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September 2004
Cellular: An Interview with Kim Basinger

Cellular: An Interview with Kim Basinger

By Todd Gilchrist

Kim Basinger may have made her start in Hollywood as a pin-up, sexpot or a 'damsel in distress' in such movies as "Never Say Never Again" and "9 1/2 Weeks", but the actress is hardly as easily relegated to subordinate roles these days. Her Oscar-winning turn in 1997's "L.A. Confidential" earned her widespread acclaim as well as credibility with filmmakers who saw her only as a pretty face, and she's taken full advantage of those opportunities in recent years: she tackled tough roles in "I Dreamed of Africa", "8 Mile" and "The Door in the Floor", and now lays bare her fear and desperation playing a kidnap victim who finds unlikely salvation via a tenuous phone call with a selfish twenty something (played by Chris Evans). Basinger recently sat down with blackfilm.com to discuss her latest role, her career, and her evolving status as one of Hollywood's most sought-after actresses.

You are having quite a year.

Kim Basinger: These three opportunities sort of popped up all at once: "The Door In The Floor", and then once I finished that little human drama, I went and did a little film in Albuquerque called "Elvis Has Left The Building". These were just three opportunities that happened to pop up in the same year, so I was just pleased with being attracted to three things in a row. That doesn't really happen to me that often."

How hard is it to do a film like this where it is so emotional every single day of the shoot?

KB: You know, I really loved this opportunity because it was more like a play to me. And I love new challenges. I said to David (the director), 'I don't want the crew around me. I want as few people there to make it as real as I could.' And it is a real opportunity to sit where the audience sits. I wanted you guys up there with me. That is all I have is to have my audience up there with me. Because I don 't know what is going to happen to me and I don't know why I was thrown in there. And you guys don't either. So I love that. I don't think I can remember a film I have been in where I have had the opportunity to do that. And yes, it was quite a roller coaster ride emotionally every day. My crew, I think they suffered more than me. They would watch me and say, 'Oh, my God, she has to go back on the attack.' Because it was almost a solid month. It was actually longer than a month. It was every day that I had to pick up right where I left off. You come to a place in your life where you really learn what it is and how it is and what make you tick as an actress. It takes you a long time to learn how to be an actress. It really does. And then you find these buttons that become so accessible to you. And you just push them. It's not like fear is over here and death is over here and blah, blah, blah... God forbid, I have never had to be in a situation like this, but I tried to get as close as I could to imagining what it would be like. And the word 'kidnapping,' especially being a mom, becomes a huge fear in your life. And unfortunately all of this has been going on, and this is just a movie, thank God, but the words 'kidnapping' and 'captor' and all this Iraqi stuff, just the fear and the faces... all we can do is stare in shock. And I would think it would be the same with anyone that got kidnapped and didn't know what was going to happen to them with some crazy people downstairs. So it was a challenge and a bit for me emotionally. But it was very different from the human drama and very different from the comedy and we all came with a big old- I think- a big old afternoon of cowboys and Indians. And Jason, look at him. He is one of the nicest people, but I never really got to know Jason. We never even met each other. And I told David 'I do not want to know what he does to me when he comes in the room.' I wanted him to surprise me, and he surprised me.

How did you do the telephone scenes? Was Chris there?

KB: No. For one little piece Chris was there one day. But they had finished filming him and then they did me as the last part of the film. So they did him as the first half an I got to hear his voice. And we had to change lines, sometimes things didn't work. So it was read to me off stage sometimes.

Chris said it was a good idea that you didn't have face to face encounters during these scenes.

KB: It was great. It worked out the way it should have worked out. My first day of filming was the last scene when I get out of the van and see him. That was the first time I had ever seen Chris. They said 'We really hate to do this to you, but you are going to have to get out of the van all beaten up and you are going to have to have already been through it all. Meet Chris and then we are going to go back and throw you in this attic and start doing it all,' That was the first scene I did.

What about your cell phone use: do you have one with a camera in it?

KB: I hate that thing with the camera because we have been so disturbed by them sometimes, like in a Broadway play, people will start taking your picture. [Like] when you are sitting there with your daughter. I mean, anybody who has a kid. I am a mom, so I have a cell phone. It's that simple. I could do without one because they just worry you all day long. I am not a real good technical person. I don 't have a lot of the gadgets. Sometimes they are forced down your throat and if you do have a young kid and they are in to all the stuff for school, then you have to learn, you know. But I carry my cell phone and usually it is in the cradle in the car.

Any thoughts on cell phone etiquette?

KB: Haven't people gone crazy? It is so disturbing. I think the only thing that really should change- and I know there are people who will hate me for saying this- I think it is wonderful to have a cell phone in your car in case you get in trouble. Really, it is important. But I honestly think it should be hands free in this whole country. Honestly. You see too many accidents happening. I live in my car because I live in California. And you see people all the time making wrong turns and whatever and they have got this in their hand.

