Hollywood icon Kim Basinger has lived a life of incredible highs and lows. She is best known for her roles in ‘Batman’ (1989) and ‘Nine ½ Weeks’ (1986). An early child star, Basinger began performing at the age of three, and continues to gain impressive roles in Hollywood films.
Kimila Ann Basinger is a model and actress hailing from Athens, Georgia USA. Born on the 8th of December 1953 to a large family, she was the third of five children. Both parents were a part of show business: her father, Don Basinger, was a jazz musician and also took part in the D-Day landings; while mother Ann, an actress, model, and water ballerina, used her talents to perform in several Esther Williams films.
In an effort to encourage her stage presence, Basinger’s parents enrolled her at a ballet school when she was three. She remained in this training throughout her teens whilst performing as a cheerleader at her Athens high school. When Basinger turned sixteen she decided to enter the Junior Miss Athens contest, which she subsequently won. This success was later bolstered by an additional win at the Junior Miss Georgia contest. With growing confidence, Basinger entered the Junior Miss New York City contest, and although she did not win a third crown, she nonetheless decided to relocate to New York to pursue a career in acting and singing.
At five-feet-seven-inches with golden hair, Basinger’s striking appearance earned her a contract with the Ford Modelling Agency. She turned down the first offer in favour of pursing an acting career, but later changed her mind and was soon featured in hundreds of magazine adverts. At the time she was best known for her work as a ‘Breck Girl’ – a group of beautiful young women promoting Breck shampoo.
During this period Basinger was earning a thousand dollars a day, but refused to give up her dream of acting. She balanced a modelling career with acting classes at the well-known Neighbourhood Playhouse and performed at various Greenwich Village clubs. In 1976 she took a further step, deciding to seriously invest in her acting career by moving to Los Angeles, in doing so putting her modelling career on hold. The budding actress landed some small television parts, including roles in ‘McMillan and Wife’ (1971) and ‘Charlie’s Angels’ (1976).
In 1978 Basinger got her first major role in a made-for-television movie entitled ‘Kate: Portrait of a Centrefold’. The story of a small town girl that moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career somewhat mirrors her early life. Like Basinger, title character Kate ended up with a career as a glamour model, but there the similiarities ended, as Basinger’s next big break was more prestigious.
In 1983 she was cast as the new Bond Girl for ‘Never Say Never Again’, co-starring alongside Sean Connery. In the same year, Basinger did a classy nude photo shoot with Playboy magazine, later commenting that the famous pictorial lead to great opportunities but that “any girl who comes to Hollywood with sex symbol or bombshell hanging over her has a rough road."
In 1980 Kim met her first love, a makeup artist by the name of Ron Britton, on the set of ‘Hard Country’ (1980). Born Ron Synder, Basinger reportedly asked him to change his surname to “something with a B” so as to match a luxury set of luggage they owned.
Basinger’s career grew from strength to strength. In 1986 she landed her first million dollar contract, starring opposite Richard Gere in ‘No Mercy’, but the romance between Ron Britton and Basinger began to crumble when rumours of a steamy relationship between Basinger and Gere started to surface. According to Britton’s memoirs ‘Longer than Forever’ (1998) "She hated Richard Gere from the start… We had sex every afternoon . . . she was so tightly wound up [from working with Gere] that she had to find a way to relieve the tension”.
But at the end of April 1986 Britton discovered one of many love letters in their post box and decided to follow Basinger on one of her late night shoots with Gere. He observed the couple “making out” in Gere’s limo. Britton and Basinger divorced in December 1989. Any relationship Basinger may have had with Gere was fleeting, for he started seeing his wife-to-be, supermodel Cindy Crawford, in the same year. Basinger went on to have a short-term relationship with pop music icon Prince.
1989 was a break-out year for Basinger, as she co-starred with Michael Keaton in ‘Batman’, directed by Tim Burton. Basinger played the role of the photojournalist Vicki Vale and her performance lead to roles in other movies including 'The Marrying Man’ (1991), ‘Wayne's World 2’ (1993), and ‘Prêt-à-Porter’(1994).
