Kim Basinger has been a household name since the early 80s, though many households can’t agree on how to pronounce it. Since rising to prominence with her portrayal of Domino Petachi in the 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again, and again with 1997’s L.A. Confidential, Basinger (that’s “bay-singer”, not “bass-injure,”) has had a prolific career, with her films often gaining notoriety, if not critical acclaim. Yet in recent years, there’s been little public buzz about her career. What is she doing today, and what are her plans for the future?
Kim Basinger’s Modeling Career
Basinger was born in Athens, Georgia, on December 8th, 1953. Her mother was an actress, model, and swimmer, while her father was a big band musician. Growing up the middle child of five, Basinger as an adult would reflect that her relationship with her parents was not always healthy. Her father, highly critical, instilled in her a shyness which would go on to affect Basinger’s childhood and school life.
However, an introduction to ballet at a young age helped give her the confidence necessary to excel in high school. When she was 16, she started modeling, and the next year won a city-wide beauty pageant. While participating in the Georgia Junior Miss pageant, Kim was offered a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency. However she turned it down, enrolling at the University of Georgia to study singing and acting. Almost immediately, though, she changed her mind and moved to New York City to work as a model for Ford.
While Basinger earned a sizable income working as a model, she was never happy with her work. Perhaps it was the influence of her father, but Basinger frequently would avoid mirrors before shoots, preferring to be unaware of her appearance unless absolutely necessary. Regardless, her career as a model steadily progressed, and while she appeared in thousands of adverts throughout the 1970s, she managed to attend acting classes and perform as a singer around New York.
Kim Basinger as a Bond Girl & Playboy Pinup
After five years of attending acting school on the side, Basinger felt confident enough to leave Ford and move to Los Angeles. In 1976, she started securing small televised roles, notably in Charlie’s Angels, and in 1978 she starred in the made-for-TV movie Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold. Over the next couple years, she would transition to acting in feature films, debuting with the drama Hard Country. In 1982, Basinger performed alongside Charlton Heston in Mother Lode, and the next year she starred opposite Sean Connery in his final Bond film, Never Say Never Again. In order to promote the film, Basinger did a shoot for Playboy, making her the only person to have posed nude in Playboy and, later, win an Academy Award. Additionally, Basinger credits the Playboy shoot for helping her land the role in Barry Levinson’s film, The Natural, for which she received her first Golden Globe nomination, for Best Supporting Actress.
In 1985, Basinger performed in Robert Altman’s Fool for Love, which may be what finally highlighted her ability to act, not just lend a pretty face to a role. With that new legitimacy, Kim performed in more than ten more feature films that decade, notably Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Also in 1989, Basinger released a studio album and EP, both produced by Prince, with whom she may have had a romantic relationship. Late in that year, Kim bought the town (yes, the town) of Braselton, Georgia, to establish tourism based around a film festival. 1989, then, was the year in which Kim transitioned from actress to celebrity.
In 1991, Basinger started dating the not-yet-famous Alec Baldwin, after starring beside him in The Marrying Man, and the next year starred in several erotic thrillers, to mixed reviews. Reliant on her status as a sex symbol of the previous decade, Kim spent the early 90s performing in several mediocre movies, including the live-action/animated horror comedy, Cool World, which even the director referred to as a “total disaster.”
In 1993, after starring as the corpse in Tom Petty’s video for Last Dance With Mary Jane, Basinger was sued for dropping out of Boxing Helena, a film directed by David Lynch’s daughter during the height of Twin Peaks fanaticism. In Boxing Helena, she would have played an armless and legless sexual hostage. While the settlement of initially $8 million was reduced to $3.8 million, the incident left Basinger filing for bankruptcy, and she sold the town of Braselton.
In 1994, Basinger co-starred in the remake of The Getaway with Alec Baldwin, now her husband. Receiving mixed reviews and criticism over controversy on set, Basinger took a hiatus from acting, focused on raising their daughter, Ireland Baldwin.
Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential
Then, in 1997, Basinger returned to acting as Lynn Bracken in Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential. The film, which still holds a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, earned her wide acclaim, including an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, as well as the Golden Globe and Screen Actor’s Guild award. On December 29th, 2015, the film was even added to the National Film Registry, a Library of Congress project which selects “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant films.”
In the early 2000s, Basinger separated and eventually divorced Alec Baldwin. During that time, Basinger performed as Kuki Gallmann in I Dreamed of Africa, in 2000, and as Eminem’s mother in the 2002 film 8 Mile, which was also directed by L.A. Confidential’s Curtis Hanson. Featured in another half-dozen films throughout the 2000s, Basinger was slowly moving toward more independent feature films. The Burning Plain was featured at multiple film festivals, and in 2009, her film The Informers premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Kim Basinger Today
Since 2010, Kim Basinger has starred in Charlie St. Cloud and Grudge Match, and has two films, 4 Minute Mile and I Am Here, on the film festival circuit, with several more upcoming pieces.
The Internet talks about the Bond Girl Curse, which highlights the tendency of actresses who play the romantic interest in a Bond film to never go further in their career. Kim Basinger managed to defy the supposed curse with L.A. Confidential, but since 1997, the 80s sex symbol’s career has been slowly declining. Most recently, Basinger made headlines by platonically reuniting with Alec Baldwin to support their daughter Ireland, who was struggling with her own modeling career and personal life. Professionally, Basinger has two upcoming films, The Nice Guys and Nocturnal Animals, both slated for limited festival runs.