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Also Known As: Mary Kathleen Turner Died:
Born: June 19, 1954 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Springfield, Missouri, USA Profession: actor, waitress

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A leading lady of 1980s cinema, Kathleen Turner earned comparisons to 1940s femme fatales like Barbara Stanwyck for sensuous, aggressive roles in "Body Heat" (1981), "Prizzi's Honor" (1985) and "The War of the Roses" (1989). When the smoky-voiced actress was not manipulating male characters with her on-screen sultry ways, she proved to be quite a comedienne, as well, volleying quips with Michael Douglas in the jungle adventure film "Romancing the Stone" (1984) and inhabiting an 18-year-old body in "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). She received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in the early 1990s, and that - along with the pained actress' heavy drinking and over-40 status - meant her screen appearances were reduced to character roles as moms and comic villains - something she still pulled off with panache. After acclaimed theatrical runs in "The Graduate" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" on the New York and London stages, the fiery actress regained her esteemed reputation and settled into a comfortable real-life role as a supporting film player, theater director and acting teacher.A globe-trotter from birth, Kathleen Turner was born June 19, 1954; the child of a foreign service diplomat father....

A leading lady of 1980s cinema, Kathleen Turner earned comparisons to 1940s femme fatales like Barbara Stanwyck for sensuous, aggressive roles in "Body Heat" (1981), "Prizzi's Honor" (1985) and "The War of the Roses" (1989). When the smoky-voiced actress was not manipulating male characters with her on-screen sultry ways, she proved to be quite a comedienne, as well, volleying quips with Michael Douglas in the jungle adventure film "Romancing the Stone" (1984) and inhabiting an 18-year-old body in "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986). She received a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in the early 1990s, and that - along with the pained actress' heavy drinking and over-40 status - meant her screen appearances were reduced to character roles as moms and comic villains - something she still pulled off with panache. After acclaimed theatrical runs in "The Graduate" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" on the New York and London stages, the fiery actress regained her esteemed reputation and settled into a comfortable real-life role as a supporting film player, theater director and acting teacher.

A globe-trotter from birth, Kathleen Turner was born June 19, 1954; the child of a foreign service diplomat father. Turner lived in Cuba and Venezuela, among other places, and began to take an interest in acting while living in London and seeing top British performers on the West End stage. She studied at London's Central School of Speech and Drama, in addition to classwork at American High School, and when the multi-lingual teen returned to the States, she went on to earn a Theater degree from the University of Maryland. She moved to New York City to pursue an acting career and landed an agent within a month of her 1977 arrival. Work off-Broadway led to her role as social-climbing Nola Dancy Aldrich on the NBC daytime drama "The Doctors" (NBC, 1963-1982). She also debuted on Broadway in "Gemini" in 1978. In 1981, she experienced overnight stardom with her feature debut as the cunning temptress who cons lawyer William Hurt into murdering her wealthy husband in "Body Heat" (1981), a contemporary film noir from Lawrence Kasdan. For her unforgettable performance, critics likened her to Golden Era greats like Stanwyck, Lauren Bacall and Ava Gardner. Proud of the comparisons, Turner capitalized on her femme fatale reputation in sensuous, aggressive roles like Steve Martin's gold-digging wife in Carl Reiner's "The Man with Two Brains" (1982), a businesswoman-turned-prostitute in Ken Russell's "Crimes of Passion" (1984), and the cold-hearted hit-woman in John Huston's Mafia comedy, "Prizzi's Honor" (1985).

Turner also proved a likable comedienne in the popular old-fashioned adventure "Romancing the Stone" (1984), in which Turner was cast in the more sympathetic role of a romance novelist who can not find love, only to meet Michael Douglas' professional adventurer who sweeps her off her feet. The box office success triggered the 1985 sequel "Jewel of the Nile," but it took a $25 million lawsuit on the part of the studio to make Turner honor her contract for what she perceived was a vastly inferior script compared with the original. In 1986, Turner starred in Francis Ford Coppola's "Peggy Sue Got Married" (1986) and earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her tour de force performance as a mature woman inhabiting the body of her teenage self. Absolutely believable as a 42-year-old in a 17-year-old body (she was 32 at the time), she captured youthful insouciance through her altered speech and body movements and was the best thing about the sentimental picture. After the psychological thriller "Julia and Julia" (1987) cast her as a woman caught between a happily married existence with Gabriel Byrne and a dangerous affair with Sting, Turner teamed up with Douglas again in Danny De Vito's darkly comic study of marital breakdown, "The War of the Roses" (1989).

