The first days of filming the low-budget indie “The 11th Hour” in Hamburg, Germany, were rocky for Kim Basinger.
She and Danish writer-director Anders Morgenthaler “were not communicating well,” said Basinger, who won the supporting actress Oscar for her unforgettable turn as a prostitute in Curtis Hanson’s 1997 noir classic “L.A. Confidential.”
“I didn’t think it was working. I had to ease into the [character].”
Morgenthaler noted that the two had to “dance around each other. After two days, I went into her trailer and said you need to trust me completely. I want to be your friend on the movie.”
After their frank discussion, “we started to form our own language, our own communication,” Basinger said. “We stood up, got our sea legs and then we just started to skate together beautifully.”
“The 11th Hour,” which arrives in theaters and VOD on Friday, is an intense, difficult drama about a successful, fortysomething married business executive named Maria who, after suffering her eighth miscarriage, is told she is too old to carry a child to term. Devastated by the news, she sets out on a dangerous and terrifying quest to obtain a child.
It was crucial for Basinger to buy into Morgenthaler’s vision because the director wrote the part of Maria specifically for the actress.
“She has this special sensibility,” Morgenthaler said. “She is very, very fragile. Some interpret that as being weak, and some interpret that as being strong. I am one of these people who interpret it as being super-strong.”
During a recent interview, the contemplative actress, who is still one of cinema’s great beauties at 61, admitted that fear was a big factor in her deciding to play Maria.
“If I’m interested in something and there is fear involved, I will do it,” Basinger said. “I want to conquer all of my fears before I leave this planet. For me, the theme of the whole movie was finding the truth of one’s real being. She has to go to the abyss to find the truth.”
It took several years for Morgenthaler to obtain funding for the film. “I didn’t walk away from it ever,” Basinger said. “When it did actually come together, which kind of was the eleventh hour, I found myself on a plane to Hamburg.”
“I actually went into this collaboration having had no experience with a star of her caliber,” Morgenthaler said. “I come from a European tradition where everybody is doing everything. So I told her this is going to be hard. This is not your typical American movie set where you get a lot of attention and a lot of service. This is going to be rough, low-budget European filmmaking.”
And he found Basinger to be completely fearless. “She really just let go of her normal guards in terms of shooting a movie,” Morgenthaler said. “We did tons of improv. We did 10- to 20-minute takes.”
Basinger noted that she wouldn’t have been able to give such a raw performance if not for Ireland Baldwin, her 19-year-old model daughter with ex-husband Alec Baldwin.
“What I have learned about children is that they are our greatest teachers,” Basinger said. “You are in their classroom. If you miss out on that, then you have missed out on a full ride. I know she’s taught me a lot. I brought her up as a single mom, and we are attached at the hip.”
Though Basinger has appeared in several movies since “L.A Confidential,” including reuniting with Hanson for 2002’s “8 Mile,” the actress turned down a lot of movies because she didn’t want to be away from Ireland for an extended time.
“I was there for everything,” said Basinger, who is also an animal rights’ activist. “She played soccer, she played basketball. You don’t want to miss that. I felt it was so important at least for one parent to be there all the time.”
Ireland Baldwin recently left rehab, where she had gone for treatment for emotional trauma.
Her daughter, reported Basinger, is “doing great. Kids go through things. She’s only 19. We’ve all made choices and been around wrong people, and she took her own step in the right direction. She starts film school next week, and she wants to study psychology. If I didn’t know her, I would be happy to meet her.”
Meanwhile, Basinger, who has a small part in the upcoming Russell Crowe-Ryan Gosling film “The Nice Guys,” is reading a lot of scripts. But acting isn’t her only interest these days.
“I just love the journey of this life,” she said. " I’ve got a lot to do. I don’t know exactly what that means. But I’ve always kind of held true to one thing — I just want to be of service. If I can be a spokesperson and speak up for women, men and animals or use any power that I have to bring more awareness to something that needs a little boost or assistance in my lifetime — that is really my passion.”