Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kathleen Turner in Person - Chicago International Film Festival

(Photo ©Tom Hyland)

"One thing I want to make clear. It's always my choice of the roles I play." - Kathleen Turner

Stage and screen actress Kathleen Turner appeared at the Chicago International Film Festival on Tuesday night for special session before a packed audience who were there to listen to the actress talk about her career, which has spanned more than three decades. British film writer John Russell Taylor was the host for the event and asked Ms. Turner all sorts of questions about her work over these many years; a Q and A session with the audience followed and clips from some of her most famous roles were also shown. 

Interestingly Turner also appeared at a similar function for the Festival 22 years ago. She recalls saying back then (paraphrasing here) that she wondered about reaching a certain age where Hollywood might not care any more about her. "Well, I've reached it," the 60-year old proudly exclaimed.

Tuner regaled the audience with her charm and strong personality during the evening, as she recalled many of her favorite films in which she has been the leading lady. She certainly does not lack confidence, as evidence by a wonderful story she told about the making of Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, a role for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. The story had to do with a camera setup for a particular scene; Turner thought the camera should be in front of her, while Coppola had it positioned behind her. "I think the camera should be looking at me," she told Coppola. "Oh, you do, do you?" replied the director. The result was that Coppola made a deal - he would have Turner do as many takes as he thought necessary with his setup, while he would also shoot two takes with the camera positioned where Turner thought it was appropriate. As Turner finished telling this story, she beamed when she revealed, "In the film, they used my shot!"

She also revealed that she loves the theater (her notable performances include Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf) and has never gone more than two and one-half years away from the stage. She said that she loves the spontaneous nature of the stage as "each performance is unique. We're not robots - we can't give the same performance each night."

Continuing with that theme, she commented that she does not have that option with film, as once it's done and once the editor has assembled the footage, her performance is fixed. She knows that she can discuss a scene with a director on a film and ask to do it a certain way, but in the end, the director's decisions are the ones that are final. "I don't choose the performance you see and that bugs me."

"I'm stubborn, very." - Kathleen Turner

She talked about directors she worked with in the past, mentioning two that were a bit, shall we say, distinctive in their own special way. One was John Waters, who directed Turner in the 1994 film Serial Mom, whom Turner said was "the sweetest, most wonderful man, but that he was crazy - and he knows it." She also recalled Ken Russell, who directed Turner in the 1984 film Crimes of Passion. The actress had heard that he would begin drinking scotch at 6 in the morning on the days of shooting, but when she met him for the initial set ups, he was drinking wine. "Well, that's an improvement, I thought," she commented.

Turner certainly seems comfortable in her own skin. "Guess what, "I'm not the object of desire anymore," she noted. "Why should I be so one-dimensional? Longevity is in character acting. That's what I am, a character actor."


The festival press office and the public relations firm of Carol Fox and Associates in Chicago set up a brief one-on-one interview session with Ms. Turner before she sat down in front of the public; I was one of only five individuals who was allowed to ask the actress a question or two. My thanks to these people for allowing me this privilege; special thanks to Nick Harkin.

Here is my brief interview:

TH: Is there a historical character that you would like to play?

KT: That's an interesting question. I have a wonderful one woman show about Molly Ivins, a writer and humorist I loved. I'm taking it to Berkeley Rep now. I don't know if I'll take it to New York or not.

I don't like to say too much as I'm developing some ideas. I don't think I'd be right to play Eleanor Roosevelt, but I certainly admire her tremendously, but I'm not sure that's the role I'd be best at. 

TH: What about Joan of Arc?

KT: No, not Joan of Arc, but Elizabeth. Elizabeth l, of course.

TH: What advice would you give to young women who would like to be an actress?

KT: There is a lot of advice to give, I think. To every young actor, I will say, be brave. Don't be afraid to make choices, don't be afraid to say no to a project that you don't believe in because what it costs your soul afterwards is not worth it. 

But to young women - incidentally, I have a 27 year old daughter and today is her birthday. I'm often asked how to have a marriage, a child, a career, all of the above. Unfortunately, but truly, you or your partner or between the two of you have to make enough to hire a wife! That's the bottom line.

Thank you, Kathleen Turner for your time and thank you for the wonderful performances you've given us!

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