You are saying it has also been obtrusive where you have been in public with your child .

KB: Yes. And I don 't know enough about them. So it takes someone else sitting beside me to say 'They are taking your picture with that cell phone.' I don't even know where the camera is. 'Is it in the back of the camera? The front of the camera?' And then some people just like to take pictures of their dog.

Besides the cell phone, what do you always carry with you?

KB: A camera. I love to paint, so I love to take photographs of things (to paint). Cash. My credit card. I am not a real girly girl, so no make up. Oh, my sun stick for my lips. Probably some breath freshener. Things for Ireland. I always take lollipops in my bag because she always gets car sick- she and her friends- or they say they are getting car sick. She turns nine in October. And if you had asked me this three years ago, it would be full of anything to keep her occupied. Even now, I have little things that might keep her occupied. So I think it is about time to clean up my purse.

Are you still involved in animal rights causes?

KB: You know, I am always working on things with several different things with several different organizations. Always. It is a never-ending, horrific, horrible thing in every country. So right now, we are working on a number of different issues.

Are you still working with PETA?

KB: Yes, actually. I am a spokesperson for PAWS. Performing Animal Welfare Society. I work with the Farm Sanctuary in Orlin, California. They also have another sanctuary in New York. I do work also with individual issues that PETA brings to my attention. I will do that with PETA.

What animals will you have at your home?

KB: Between my two houses on the same property, we have a menagerie: kitties and doggies and rats.

Are you turning a corner in your life now that some of your personal issues are behind you? How are you doing?

KB: You know, we live in the public. It comes with the territory. I always say 'God and a sense of humor has gotten us through this whole thing.' And it is all I can do: just grow up and make the best decisions I know how. And we have come through pretty well.

What is on tap for the next chapter of your life?

KB: I hope a lot of creative things up the road that I want to work on. But I think just watching my daughter come in to her own. Into her creativity and then watching what the rest of my journey is going to be about. I am very open about it. I look so forward to it.

Any other projects coming up?

KB: I don 't know what I am going to be doing on film at all. Nothing I plan to do.

What about theater?

KB: I am reading some things for film. You know what? I have got to tackle that because it is a fear of mine. I would love to do it and I have been asked many times if I wanted to come to Broadway and do something. So I think it might be one of those steps in the near future if I could find something I really wanted to do. I think it would be mortifying, but I have a tendency to go toward anything I fear.

It looks like you really got roughed up. If you didn't know what the guy was going to do, did you end up with any injuries?

KB: I got bruised and banged up and cut a lot. But you know what? You take on a role like this and . I try to keep pretty physically in shape and not just for the look of it but really keep in shape with weights and running and all that stuff. I was ready to take on this part, but I knew, you can't get thrown on tables and against glass and not expect to get cut a little.

Can you talk about the development of your character's tenor throughout the movie: going from being calm to hysterical.

KB: You have to kind of write the song yourself as you go along, so that it has those different layers. Because human nature is like that. But I think shock and hysteria and fear, of course, is all in there. But once I had Chris understanding this was a real situation, I think it became a fight for your life. And then you found out it was about your son and you sort of lower the whole mechanism so that you clearly understand all that is going on. And always keeping that fear that we could be disconnected at any moment. So it was a balance to do, a challenge. But I enjoyed it. As I have grown up in the acting world, I have learned a lot about really listening and keeping quiet, even in my own life. Less talk, more listening. It has taught me a lot about life and acting.

As a mother now, do you ever think about longevity or take any measures to ensure your longevity?

KB: Of course you think about that. You think about that the older you get because you have this child that depends on you. And I think when you have a child later in life like I did, you find they come to you in the most innocent way; I know my daughter was mad at me for having her as late as I did in my life because she says things like 'what has that got to do with me?' She has those issues. And we have had to go through those issues. It has been a delicate subject. But at the same time I have great beliefs in what I believe in. And she has a great foundation in her faith and her belief as well. We believe and we will never really be apart ever. She has never really asked me and we haven't gone through it again.

Some of her friend's parents may be a few years younger than you, but you sure appear to be their age!

KB: Thank you. You know what? The real truth is I don't know there and I don't really care. But I do really wish we had more of the European feeling of age in this country because it has put so much pressure not just on the women, but on the men and the children, too. It 's sad to see a little 8 year-old like my own look at the other girls and start holding in their stomachs. My daughter is as thin as a rail. I mean, I have trouble keeping weight on her. And already they are evaluating their own bodies and that is sad. So I hope to adopt that same attitude as I get older and bring it in to my home.

Is your daughter old enough to see this movie?

KB: I have not even seen it. So she is coming with me to the premiere. She loves the little boy, Adam.

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