Kathleen Turner

Actress Kathleen Turner made her film debut in ‘Body Heat’ and received a best-actress Oscar nomination for her role in ‘Peggy Sue Got Married.’

Who Is Kathleen Turner?

Kathleen Turner was born June 19, 1954, in Springfield, Missouri. She made her film debut in Body Heat, and went on to star in Romancing the Stone, Prizzi's Honor and War of the Roses. She received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her role in Peggy Sue Got Married and was the voice of Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Turner later struggled with rheumatoid arthritis and alcoholism but would still maintain her acting career, receiving Tony nods for her work in the plays Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Background and Early Career

Mary Kathleen Turner was born on June 19, 1954, in Springfield, Missouri. The daughter of a foreign-service officer, the young Turner moved around quite a bit as a child, having an international past that included stays in Canada and parts of Latin America. The family lived in England during her high school years, and she enrolled in London’s Central School of Speech and Drama while there, though her conservative Christian family initially had reservations about her career in acting. Upon her father’s death she moved back with her mother to Springfield.  

Turner attended Southwest Missouri State University before transferring to the University of Maryland, where she graduated in 1977, having studied drama. (One of her classmates was fellow actor John Goodman.) Living in New York, Turner initially took on roles in off-Broadway theatrical productions and commercials as well as the 1979 soap opera The Doctors before moving to Los Angeles.

Sultry Movie Debut

Turner made a name for herself and then some with her sultry, iconic movie debut in the thriller Body Heat (1981), co-starring William Hurt, in which she played femme fatale Matty Walker. Next up for Turner on the big screen was a comedic venture with Steve Martin, The Man with Two Brains, in which Turner played another antagonist.

After the edgy Crimes of Passion, Turner returned to comedic fare with the jungle adventure Romancing the Stone (1984), co-starring Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito. Stone was a hit, spawning the 1985 sequel The Jewel of the Nile. A few years later, audiences would see Turner reunited with Douglas onscreen for the divorce comedy The War of the Roses (1989), directed by DeVito.  

Oscar Nomination

Additional roles for Turner in the '80s included A Breed Apart (1985), Prizzi’s Honor (1985), Julia and Julia (1987) and The Accidental Tourist (1988), with the latter co-starring Hurt, once again, as well as Geena Davis. Turner also received a best-actress Academy Award nomination for the Francis Ford Coppola film Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), in which she played a woman who’s given the opportunity to go back through time to her high school days with knowledge of what the future holds.

Two years later, Turner also returned to a bombshell role, this time in cartoon form as Jessica Rabbit in the classic animated/live-action movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, directed by Robert Zemickis. Pregnant at the time of recording, Turner once again delivered a captivating performance in which her textured, breathy siren’s voice was front and center.

Struggles with Arthritis and Alcoholism

In 1992 Turner was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that greatly affected her joints and potentially could have prevented her from walking. Prescribed medication to treat the condition also had the side effect of causing weight gain. The ordeal affected her career, resulting in limited casting opportunities, and Turner eventually struggled with alcoholism, having become increasingly dependent on liquor after first using it to cope with pain. By the early 2000s, Turner entered rehab.

Despite these health challenges, Turner maintained a screen presence with various projects. She had the lead role in the 1994 John Waters comedy Serial Mom and later worked with another Coppola, daughter Sofia, in 1999’s The Virgin Suicides. Work in the new millennium included appearances on TV shows such as Friends, Law & Order and Californication as well as in films such as Marley & Me (2008), The Perfect Family (2011) and Dumb and Dumber To (2014).  

Broadway Acclaim 

Turner is also a noted stage performer. Having starred in the 1990 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, earning a Tony nomination for her efforts, she won more critical acclaim for her performance in Indiscretions (1995). She made her West End debut in London as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (2000), with the production making its way to New York in 2002. 

Then, in 2005, Turner received another Tony nomination for her role as Martha in the revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? After directing Crimes of the Heart in both Massachusetts and the off-Broadway scene, she returned to the Broadway stage again in a short run of the play High (2011).

Turner has also authored the 2008 memoir Send Yourself Roses: Thoughts on My Love, Life, and Leading Roles.

Personal Life 

Turner was previously married to Jay Weiss for more than 20 years. The two have a daughter, Rachel Ann, who is a musician and singer.

The actress made headlines for a 2018 interview with Vulture, in which she delivered some choice words for former colleagues. Among the whoppers, Turner said that she didn't feel that Elizabeth Taylor "was very skilled," slammed the co-stars of Friends for being too cliquish and described the experience of shaking hands with Donald Trump, saying, "You pull your hand away and go yuck."

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