Perfectly cast to voice sexy cartoon character Jessica Rabbit in the 'toon noir "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (1988), Turner scored a second time that year when she reteamed with Hurt and Kasdan for "The Accidental Tourist," playing Hurt's emotionally distant spouse. Though Geena Davis stole the show and took home a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as the new love interest for Hurt, Turner gave a compelling and sympathetic portrayal of a woman deeply scarred by the death of her 12-year-old son. Turner turned in a much-applauded and Tony-nominated portrayal of Maggie in a Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" in 1990, but the new decade did not bode well for the maturing actress' box office clout. The detective film "V.I. Warshawski" (1991), the small-scale medical drama "House of Cards" (1993), and the "Thin Man" wannabe "Undercover Blues" (1993) all failed with critics and the public. Filmmaker John Waters, with his knack for sending up actors' established personas, gave Turner a break from the forgettable with "Serial Mom" (1994), in which she played a modern-day homemaker with the looks of June Cleaver and the heart of Charles Manson. Turner at once frightened and delighted audiences, but nothing she did seemed to fully re-ignite her feature career, which began to suffer in part by a diagnosis of arthritis and the actress' increasing dependence on alcohol to manage the pain.

Both conditions made Turner less desirable to cast, and she turned to the small screen. Her experience at the helm of "Leslie's Folly" (1994), part of Showtime's "Directed By" series, did not earn her subsequent directorial work, and she produced and starred in her network TV-movie debut, "Friends at Last" (CBS, 1995), showing that she was more than willing to be unglamorous in her new life as a character actress. This was never more obvious than taking the role of Chandler Bing's (Matthew Perry) drag queen father in a number of episodes of the popular sitcom, "Friends" (NBC, 1994-2004). With her unmistakably sophisticated voice, she also became a frequent narrator and host of TV documentaries. One of the 1980s leading actresses was now relegated to supporting roles and comic villains on the big screen throughout the 1990s, with appearances as the stepmother in "Moonlight and Valentino" (1995), the wicked fairy in 1997's "A Simple Wish," and a nefarious scientist obsessing over "Baby Geniuses" (1999).

Turner returned to the stage, insisting that the best women's roles could be found there. She portrayed an incestuous mother in Jean Cocteau's "Indiscretions" on Broadway and later ventured to London to act in "Our Betters" and perform a one-woman show about silent film actress Tallulah Bankhead - someone whose throaty voice was reminiscent of her own. After appearing as a TV anchorwoman in TNT's satirical "Legalese" (1998), Turner was excellent in her understated turn as the rigid, dowdy mother of five in Sophia Coppola's feature directing debut, "The Virgin Suicides" (2000).

She returned to the British stage as famed elder seductress Mrs. Robinson in a theatrical adaptation of "The Graduate" (2000), and after reprising the role in a 2002 run on Broadway, the 48-year-old actress checked into a rehab facility for alcohol treatment. A commitment to sobriety plus new developments in arthritis medication that significantly eased the actress' constant pain facilitated Turner's return to Broadway in 2005, where she was cast in one of the most demanding roles in American theater, Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" She was nominated for a Tony Award for her electric performance and followed the production to London, where she again wowed audiences and critics. Turner maintained her strong standing, lending her voice to the animated film "Monster House" (2006) and debuting as a theatrical director with the off-Broadway production of "Crimes of the Heart." She was tapped by New York University to teach acting and released the memoir Send Yourself Roses, which offered some insight into her career, her history of alcoholism, and her struggles with arthritis. In 2008, Turner was well-cast to play a drill instructor-like dog trainer in the film adaptation of John Grogan's bestseller about a rambunctious dog and the family who loves him in "Marley & Me."

