We haven't heard from Kim Basinger for some time because she's avoided the media while: fighting a lawsuit regarding her not appearing in the film Boxing Helena that wound up costing her over $3 million: giving up on the town called Braselton in Georgia. which she had hoped to make into a creative arts center: having a baby: making Robert Altman's Ready to Wear. which left her in tears each night because she had no idea what she was doing (and yet played a TV fashion industry reporter hilariously): and making Curtis Hanson's adaptation of James Ellroy's L-A. Confidential, in which she plays a mysterious party girl in '50s noir Los Angeles. Now that she's agreed to come up for some public air, we can reassure ourselves that she still retains her sense of humor, her belief in the vegetable as the only proper food to ingest, her ability to turn a phrase and speak her mind, her wackiness, her beauty, and her determination not to let the bastards get her down.
LAWRENCE GROBEL: You've had an addition to your family since we last talked. She's now a year-and-a-half old. How did your pregnancy go?
KIM BASINGER: The first six months Of my pregnancy I Ms really, really seasick-everybody calls it morning sickness. I call it 24-hours-a- day sickness!
Q: Was Alec much help during the seasickness?
A: Alec was in New York making The Juror. I have a wonderful supportive group of women who work in my house with me, but while rocking and rolling in bed late at night. you just say to God. "Help me, this is horrible!"
Q: Did you know it was a girl?
A: No, we didn't want to know. Subliminally Alec and I both thought it was a boy. When the baby came, my doctor said. "Well. this one ain't got any balls." I thought our child might be missing part of his anatomy. Alec was totally ashen. Then he realized and said. "It's a girl!" I was basically in shock.
Q: Was it a natural birth?
A: No. I had to have a C-section. My baby had been in the vaginal canal with her head down for four months. But three weeks before my due date, she had completely turned. My doctor suggested a procedure where they try to turn the baby [the right way]. Without being dramatic, it was the most painful procedure I've ever dealt with in my life. Alec was holding my feet, two nurses were holding my hands. They moved the baby three-quarters down, but they had to stop to give me a rest. Before they got out the door the baby turned all the way back. I just burst into tears. I said. "I am not going home without this baby today! So schedule whatever you have to and get it out!" Two hours later I was in the operating room.
Q: Did you breast-feed?
A: Yes, but I didn't have milk like these Elsie the Cow women who walk around-I'm sorry! I don't know' what that is about. To me it's like a fairy tale, these women who talk about having so much milk that they pump it out into bottles. I never had that. I breast-fed for four months and always had to supplement the baby.
Q: Who does she look like, you or Alec?
A: Let me put it this way: how many times a week does Alec come to me and say, "Are you sure she's mine?"?
[Laughs] Does that answer you! question? I said to one of my ladies in the house, "How do you think it would feel to be able to kiss yourself on the mouth at the age of 14 months? What is it like to watch you bring up voh?"
Q: Whose temperament does she have?
A: I have a temper, but I do not have a temper like Alec. I don't think two people [like that] could live in the same house, OK? But with these two temperaments, Ireland has started something that every mother has told me happens: tantrums. Q: Will she ever taste meat? A: Ah. no. She's so healthy, and she eats every kind of vegetable on the planet. She eats rutabaga and lentils and black- eyed peas and turnip greens and beets.
Q: So her teenage rebellion will be eating a Big Mac?
A: You know what? I can't say what my reaction will be at the time, but I hope I will remember myself when I went through these things, when I wanted to wear short skirts up to my you-know- what. Children need to grow up and make their own decisions-how they want to pierce their bodies or do whatever they need to do.
Q: Are you working on another child?
A: I'd love to have another baby. We've also thought about adopting.
Q: Any doubt if you adopted it would be a boy?
A: [Laughs] Most of our dogs are females and Alec is always saying he's surrounded by bitches.
Q: Have you allowed pictures of Ireland to appear in the press?
A: It's not really about allowing them. They've been everywhere. I kept her in the house for the first three months, away from people. Then I took her to New York and I remember a barrage of paparazzi everywhere we went. It was really frightening for her, very upsetting. And I said. "That's it."
