Why do Hollywood’s handsome leading men remain on the A-List for decades while many of their equally stunning female co-stars fade away after a few years?
What happened to Kathleen Turner, the Romancing the Stone actor who collaborated with Steve Martin, Michael Douglas, and Jack Nicholson? How does she look right now? Find out more!
Kathleen Turner was born on June 19, 1954, in Springfield, Missouri, to strict Christian parents who discouraged her interest in acting.
“My father was of missionary stock, so theatre and acting were simply one step up from being a streetwalker,” Turner explained.
Because her father worked for the United States Foreign Service, they lived in Venezuela, Cuba, and Canada. Kathleen left her parents to pursue a career as a stage performer at a London high school.
“There were seven of us who were the theatre mafia,” Turner recalled her childhood. “We produced, directed, performed, selected plays, fired one teacher, and hired another.”
Kathleen and her family relocated to Springfield, Missouri, after her father died when she was 17.
After volunteering at a local Planned Parenthood, she became a lifelong advocate for women’s rights and healthcare. She volunteers with City Meals On Wheels in New York City, Child Help USA, and Planned Parenthood’s Board of Advocates.
Herbert Blau discovered Turner at Southwest Missouri State University. He encouraged her to attend the University of Maryland, where she earned a BFA.
Turner rose to prominence after her debut in The Doctors with a stunning performance in the 1981 thriller Body Heat.
Following the success of Body Heat, Turner starred in The Man with Two Brains and Romancing the Stone. Douglas, DeVito, and Turner were reunited in War of the Roses and Jewel of the Nile.
Turner won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her roles in Romancing the Stone (1984) and Prizzi’s Honor (1985).
“This is the strangest comedy in many a month, a movie so dark, so cynical, and so funny that probably only Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner could have kept straight faces during the love scenes,” Prizzi’s Honor critic Robert Ebert wrote in 1985.
Turner is a seductive mob assassin who works with Charley Partanna, Jack Nicholson’s New York City hitman.
“Prizzi’s Honor reinforced the image of me as a manipulative woman, but I must admit that there are moments in Prizzi when my character is just this newlywed—got her job, but she’s preparing casseroles—that I like,” Turner told David Sheff.
“My husband and friends say it’s out there,” she said. “I’m not interested in learning much.”
Turner starred in the following year’s Peggy Sue Got Married as Peggy Sue, a time traveler who revisits her 60s school days.
“It was an extremely unfriendly climate towards women,” Turner said in 2018. “The contempt, the sensation of being a prop.”
Turner has had a successful theatrical career since the mid-1980s, but she may never receive another award.
Turner’s Tony Award for her role as Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1990 was her second major theatrical performance. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof earned her the Outstanding Broadway Debut award from Theatre World. Indiscretions, The Graduate, and Tallulah followed Turner.
For three years, she played Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This role earned the actor another Tony nomination.
Turner despised the 1966 film adaptation, which starred Elizabeth Taylor as Martha. She said of the Hollywood legend in a 2018 Vulture interview, “For a while I felt like half my existence was doing her wrongs right… Take note of her tone of voice. It’s dreadful.”
“She wasn’t particularly skilled,” she concluded.
“But, for God’s sake, I was blessed to perform the play and demonstrate the comedy.”
Turner followed her stage success with roles in Undercover Blues, The Virgin Suicides, and Beautiful.
Who framed who? Jessica Rabbit in Roger Rabbit (1988) had a gravelly voice. She portrayed Chandler Bing’s drag queen father, Charles Bing, in Friends.
Turner admitted to Vulture that she struggled to fit in with Friends’ cliquish cast.
“I’ll be honest, as I always am: I didn’t feel particularly welcomed by the cast,” Turner said of the show. “I recall wearing this difficult sequined gown—and my high heels were simply hurting me. It struck me as odd that none of the actors offered me a seat.”
“At some point, one of the older crew members said, ‘Get Miss Turner a chair,’” she recalled. “The Friends actors were such a clique—but my experience with them was not unique.”
Kathleen Turner experienced “inexplicable pains and fevers” due to rheumatoid arthritis in the 1990s.
By 1994, she needed assistance getting out of bed. Turner used biotech medicine and gymnastics to treat her rheumatoid arthritis.
“The year before I was diagnosed was terrifying,” she said of her rheumatoid arthritis education campaign in 2002. “I didn’t get it.”
“I didn’t know why I was in so much pain and feeling so ill,” she explained. “I’m interested in this campaign because I want people to know they can get information, manage this disease, and fight for their lives and lifestyles. There is assistance available.”
Turner’s condition was frequently upsetting, particularly in the news, but she didn’t let it stop her.
She said in 2018 that she ignored the doctor who told her she’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in 1992. “I can’t overstate the struggle against the never-ending pain and horror of who I’d become.”
“I had to conceal my disease for years,” she explained. It was humiliating to be called a drunk and chastised for my appearance. Despite his alcoholism, Robert Downey Jr. was hired by the studios. If I said I had an uncontrolled disease, no one would approach me.”
In 2007, Kathleen Turner divorced real estate entrepreneur Jay Weiss.
“It doesn’t bother me that nearly four decades after [Body Heat], I’m still referred to as a sexual icon,” the Jessica Rabbit star, 66, says. That was a long time ago.”
Turner teaches Practical Acting at New York University.
“I adore teaching,” she said in 2020 to Shondaland. “I can explain it clearly.”
“I’m tough on them, and I don’t take amateurs—only people with a certain skill level,” she explained. “I’d be ineffective otherwise.”
Kathleen Turner deserves many more years in the spotlight.