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 - never say never

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.

basinger - playboy

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.

Basinger - The Man Who Loved Women

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.

Kim Basinger - The Natural - 1984

Kim Basinger – The Natural – 1984

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.

Kim Basinger - Fool For Love - 1985

Kim Basinger – Fool For Love – 1985

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.

basinger - 912 weeks

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.

Next: Blind Date and My Stepmother is an Alien

Posted on February 5, 2012, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 242 Comments.

  1. alec baldwin career better then kim but to be honest his career is not so hot after clear and present danger he was on the verge of of being a list but most his leading roles flopped . He ended up going to bit parts and supporting roles decent roles he had in the last ten years was departed cooler and 30 rock now hes stuck doing bit parts in lame comedies


  2. Technically, I would call that a comeback though. He was on the verge of being a big movie star after playing Jack Ryan, but took a different path and his leading roles fizzled out. He does 30 Rock and all the sudden everyone was talking about him again. Then it seemed like he was everywhere from The Departed to It’s Complicated to hosting the oscars. Some of the roles were supporting, but to go from being essentially a failed a-lister to starring on a wildly successful tv show and working with Meryl Streep is huge.


  3. your right but he had alot of flops during the period such along came polly cat in the hat going from somone who people thought would have a big career to tv star is kind of a down grade and most movies are still flopping


  4. i would put chris o donell on the list he was on verge of being huge with scent of a women and batman forever. then batman and robin and flops later he goes straight to a tv show no one cares about and yet it still stays on


  5. Lebeau, since you were talking about an a-lister opening a movie, do you think it was rachel mcadams’ name that brought people in to see red eye? i’m the first one to admit she’s never had a hit of her own, but i’m just wondering if you thought her sudden popularity after the notebook brought people in for red eye.


    • Short answer: No.

      Longer answer: Well, first of all, Red Eye wasn’t a smash. It was a bit of a disappointment overall. The idea was clearly that McAdams was hot and would sell a bunch of tickets. But that didn’t happen. And while she was a selling point for the movie, she wasn’t THE selling point. You had Wes Craven whose name was above the title of the movie and Cillian Murphy who was hot after 28 Days Later and Batman Begins. So even if the movie had hit big, McAdams would have to share credit.


  6. red eye made twice its budget this was before batman murphy wasnt big rachel was fresh off the success off notebook


    • Twice it’s budget isn’t bad. But when you factor in marketing costs, that’s about the break-even point for most movies. It wasn’t the huge hit a lot of people were hoping for.

      Batman Begins opened Jun 15. Red Eye opened Aug 19. Three years earlier, Murphy had starred in 28 Days Later. So he was a rising actor same as McAdams. If the movie had been a hit, it would have done a lot for both of their careers. But that didn’t happen.


  7. red eye had budget of 26 million made 95 that is a hit she fresh off notebook so maybe her brought some people in


  8. 95 mill on a 26 mill budget is more then twice its cost


    • That’s worldwide. Domestic it was 57 million. Not great. Not a disaster. Not a hit. Not a flop. Just somewhere in the middle. Expectations were higher. I would classify it as a box office disappointment.


  9. so u would sya she has no a list power her name was first in vow that was hit


    • I would say she was never A-list.

      The Vow was big. It set up McAdams and Tatum for stardom. Tatum was able to capitalize on that movie’s success. McAdams still hasn’t done so.


  10. she had hits before like sherlock holms midnight paris wedding chrashers but none of them were really on her name would u say gosling her notebook costar was a list


  11. fracture made a lot of money he turned down batman in the new movie it could gave him oppurtinity to be a lister


  12. it is he had mainstream hits before like notebook but rather hone his craft good for him his career him hes doing good daniel lewis is not a list is an indie king but respected actor a lot of respected actors like oldman bacon dillion


  13. Kim Basinger Joins Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe in ‘Nice Guys’ (Exclusive):



  14. Kim’s daughter Ireland recently deactivated her Twitter account. I’m guessing that she was tired of people “trolling” and attacking her over or “lesbian” relationship w/ Angel Haze as well as the usual attacks against her father, Alec Baldwin, and her weight. And I thought that I had it bad when Ireland got mad at me (asking me “What the hell was wrong w/ me!”) after I simply sent her the link to this article (Ireland got mad at me for showing her this article about her mother even though I didn’t write it and I deliberately mentioned LeBeau to further avoid confusion) via Twitter.