Q: Alec got into trouble with a photographer-how crazy did that make him?
A: That was in our neighborhood. It's all in litigation now so I can't really talk about it. It was right after her birth. I was very vulnerable. I've been stalked before. The last thing I heard was, Alec saving. "Stay in the car."
Q: When were you stalked? Before Alec?
A: Yeah. I don't like to go back there. It lasted a while, and then creepy things would happen when I'd go on location.
Q: Given the problems you've had with Disney, does Ireland have any Disney animals?
A: If she's drawn to Mickey, so be it. But her favorite is Tweety.
Q: Has Alec changed since her birth?
A: I don't think the reality hits men as quickly as women. Men have to grow into this maturity. They see their wives slipping away from them and they resent it. And they have a harder time with giving up what they were so accustomed to. I've been in awe of Alec's verbal ability-he's a very articulate, intellectual guy. I've never seen him have any adverearial situations he could not deal with. But there's one little creature he just can't seem to master. She has him completely intimidated. baffled. He calls from New York and says. "What's she doing? Let me taut to her." So I put him on the speakerphone and she hears. "Is that my little so-and-so?" And she's on top of the washing machine taking her ride, watching the lights go on. And he says. "She's just having less and less to do with me." I know the way he feels. but I say. "Alec. she loves the washing machine this morning, get over it. I can't get a kiss out of her either."
Q: You told me your first marriage [to makeup artist Roil Britton] was about protection and your marriage to Alec was about clarity. That still hold?
A: I do believe that.
Q: Is Alec still your life's focus?
A: Did I say that? [Laughs] My family is the most important thing to me. hands down. It's a whole new ball game for me now.
Q: Is the passion between you as intense-or have you settled into a more married-life routine?
A: Alec truly thinks the focus is always with the baby. He went on the "Rosie O'Donnell Show" and said. "My wife and I are separating: she's fallen in love with another woman-a 14-month-old, bald-headed girl." The audience was so dumbstruck by his statement that we were splitting they didn't get the joke. The passion goes through different stages after you have a child. You have some great moments. you have some disagreements. We've been together seven years now and have gone through a great deal of ups and downs, which have made me a stronger and better person. We have the real foundation a partnership needs. We're very different in a lot of ways, but very much alike in the key ways. We're just normal people like everybody else.
Q: This is what Alec said about you: "There's a naivete about her. She just doesn't get it. And that's what I love about her." Are you as naive as Alec thinks?
A: I feel the same way about him. Our personalities manifest themselves so differently. Alec is gregarious. vocal. outspoken, and he sees my quiet shyness... maybe I am very naive. Q: What made you decide to do L.A. Confidential as your reentry to movies after taking time off to have your baby? A: When I first read the script I said. "No, I don't want to do this." I just didn't see it. I wanted something like Jane Eyre. I'm my own worst enemy sometimes when I pick projects. God knows I've made some horrible choices in my life, and I've passed up really good offers that other people have become huge stars from. [Laughs] I read L.A. Confidential again at my then- agent's advice, and I saw what he was talking about. I was nervous meeting with the director. Curtis Hanson. because I had some questions about stuff in The River Wild and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. But he had it in his mind who he wanted as the Veronica Lake character. It's a wonderful part for me because until now, dramatic, serious pieces have eluded me.
Q: Body Heat-type films?
A: Oh no, I did my 9 1/2 Weeks. I'm talking about what I call "Yea. My Lord" pieces that a lot of women are doing-which are very beautiful. All women want to dress up and do what Nicole Kidman did in The Portrait of a Lady.
Q: So in LA. Confidential you get to play a serious party girl in a cast that includes Kevin Spacey and Danny DeVito.
A: It's an amazing cast-those two. plus Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce. David Strathairn, James Cromwell. Russell Crowe's one of the most talented people I've ever worked with. James Crornwell plays the bad gay - and I just loved him so much as the farmer in Babe that I hated to see him be bad.
