The long-estranged daughter of the late film star Klaus Kinski, German actress Nastassja Kinski began her career in her teens. According to most sources, her first film was director Wim Wenders’ The Wrong Move (1975), although there is evidence that a German television movie directed by Wolfgang Petersen, For Your Love Only (1976), was produced first. Still not yet 20, Kinski fell in love with the much-older filmmaker Roman Polanski, who subsidized her acting training. After taking drama classes in New York and London, Kinski was deemed ready by Polanski to star in Tess (1980), a lavishly produced adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Shortly thereafter, Kinski became the dream of male college undergraduates everywhere by posing for a Richard Avedon poster wearing nothing but a large, live python which spiralled around her body.
Kinski’s next few films tended to capitalize on her physical attributes rather than her very real talent; in Cat People (1982), directed by her then-lover Paul Schrader, the actress’ character transformed into a panther after having sex; and in Exposed (1983), she participated in one of the goofiest moments of screen erotica in history when co-star Rudolf Nureyev “played” her body with a cello bow. Compared to scenes like these, Kinski’s appearance as Dudley Moore’s wife in Unfaithfully Yours (1984) was downright puritanical — but it was back to the bizarre with her role as a woman dressed in a bear suit in The Hotel New Hampshire (1985). At this point, Kinski’s film output was getting a bit too beyond the fringe for most filmgoers, and she spent much of the next decade in “artistic” movies of little box-office appeal (Torrents of Spring , Faraway, So Close ). For a brief time, she remained in the public eye thanks to several well-publicized romances and because she gave birth to a baby without (at first) revealing the name of the father, allowing the world press to go into an torrent of speculation (the father turned out to be Egyptian producer Ibrahim Moussa, who briefly became her husband). In the early ’90s, Kinski dropped from view altogether, devoting herself to her marriage to pop-music maestro Quincy Jones. In 1994, Kinski made a surprising reappearance in the “normal” role of a KGB agent in the popular movie thriller Terminal Velocity (1994) — managing to remain clothed in her big scene, in which she was locked inside the trunk of a car and thrown from a plane in flight.
The mid-nineties didn’t do much to bolster Kinski’s resume; Martin Donovan’s Somebody is Waiting was a particularly embarrassing flop, and a series of minor television appearances (The Ring, Bella Mafia Parts I & II) were not met with any amount of critical or audience acclaim. Luckily, her film appearances fared marginally better — in Father’s Day (1997), the young actress was given the chance to perform alongside cinema veterans Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, while Antonio Tibaldi’s Little Boy Blue (1997) with Ryan Phillipe found the actress in a game performance as the brutalized matriarch of an extraordinarily dysfunctional family. Kinski would go on to tackle increasingly serious subject matter in the AIDS drama One Night Stand (1997), The Lost Son (1999), a crime drama revolving around a network of pedophiles, and Peter Antonijevic’s war film Savior (1998). Kinski’s role choices took a lighter turn for Your Friends and Neighbors, director Neil LaBute’s comedy of manners which starred the young actress as an unpredictable art assistant, and later in the made-for-cable romantic comedy TimeShare. By the late nineties, Kinski’s acting was finally drawing some recognition, particularly for her part in David Bailey’s psychological thriller The Intruder, as well as 2000s The Claim, another UK/Canadian collaboration.
In 2001, Kinski starred alongside William Baldwin and Hart Bochner in Say Nothing, in which she played a troubled housewife whose one-time affair would turn out to be with her husband’s new boss, and also received some critical acclaim for her role in American Rhapsody with Scarlett Johansson. Indeed, 2001 was a busy year for Natassja — in addition to Say Nothing and American Rhapsody, Kinski starred in The Day the World Ended, a relatively well-received made-for-television sci-fi feature, as well as Blind Thriller, Cold Heart, and a complicated part in Joseph Brutsman’s The Diary of a Sex Addict. In Town & Country (also in 2001), Kinski participated among an all-star cast including Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Warren Beatty, and Andie MacDowell, among others. Understandably, the actress took a well-deserved break in 2002 — her only role to speak of was a small part in Rip It Off, which featured Kinski as one of two women to have a fall-out with her boyfriend on the eve of a massive heist. A year later, Kinski joined Rupert Everett and Catherine Deneuve for Les Liaisons Dangereuses, a French-Canadian remake of the ever popular Dangerous Liaisons.