  15. Derailed Film Stars: Retracing Kim Basinger:


    A Hollywood icon and bona fide movie star, Kim Basinger’s only fault was being a sex symbol — and most female sex symbols come with an expiration date. Throughout her decades-long career, she has starred in some of our favorite most memorable films, but not without some stinkers along the way. While she has laid low for the past ten years, Kim is primed to make her comeback on the big screen with Anders Morgenthaler’s drama/suspense film I Am Here. While her ex-hubby Alec Baldwin was able to relaunch his career with 30 Rock, here’s hoping Kim will return to the spotlight where she belongs.

    Geared Up for No Mercy

    Having established her talents in Barry Levinson’s The Natural and pushed her limits in the erotic drama 9 1/2 Weeks, Basinger had proved she could carry a film, especially when baring more than her soul. Unfortunately she followed them up with No Mercy, a dumb formulaic thriller that plays like a retread of all the other movies that came before it. Basinger plays an illiterate hooker with a heart of gold who helps a cop — Richard Gere — avenge his partner’s death. The dialogue is almost as stinky as the Bayou they traipse around in, and the drama was panned by critics and bombed at the box office.

    Aliens Among Us

    One thing you can say about Basinger, no matter the script or co-star — she always throws herself into the role — even if that role is patently absurd. My Stepmother Is An Alien may not make much sense, but it’s chock full of bizarre moments. Basinger stars as a goofy alien learning to be a woman with a talking, phallic sidekick, while Dan Aykroyd is relegated to playing the straight man — when the roles should have been reversed. Stepmother bombed like all Dan Aykroyd comedies not co-starring a funnier SNL alum do, and Basinger’s career seemed to be veering into a questionable direction. The only silver lining was Aykroyd’s daughter, played by TV veteran Alyson Hannigan, who received an “and introducing” credit.

    Batman Pulls the Strings

    Despite the big name co-stars and Tim Burton directing, poor Kim wasn’t given much to do in Batman besides scream and be a damsel in distress; so much so that there’s actually a combined supercut of all of her 23 shrieks. It’s hard for any female character to make an impact when surrounded by the male-dominated world of superheroes. Despite her limited role, Basinger scored a big hit with the film, which went on to become the biggest movie of 1989, made Michael Keaton a household name and sparked a cultural phenomenon.

    Wayne’s World Megawatt Babeage

    After a series of stinkers throughout the early 90s, Basinger was unable to shed the “dumb blonde” sex kitten image that dogged her throughout her career. In another attempt to skewer her sexpot image, she turned to comedy once again — guest-starring in the 1993 Wayne’s World sequel as Garth’s (Dana Carvey) unlikely love interest and laundromat seductress Honey Hornee. Featuring the same iconoclastic spirit as its predecessor, the film was a relative success — partly due to Basinger’s willingness to go all-in when parodying the same type of made-for-TV femme fatale she got her start in. In addition to providing some “megawatt babeage,” she also gave us one of the most awkward kissing scenes in cinematic history.

    LA Confidential – The Win

    The 90s were a weird time for everyone, but particularly Basinger, who bombed at the box office time and time again, bought a town, embarked on one of Hollywood’s worst marriages and filed for bankruptcy. Battered and possibly broken, Basinger retreated from Hollywood for a few years until she made one hell of a comeback in Curtis Hanson’s gritty film noir, L.A. Confidential. Playing a glamorous, sexy femme fatale but with vulnerability, it was exactly the kind of more serious role she had always sought, and earned her an Oscar for her supporting role. The film also serves as a snapshot of rising talent — with Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe proving their chops to American audiences.


