Born Mary Kathleen Turner and known as Kathleen Turner in Hollywood, she has a unique voice that makes her stand out. Turner has starred in many movies and TV shows and has won two Golden Globe Awards. She has also been the sound behind several voice-overs roles throughout her career.
Turner first rose to fame in the 1980s with roles in Body Heat (1981), The Man with Two Brains (1983), Crimes of Passion (1984), Romancing the Stone (1984), and Prizzi’s Honor (1985), amongst many other films and TV appearances during her early and later career.
Mary Kathleen Turner was born on June 19, 1954, in Springfield, Missouri. Turner was the daughter of a diplomat, which meant she traveled throughout her childhood. She attended Southwest Missouri State University before she transferred to the University of Maryland.
Turner went on to do commercials before she got her first role in the soap opera, The Doctors, in 1978. It was three years later when she went on to have a major movie deal in Body Heat alongside William Hurt. This was the beginning of a long and successful career in showbiz for Turner.
Body Heat (1981) is an American neo-noir erotic thriller, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, starring Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. The film made Turner a lead actress overnight; with her lusty and distinct voice, she became a sex symbol after the movie.
The movie highlighted Turner’s beauty and talent, and she became a sought-after actress. Turner would later star with Jack Nicholson in a lead role in Prizzi’s Honor. She starred in three movies alongside producer and actor Michael Douglas.
Kathleen Turner’s next big movie break starred her alongside Michael Douglas in the romantic comedy adventure ‘Romancing the Stone.’ The movie premiered in 1984 and was the eighth highest-grossing film that year, making them both famous.
The film was directed by Robert Zemeckis, who went on to become a Hollywood director and launched the career of the star and producer Michael Douglas, making him an even more sought-after lead actor. Turner’s career skyrocketed because of the success of the film.
In 1985, Kathleen Turner starred in Prizzi’s Honor with Jack Nicholson; the movie was a black comedy crime film directed by John Huston. Turner and Nicholson starred as two skilled mob assassins who fall in love but are ironically hired to kill each other.
Kathleen Turner’s role as a sassy and sexy mob assassin in the movie was well-received. She won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical, and Nicholson also won a Golden Globe for Best Actor in the same category.
There was underlying chemistry between Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas when they starred together in movies. The duo has been in three movies together, and the noticeable chemistry in Romancing the Stone made the duo Hollywood’s most enticing couple.
However, it wasn’t just onscreen. Turner said that the chemistry flew off-screen as well, as they developed a bond while filming. Turner says, “Oh, I was a yearning babe, but he was still married, although they were separated, and so I thought there was hope for me.”
It doesn’t stop there; Turner went on to say, “It was that wonderful sexual tension, you know? When you know you want somebody- I’m saying it went both ways- and you can’t have them. It’s just lovely.”
The chemistry between the couple is perhaps what makes the movies such an interesting watch, and Turner and Douglas still maintain a friendship long after they starred together in Romancing the Stone, War of the Roses, and Jewel of the Nile.
Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas were co-starring in The Jewel of the Nile, filmed in Morocco when they were almost involved in a plane crash. They were flying back to Fez when their captain let them know there were no runaway lights and unsafe to land.
Turner recalls the incident “As we were coming in, the wing started to tip, and the pilot jerked up. Michael and I grabbed hands and said, ‘If one of us gets out of here, tell the other’s spouse I love them.’” Thankfully the lights came back, and the stars landed safely.
Turner’s voice was so sultry and distinctive that she was well sought after for voice acting in Hollywood. Turner provided the voice of Jessica Rabbit (1988) in the animated films Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and she was also the voice for the three short spinoffs.
In 2006, Turner provided the voice for Constance, the character in the animated film Monster House, and voice-overs for commercials such as the famous Lay’s potato chips and in BBC Radio 4’s drama that was based on a novel by Sarah Paresky.
