Once Hollywood’s Darling: The Actress Who Captivated with Her Timeless Beauty

Kathleen Turner soared to stardom during the vibrant 1980s, lauded not just for her undeniable allure but also for her unwavering resilience—a quality that proved indispensable in navigating the highs and lows of her journey in Hollywood.

Born into a tumultuous upbringing alongside her three siblings, Turner’s early years were marked by hardship. Tragedy struck abruptly with the sudden loss of her father while tending to their Hampstead residence in London. Soon after, the family faced upheaval as they were compelled to leave the UK by the foreign service, eventually resettling in Springfield, Missouri, still grappling with grief and displacement.

Yet, amidst adversity, Turner discovered solace in the pursuit of her passion, relocating to New York City to embark on an acting career. While her initial forays found success on the stage, it was her electrifying portrayal of the femme fatale in 1981’s “Body Heat” that catapulted her to widespread acclaim and recognition.

Three years after starring alongside William Hurt, Kathleen Turner had the opportunity to co-star with Michael Douglas in the renowned film “Romancing the Stone.” During the filming, Douglas was in the midst of a rocky separation from his wife, Diandra, and he and Turner developed mutual feelings.

“We were in the process of falling in love – fervent, longing looks and heavy flirtation. Then Diandra came down and reminded me he was still married,” Kathleen recalled.

In 1984, Turner married Jay Weiss, a property developer she met through the film. They welcomed their only daughter, Rachel Ann Weiss, on October 14, 1987. Unfortunately, the relationship began to strain as they raised their daughter.

“I’d make the movie companies give me long weekends or provide extra tickets so my daughter and husband could come to me. But there was a sense in the marriage that the effort was all on his side, which made me feel guilty. It was one of the reasons it ended. I started to feel very oppressed. I thought, ‘Hang on a minute, you’ve done very well out of being married to me also,’” Kathleen explained.

In 2005, Turner starred as Martha in the Broadway revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” During this period, their marital issues intensified. With Turner acting in eight shows a week, it seemed Weiss wanted little to do with her when she was home. They amicably divorced during this time, and Turner received a Tony Award nomination for her performance.

Turner’s career was flourishing in the 1980s, with an Oscar nomination in 1987 for her role in “Peggy Sue Got Married” and starring in multiple blockbusters, including three with Michael Douglas. However, in the 1990s, she faced a medical crisis when her neck locked, preventing her from turning her head, and her hands swelled, making them unusable.

“It was crippling,” Kathleen said. “You stop taking things for granted when you lose them, even temporarily. What I took for granted – my athleticism, my ability to throw myself around, and just be able to move however I wanted to. When I lost that, that was a real crisis of self: who am I if I cannot do this?”

The cause was rheumatoid arthritis, characterized by swelling of the joint linings, resulting in chronic pain.

“When it was first diagnosed, I was terrified because they said I’d be in a wheelchair,” Kathleen explained. “I thought, ‘If I can’t move, I can’t act.’ Acting isn’t just what I want to do. I was born to do it. It’s at every point of my living. The idea of not being able to do it was the most frightening part – that and the constant pain.”

Turner resorted to pills and alcohol to manage the pain, leading to her passing out during rehearsals for shows like 2002’s stage production of “The Graduate.” After the show ended, she went to rehab, where it was determined she wasn’t an alcoholic but needed better management of her medications and their side effects.

Today, Kathleen Turner manages her pain and stays agile through yoga and Pilates. This holistic approach has allowed her to focus more on her stage career. While she occasionally appears in film and television, Turner has returned to her theatrical roots as she has aged, starring in productions like “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in her forties.

“Because I knew that the better roles as I got older would be in theatre, which is absolutely true, so that was a little foresight on my part of which I am justly proud,” Kathleen said.

Her focus on theater has also afforded her the time to engage in her passions, such as volunteering with Amnesty International and working for Planned Parenthood of America.

A staunch feminist, Turner has dedicated much of her life to empowering other women. Her strength and ideologies are prominently featured in Gloria Feldt’s 2008 memoir, “Send Yourself Roses.”

“We are the first generation of women who are financially independent. Women are going back to work,” Kathleen said. “They’re reinventing themselves. I thought I could support that, even increase that. So it has got a lot of philosophy in it and a lot of my beliefs.”

What do you think of Kathleen Turner’s challenging but rewarding path? Let us know in the comments.

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