Kathleen Turner (Actress)

kathleen-turner.jpgMary Kathleen Turner (born June 19, 1954) is an American actress. She came to fame during the 1980s, after roles in the Hollywood films Body Heat, Peggy Sue Got Married, Romancing the Stone, The War of the Roses, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Prizzi's Honor. 

Turner was born in Springfield, Missouri, the daughter of Patsy (née Magee) and Allen Richard Turner, a U.S. Foreign Service officer who grew up in China (where Turner's great-grandfather had been a Methodist Christian missionary).

Her father, a diplomat, had been illegally imprisoned by the Japanese Empire for four years during the World War II. As a girl, Turner lived in Canada, Venezuela, and England, and she was living in Cuba at the time that Fidel Castro took over the government - and then the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba, forcing the staff members of the American embassy in Havana to leave the country.

Here she is in a 2008 interview: 


Turner has two brothers and one sister. While attending high school in England, she was a gymnast, and she also took classes at the Central School of Speech and Drama.

In her early years, Turner was interested in performing. Her father did not encourage her: "My father was of missionary stock," she later explained, "so theater and acting were just one step up from being a streetwalker, you know? So when I was performing in school, he would drive my mom [there] and sit in the car. She'd come out at intermissions and tell him, 'She's doing very well.'"

Kathleen graduated from the American School in London in 1972. Her father died of a coronary thrombosis during that same year, and then his family members moved back to the United States. Kathleen attended Southwest Missouri State University at Springfield for two years (where a fellow classmate was John Goodman), then earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Maryland in Baltimore County in 1977. During that period, Turner acted in several productions directed by the film and stage director Steve Yeager.

In 1978, Turner made her television debut in the NBC daytime soap The Doctors as the second Nola Dancy Aldrich. She made her film debut in 1981 as the ruthless Matty Walker in the thriller Body Heat, a role which would bring her to international prominence. Empire Magazine cited the film in 1995 when it named her one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History.

The New York Times wrote in 2005 that, propelled by her "jaw-dropping movie debut [in] Body Heat... she built a career on adventurousness and frank sexuality borne of robust physicality." Turner would ultimately become one of the top box office draws and most sought after actresses in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The brazen quality of Turner's screen roles was reflected in her public life. With her deep voice, Turner was often compared to a young Lauren Bacall. When the two met, Turner reportedly introduced herself by saying, "Hi, I'm the young you." In the 1980s, she controversially boasted that "on a night when I feel really good about myself, I can walk into a room, and if a man doesn't look at me, he's probably gay."

After Body Heat, Turner steered away from femme fatale roles to "prevent typecasting" and because the femme fatale roles had a "shelf-life". Consequently, her first project after this was 1983 comedy The Man With Two Brains. Turner co-starred in Romancing the Stone with Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito. The film critic Pauline Kael wrote of her performance as writer Joan Wilder, "Turner knows how to use her dimples amusingly and how to dance like a woman who didn’t know she could; her star performance is exhilarating." Romancing the Stone was a surprise hit: she won a Golden Globe for her role in the film and it became one of the top-ten-grossing movies of 1984. Turner teamed up again with Douglas and DeVito the following year for its sequel, The Jewel of the Nile.

Several months before Jewel, Turner starred in Prizzi's Honor with Jack Nicholson, winning a second Golden Globe award, and later starred in Peggy Sue Got Married which co-starred Nicolas Cage. For Peggy Sue, she received a 1986 Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

In 1988's toon-noir Who Framed Roger Rabbit, she was the speaking voice of cartoon femme fatale Jessica Rabbit, intoning the famous line, "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way." Her uncredited, sultry performance was acclaimed as "the kind of sexpot ball-breaker she was made for." (Amy Irving provided Jessica Rabbit's singing voice in the scene in which the character first appears in the movie.) That same year she also appeared in Switching Channels, which was a loose remake of the 1940 hit film His Girl Friday.

Turner appeared in the 1986 song "The Kiss of Kathleen Turner" by Austrian techno-pop singer Falco. In 1989, Turner teamed up with Douglas and DeVito for a third time, in The War of the Roses, this time as Douglas' disillusioned wife. The New York Times praised the trio, saying that "Mr. Douglas and Ms. Turner have never been more comfortable a team ... each of them is at his or her comic best when being as awful as both are required to be here ... [Kathleen Turner is] evilly enchanting." In that film, Turner played a former gymnast, and, as in other roles, she did many of her own stunts. (She broke her nose filming 1991's V.I. Warshawski).

Turner remained an A-list film star leading lady until the early nineties when rheumatoid arthritis seriously restricted her activities and her movie career went into rapid decline. She was diagnosed in 1992, after suffering "unbearable" pain for about a year. By the time she was diagnosed, she "could hardly turn her head or walk, and was told she would end up in a wheelchair".

