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Kinski used once to rhapsodise about her relationship with her mother: "She's like the sun coming up to me. I told him what I thought in the letter – a long letter." What she thought may have been bilious, but what she had hoped for was different: "I always thought, 'Maybe later, maybe later he'll come back,' and later never came,"she has said. Any kind of person who has authority that gives the impression of care; you know, of caring that you exist.

In this jungle around us she protects me, like the lion's mother. "When he died [of a massive heart attack, in November 1991], I had a moment of grief that lasted about five minutes. Because he caused us too much pain." The aftermath of all this lends itself to the pattest of Freudian analyses: Nastassja, after all, was 27 years younger than Polanski when they met; 14 years younger than her husband when they married, in 1984; 28 years younger than Quincy Jones when she went off with him in 1992. And of course any kid that doesn't have a father looks for approval and elements of fatherhood in other people.

I am so good at what I do that people can tell me a very small nugget of their story and I can provide deep insight into what’s going on, even able to tell them what happened next before they do.

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And now that I had little kids, that's what I wanted to do: to be there. That hasn't happened." But did she never see him again?

And not not be there." And not not be there – like her father and, in reality, her mother, Biggi. "No, I wrote him a long letter, but I didn't see him. That's why I know so many doctors – I know more doctors and nurses than I can think.

And, by 1984, they saw a woman who had made the lustrously memorable Paris, Texas and who was, it seemed, certain to become the most famous film star in the world. " says Kinski, her American English flecked with the seductive accents of a cosmopolitan upbringing. The couple also had a daughter, Sonia, now 14, but divorced in 1992 and are currently at war: Kinski refers to him as "that person".

Kinski has another daughter, Kenya, aged six, by Quincy Jones, the record producer.

She decided to go another way, she chose a different life from being with us." Biggi was against Nastassja's marriage and has rarely seen her daughter's children. Before our interview, she had sat for more than half an hour, hidden behind the tinted windows of a black limousine, talking into her mobile. She has, she says, had bronchitis; she's on "big antibiotics"; she has a hacking cough; she'd have put all this off to a later date except, "I heard you'd come all the way from England." And so she sits by the pool of the Magic Hotel, off Hollywood Boulevard, and asks, sweetly, for some herb tea, some juice and perhaps a muffin. Yet, in The Claim, she plays a tubercular mother in the California Gold Rush of 1849, coughing blood and allowing the British director, Michael Winterbottom, to shoot some unforgiving close-ups of her big-boned, big-lipped, big-eyed face. But she does, she accepts, have to survive; there are people who depend on her.

She is often referred to as a poet: 'She does write, and I think her poems are beautiful. At length, the car door opened and she appeared, the Motorola Nextel still clutched to her chestnut-brown hair. Hers is, though, a grown-up role, maturely executed. Benignly, one fan site on the internet hymns her as 'an anima woman, a goddess archetype as old as mankind, embracing something deeply embedded in our collective unconscious.' More cynically, the voluptuous mouth and grave young eyes Kinski displayed as a pre-pubescent were used to turn her into another archetype: the child-woman. Indeed, she talks often of her children; of how crucial it is to work at being a parent; of how it is her business to keep them safe and to protect them – "that's all I can say".

And with you, it was difficult." The dreaminess disappears from Kinski's grey-green eyes, and her melancholy, oddly tentative voice takes on an edge: "You know what," she says, crumbling the remains of a blueberry muffin, "that's one of those idiotic, unbelievable things where you go: 'What! "But it could not be further from who I am or what I actually said. I think people imagined so many things, put together so many interpretations when they saw me, years ago.

No other director, ever, ever." But it's pity, really, to disown the story, I say; it's such a good put-down.

Baggage Reclaim is read in more than 130 countries, with Reclaimers from all walks of life. I’m based in South East London in Caterham with my husband Em, and our two daughters and cockerpoo.

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