Q: Yon had a major catastrophe when it came to making you into a Veronica Lake look-alike, didn't you?
A: Todav you put highlights in your hair, but women in the '40s used to dye their hair solid. Veronica Lake, Grace Kelly, all those girls had really beautiful blonde silk angel-looking hair, but oh, what you had to do to get that! I've never dyed my hair, just put highlights in it, but I volunteered to let it be dyed. My hair rebelled. I was there in the sink with this wet hair and my head was burning. I asked if that was normal and they said yes, it's supposed to tingle. So I lay there for another four minutes and then asked them to rinse it out because it was burning so badly. It continued to burn. By the next morning I had blisters on my head and down my neck. I had to have wigs because my hair started falling off. Not out, thank God. There was no damage to the root. My hair was just breaking off in big pieces. In the last two scenes of the movie we cut my hair short. And at the end of the movie, I told the hair stylist to just cut mv hair all off. I was kind of happy with the idea of just getting rid of that hair for a while. And oh boy. did I get my wish. I was almost bald.
Q: You said playing TV reporter Kitty Potter in Altman's Ready to Wear was the most terrifying thing you'd ever done. Why?
A: No script, no nothing. Fool for Love. which I did with Altman. had a script, and it was a wonderful part for me-it made a difference. [But on Ready to Wear] Altman took us all together and said, "We're going to go into these fashion shows in Paris and you are going to be in character and not come out of character even if you see somebody you know." I came from the fashion world and had people coming up to me and I had to be rude to them because the camera was on me the whole time. I felt so horrible. I was doing everything but slapping these people in the face. Plus it was on-the-spot acting. Altman would see someone and tell me to go intemew her, and it would turn into these catty conversations as he would stand behind us roaring with laughter. Now we know how it all turned out-the film was Just mashed into the wall.
Q: Did you ever know what the film was about?
A: No, I never knew what he was doing.
Q: How disappointed were you with The Getaways
A: Truly disappointed, but what could we do when God chose to snow the whole nation in the weekend it opened-and it was the same weekend Ace Ventura, Pet Detective opened. We've been offered The Getaway 2. The Getaway where? God knows.
Q: For Alec it might be to get away into politics, though hasn't his liberal bent irritated an East Hampton newspaper, which wrote that he should get out of town?
A: He's so into politics, with his TCC [The Creative Coalition organization, which he's president of in New York. The relationship he has with that paper puzzles me a little bit. They banter back and forth. I think Alec has just worn out his welcome with the column he keeps writing.
Q: Would Alec make a better Congressman, governor or senator?
A: I don't really, know, because he changes so quickly. As a kid he wanted to be president. He loves to write columns and sometimes I think he would be best doing that. Or maybe a radio talk show. He would love that, and he'd be great. I don't know where he might end up, but I wouldn't be surprised wherever it is.
Q: How might you feel about being a politician's wife?
A: I knew you weren't going to let me end it there. Oh God, I just plead the Fifth on that. Alec is always saying, "I can't do it alone." I go in my bathroom and lock the door and turn on my stereo real high. [Laughs]
Q: Who do you think said, "What can be more meaningless than making movies in the 1990s?"?
A: Sounds just like Alec. "What could be more meaningless... ?" What day did you get him on? Wow. See, we are very different.
Q: How do you get along with all of Alec's family?
A: Great. Love his mom. his sisters. his brothers. We don't see a lot of each other, but I love it when we do.
Q: Do you have a favorite brother-in-law?
A: I talk more to Stephen. I'm crazy about him. He and Alec are on the phone much more often than any other members of his family other than his maul.
Q: What about with your own family? Last time we talked you said you hadn't spoken with lour brother Mick in three years.
A: Let's just leave it like this: it's a very sad situation. The subject of Braselton [the town Basinger and a group of investors bought and have since sold] did a lot of harm within my family. Period.
Q: Did Mick drive from Florida to North Carolina to see you and you wouldn't talk to him?