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Leslie's Folly (1994) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
2.
3.
 Marley & Me (2008)
4.
 Monster House (2006)
6.
 Beautiful (2000) Verna Chickle
7.
 Virgin Suicides, The (1999) Mrs Lisbon
8.
 Prince Of Central Park (1999) Rebecca Cairn
9.
 Baby Geniuses (1999) Elena
10.
 Love & Action in Chicago (1999) Middleman
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Lived with her foreign-diplomat father and family in Canada, Cuba, Venezuela, England and Washington, DC before age of 17
:
After father's death, settled in Missouri with mother and siblings
1977:
Moved to NYC; within a month landed an agent; within four months had a part in an Off-Broadway play, "Mr T"
1977:
TV debut on the NBC soap opera "The Doctors" as Nola Dancy Aldrich, a poor girl who married well
1978:
Broadway debut in "Gemini"
1981:
Had breakthrough screen role as Matty Walker opposite William Hurt in her debut feature, Lawrence Kasdan's "Body Heat"
1982:
Acted opposite Steve Martin in the comedy "The Man with Two Brains"
1983:
Portrayed a business woman turned prostitute in Ken Russell's "Crimes of Passion"
1984:
First role opposite Michael Douglas, "Romancing the Stone" as fiction writer Joan Wilder; also first film with Danny DeVito
1985:
Played hit-woman to Jack Nicholson's hit-man in John Huston's "Prizzi's Honor"
1985:
Re-teamed with Douglas and DeVito to reprise Joan Wilder in the sequel "The Jewel of the Nile"
1986:
Earned Best Actress Oscar nomination playing a middle-aged woman who finds herself reliving her teenage years in "Peggy Sue Got Married"; helmed by Francis Ford Coppola
1987:
Returned to the theater in title role of "Camille" at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Connecticut
1987:
Narrated the documentary compilation, "Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam"
1988:
Provided the voice of Jessica Rabbit for the animated feature comedy, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"; later voiced Jessica in the animated shorts "Tummy Trouble" (1989), "Rollercoaster Rabbit" (1990) and "Trail Mix-Up" (1993)
1988:
Re-teamed with Hurt and Kasdan for "The Accidental Tourist"
1989:
Third film with Douglas and DeVito, the black comedy "The War of the Roses"; helmed by DeVito
1990:
Returned to the Broadway stage as Maggie in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof"; received a Best Actress Tony nomination; also hosted the annual telecast of the Tony Awards
1991:
Portrayed the title role of private investigator "V.I. Warshawski"
1994:
Played the title role in John Waters' "Serial Mom"
1994:
Directorial debut with the 30-minute Showtime film "Leslie's Folly" (for the series "Directed By")
1995:
Made TV-movie debut in "Friends at Last" (CBS)
1995:
Co-starred in the Broadway production of "Indiscretions"; was only cast member of five not nominated for a Tony Award
1996:
Had supporting role in "Moonlight Over Valentino"
1997:
Made London stage debut in "Our Betters"
1998:
Appeared as TV anchorwoman Brenda Whitlass in TNT's satirical "Legalese"
1999:
Played the comic villain in "Baby Geniuses"
2000:
Portrayed the stern and dowdy mother of five daughters in "The Virgin Suicides"; directed by Sofia Coppola
2000:
Returned to London, making her West End debut as Mrs. Robinson in a stage version of "The Graduate"; reprised role in Broadway production in 2002
2005:
Returned to Broadway to star as Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"; earned a Tony nomination for her role
2006:
Voiced a creepy-looking house in the animated feature "Monster House"
2007:
Stage-directing debut, "Crimes Of The Heart" at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts; moved to off-Broadway in 2008
2009:
Joined the cast of Showtime's "Californication" as Charlie Runkle's (Evan Handler) sexually hyperactive boss
2010:
Cast in the role of Sister Jamison Connelly in Matthew Lombardo's drama "High" at Hartford TheaterWorks; production transferred to Broadway in 2011
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Central School of Speech and Drama: London , England -
Southwest Missouri State University: Springfield , Missouri - 1972
University of Maryland: College Park , Maryland - 1977