In late 1989, the Ameritech pension fund invested in Braselton, a small town in Basinger’s native state of Georgia. She lent her support to bail out this dwindling town and provided $20 million. Four years later she filed for bankruptcy after Main Line Pictures sued her for $1.8 million dollars for backing out of a verbal commitment to star in ‘Boxing Helena’.
Although she eventually appealed that ruling and reached an out-of-court settlement, Basinger was forced to sell her interest in Braselton for just $1 million. Court documents revealed that her monthly expenses at the time totalled about $43 million, including $6,000 for clothing and $7,000 for “pet care and other personal expenses”.
On the set of ‘The Marrying Man’ (1991) Basinger fell in love with - and, indeed married - Hollywood star Alec Baldwin. They tied the knot on 19th August 1993 and worked together on a remake of ‘The Getaway’ (1994). Basinger and Baldwin also had cameos on ‘The Simpsons’ episode ‘When you Dish Upon a Star’, in which Basinger corrects Homer Simpson on the pronunciation of her surname.
On 25th October 1995 Basinger gave birth to a baby girl, Ireland Eliesse Baldwin. She commented that “There's no doubt that becoming a mother was the greatest thing I'll ever do.”
In 1997 Basinger convinced Hollywood that she was more than just a pretty face and received her highest accolade when she won a ‘Best Supporting Actress’ Academy Award for her critically acclaimed role in ‘L.A. Confidential’, in which she played Lynn Margaret Bracken, a high-class prostitute.
At an early stage in production Basinger almost turned down the part because she was tired of playing such roles. Fortunately she changed her mind, going on to win awards at the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild Awards for the same role. Basinger remains the only actress to pose nude for Playboy and win an Oscar.
In recent years Basinger has played Marshal Mather’s (Eminem) mother in ‘8 Mile’ (2002), against Jeff Bridges in ‘The Door in the Floor’ (2004) as well as starring alongside Jason Statham in the thriller ‘Cellular’ (2004). In 2008 she starred in ‘While She Was Out’, a Christmas thriller produced by Hollywood big-name Don Murphy (‘Transformers’ 2007) and exec-produced by Guillermo del Toro (‘Hellboy’ 2004). her latest roles include parts in 'Third Person' (2013) and 'Grudge Match' (2013).
Basinger’s relationship with Alec Baldwin fell apart in 2002 when the National Enquirer ran a story claiming that Baldwin beat his wife. Basinger had made claims that her husband was “emotionally and physically abusive”. In retort, brother Billy Baldwin spoke out, calling Basinger a “nutcase”. A lengthy and complicated legal case over the custody of Basinger and Baldwin’s eight-year-old daughter continued.
Since an early age, Basinger has struggled with panic attacks and agoraphobia. She has been known to spend up to six months at a time indoors and is attempting to combat the problem with therapy. An otherwise realistic, down to earth woman, Basinger has tried to keep her head in with the movie business, saying that “My hand still shakes when I sign autographs. I still go and sit in the movies like everyone else and look up there and go ‘God! Movie stars! Wow!’ And I'm in this business. I walk out there just fascinated and I always want to stay like that. I'm just a little kid going to these movies and I don't ever want to change.”
Basinger is a staunch supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and this year protested against the moving of two tigers to Baghdad Zoo, in an effort to keep these endangered cats out of a dangerous war zone.
Kim Basinger is perhaps one of Hollywood’s most recognisable leading ladies. She has enjoyed a lengthy and successful career, working with some of the finest talents the film business has to offer. Life in the public spotlight has dealt her some painful experiences, however she will be remembered for her highs, not her lows. In her own words, when looking back on her career, Basinger affirms that she “wouldn't trade anything no matter how good or bad or difficult. I'm the luckiest girl in the world as far as I'm concerned.”