parts written for women, period. It's all action heroes, it's men... it's a man's world, and it's a man's world here in Hollywood, too.
Q: How competitive are you?
A: I'm extremely competitive with myself. But I'm not actively competitive with other women in the business. Which may have been a mistake. I've never had someone in my life, agent or otherwise, fighting for me.
Q: Demi Moore has said that there are too many good actresses to fill the few great roles for women, so she has to go out there and fight.
A: That's a great attitude and she is right. I just don't know how you do that. The smartest thing you can do in this business is get connected with a great agent to help you. Get connected with people who will form a family around you, or a moat.
Q: You're obviously talking from a longing, since you've changed publicists and agents quite often.
A: Sometimes it takes 25 doctors before you find the one who can save your life. My agent now [Andrea Eastman] is a fighter. She knew the game was about fighting. I never knew there was a game.
Q: How do you think people perceive you?
A: That's a very hard question at this point in time. If that many people read and believe what they read, then I must not be perceived very well. I am constantly shocked by some of the things people say about me.
Q: Are you in the process of reinventing yourself?
A: Is every question going to be this fun? I just never think these thoughts. Reinventing myself. I'm not really doing that.
Q: Cosmopolitan once quoted you as saying: "I don't really live in a time zone. I don't abide by the rules here on Earth." Do comments like that add to the perception that you're a bit wacky?
A: We all have bosses and there are certain rules you have to live by. This may be a funny thing to say, but people didn't think Thoreau was very wacky, did they? I read a play called The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail and he just says it so perfect, it's like the clock--I just never lived too much by the clock. I don't live by a lot of society's rules, I can't pattern myself after the herd. There's so little time. What were you doing 10 years ago? God, it's scary. Ten years from now I'm gonna remember sitting here. And it's going to feel like six months ago.
Q: Does that depress you?
A: No, it excites me to death. It frees me.
Q: Looking back, are there things now that you would have done differently to have changed parts of your life?
A: What it is, it is. I don't look at the past and say, God, if I only...
Q: You don't think about turning down films like Sleepless in Seattle or Basic Instinct!
A: When I read Basic Instinct, it was just something I was not interested in doing at the time. I just didn't care about doing a highly explicit sexual piece which I thought it would end up being, and it did. Sleepless in Seattle, that was really early on. Nora Ephron was not even attached to it. It wasn't like Meg Ryan was hired the next morning--this movie went through some real changes. The Sleepless in Seattle that people saw, I never knew anything about it! There was a whole other Sleepless in Seattle happening! [Laughs]
Q: Last time we talked, you said The Marrying Man with Alec had more problems than the Book of Life. Does it still rank as the hardest film you've ever done?
A: [Laughs] Yeah, yeah. But the funny thing about it is that this film seems to be the basis for all of the bullshit that's out there. And when I say bullshit, I mean false, unbelievable stories. This was a Disney film, and the irony is that all my life my favorite films have been Disney films. But two wonderful things happened in my life out of that: I got to sing and I met Alec. So Mickey Mouse means a great deal in my life.
Q: The press was pretty brutal with you and Alec.
A: This is another subject that's been talked to death. It was all about deception. I've heard so many awful quotes from "a source, a crew member." How we fucked in our trailer and they tape-recorded us, and my washing my hair with Evian, and the Brazilian psychics that I go and see. Things that are so unbelievably untrue. I've never washed my hair in a trailer before, not in Evian or any other kind of water. I don't know what "psychic" means. The only psychic I have in my life is God, if He's a psychic. I've never dealt in psychic phenomena. I don't know how they make this crap up.
During The Marrying Man I had to go down to Brazil, and this guy printed in an article that Disney threatened to charge me $85,000 a day for this trip to see my psychic. In actuality, before the movie started, Disney said I'd have two weeks off. So I decided to go out of the country, to Brazil. I didn't want to tell Disney who I was going to see, because it was in my best interest not to. I was going to see a man named Mauricio de Sousa, an animator who's known all over the world. I had written an animated film that he loved so much that he was going to help put it into production. He came to California to meet me and in return I said that one day I would go to Brazil, and this was when I decided to do this. It became a smear campaign against me. And the crew had no idea what Disney was doing to Alec and myself.
Q: Disney's Jeffrey Katzenberg was quoted in Variety as saying: "I love my job, and, with the exception of Kim Basinger, most of the people I work with."
A: Did he say that? "With the exception of Kim Basinger." That's amazing, because I never really talked to Jeffrey Katzenberg. He honestly thinks I was the instigator in this whole thing, when in reality all we wanted to do was make a good film. That hurts me, that's very shocking. Do you have a copy of that? Jeffrey Katzenberg is a very powerful, very talented man. That's what's so unbelievable about this, how someone could try to destroy your career, your life. Why would I be somebody that he would want to pinpoint as hating? I don't hate him. I don't mean to sound like any damn Mother Teresa, God knows I have my ups and downs. But I'm actually very shocked by you telling me that. That's pretty much slander, it really is. When did he say that?
Q: A year or so ago.
A: Oooh. Wow. Maybe I was out of town working. That just makes me want to throw up.
Q: How was it doing a remake of The Getaway with Alec?
A: It was heaven. From top to bottom. We went back to the Jim Thompson book. When you see the [original] Ali MacGraw/Steve McQueen one, it's sort of a cult thing because they were together, too, at the time. As a couple they were interesting--you knew they went home together and you wondered if they fought and things. I don't rub Ali MacGraw's nose in it. Yeah, she was just the girlfriend, but she never claimed to be anything else. They focused on McQueen and the caper, the Sam Peckinpah violence. They never focused on the relationship. This one is totally about the relationship. It's about trust, it's about you are my partner and you're also my wife and what happens in this process? It's very volatile, it's violent, it's incredibly, insanely erotic.
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