A: It was in the best interest of everyone that I not talk to him at the time about what he wanted to talk to me about. Let me repeat this again so you hear me very loud and clear: all of this has. been a terrible thing with my family.
Q: The New York Times reported that a lot of your small creditors hadn't been paid because of your bankruptcy declaration. Didn't you threaten to sue Tile Times"
A: I was never going to sue Tile Times. This happened two years- ago. All of a sudden you wake up one morning and you see yourself with a big picture, and a story by a journalist writing about nothing she knew anything about. I mean. who am I to belong In tile business lection? My lawyers wanted to sue them, but this was another time when Kim chose to say. "Go away." You can't fight that barrage of negativity. I'm a hugelv positive person. All of the negativity that's been around me has given me more to give. All these trials and tribulations are nothing but: OK. I think you can do this. And you get over that hump. You get cuts and scrapes, but guess what? - they clear up. I've always con- dueted my life that way. The Braselton situation probably did more harm in my life than anything that I can think of. I thought my being in the public eye would help get the town going and raise money, but I left it in the hands of other people and it just ttent downhill from there.
Q: We haven't yet talked about another big scrape you had to deal with, that lawsuit over Boxing Helena. What have you learned from the experience?
A: What I know now and what I knew then, you don't learn that in any classroom.
Q: What did you get out of it in the end that makes you positive rather than negative?
A: I'm stronger, clearer and happier because? of it. I let go of a lot of faults and ambitions. It was all about my will. my agenda- and I learned to take my hands off the control panel.
Q: Did it make you cynical at all?
A: No. I don't have that in me. I consider everything I've been through just a gift. I really do. I 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.
Q: You were shocked at what people said about you before this lawsuit-how much worse did it get after?
A: The media did what the media does. In retrospect, I think it was mly inability to be fair with the media. I was incapable of representing myself in the manner I should have at the time. I've conquered major fears this past year through things I care about, like my animal organizations. But I think at that time I was incapable of explaining himself.
Q: How bizarre did the trial actually get for you?
A: It people knew the story behind this! It was like "Night Court." One morning during the trial there was the cast of "LA. Law" exiting the judge's chambers-I'm thinking. "Oh. are we going to be on the series now'."' One day during the lunch break we were asked by the judge to come to someone's baby shower in the next courtroom. Here I've got a serious case on my hands and they're asking me to come to baby showers. But we sat there and they took pictures. It was all so inappropriate. I was Alice in Wonderland.
Q: In the end, what did it wind up costing you ?
A: It cost a lot of money. A lot of maney.
Q: Have you ever considered writing a book about your life?
A: People have asked me left and right about writing a book just about the trial. But why go there?' The American public has to be so sick of courtrooms-
Q: Alec said there is no justice for people like you in this country. Do you agree?
A: Not just because of my case. My God! Who wouldn't have lillestlolls about the judicial system in this country? I love AI Pacino in ... All Justice for All because many times in our lives we feel like. "No. you're out of order!" It's been out of order.
Q: You mean you think O.J.'s guilty?
A: Oh God, do we have to? I feel really sorry for all the people connected with that trial.
Q: What's your take on the Paula Jones vs. Clinton case?
A: I don't know the specifics and don't want to know them. I wonder why one would want to come forth with any of this. Everybody has skeletons in his closet. Why wouldn't she have spoken up sooner rather than later? Why didn't she announce it the next day? Coming now out of the woodwork for what? Money? Five minutes of fame'? I don't know this woman or what she went through and I don't care! OK?
Q: Have you met Clinton?
A: Yes. He's very attractive. But I've never been in awe of many people. And I live with a politician in my house. I think Clinton's cool. He seems like a regular person to me. I'd love to sit down and just talk to him.
Q: Britain's Time Out declared animal rights the number one hip cause on the planet, eclipsing AIDS and homelessness. What do you think of that?
