Former sex siren Nastassja Kinski makes a cautious return to show business

Nastassja Kinski at Marina Bay Sands on Dec 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: TED CHEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES 
Nastassja Kinski at Marina Bay Sands on Dec 12, 2014. -- PHOTO: TED CHEN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES 

Actress Nastassja Kinski may have slowed down her output in recent years, but she has never really gone away, she says.

"I've been working consistently since I was 12," says the German-Polish actress.

"A few years ago, I stopped because it was impossible. I had my family, and travelling. You have to admit to yourself that you can't do both. You know instinctively. You have to make a choice."

She spoke to The Straits Times on Friday at the Marina Bay Sands Hotel.

The 53-year-old, famed for her roles in dramas such as Tess (1979), Cat People (1982) and Paris, Texas (1983) is here for the Singapore International Film Festival, for which she wil give a talk and and also attend the Silver Screen Awards on Saturday.

She has taken on parts in films and television shows sporadically since the mid-1990s, because she wanted to be with her family. Her youngest child, a daughter with jazz musician Quincy Jones, was born in 1993.

She is now making a cautious return to show business.

"I love film and I love my work," she says, but the other key motive is a newfound need to "bring cultures and countries closer together". To that end, she is looking to produce a documentary about inspiring sportsmen and women, she says.

The actress, feted as a great beauty when in her teens and 20s, laughs when the topic of "that picture" is brought up.

Shot by celebrity photographer Richard Avedon, the poster of the then-19-year-old Kinski with a python draped over her body quickly became iconic, as it embodied the traits of sensuality and innocence that had critics and fans gushing.

She does not seem to want to comment on her sex appeal, choosing to focus on what a privilege it was to work with great directors such as Roman Polanski (Tess) and Paul Schrader (Cat People).

Still, that image of her as a siren - captured by Avedon - has withstood the years.

"A lot of people don't know my films, they only know me from that photo. They say, 'I think maybe I saw you in a film, but you were the one with the snake!'. I say, 'Yup'."

johnlui@sph.com.sg