  16. Black November by Nathan Rabin:


    Half passionate cinematic op-ed, half overheated exploitation movie, Black November opens with titles accounting for Nigeria’s status as one of the most populous, troubled, and explosive countries in the world, and establishing the Western oil establishment’s complicated (read: “evil”) relationship with it. Audiences who forget any of that chunk of exposition needn’t fret, however, as Black November is considerate enough to repeat the information early, often, and with as little subtlety as possible. The film is devoid of subtext, filled with cardboard stand-ins for contrasting viewpoints on the powder keg of social and political issues facing Nigeria.

    According to The Guardian, Black November is actually a radically re-shot and re-edited version of a 2011 film called Black Gold with 60 percent new footage (reportedly to make it more contemporary) with some cast members lost (Black Gold features the likes of Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts, Tom Sizemore, and Billy Zane, none of whom are in Black November) and some cast members gained. (Kim Basinger, Wyclef Jean, Anne Heche, and Akon all appear in Black November but not Black Gold.) Considering the film’s crazy-quilt construction, it’s probably a marvel it makes sense at all, but that’s a minor accomplishment. Perhaps a third attempt at this material would result in a film capable of more than strident sermonizing and action sequences that feel like they belong in a McBain clip from The Simpsons.

    The seams of the film’s bizarre production are all too apparent. In one scene, for example, Nigerian heroine Ebiere (Mbong Amata, wife of writer-director Jeta Amata) explains that she’s passionately agitating against the corrupt military establishment’s collaboration with evil Western oil companies, despite having attended a Western college on an oil company-funded scholarship. In the next, an underling explains to nefarious oil CEO Tom Hudson (Mickey Rourke) that Ebiere is passionately agitating against the corrupt military establishment’s collaboration with evil Western oil companies, despite having attended a Western college on an oil company-funded scholarship.

    The film opens with Hudson—who all but strokes an invisible mustache and chomps on a fat cigar to broadcast his status as a classical bad guy—being kidnapped in Los Angeles by rebels (including former hit-makers Jean and Akon) in retaliation for Big Oil’s support of a corrupt military dictatorship and its devastating treatment of Nigeria’s people and environment. Hudson’s company attempts to bribe Nigerians into acquiescence with their evil schemes, but when that doesn’t work, they aren’t above collaborating with a sinister government establishment on campaigns of violence, rape, and murderous deceit. Ebiere emerges as the heroine of the resistance, a firebrand who refuses to be bought or silenced, and becomes even more of a force for revolutionary good after the father of her unborn child is murdered.

    The marketing for Black November plays up the participation of Hollywood stars like Basinger, Heche, and Rourke. But that feels like a bait-and-switch, since Heche barely turns in a cameo, and Basinger, playing a reporter, disappears for long stretches of the film, and seems understandably confused as to why she’s even there. (She isn’t alone.)

    Of the former A-list actors, only Rourke makes much impression, but for all the wrong reasons. Once one of the most beautiful people in the world, Rourke looks more and more like Halloween villain Mike Myers with each passing year, and his villainy as the ghoulish face of American greed makes Myers’ slicing and dicing of oversexed teenagers seem understated by comparison. In his early scenes, Rourke exerts as little effort as possible while still remaining technically awake, but when he sees the errors of his ways late in the film, his feverish overacting incites nostalgia for the sleepy early scenes.

    Amata is appropriately passionate and fiery as a martyr whose strength and courage inspires those around her, but she’s more of an idea—i.e. the nobility of a Nigerian people who refuse to stand down in the face of rampant corruption and greed—than a character, just as Black November is more a manifesto than a movie. It doesn’t help that the film’s special effects, particularly its cartoonish explosions, are more befitting of a Sharknado sequel than a film that desperately wants to be taken seriously as both political advocacy and art.

    As well-intentioned as it is thoroughly inept, Black November would be a serious contender for year-end worst lists if it weren’t so painfully noble and sincere. It also benefits from timing: It’s is unlikely anyone is liable to remember the film in a week, let alone keep its hammy awfulness in mind 11 months from now.


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