Turner was a firecracker on and offstage with sass and honesty and, according to costars, wasn’t easy to work with. She had a reputation for being difficult, especially in the late 1980s. The rumor was so widespread that The New York Times called her “a certifiable Diva.”
Eileen Atkins, who starred in Indiscretions on Broadway with Turner, referred to her as “An amazing nightmare.” Turner defended herself against Atkins by saying it was because of her inability to remember lines that Atkins disliked her and not her attitude.
Turner collaborated with Gloria Feldt when writing her memoir, Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Life, Love and Leading Roles. The book was published in 2008 but caused controversy and a lawsuit along the way with its claims about a certain actor.
While she was filming Peggy Sue Got Married to Nicholas Cage, Turner said that he got drunk and stole a Chihuahua. Cage then filed a lawsuit against Turner and her book publishers and won his case against them for defamation of character.
In the 1990s, Turner starred in the Broadway production of ‘Indiscretion’ and ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,’ which earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress. Turner then moved to London and starred in a stage version of The Graduate, where she appeared naked.
The BBC reported that tickets sales for The Graduate “went through the roof when it was announced that Turner, then aged 45, would appear naked on stage.” Turner played Mrs. Robinson and was popular with the audience and drew masses to see her perform.
Turner has spoken openly about her battle with alcoholism during her life and how it didn’t affect her career, but just her personal life. A few weeks after leaving the play, The Graduate in 2002, she checked in to the Geisinger Marworth Treatment Center in Pennsylvania.
In an interview, Turner explained why she needed help, “I have no problem with alcohol when I’m working; it’s when I’m home alone that I can’t control my drinking.” It was after The Graduate that she sought help for her drinking.
Kathleen Turner is sassy and isn’t afraid to burn bridges, opting for telling her truth over keeping friends. Elizbeth Taylor is one of many names that came under fire, and Turner was quick to criticize Taylor’s performances, saying, “I don’t think she is very skilled.”
Turner also took a swipe at Burt Reynolds, saying working with him was “terrible” and how he made her cry. Turner says, “His behavior was shocking. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t someone’s equal. I left the room sobbing.” She never wanted to work with him again.
Turner started suffering from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) in the early 1990s when she was in her early thirties. The illness and addiction hampered her success in Hollywood, and she was no longer viewed as the leading lady, and she retreated from the limelight because of RA.
Turner has said that having RA affected her confidence and the roles she was offered. She said in an interview that, “I suppose there was a feeling of loss. Rheumatoid arthritis hit in my late 30s-The last of my years in which Hollywood would consider me a sexually appealing lady.”
Turner starred as Chandler Bing’s father in the series, Friends and with her deep husky voice, she portrayed the role perfectly. Charles Bing was a drag queen who had a show in Las Vegas called Viva Las Gay-gas and had a dramatic and loud sassy personality.
Charles drag name was ‘Helena Handbasket.’ Chandler’s father was always embarrassing him on the series, with his diva moments which Turner portrayed perfectly and his attempt to seduce Ross Geller, his son’s best friend, during one of his appearances.
After eight years in the 2000s, Kathleen Turner’s Rheumatoid Arthritis went into remission after access to a new treatment. The remission meant that Turner could take up numerous roles on television and guest roles such as in Nip/Tuck, playing a phone sex operator in need of surgery.
She appeared in three episodes of Friends and had a small role in the 2008 film Marley & Me, and played the role of a defense attorney on Law & Order. She also appeared in The Path in 2016 for two episodes and guest-starring in two episodes of Mom in 2020.
Compared to her onscreen persona and romantic entanglement, Turner’s personal life was a lot less dramatic. The star was married to real estate entrepreneur Jay Weiss in 1985. Weiss is from New York City, and they had one daughter together, singer Rachel Ann Weiss.
Turner and Weiss divorced in December 2007 after 23 years of marriage. However, Turner states that the two are still best friends. Rachel Weiss is a singer and actor known for Little Monsters (1989), The Balancing Act (2014), and Entertainment Tonight (1981).
