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Nastassja Kinski

Richard Avedon's infamous snake photo.
Richard Avedon's infamous snake photo.

One of the most strikingly exotic beauties to ever grace the silver screen, German-born actress Nastassja Kinski first became a household name after starring in Roman Polanski’s 1979 film Tess. Though her career certainly had its ups and downs in the years since, and though she is no longer an ingenue, she remains as interesting and enigmatic as ever.

Nastassja Kinski

Nastassja Aglaia Nakszynski was born on January 24th, 1961 (or possibly 1960) in Berlin, to German actor Klaus Kinski, and actress Ruth Brigitte Tocki. Klaus and Ruth divorced in 1968, and Nastassja rarely saw her father after the split. Nastassja and her mother were near destitute after the divorce, and for awhile the found sanctuary in a Munich commune. They also lived in France, Venezuela, England, and the US.

In her teen years, Nastassja, already stunningly beautiful, began her career as a model in Germany. With the exposure she got from print work, the young starlet soon found her way into acting, debuting in Wim Wenders’ 1975 film The Wrong Move. The following year, Nastassja was cast as Catherine in the Hammer Films’ production To the Devil a Daughter opposite Christopher Lee. This film garnered controversy because of some nude scenes filmed while Nastassja was still a minor. In later years, Nastassja said in interviews that she felt exploited by the film industry.

But NOT by director Roman Polanski, who started a relationship with her when she was only 15 (or, again, possibly 16). Polanski, 43 at the time, was apparently more of a Henry Higgins figure than a Svengali, and was already grooming the actress to play the lead in his filming of Tess of the d'Urbervilles. He sent her to the Actor’s Studio in New York, to study under Lee Strasberg. Nastassja and Roman ended their relationship after filming on Tess wrapped in 1979. The film was an art house smash, and garnered six Oscar nominations, winning three. Of her relationship with the famous, and much older director, Nastassja has said, "Polanski gave me personally pride in what I did, and a serious training as an actress at the age of 17. It gave me a whole new outlook and theatre and training became what I loved, together with dance, ballet, jazz …” In later years, when asked about Polanski’s legal troubles and forced exile from the United States, Nastassja defended her old beau and said, “It’s America’s loss.”

In 1981, photographer Richard Avedon took some infamous photos of Nastassja with a Burmese python coiled around her naked form. (Scroll through the slideshow to see it.)

In 1982, Nastassja starred in Francis Ford Coppola’s misfire One From the Heart, and in Paul Schrader’s remake of Cat People. Two years later, she appeared in four films, Unfaithfully Yours (an underrated romantic comedy with Dudley Moore), The Hotel New Hampshire (with Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe), Maria’s Lovers, and Wim Wenders’ classic Paris, Texas (with Harry Dean Stanton).

Nastassja worked a lot over the following years, splitting her time equally between the US and Europe. Among her more notable films during this period are Harem (1985), Revolution (1985 – with Al Pacino), Malady of Love (1987), Magdalene (1989), Torrents of Spring (1989), Faraway, So Close (1993), Terminal Velocity (1994), One Night Stand (1997), Your Friends and Neighbors (1998), and Susan’s Plan (1998).

During the aughties, Nastassja bounced between features and telefilms, including Time Share (2000), The Day the World Ended (2001), Town & Country (2001), All Around Town (2002), Paradise Found (2003), a TV miniseries of Dangerous Liasons (2003), and David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006).

As for Nastassja’s personal life, after her breakup with Roman Polanski in 1979, she became involved with Egyptian filmmaker Ibrahim Moussa. The couple married in September of 1984, and had a daughter, Sonja Moussa (who would later change her last name to Kinski and follow in her mother’s footsteps as a model). They divorced in 1992. Nastassja has two other children, a son, Aljosha, born in 1984, with actor Vincent Spano, and a daughter, Kenya Julia Miambi Sarah Jones (born 1993), with Quincy Jones, whom Nastassja dated from 92 - 95.

Nastassja speaks fluent German, Italian, French, Russian and English.

Whatever comes next for the legendary actress, here’s hoping that some of Hollywood’s elite filmmakers find something more suiting of her talent and charms.

Nastassja Kinski Quotes:

Regarding her underage nude scenes: "If I had had somebody to protect me or if I had felt more secure about myself, I would not have accepted certain things. Nudity things. And inside it was just tearing me apart."

Regarding Roman Polanski: "As a director, he was ten times more wonderful than as a lover."

Regarding Marcello Mastroianni: “I could fall in love with Marcello even though he is older than my father.”

Regarding her father Klaus Kinski: “I have never met a man like my father. He is so mad, terrible and vehement at the same time. Because of him, I never knew anything other than passion. When I began to meet other people I saw that it wasn’t normal.”

“It`s true what people say – that actors are the closest thing there is to children. They play.”

“I always have the feeling in these low states that something good is about to happen. That`s when I feel the fullest, the rawest, the closest to myself.”

“My parents found what I was interested in and encouraged me. They didn`t put me in front of a television and buy lots of toys, the way some American parents do.”

“I love men who make me laugh.”

“And you must dare to do as many things as you dream of.”


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