‘lt was the Europeans who made me realise that it’s not so bad —- it’s a compliment,’ she says of the ‘babe’ stereotyping that plagued her career after she was thrown into the arena following Never Say Never Again. Sean Connery’s one-off return to James Bond’s tuxedo. ‘Look at Sophia Loren: she is the icon of sensuality and sexuality. she is the sex symbol of existence. and she‘s a mother and she‘s an intelligent woman. But when I ventured back to America. I found that. yes. your looks might open a few doors for you. but for a while the doors of opportunity slammed. slammed. slammed. I lost jobs sometimes because I had one word attached to me — “glamour”. l was “too sexy“.
‘When I was a kid. I was very tall and had tremendous lips.‘ she remembers. moving back in time to her childhood in Athens. Georgia. ‘But for all my school pictures. especially my first grade. I sat down with my navy blue skirt and my white shirt. and I pulled my lips in. I didn’t want to have those lips because the kids at school called me a very derogatory name all my life. I would get home and cry. cry. cry: but my daddy. on the other hand. told me “Don‘t you worry, one day those lips will make you some money”. Yeah. but they lost me money too.
‘lt’s outrageous. the way people think about sensuality and sexuality. I‘ve been lighting it so long. and it’s so shallow to think that. if you’re tagged a sex symbol or a beauty or whatever, it equates with vapid. ditzy. unintelligent. bombshell - all these horrible names that made me feel self-conscious and hurt.‘
The beauty-vs-brains battle is at its bloodiest in Hollywood. l-lere. short-term memories mean it‘s a huge risk to drop out of sight. even for maternity leave. Basinger’s last leading lady roles - as a cat burglar in The Real McCoy and with her husband in a remake of The Getaway — were less than well received. Three years on. the critics have nothing but praise for her performance as a prostitute made-up to look like 40s film star Veronica Lake in the magnificent crime-and- corruption drama LA. (Tmi/idenrial.
‘Comeback‘.” she asks. those Southern vowels flattening her real-life accent. ‘You can call it what you want to. but I didn't go anywhere. I went to the hospital. gave birth to a baby. went back to my house. and I‘ve been there ever since. To be honest. I was in no hurry to go back to work. I was very comfortable being a mom. getting into being with my daughter. waking up every morning with her. showing her the grass and trees. all those things. I was so elated by this birth that I just half-heartedly read everything that came to my house.’
In a way. the small but pivotal role in LA. Conﬁdential suited her perfectly. ‘I don’t have to be the queen bee.‘ she admits. ‘Having your name above the title is fun — I've seen it there — but that doesn’t mean it‘s going to be grand work. I’d much rather it was a good part than anything else. And with this project. Ireland was old enough that I could take her with me to the set.’
Basinger‘s renewed confidence is invigorating. particularly given the financial
'I lost jobs sometimes because I had one word attached to me -- "glamour". l was "tOO SEXY" ' Kim Basinger
battering she has taken off-screen since turning 40 four years ago. First she lost a $3 million lawsuit after being sued for dropping out of Jennifer Lynch‘s bizarre box office
bomb Boxing Helena; then she and a group of
investors bought the Georgia Braselton hoping to turn it into a creative arts centre. only to end up leaving creditors in the lurch and causing a huge rift within her family when plans fell through.
During this emotionally draining period. Basinger always had her husband for support. She and Baldwin met in l‘)()l when shooting Too Hot To Handle and married two years later. The birth of Ireland has been a delight for both. but has inevitable consequences for their professional lives.
‘It is hard.’ Basinger admits. ‘Alec’s in LA. right now, doing a film. otherwise he’d be here with me. We try to balance it out because I don‘t like the baby to remember her daddy going off because she’s with me all the time. We’re trying to work it out — and we haven’t quite got there yet — to a point where I work, then he works. then I work. then he works.‘
It‘s clear motherhood suits her. but in the beginning, she jokes. Baldwin was a bit jealous. ‘You know. lreland looks exactly like me.‘ she smiles. “even in the baby pictures. Every day. Alec wakes up and they have breakfast together. and he looks closely at her face and says. “I see none of me in you — none”. Then he turns to me and says. “If we ever have another baby. and it’s just like you . . . then it’s DNA tests. the whole nine yards”.’
L.A. Confidential opens on Fri 31 Oct and is reviewed on page 24.
Kim Basinger: acclaimed for her portrayal of prostitute and Veronica Lake lookalike in LA Confidential
24 Oct --6 Nov 1997 THE lIST 15