Oscar-winning actor Kim Basinger has been grappling with crippling anxiety since she was a child. Despite being a Hollywood A-lister at the peak of her career, Basinger became so worn down by agoraphobia and anxiety attacks that she could hardly leave her house. Opening up in her first interview in 14 years, Basinger details her troubled past, the generational cycle of anxiety, and how her daughter with ex-husband Alec Baldwin, Ireland Baldwin, helps keep her worst fears at bay.
Kim Basinger overcame childhood anxiety to become a star
Long before she was a bona fide Hollywood icon, Kim Basinger was a typical girl from Athens, Georgia, growing up in a time when anxiety was little understood. Following in the footsteps of her mother, who was also an actor-model, Basinger ditched the University of Georgia for New York and quickly found success as a model. But her early success also came with a cost. As she told Charlie Rose in 2000, she was so insecure about her looks she had a hard time glancing at herself in a mirror.
But Basinger wasn’t going to let her anxiety and insecurity win. After much success as an ad model in the 1970s, she picked up minor TV roles before transitioning to the big screen by the early 1980s. Basinger had a career moment co-starring with Sean Connery in the James Bond flick Never Say Never Again in 1983 and capped the ’80s with a major role in Batman, one of the decade’s biggest movies.
When Basinger was an outright star by the start of the 1990s, she met her second husband, Alec Baldwin, on the set of The Marrying Man. Wedding bells tolled in August 1993.
But even though Basinger and Baldwin seemed happy together, their union ended with a separation in 2000 and a public divorce in 2002.
Elaborating recently on Jada Pinkett-Smith’s talk show, Red Table Talk, Basinger described the divorce as “heavy-duty,” ultimately taking a significant toll on their daughter, Ireland.
Kim Basinger’s battle with agoraphobia has lasted for decades
While Kim Basinger’s star status and acclaim mounted, she privately waged a devastating battle with agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder tied to the fear of being trapped in certain situations. As detailed by the Seattle Times, Basinger explained that her trauma went back to her school days, when she was occasionally so nervous she thought she would faint during public speaking.
The same inhibiting fears swept through her in March 1998 at the moment she reached a career milestone. That year, Basinger was up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in L.A. Confidential.
“I was just absolutely scared to death,” she recalled. “And I knew that the next year, I had to hand the award out to the next winner. I don’t know if I was more elated over winning or more in pain over knowing that I had to come back!”
Basinger overcame her nerves, calmly handing out the Best Supporting Actor statuette at the 1999 Oscars to James Coburn for Affliction.
Speaking in front of millions of viewers was also far from the only time Basinger struggled to control her anxiety. She explained on Red Table Talk that she once had such an intense anxiety attack in a grocery store that she subsequently had trouble leaving her house.
“People don’t really understand these things,” Basinger said of the stigma of anxiety disorders. “So when you really feel like you’re in it alone, it is a horrible feeling.”
The anxiety from that moment in the grocery store became so severe that she stopped driving for months and had to relearn everything behind the wheel.
Ireland Baldwin has been an enormous lift for her mother
For Kim Basinger, the anxiety she experiences can be traced back to her childhood, when she became obsessive about wanting to protect her mother. Basinger even figured out ways to be sent home from school and escape to her mother’s side, laying the groundwork for her agoraphobic fears.
When Pinkett-Smith asked Basinger about recognizing her daughter’s anxiety, the 68-year-old actor appeared emotionally devastated by the idea of Ireland inheriting similar challenges.
But Ireland, who also appeared on Red Table Talk, has also been a significant source of strength for her mother.
“She’s brought me out of my shell,” Basinger said, explaining a critical part of her ability to live with agoraphobia. According to the Mayo Clinic, a close friend or family member is often essential in confronting agoraphobic fears and overcoming the associated anxiety.
The support from Ireland also juxtaposes sharply with Basinger’s marriage to Alec Baldwin. Speaking of her father’s take on anxiety, Ireland said, “He grew up in a family that would suppress that or say that he’s weak.” Ireland experienced her own bouts of anxiety during the contentious divorce between Basinger and Baldwin, CNN reported.
But with a strong support system, Kim Basinger seems to have found some answers to her lifelong issues with anxiety attacks and agoraphobia. Although she still doesn’t go out much, the actor was seen in January at an LA restaurant with her hairstylist boyfriend Mitch Stone, according to Daily Mail.
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