Kim Basinger Reflects On Playing Dead For ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ Video: ‘I Did It Because Of Tom Petty’ (2024)

In 1993, Kim Basinger played dead for Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” music video, still arguably one of the best videos ever made —part creepy, party amusing, part wishful thinking. Directed by Keir McFarlane, the singer plays a morgue assistant who openly wheels out the beautiful cadaver on a trolley and drives her home, flopping about on the front seat.

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He props her down on a couch in front of the TV, then dresses her up in a wedding gown and applies the finishing touches —red lipstick —at a banquet table for their romantic candlelight dinner.

Basinger(whose films at that time included Never Say Never Again, 9 1/2 Weeks, The Man Who Loved Women and Batman)gives an Oscar-worthy performance:not a flicker of the eye, not even a tiny smile, as Petty waltzes with her, feet dragging on the ground.

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The kicker in the video — declared best male video at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards — is in the final moments.Petty once said of his choice of Basinger for the role: “She’s got to look really good or why would he keep her around after she’s dead?” True enough.

Billboard spoke with the actress about what it was like to shoot such a demanding role and her memory of working with Petty, including worrying that she would hurt him.

The song and the video still stand up today. I’m sure you didn’t say yes to many music videos. What was it you liked about such a creepy script?

I did it for one reason — I did it because of Tom Petty. There are certain artists that you go through life and they either entertain and help you get through a period of your life, or they have a significant influence on the message that they brought during that time. I’ve often heard people speak — and it’s so true because it’s true in my own life — that Tom Petty helped so many of us get through so many difficult times in our lives, again, whether it’s the memory of the song or the entertainment it brought or just the message that he bought.

And that video, when he called — I don’t know who he went through, an agent, whatever — ‘Tom asked me!’ I didn’t know Tom Petty. I didn’t know him back then, before that video, so I was just blown away, and thought, ‘Okay, I’ve been asked to do videos, I have not done one.’I think I did one with Don Was. I don’t know when that was, but when he called, I went, ‘Yeah!’ I didn’t care what it was about [Laughs]. Then I heard the music, and I was so in love with the song. I had no clue on the day I actually went to film this — I mean, I had a previous wardrobe in the wedding dress, but I remember that’s all I really wore, so I didn’t really know where this was going. And, of course, I had heard a version of the story he was going to tell but I truly didn’t care. I really didn’t.

Now, I remember too. This is silly. This director was a rough guy [Laughs]. I just remember him very of gruff. I don’t know where he was from, but I do remember he had a gruff voice and a very stern one, and he wanted kind of like his way or the highway. I know that, as we were filming, Tom I found to be always incredibly sensitive and sort of a backseat guy, no matter how brilliant the message was. He was just very humble, beautifully shy. I’m not the most outgoing human being in the world —I thought, ‘I’m shy; he’s shy.’ We hardly said three words to each other in the beginning, but as the story unfolded, and this director kept saying, ‘Look, you have got to be dead weight in this,’ I remember I was very conscious of my costar and the people I deal with. Dead weight! This guy [Petty], he was taller than me and everything, but I thought, ‘God, he’s going to drag me around this whole video [Laughs].’

He dances with you and dips you and your feet are off the ground. He puts lipstick on you and you’re playing dead. Were there parts that you laughed?

We laughed so hard. I said, ‘Okay I’m going to go for this’ because the director kept saying, ‘You have to play dead. Completely, all your weight. Everything.’ And it worked [Laughs]. But when I slide down the side of him, I just honestly couldn’t keep it together sometimes.So near the end too, it was very eerie, but it was the fun part.

Kids, they’re macabre, today, yesterday and many years ago and will be in the future. [The video] does hold up. My daughter is 21 and she loves this video as much as we did, our generation, and some Hispanic kids that I know — they’re part of my family —they just went to the Tom Petty concert. This man, he’s brought a lot of joy and a lot of heartfelt meaning.

Is it hard to be weightless?

Yes. That’s what I’m saying. This is the hardest role I’ve done because you are dead. I mean, dead. Hedidn’t want eyes fluttering. Hedidn’t want anything. You really have to be still. When you see people die in these movies and the camera is right on, that’s really very difficult to stay that still. For me to have to do it during the entire video and then at the end, come from the bottom of the pool, have her eyes wide open under water, it was just eerie, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I remember getting out of the pool that day and just being so glad it was over, but so proud that I had been honored to have worked with him. Period.

