What the Hell Happened to Kim Basinger?
She’s been a Bond girl, Batman’s girlfriend and a corpse in a Tom Petty video. Most recently, she played Zach Effron’s mom. What the hell happened? The easy answer is that Kim Basinger was a sex symbol who got old. But the story of Basinger’s career is far more interesting than the easy answer would lead you to believe.
Like a lot of the actresses, Basinger got her start as a model. She then transitioned on to TV shows like Starskey and Hutch and Charlie’s Angels. Following that, she broke into films with films like Hard Country and Mother Lode.
Basinger’s breakout role was opposite Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again.
After Diamonds are Forever, Connery had vowed never to play James Bond again. However, he reconsidered. And in 1983 he returned to the role. The title is a winking nod to Connery’s earlier comments.
Never Say Never Again is an odd entry in the Bond franchise. It was not produced by Eon Productions like most of the Bond films. Instead, it was a remake of Thunderball based on a settlement deal surrounding Fleming’s original novel.
In the summer of 1983, Connery and Roger Moore had dueling James Bond films as a result.
As it turns out, there was room for two James Bond movies that summer. Although Roger Moore’s Octopussy outperformed Never Say Never Again, both films were hits.
To promote Never Say Never Again, Basinger posed nude for Playboy. Basinger actually credits the Playboy shoot with helping her land the role in Barry Levinson’s baseball film, The Natural.
But first, let me make a passing mention that in 1983 Basinger also appeared in the Blake Edwards comedy, The Man Who Loved Women starring Burt Reynolds.
Never Say Never Again, the Playboy shoot (and maybe even the Burt Reynolds movie) caught the attention of Barry Levinson. When he was looking for a femme fatale to seduce Robert Redford in The Natural, he called upon Basinger.
Basinger was perfect for the role conveying the glamour of the era as well as the necessary sex appeal. She was rewarded with her first Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Up to this point, Basinger has worked with an impressive collection of directors. Never Say Never Again was directed by Irvin Kirshner (director of The Empire Strikes Back), The Man Who Loves Women was directed by Blake Edwards and The Natural was directed by Barry Levinson. But her next film, Fool for Love, was directed by none other than Robert Altman!
I haven’t done the research, but I venture to guess that no other actress has gone from Bond and Playboy to Altman in three films or less.
Fool For Love was not a box office hit. But it got very positive reviews and helped to legitimize Basinger as an actress and not just a pretty face.
In 1986, Basinger worked with another visionary director, Adrian Lyne, in the erotic drama, 9 1/2 Weeks. Basinger and co-star Mickey Rourke played a couple who push their sexual boundaries until Basinger’s character reaches her limit. The sex scenes were artfully done, but the film was scandalous at the time.
Reviews for 9 1/2 Weeks were mixed. Some critics considered it borderline soft core porn. But most praised the genuine performances by Rourke and Basinger.
At the time of its release, 9 1/2 Weeks bombed at the box office. But it became very popular overseas and eventually developed a cult following. A direct to video sequel and prequel were both eventually produced.
Later that year, Basinger starred opposite Richard Gere in the would-be erotic thriller, No Mercy.
Basinger played a sexy swamp girl who helps Gere’s Chicago cop get vengeance on the man who killed his partner.
The Bayou-based crime drama was panned by critics and bombed at the box office.