The feisty actress doesn’t shy away from hard work and performs many stunts in movies she starred in. Turner performed stunts in Romancing the Stone, V.I. Warshawski, and Undercover Blue. During filming, she did one of her stunts which involved swinging.
Swinging off chandeliers, that is, during the scene in War of the Roses. Her character swings from the chandelier. Turner was able to conduct the stunt on her own. Production teams had to persuade her from attempting the more risker stunts in other films as she wanted to try everything.
Turner’s father, Allen Richard Turner, was a US diplomat who was raised in China. He was in China when World War II happened, and Allen Turner was held in a Japanese prison for four years until we liberated China in 1945 and Turner was freed.
When the US discovered Allen Turner, he spoke both Mandarin and Cantonese, and he was drafted into the Foreign Service as a diplomat, which he continued working for the rest of his career. Turner said her father never spoke about his imprisonment in Japan to his family.
Being the child of a diplomat, the family moved around a lot when Kathleen was growing up. Although she traveled around a lot, Turner still considers herself American, as she is the only one of her siblings born in America in 1953 in Missouri.
The Turner family lived in different locations such as Canada, Venezuela, Cuba, and England. In 1968, Turner began attending The American School in London, and when her interest in acting started to flourish.
Turner’s sex symbol status led to misogynist behavior between Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, and Michael Douglas. They made a bet who would sleep with her, but Turner rejected them all. Turner has never been shy when discussing her costars.
In 2018 Turner spoke out about the sexism she experienced with the three stars saying, “There was a competition between Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, and Warren Beaty about who would get me first.” She clarified that “None of them did, by the way. I don’t like being thought of as a trophy.”
Ghost was a massive hit in 1990, which made Demi Moore one of the most famous and sought-after actresses. Before Demi Moore secured the part, Turner was offered the role as Molly Jensen but turned it down because she thought the movie would be a flop.
Turner couldn’t have been more wrong as Ghost landed many Oscar nominations and earned over $500 million at the box office. It’s hard to imagine Demi Moore not playing the wide-eyed Molly Jensen, which made Demi and the movie a hit with viewers worldwide.
When Turner made her breakthrough performance in Body Heat, she was beginning to be compared to actress Lauren Bacall and declared the new Bacall amongst film fans. Both actresses found fame portraying femme fatale roles and had similar personalities onscreen.
Turner and Bacall had similar voices, both oozing sexuality with self-confidence, and even Turner began to see the likeness. When first introduced to Lauren Bacall, Turner introduced herself and said, “Hi, I’m the young you,” and the actresses would often compare voices when together.
After the success of Romancing the Stone, producer, and star Michael Douglas, alongside 20th Century Fox, were eager to make a sequel. The Jewel of the Nile was released a year after Romancing the Stone. It wasn’t an easy task, and it faced many obstacles along the way.
Director Robert Zemeckis wasn’t available to direct the sequel. The writer Diana Thomas was too expensive to be hired; Turner wasn’t happy with the script and wanted to quit but was threatened with a $25 million breach of contract if she didn’t make the movie.
Turner’s acting opportunities dwindled after late 2000 due to Turner’s reputation for being difficult to work with and because she couldn’t take on as many roles as before due to ill health. Turner also suffered publicly from alcoholism during this period.
When Turner’s career started to dry up after 2000, she decided to make a living by teaching. Turner started teaching a course in practical acting at New York University, which was called ‘Shut Up and Do it.’ She also published a book with advice about acting in 2018.
Turner has only been Oscar-Nominated once for Peggy Sue Got Married, despite her long career in acting. However, the award was given to Marlee Matlin, who won it for Children of a Lesser God.
Even though she was never nominated again for an Oscar, she has won several other awards. For two years in a row, she won Best Actress at the Golden Globes, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association named her Actress of the Year in 1984.
