Kathleen Turner, 64, recently sat down with Vulture to talk Hollywood, politics and sexism, and the interview was as sassy as you’d expect. The star, best known for starring in a string of hits—Body Heat, Prizzi’s Honor, Peggy Sue Got Married, The War of the Roses, Romancing the Stone, and The Jewel of the Nile—saw her career cut short by illness, addiction and a reputation for being tough to work with.
Since then, she’s focused on the theater.
ON ELIZABETH TAYLOR
Speaking of, she shares her take on Elizabeth Taylor’s iconic performance in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (a role she reprised for the stage): "For a while I felt like half my life was making her wrongs right. … you ever listen to her voice? It’s awful."
It gets worse! She continues: "I don’t think she was very skilled. And Edward Albee disliked the film intensely. In the play, when George comes in he pours himself a drink and then nurses that drink the whole evening. The film got that completely wrong. Taylor and Richard Burton are drunk and screaming at each other the whole time. I heard somebody once say about the film, "I get this at home. Why would I go see it?" But I was lucky that I got to do the play myself and show the humor in it for God’s sake. Luck has a big part in anyone’s career, yeah?"
She draws energy for her career, she says, from "rage." Specifically, about "Injustice in the world."
She says most days, "For me it’s can I hold a pen? Can I stand up? Can I climb those stairs?" Turner continues: "Rheumatoid arthritis hit in my late 30s — the last of my years in which Hollywood would consider me a sexually appealing leading lady. The hardest part was that so much of my confidence was based on my physicality. If I didn’t have that, who was I?"
Of the current crop, she says: "On the whole, I’m very ignorant, but I like Emma Stone. And the stage actress Nina Arianda is incredible. She’s got the power, babe."
On past challenges, she has this to say: "Working with Burt Reynolds was terrible. The first day Burt came in he made me cry. He said something about not taking second place to a woman. His behavior was shocking. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t someone’s equal. I left the room sobbing. I called my husband and said, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ He said, ‘You just do the job.’ It got to be very hostile because the crew began taking sides. But as for the performance, I was able to put the negativity aside. I’m not convinced Burt was."
On working with the cast of Friends (including Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox): "I’ll be quite honest, which is my wont: I didn’t feel very welcomed by the cast. I remember I was wearing this difficult sequined gown — and my high heels were absolutely killing me. I found it odd that none of the actors thought to offer me a seat. Finally it was one of the older crew members that said, ‘Get Miss Turner a chair.’ The Friends actors were such a clique — but I don’t think my experience with them was unique. I think it was simply that they were such a tight little group that nobody from the outside mattered."
On President Trump, she claims he "has this gross handshake. He goes to shake your hand and with his index finger kind of rubs the inside of your wrist. He’s trying to do some kind of seductive intimacy move. You pull your hand away and go yuck."
"In truth, I did have a period when I found that alcohol was a great painkiller. For some reason, which I do not understand, I thought I could control the pain of my illness better with alcohol than I could with pain medication. I didn’t want to take OxyContin and Percocet. I thought that would be an immediate path to addiction; I never thought alcohol would. Then I did, of course, abuse it alcohol. It never got in the way of the work but, oh, on my time off, just to kill the f***ing pain, drinking was great."