Notes

"I average about seven stitches a film now. I do almost all my own stunts, and I love it, the thrill and the physicality. But I got scared doing the chandalier stunt in 'The War of the Roses', I really did. I was surprised, and Michael [Douglas] said to me, 'Is this the first stunt since [the birth of daughter] Rachel?' And I said yeah. I was never scared before. I think before you have kids you really have this feeling that you'll never die, and then after you're so afraid that something might happen to the kid, I think in a way you realize you could die, too."---Kathleen Turner to Premiere, August 1991.

"The body of work that one has built, and I think mine is impressive, is not considered as important a factor as appearance. So I don't know if you lose the edge at 40, but you certainly don't gain weight for a character the way a man does."---Turner quoted in The New York Times, April 10, 1994.

"'Crimes of Passion', which is one of the best films I've done, will live strongly in my resume, even though it didn't do well. If my ego was out of whack and I believed that I could carry anything off, that would be a stupid risk. But so far there's been no reason not to try anything."---Turner in Interview, August 1995.

"I'm not a naturalistic actor. I believe acting is a planned process of communication. I don't see anything naturalistic about it."---Turner in USA Today, May 3, 1995.

In 1992, Turner was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

"I've been fighting rheumatod arthritis, and I'm winning. I was seriously crippled and taking all these medications and steroids for years. The FDA finally approved these new drugs that are targeted specifically for inflammation of the joints, and they're heaven because they don't have any side effects. Before, I had a lot of bloating, anger, depression. Steroids are really heavy-duty stuff, so it was pretty rough there for a few years. Now I'm almost pain-free."---Turner to People, February 14, 2000.

"I never wanted to be that accessible. I always felt, if they want me for a part they can either fly me over there of they can come here. At least that meant you actually stood a chance of getting the role rather than just being seen for the hell of it."---Turner on living in New York instead of California, quoted in Daily Telegraph, March 15, 2000.

"I made sure, in my early twenties, even before I was successful with 'Body Heat', that I would not date actors because I know how selfish we all are. During a shoot I always found a member of the crew was a better bet. I found lighting technicians were usually accessible. No, seriously, sometimes when I've finished acting for the day I'm so hyped up by it, I feel like I'm living through every part of my body, and then, when I was single, I would have a brief liason. That's how I dealt with it."

She did find a husband [realtor Jay Weiss] who could be 'Mr. Turner' and deal with it and the Hollywood stuff: "He [Weiss] puts on his Mr Turner hat and smiles, and stays by my side, and says to me, 'Keep moving, keep moving,' and that's what I need because when I'm out being Kathleen Turner Hollywood Star I get mobbed."---Turner to the Daily Telegraph, March 15, 2000.

On the relationship between frequent co-star and friend Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones: "They seem very happy, which is great because, frankly, I never saw him talk with his ex-wife, let alone laugh."---Turner to London's Evening Standard, March 8, 2000.

"She is formidable, she's scary. I wouldn't cross her. But she only explodes when needs be. She is an absolute craftsman. She works it to the bone. A week before we were to go on, she was still working through scenes again and again. I loved that about her. At that age, she still gives a f**k and really wants to nail it."---"The Graduate" co-star Matthew Rhys on Turner from The Sunday Independent, April 1, 2001.

Companions close complete companion listing

companion:
David Guc. Agent. Met in 1977; together until c. 1982.
husband:
Jay Weiss. Realtor. Married in 1984; member of musical outfit "The Blue Suits"; leaseholder of a building in New York City where 87 people were killed in fire caused by arson; pleaded guilty on May 6, 1992 to building code violations, agreeing to pay $60,000 to be used by a Bronx community service center and to perform 50 hours of community service.

Family close complete family listing

father:
Richard Turner. Foreign-service diplomat. Grew up in China; was imprisoned by Japanese for four years during WWII; died of cancer c. 1971.
daughter:
Rachel Ann Weiss. Born in 1988.

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