A: [Sarcastic] Hip hip hooray. I don't think you can call any movement more "hip" than AIDS. But anything you get involved in, there's just one rule I have and it's about focus. There are so many animal rights issues I could deplete myself in one week. I've really had to choose. In the last year I've been working on a "Free the Elephants" campaign, not through PETA. It's the Performing Animal Welfare Society in California. Hopefully we can get these animals out of the traveling shows and circuses. It's all about re-educating the public to redefine the word "entertainment."
Q: If rats are in your house, will you set traps?
A: All creatures need to be treated with as much respect as human beings. We're all living things. But I have a baby and New York apartments are sometimes full of rats and cockroaches. I haven't had the experience, [laughing] but if one jumped on me, let me tell you that sucker would be dead in about one second! I'm not going to live in a horror movie.
Q: Will Central Park horse-drawn carriages ever be banned?
A: It's a big fight. When I was 17 working as a model, I saw one fall dead in the street and I never forgot it. Ever since, when I return to New York I can't pass by without looking at those poor horses and going, "Someday. Someday." In the name of tradition a lot of things happen with animals that are truly barbaric.
Q: Some doctors say that animal research helped lead to the discovery of the AIDS virus.
A: I don't believe in any animal testing. There are other ways. You don't have to be an animal rights activist, you just have to care about one word: injustice. What right does man have to use the "lesser creatures"? Animals are great teachers. They taught me to be the mother I'm becoming, because I've brought up so many animals in my life.
Q: How is your cow, Henry?
A: He's up at the Farm Sanctuary in Orland. California. I've not been up to see him, but he sends me cards and pictures.
Q: Back to you. Are you satisfied with your career?
A: I'm very happy with where I am in my life now. I've traded in being Miss Ambition-and I truly admit I was very ambitious a long time ago for many right and some wrong reasons. I love being an actress. I have many things I love to do. I have a lot of irons in the fire, but (now I they're not tin burning at once.
Q: An old beau of yours, Jon Peters, thought you'd make a good producer.
A: How nice. I never heard that, but thank you, Jon. I plan in the near future to produce a few things that I've had on hold for a long time. I love working with women and I think women make great producers. On the other hand my best male friend, [record producer] Don Was, is directing the film adaptation of the book called Knockout and he asked me to produce that with him. We're both fans of [the author] Harry Crews.
Q: Who do you like to listen to?
A: I listen to the strangest music. I adore soundtracks. I loved the soundtracks to Grott' of My Heart and Michael Collins. I love Irish women's music. I love Enya. Then I can jump over and get into Dead Presidents.
Q: How far do you run on the treadmill?
A: I run five miles in about an hour. I do my tapes, weight training. I see the difference.
Q: What do you keep your weight at?
A: Between 122 and 125. I can get extremely thin when I'm doing a movie. Before my period I'll gain weight and hate myself like every woman in town does-"Oh God, I'm fat in these pants.'' [Laughs]
Q: What books are on your nighttable?
A: I had the complete works of Shakespeare on my bed last night just to give myself a reprieve from magazine articles. And the The Complete idiot's Guide to Learning Spanish on Your Own book, because everyone in my house speaks Spanish but me.
Q: What's the most difficult question you could be asked?
A: How much would you say you loved your baby?
Q: How much would you say you loved your husband?
A: Totally the same. In a different way. In the same measure I love my nine dogs that I have left and my seven cats.
Q: Remember last time we talked about how if a spaceship was hovering and you had to choose between going for a ride into the unknown or staying with Alec, and you chose outer space? Same question, only now you'd have to leave Alec and your baby: would you go?
A: Do I get to come back?
Q: You don't know.
A: That's a very good question. It's like Sophie's Choice. If some voice was telling me to take my family and go. I'd go. If it was overpowering that I had to go by myself, then that's what I would have to do.
Q: You've always loved to kiss. If, once you were aboard the spaceship, an alien came to kiss you, would you?
A: For what reason" Now you're just making up shit. Would I kiss the alien? What does he look like'?
A: Would there be any negotiation here? Do I have a choice? [Laughs] No. I absolutely would not kiss this thing. You're a weird one.
Q: Thanks, Kim.
A: Are you searching for an ending?
Q: With you, it's never over.