As the disease worsened and the medication greatly altered Turner's looks along with excess alcohol consumption that Turner said she used to kill her physical pain, her once promising film career as a leading lady took a nose dive and Turner was seen less and less in blockbusters—though Turner has also blamed her age, stating "when I was forty the roles started slowing down, I started getting offers to play mothers and grandmothers..." She appeared in the low-budget House of Cards, experienced moderate success with John Waters' Serial Mom, and had supporting roles in A Simple Wish, The Real Blonde, and Sofia Coppola's acclaimed The Virgin Suicides.

Despite drug therapy to help her condition, the disease progressed for about eight years. Then, thanks to newly available treatments, her arthritis went into remission. She was seen increasingly on television, including two episodes of Friends, where she appeared as Chandler Bing's transsexual father. She also provided the voice of Malibu Stacy creator Stacy Lovell on the episode "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy" on The Simpsons. She played a defense attorney on Law & Order.

In 2006, Turner performed a cameo in FX's acclaimed Nip/Tuck, playing a phone sex operator in need of laryngeal surgery. She appeared in a small role in 2008's Marley & Me.

She is currently playing the role of Charlie Runkle's sexually hyperactive boss in the television series Californication.

In the same year, she voiced the role of Constance in the animated film Monster House. She has also recently been doing radio commercial voice-overs for Lay's potato chips. BBC Radio 4 produced three radio dramas based on the V.I. Warshawski novels by Sara Paretsky. The first two, Deadlock and Killing Orders feature Kathleen reprising her 1991 movie role but the third, Bitter Medicine, saw Sharon Gless take over the part. She also provided the voice of Jessica Rabbit in the 1988 live action/animated film Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and again in the Disneyland attraction spinoff, Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin.

In recent years, Turner has found renewed success on stage. After 1990s roles in Broadway productions of Indiscretions and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (for which she earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress), Turner moved to London in 2000 to star in a stage version of The Graduate.

The BBC reported that initially mediocre ticket sales for The Graduate "went through the roof when it was announced that Turner, then aged 45, would appear naked on stage". While her performance as the infamous Mrs. Robinson was popular with audiences (with sustained high box office for the duration of Turner's run), she received mixed reviews from critics. The play transferred to Broadway in 2002 to similar critical reaction.

In 2005, Kathleen Turner beat out a score of other contenders (including Jessica Lange, Frances McDormand, and Bette Midler) for the role of Martha in a 2005 Broadway revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Albee later explained to the New York Times that when Turner read for the part with her eventual co-star Bill Irwin, he heard "an echo of the 'revelation' that he had felt years ago when the parts were read by [Uta] Hagen and Arthur Hill". He added that Turner had "a look of voluptuousness, a woman of appetites, yes ... but a look of having suffered as well".

Turner married the real estate entrepreneur Jay Weiss of New York City in 1984, and they produced one offspring, their daughter Rachel Ann Weiss who was born on October 14, 1987. Turner was born into a Methodist Christian family, but she has said that she has "taken on a certain amount of Jewish tradition and identity" since marrying her Jewish husband and raising their daughter in Judiasm. In 2006, Turner announced that she and Weiss were planning a trial separation. Ms. Turner and Mr. Weiss carried this forward to a divorce that became official in December 2007, but Ms. Turner has said, "[Jay]'s still my best friend".

By the late 1980s, Turner had acquired a reputation for being difficult: what The New York Times called "a certifiable diva". She admitted that she had developed into "not a very kind person", and the actress Eileen Atkins referred to her as "an amazing nightmare". Turner slammed Hollywood over the disparate treatment accorded actors over female actors in the quality of roles they receive as they age, calling it a "terrible double standard".

As a result of her altered looks and weight gain from her arthritis treatment, The New York Times published this statement in 2005, "Rumors began circulating that she was drinking too much. She later said in interviews that she didn't bother correcting the rumors because people in show business hire drunks all the time, but not people who are sick".

Turner has had well-publicized problems with alcohol, which she used as an escape from the pain and symptoms of acute rheumatoid arthritis. Turner has admitted that owing to her illness she was in constant unbearable agony and that as a result the people she was closest to would suffer from it as she was constantly drinking to relieve the pain and it made her a very difficult person. A few weeks after leaving the production of the play The Graduate in November 2002, Ms. Turner was admitted into the Marworth hospitial in Waverly, Pa. for the treatment of drinking too much alcohol. "I have no problem with alcohol when I'm working", Ms. Turner explained: "It's when I'm home alone that I can't control my drinking ... I was going toward excess. I mean, really! I think I was losing my control over it. So it pulled me back."

Turner serves on the board of People for the American Way, is chairperson for Planned Parenthood of America, and supports Amnesty International and Citymeals-on-Wheels. She was one of John Kerry's first celebrity endorsers. She has been a frequent donor to the Democratic Party. She has also worked to raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis.

Turner (in collaboration with Gloria Feldt) wrote her memoir, Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on my Life, Love, and Leading Roles, published in 2008. Nicolas Cage filed suit against her for claiming he had been arrested for DUI twice and once stole a chihuahua he liked; Turner has since publicly apologized. During an interview on The View, Turner apologized for any distress she may have caused Cage regarding an incident that took place twenty years earlier.


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