Family & Companions
As the daughter of one of cinema's most intense actors, Nastassja Kinski emerged in her own right as an actress who was praised for a number of acclaimed performances. After receiving her start in German movies, Kinski attained international stardom as the titular heroine in mentor Roman Polanski's Oscar-nominated "Tess" (1979). She later starred in Paul Schrader's erotic horror thriller, "Cat People" (1982). Kinski gave one of her most affecting performances as an estranged wife in the arthouse hit, "Paris, Texas" (1984). Kinski delivered strong turns in "The Ring" (NBC, 1996), "Your Friends & Neighbors" (1998) and "The Claim" (2000), before she again bowed out of the spotlight in 2006. Kinski was notable for her strong allure onscreen that continued to enthrall audiences across generations.
Born on Jan. 24, 1960 in Berlin, Germany, Kinski was the daughter of crazed German actor Klaus Kinski, whose intense performances in collaboration with director Werner Herzog were the stuff of legend, and Ruth Brigitte Tocki, a young shopgirl her father lavished with wealth and promises, only to make her a kept woman. Kinski's childhood was plagued by sadness over her father's controlling treatment of her mother, though some happy moments eked their way into her gloomy existence. When she was 10 years old, Kinki's father deserted her mother for another woman, leaving them to fend for themselves. In fact, she had little if any contact with Klaus up until his death from a heart attack in 1991. Meanwhile, Kinski lived hand-to-mouth with her mother, selling all their possessions and even living in a van. She eventually helped support her mother by entering the family business and becoming an actress, making her feature debut in Wim Wenders' German-made road movie, "The Wrong Move" (1975), in which she had a small, non-speaking part. She followed with her first major role in a Wolfgang Petersen-directed episode of the long-running German crime series, "Tatort" (ARD, 1970- ).
At 16 years old, Kinski created a touch of controversy with her appearance in the British horror thriller, "To the Devil, a Daughter" (1976), in which she appeared nude onscreen despite being a minor. While still underage, she came under the influence of director Roman Polanski, who took the young girl under his wing and guided her through Lee Strasberg's Method-style of acting. After Polanski sent her to England in order to help her develop a proper Wessex accent, Kinski earned her first significant dramatic role in "Tess" (1979), playing a poor Polish girl sent to live with wealthy benefactors who turn out to be something other than what they appear. The role earned the actress considerable acclaim and launched her to international stardom. Though long rumored to have had an affair with Polanski, Kinski remained adamant that they were not in fact romantically involved despite her developing feelings for him. Meanwhile, the exotic beauty gained furthered notoriety after posing for photographer Richard Avedon, who shot a poster of a giant snake wrapped around the naked actress that became the rage of college dorm rooms the world over and one of the most imitated, recognizable images of the 20th century.
Kinski soon moved into American films, appearing in Francis Ford Coppola's uneven romantic comedy "One From the Heart" (1982) before starring opposite Malcolm McDowell in "Cat People" (1982), directed by Paul Schrader, with whom she had a brief, but notable affair during production. Both movies made use of her raw, reactive sensuality, though ultimately Kinski's aloof, sex-charged screen persona failed to click with U.S. audiences. She seemed content to retain a low-key presence and appeared in films on both sides of the Atlantic, while doing time in a series of B-grade movies made in Italy she later regretted having done. Meanwhile, Kinski played pianist Clara Wieck in "Frulingssinfonie" ("Spring Symphony") (1983), before staring in "The Moon in the Gutter" (1983) for French director Jean-Jacques Beineix, with whom she was also romantically linked. Her performance as a wealthy woman involved with Gerard Depardieu was almost universally panned, though she fared better with critics as the wife in Wenders' art-house favorite "Paris, Texas" (1984). That same year, Kinski starred in two Hollywood productions, neither of which won widespread audience attention, but she certainly garnered attention of a different kind while working on the latter film. She was cast as the young wife whom Dudley Moore believes is philandering in the unsatisfying remake "Unfaithfully Yours" (1984), then appeared alongside Jodie Foster and Rob Lowe in Tony Richardson's "The Hotel New Hampshire" (1984). While shooting the film, Lowe and Kinski had an affair, despite the well known fact that Lowe was in a long-time relationship with America's then sweetheart, Melissa Gilbert of "Little House on the Prairie" fame (NBC, 1974-1983). Tabloid reports of the fling did little to improve Americans' perceptions of the seemingly wayward foreign actress.
