Patsy Kensit: Her Bizarre Movie Career

Ben Falk
·Contributor
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Her current screen gig is on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’, but did you know that Patsy Kensit made her big-screen debut more than 40 years ago? It’s been a cinematic rollercoaster ever since.

Child actress

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When your first credited movie appearance sees you act opposite Robert Redford and Mia Farrow, you’ve got a lot to live up to.

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Kensit started early, appearing in a raft of films as a kid, most notably playing Farrow’s daughter Pamela in 1974 failure ‘The Great Gatsby’, as well as starring with Harrison Ford and Christopher Plummer in ‘Hanover Street’.

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Hot young thing

Having gone to the Italia Conti stage school, her big break as an adult came with ‘Absolute Beginners’.

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Well, she played the lead, but the rock musical was a legendary flop, becoming one of the most pilloried movies of its time, despite a soundtrack by David Bowie.

Nevertheless, the fame-hungry actress parlayed her notoriety into a dual career as a pop singer for band Eighth Wonder, who appeared on Top Of The Pops, but flamed out as quickly as they burned.

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By this time though, Kensit was building a screen reputation, which possibly peaked in 1989, when she starred as the doomed South African love interest of Mel Gibson’s Martin Riggs in ‘Lethal Weapon 2’.

Her bedroom sequence no doubt infuriated video shops at the time – pausing a VHS too often led to the tape deteriorating and Kensit’s nude scene was right up there with Jamie Lee Curtis in ‘Trading Places’ and Uma Thurman in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ for boys of a certain age in days before the internet.

Bad decisions

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The worldwide success of ‘Lethal Weapon 2’ promised stardom for Kensit. But despite a charismatic central performance in British coming-of-ager ‘Twenty-One’, the next few years spelled disaster, mainly thanks to a series of poor choices.

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1992 farce ‘Blame It On The Bellboy’ is often considered one of the worst films ever made and sees the star having sex with Richard Griffiths (aka Harry’s uncle in the ‘Harry Potter’ franchise).

Then there was Keifer Sutherland WWII period dud ‘Chicago Joe and the Showgirl’, as well as starring alongside Face from ‘The A-Team’ (fellow Celeb BB-er Dirk Benedict) in ‘Blue Tornado’ - pitched as ‘Top Gun’ meets ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.

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Meanwhile, the less one knows about 1990’s ‘Der Skipper’, the better. Suffice to say, it co-starred a young Elizabeth Hurley and was also known as, er, ‘Kill Cruise’.

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Before you know it, the heat was fading and she was acting with Stephen Baldwin in something called ‘Bitter Harvest’.

Supporting roles

Clearly realising it was all going a bit pear-shaped, Kensit allowed herself to not be the lead, appearing in well-received 1996 Scorsese exec-produced indie ‘Grace Of My Heart’ and getting plaudits (despite weird eyebrows) for her corseted role opposite Mark Rylance in ‘Angels and Insects’.

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There were some TV movies too, like the second series of ‘Godfather’ writer Mario Puzo’s ‘The Last Don’ and ‘Human Timebomb’, which saw Kensit as a teacher held hostage in a classroom along with her pupils.

Straight-to-video

As you can probably tell, it was already starting to go a bit B movie and by the time the early Noughties rolled around, she was firmly ensconced in straight-to-DVD territory. In Britain, she turned to telly, finding success on ‘Emmerdale’ and ‘Holby City’. But the big screen dream still lived on.

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‘Bad Karma’, also known as ‘Hell’s Gate’, was a convoluted 2002 horror movie in which Kensit played a mentally ill woman who has an obsession with Jack The Ripper and was directed by a guy best-known for helming ‘Biggles: Adventures In Time’.

2004’s ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ saw her as a legendary nude centrefold trying to impress the young new boss of the magazine’s parent company.

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Her most recent cinema credits came in 2006 and 2007. The latter was playing a step-mum to the kids of Giles from ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ amongst cheap CGI and Aaron Taylor-Johnson playing a fairy (or a troll, or a fawn, or a fawny troll fairy) in ‘The Magic Door’.

As for her 2006 effort, well it certainly put her in illustrious company – co-starring with Val Kilmer, Gabriel Byrne and surprise surprise Vinnie Jones in gangster movie ‘Played’. The film’s writer/director was Sean Stanek.

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 “I was using lav (lapel) mics for all the actors,” he remembers. “When actors showed up, I’d slap the mic on the actors, throw the camera on my shoulder and start shooting.  When she showed up, I had put on a very tall Russian-looking hat and went out to greet and meet her for the first time.  She had this look in her eye thinking I was an absolute loon wearing this ridiculous hat and she also held it together not wanting to offend me. I took it off with a smile and said I was joking and we had a good laugh. 

“About ten minutes later I told her I was ready to put her lav mic on and she met me in the dressing room.  She casually took her blouse off and there she was in all her glory in a very sheer black bra, sheer being the operative word. I was stunned as I tried to keep cool taping the lav mic to her chest.  She got me back. We had a laugh.  It was hard to concentrate for the first few minutes of filming.”

Maybe ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ will spell a comeback. ‘Der Skipper Part Deux’ anyone?

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