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Interview: Kathleen Turner at FanExpo17

This weekend, Kathleen Turner is preparing for her first convention appearance. The acclaimed actress had a slew of hits in the 1980s, but continues to provide powerful performances on screen and on the stage. Many viewers will remember her as voicing Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit or her debut film, the brilliant neo-noir Body Heat. We spoke to Turner over the phone from her home in New York and discussed some of our favourite roles.

Turner on Fan Expo:

This will be my first convention. It’s really the first time I’ve done one of these. It will be a learning experience. When I meet fans in public there’s definitely an age differentiation. Younger people tend bring up Serial Mom or Friends [Turner played Chandler’s father]. People are quite lovely. I enjoy meeting them. I know it sounds hokey, but it’s not. I’m always humbled by the affection. That’s just amazing to me.

On working with Edward Albee for the major 2005 stage revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf:

The role of Martha resolved to only one production per generation. Uta Hagen originally, then Colleen Denhurst, and then me. He wrote me a beautiful note that said, ‘you’re the only reason we’re doing this now’.

One of the most remarkable things about that production was that Albee revised the script. You were the first Martha to say “fuck”.

Well, he was never allowed to before that. The first thing Martha says once she walks in is “Jesus H Christ”. In 1962 that was highly controversial.

What was your first reaction when reading Serial Mom? Is it true that you turned down the role and then John Waters showed up at your door and begged you to do it?

He did up at my door. I later called to talk to him. The first couple times I tried to read it I would get to a certain point when she skewers the guy with the poker and pulls out his liver. It disgusted me and I threw it down, but I kept coming back. I called him and said I was interested; I just had to know how he would shoot it. It could be a disgusting bloody film or could be a commentary on celebrity in America. Once he had laid those doubts to rest I was in.

Were you previously familiar with his work?

My daughter loved Cry Baby and I saw Hairspray before I met John. He has a power to take people who are so unattractive and make you care about them, which is remarkable.

Turner on working with Michael Douglas and Danny Devito on Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, and War of the Roses:

We had a great time working together. Michael and Danny go way, way, back. They accepted me into their club. I was such a great sport about getting hurt, as those were not easy jobs to do. I saw them both in the last couple of months. Danny took on a stage piece – Arthur Miller’s The Price – that was brilliant. I never thought that that play was as strong as it was until I saw them do it. Michael, on the other hand, is never going to do theatre. He runs from the thought of theatre.

Turner on stage vs. theatre:

I’ve always envisioned a stage career. With film, I loved learning how to do it and the possibilities are extraordinary. The stage has always been my primary focus. As a woman, there are just better roles.

On playing Sue Collini in the series Californication:

She was so shameless. I was blushing half the time. The really embarrassing thing was that I had to ask people what things meant. After all, learning seems to be the study of life.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.