And this video did so well that year. I remember it won best video at MTV. I think he was quite happy with it. He always had a flair for entertaining and I love him as the Mad Hatter [in the ‘Don’t Come Around Here No More’ video] but I just love him. He does have that flair. He’s really visual. He really was a very good actor. I’ve worked with a lot of people; I’ve been very blessed in my life, so what more can I say? I did want to tell the story of the worry that I had of hurting him [Laughs]. If you’re dead weight on somebody, you’re never dead weight, even if somebody picks you up. You’re not going to be completely dead weight, you know what I mean? I just remember, I was laughing so much because he had a great sense of humor too.

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What was the set like? Was it in an old home or was it a set on a lot?

It was a set on a lot. I can’t remember where we shot this. And, of course, the last scene, when he walks into the ocean [shot at Leo Carrillo State Park], I think that is really quite brilliant.

When was the last time you watched it?

Maybe I saw it five months ago. The new people that I run into, they’ll say or yell across the camera, ‘Well she was Mary Jane.’ [Laughs]. ‘Oh I gotta go home and watch that.’ So I think that’s the last time I watched it. I don’t really love to watch myself. It’s not really my favorite thing to do.

It’s such a great video — almost 24 million views on YouTube.

It’s a classic video and I’m very proud having been a part of it.

Kim Basinger Reflects On Playing Dead For ‘Mary Jane’s Last Dance’ Video: ‘I Did It Because Of Tom Petty’ (2024)

FAQs

Who wrote the song Last Dance with Mary Jane? ›

"Mary Jane's Last Dance" is a song written by Tom Petty and recorded by American rock band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

What is the meaning of don't come around here no more? ›

Once Nicks heard a demo of the song with Petty's vocals, she gave her blessing for the Heartbreakers to record it. On paper, “Don't Come Around Here No More” is a straightforward breakup anthem, delivered from one partner to the other. It's punchy and pissed-off, beginning with a literal shout of frustration.

Who is the girl in last dance with Mary Jane video? ›

Mary Jane's Last Dance starring Kim Basinger. Directed by Keir McFarlane.

What is the meaning of the last dance? ›

It can also be a final performance, or the final act in a dance performance. (figurative) A last run. In this sense, it often suggests nostalgia. In sports, it could be the last time a team or a team's players are together before retirement or moving to another team.

What is a Mary Jane slang? ›

US and Canadian a slang term for marijuana.

Who sang the last dance save the last dance for me? ›

"Save the Last Dance for Me" is a song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, first recorded in 1960 by American musical group the Drifters with Ben E. King on lead vocals. It has since been covered by several artists, including Dalida, the DeFranco Family, Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Michael Bublé.

What happened to singer Tom Petty? ›

Petty died of “multisystem organ failure due to resuscitated cardiopulmonary arrest due to mixed drug toxicity,” according to the report, which listed the drugs in his system as “fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetylfentanyl, and despropionyl fentanyl.”

What does not so close yet so far mean? ›

said to express regret or sadness when you have got very close to achieving what you wanted, but in the end you just failed.

What does say no more mean in slang? ›

Used to tell someone that it is not necessary to explain something further because one understands what that person is trying to say. For example: A word of advice: don't mention the war." "Say no more—I'll stay off the subject!"

Where did the slang no way come from? ›

—No way! or There's no way our candidate can lose. This colloquial expression dates from the mid-1900s, but an earlier adverb, noway, dates from the 1300s.

What is the message of Save the Last Dance? ›

Save the Last Dance tackles touchy urban issues such as the need for strong, responsible African-American men in inner-city communities. It doesn't glorify Chenille's life as a single mother, but shows the heartbreak of raising a child whose father is unreliable and unsupportive.

What is the history behind the song Save the Last Dance for Me? ›

Allegedly Doc Pomus, who used a wheelchair, wrote it after his wedding day when he saw his wife, an actor and dancer, enjoying the party chatting and dancing with guests. "But don't forget who's taking you home, and in whose arms you're gonna be …"

What does she dances with the devil mean? ›

To dance with the devil is to engage in risky, reckless, or potentially immoral behavior.

What is the private last dance at a wedding? ›

In short, the private last dance is the actual final song of the night, shared by just the bride and groom. It can be any song you want, from a slow song to an upbeat rap song, as long as it's something the two of you love and enjoy.

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