There is something about Kathleen Turner. Forgetting for a moment that she is a celebrated actress of the stage and screen, considered one of the sexiest actresses to ever work in Hollywood, there is a delightful force of energy about her, along with special brand of devil-may-care honesty and rapier wit that makes even the shortest amount of time spent with her effortless and completely entertaining. Add her signature smoky voice and body of work and…yeah, excuse us while we gush.
Turner is so wonderfully old school Hollywood, she makes you wish she would teach master classes for all up-and-comers and it’s nice to see her back on the big screen opposite Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber To. Kudos to the brothers Farrelly for writing a “Kathleen Turner-type” into their script and for the role being a celebration (of sorts) of the woman that Turner is now, not the youngster she was 30 years ago in her big screen debut, Body Heat.
Playboy was lucky enough to spend some time with Turner and her candid, colorful thoughts on the film industry’s “banking” problem, equal rights and our Lucky 7 questions made us wish we saw and heard more from her.
Do women in Hollywood come to you for advice?
More and more. I teach [acting] and I love it. I’m a good teacher. You have to make choices along the way. I think personally that stage training is essential for good acting. If you have good solid stage training you can act on film very, very well — you just add more knowledge and skill to what you have. But to go from film acting to stage is really not possible without a heck of a lot of work. It’s not the same animal. To young women I would say: Figure out what you want to do. If you want to be the actress who does the same role essentially year after year after year and probably makes a ton of money, then fine. But then know that that’s what you will be satisfied with. Don’t bitch. If you want to spend 15 hours a day on how you look, then that’s who you are. Uh oh…that sounded harsh, didn’t it? I don’t want to be judgmental, it’s just my choices are different.
How do you think the business has changed or not changed since you started?
I think it’s worse, much worse. The good news is that with the wonderful advances in technology we have so much more independent filmmaking reaching us through festivals, through other outlets because, face it, the studios still have a strangle-hold on distribution. There are wonderful, wonderful films out there: I just finished judging the Chicago Film Festival and there were some terrific films there that I know will never be seen by the American public; maybe a couple art houses in LA, Chicago, Washington and New York. Filmmaking now is about money, it’s banking.
Romancing the Stone has been on cable a lot lately — are there films of yours like that that you will stop on if you see them?
If I happen to come upon it I might watch a couple minutes but on the whole I don’t watch my films. I’ve probably seen more bits of Romancing than others because it’s such a fun movie and I have wonderful memories with it but I don’t really like to watch myself. I did it.
Except for maybe Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Since it’s your voice?
Well I’ll tell you the thing that knocks me out about Roger Rabbit, is the technique. God, they hand-painted those frames. It will never be done again. That’s a piece of art itself.
And there are Jessica Rabbits every Halloween.
I sign more Jessica Rabbit photos than mine, almost. I’m not kidding. Isn’t that crazy?
What’s next for you?
We have no National Theater support in this country. However, we have some wonderful regional theaters. Face it, in New York on Broadway we don’t really create much work or new talent, it comes into Broadway after it’s been elsewhere. The regional theaters are what we need, so every year (or two years at most), I work at a regional theater. It makes a difference. These playhouses exist on subscription a lot, so if I go and do a three month run there, it ups their subscriptions. And why not? They’re excellent theaters with terrific personnel. I’m not losing anything and I do a little more than just for me and I like that. The next play is a one-woman show based on Molly Ivins, a great political columnist, it’s called Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-ass Wit of Molly Ivins. It’s 80 minutes of me onstage having a ball; it’s great. I’ll be there November 21 I think I start previews through the middle of January. It’s fun and has got a lot to say.
I’ve been chairman of the board of advocates for Planned Parenthood, which I’ve been working with for 27 years so when I’m not working I go to our affiliates and try to help. Texas right now drives me wild because it has the highest rate of unintended pregnancies and it has the highest rate of uninsured. That combination? I don’t know, my dilemma right now is trying to figure out if these men want to kill women or not.
Do you feel like the conversation has changed at all?
We did feel like we won this. I’m old enough to have been marching, I’m that old now and I can’t believe that we have to do it all again. It’s evil, that’s what it is.
Playboy’s Lucky 7 Questions
What was your first encounter with Playboy?
Oh I must have encountered it in high school or college. I don’t think my brothers had it. Maybe high school in London, some of the guys had it. But my best was when I did the Playboy Interview, that was the nicest. It was just a boy thing. It’s like boys and guns you know, who cares? “So you have a really cute gun.”
What movie that scared you most as a kid?
Scared me most as a kid? The Music Lovers, by Ken Russell. It’s fantastic. It’s about Tchaikovsky and there’s a scene where Glenda Jackson is put into this mental asylum, oh, scared the hell out of me.
What was your first car?
My first car was a 1966 Oldsmobile. A Delta ‘88, weighed about 20 tons as far as I recall. I believe I bought it for about $400 in Springfield, Missouri, when I was in college. It lasted me for years. It had been gold. It reminds me of the play, House of Blue Leaves, and the character Bunny has the Green Litrine, this big old car.
What’s your pop culture blind spot?
I have never ever seen reality TV. Never.
What’s the first song you knew words to?
Probably a hymn. No I know exactly what it was, I was three in pre-kindergarten in Canada so the first thing we were taught was “God Save the Queen.” We had to sing it every morning. The problem came when we were moving from Canada to Cuba, when my father was doing intensive language training in Washington D.C. We were sent to my mother’s parents’ home in Springfield. So I went into nursery school there and it was my first new school, new world. I was just old enough to realize I didn’t know anything and the teacher started to play the piano and I thought, “Oh thank goodness, I know this!” so I started to sing “God Save the Queen” and it wasn’t, it was “My Country Tis of Thee.” I remember the teacher banging on the keys and saying, “In this country, those aren’t the words!” I think I cried.
What’s your favorite mistake?
I make it all the time. First of all I think over-planning doesn’t get you anywhere so you kind of rely on mistakes and things happening and figuring out how to use them. I can’t really think of one, I just think they’re a constant in life.
Heaven forbid, you’re on death row — what’s your last meal?
I have thought about this, not in terms of death row, but if I had the time or notice to create my last meal I have several elements. I would have black truffle pasta from the Chateau Saint Martin in Vence, one of the best damned things I’ve ever eaten in my life. I would have caviar: Osetra, thank you very much. I would have fresh langostine grilled from this restaurant in Rome near the Pantheon, starts with an “R,” it’s fantastic. Just perfect. What else would I have? Some wonderful wine, of course. With the langostine I would have a Meursault; with the black truffle pasta a lovely red, not too heavy. I think for dessert, creme brulee; maybe from the American Hotel in Sag Harbor, they make an amazing creme brulee. As I’ve gone through life enjoying extraordinary meals — because I do enjoy food very much — I’ll come across something and say, “Alright, this is going in my last meal.”
Kara Warner is a writer/reporter living in Los Angeles. Likes: Men in kilts, ladies in power suits, the Denver Broncos. Dislikes: Plastic surgery frozen faces on Bravo, losing, zombies.