Continuing her string of disappointments, Kinski was miscast as the love interest to Al Pacino caught up into the colonial dispute with Britain in Hugh Hudson's box office dud "Revolution" (1985). Though her subsequent films throughout the 1980s and early 1990s were little seen in the U.S., Kinski's presence in American gossip columns and tabloids skyrocketed when she gave birth to her second daughter - she had two children in her failed marriage to producer M. Ibrahim Moussa - and named famed musician and composer Quincy Jones as the father. Their relationship became fodder for tabloid reports and made Kinski more well-known than all her films combined. As a result, her acting services were in greater demand and she scored a critical success as Charlie Sheen's skydiving student who appears to have died on her first jump in "Terminal Velocity" (1994). Turning to the small screen, Kinski made her U.S. television debut in the made-for-cable crime drama "Crackerjack" (HBO, 1994), before starring in an adaptation of Danielle Steel's "The Ring" (NBC, 1996), playing a pregnant German woman who flees to America during World War II in order to start a new life.
Kinski began landing roles in more mainstream U.S. fare, playing the mother of a runaway teen who was possibly the son of either Robin Williams or Billy Crystal in the genial comedy "Father's Day" (1997). She next co-starred with Ryan Phillippe and John Savage in "Little Boy Blue" (1997), a study of incest and dysfunction in a Texas family, while appearing opposite Wesley Snipes in Mike Figgis' study of marriage and infidelity, "One Night Stand" (1997). Kinski had a small, but notable role as the lesbian lover of a writer (Catherine Keener) alienated from her philandering theater teacher husband (Ben Stiller) in Neil LaBute's piercingly funny "Your Friends & Neighbors" (1998). On television, Kinski mainly focused on two-hour movies like "Time Share" (Fox Family Channel, 2000), the virus thriller "Quarantine" (ABC, 2000) and the horror remake "The Day the World Ended" (HBO, 2001), instead of appearing on episodic series. On the big screen, she was the spurned wife of a gold mining magnate (Peter Mullan) in Michael Winterbottom's "The Claim" (2000), before playing one of several conquests of an aging New York architect (Warren Beatty) in the critically maligned farce, "Town & Country" (2001). Following the direct-to-video sci-fi thriller ."com for Murder" (2003), Kinski had major supporting roles in two television miniseries, "La Femme Musketeer" (Hallmark Channel, 2004) and "Dangerous Liaisons" (WE, 2004), before making a cameo appearance in "Inland Empire" (2006).
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Feature film debut, a slient part in Wim Wenders' "Falsche Bewegung/False Moves/Wrong Move"
Appeared in Wolfgang Petersen's "Reifezeungnis", a film made for German TV
Breakthrough role as title character in "Tess", directed by Roman Polanski
Posed for bestselling nude poster by photographer Richard Avedon
Made first US films, "One From the Heart" and "Cat People"
Turned to comedy with "Unfaithfully Yours"
Worked with Wim Wenders again on his English-language "Paris, Texas"
Played an angel in Wenders' "Faraway, So Close"
Made US TV-movie debut in "Crackerjacks" (HBO)
Starred in "Danielle Steel's 'The Ring'" (NBC)
Returned to US films with "Little Boy Blue," "Father's Day," and "One Night Stand"
Offered fine supporting turn as a lesbian artist's assistant in Neil LaBute's "Your Friends and Neighbors"