Turner talked openly about her costar William Hurt and how he experimented with magic mushrooms, but Turner never tried them or felt the need to indulge in them like her costar. In an interview, Turner spilled the beans on what Hurt was like on magic mushrooms.
Turner talked about her experience when filming Body Heat and how Hurt behaved off-screen when he was inebriated. He would say, “He wanted to talk about how we’d both like to die” He never stopped talking but was quiet when he wasn’t on the drug.
During the filming of the Graduate in the West End in London, Dame Maggie Smith was performing in the theatre next door, which led the two ladies to become good friends when they met. During an interview with Village Voice, she was asked about Maggie Smith.
Turner was asked if she calls her friend by the full title, Dame Maggie Smith, and Turner replied in good humor, “Maybe I should. Although she’d probably slap me.” This shows their great friendship because Turner is quite honest about whom she doesn’t like.
Turner is working on Finding My Voice in the Green Room 42 in New York City. The show shares parts of Turner’s life, from her earlier childhood to her life as a young actress and her struggles with ill health with rheumatoid arthritis.
Turner describes the show explaining, “It’s about me, my life, my adventures, what I’ve learned, what I believe in.” It’s a show that Turner wrote on her own, and she shares her personal life with the audience with witty and honest delivery as she tours London, Chicago, and San Francisco.
Turner reunited with actor Michael Douglas in the Netflix series, The Kominsky Method. The series is an American comedy-drama created by Chuck Lorre and stars Michael Douglas as Sandy Kominsky, an aging acting coach who isn’t ready to give up on the Los Angeles lifestyle.
Kathleen Turner stars as Dr. Roz Voland, the ex-wife of Sandy Kominsky. The two stars acting together is like Turner and Douglas never parted. The chemistry and the camaraderie between the two of them is natural and like they were never apart.
Turner was a sex symbol, especially after her appearance in Body Heat, but she didn’t want to be stereotyped as only a sexy actress. She was bombarded with roles after Body Heat, which would cast her as the seductive and oversexed woman. Turner turned these roles down.
She chose to steer clear of these offers and instead chose a comedy to showcase her talent as an actor. The movie was a comedy called The Man with Two Brains (1983), starring Steve Martin as a widow and Turner as a scheming gold digger.
During an interview with Vulture, Turner explained why she preferred theater as she got older. “The roles of mature women onstage are a thousand times better than anything written in film.” She explains the reason she turned to theatre as she got older was because of the roles.
As she got older, Turner was offended when she was sent a screenplay for a movie because there was less demand for her in leading roles. “I remember I got sent a screenplay once where the character was described as ‘37 but still attractive’. That made me angry. Americans are so screwed up about sex.”
Kathleen Turner isn’t one to shy away from dishing the dirt. During an interview with Vulture, she talks about how she met Donald Trump in the 90s. When asked about meeting the former president, Turner responded, “Yes. Yuck. He has this gross handshake.”
She explains why she found Trump’s handshake repulsive to Vulture, “He goes to shake your hand and with his index finger kind of rubs the inside of your wrist. He’s trying to make a seductive intimate move. You pull your hand away and go yuck.”
Turner played many different characters and avoided being a stereotype, and she felt like that harmed her career because she was less recognized. In an interview, she talked about how people would say that they didn’t realize she was in so many different movies.
Turner said that she would be told regularly, “God, I love The Accidental Tourist. Oh, you also were in Undercover Blues? That was great! And Prizzi’s Honor? Shit, you were in that too. They never put my work together because I wasn’t doing the same thing over and over, which, by the way, wasn’t good for me financially.”
Turner is still active in theatre and had guest appearances in sitcoms such as Mom, and she also appeared as an old hillbilly woman in Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings. Turner is still going strong in her career and is as sassy and charismatic as always.
When it comes to self-care and taking care of her health, Turner said in a recent interview, “It’s a constant battle, right now. Pilates -I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and it’s essential for me. I try to eat well and all the basics.” Turner is still going strong in her career and life.