Kathleen Turner’s deep smoky voice didn’t only charm people who watched her movies—it also shocked them as she dished about one scandal after the other. Here is a bone-shaking collection of stories about Turner and her loud yet fascinating life.
1. She Was A Nomad
Born on June 19, 1954, Kathleen Turner might have come to the world in Springfield, Missouri, but she certainly didn’t stay there. On the surface, her childhood seemed fun and adventurous. As the daughter of a US Foreign Service, Turner called many places home, including Canada, Cuba, Venezuela, and England.
However, the Turner family also had a disturbing side.
2. She Grew Up In A Conservative Household
Even though Turner had exposure to different cultures, different types of people, and different professions, her family was very strict about what path she should follow. Her parents were strict, conservative Christians, which meant that Turner’s dream to perform was not a valid dream in their eyes.
Therefore, her parents did their best to discourage her—and sometimes, they were downright mean about it.
3. Her Parents Tried To Scare Her
According to Turner’s accounts, her father who was of “missionary stock” and often made very old-fashioned statements to discourage her show business aspirations. As she put it, her father would treat theater and acting as “just one step up from being a streetwalker”. However, this disheartening discourse had a surprising effect on Turner.
It rolled right off her back.
4. She Defied Their Wishes
Once Turner began high school, so did her acting career. Of course, her parents were not happy with this situation. Still, her mother would often attend the school plays...while her father waited in the car. During intermissions, her mother would trot back to the vehicle to deliver updates, which was usually, “She's doing very well”.
Turner could handle this petty conflict in her life, but there was something darker just around the corner.
5. She Suffered A Loss
One week before Kathleen Turner graduated from high school, she received some heartbreaking news.
Her father—with whom she had her fair share of ups and downs—passed as a result of a coronary thrombosis. The 18-year-old Turner didn’t know what to do, so instead of following her dreams, she stayed home—not knowing that her life was about to turn upside down.
6. She Was The First Villain
One summer in 1973, Turner and her mother decided to spend their summer in Midland, Texas.
It was here that she had her first big break. At Yucca Theater that summer, she auditioned for a melodrama named Plodding Among the Planets. Soon after, the charming and talented Turner got the role—and made history as the first female villain in the play.
This was the start of her acting career—but of course, it wasn't all smooth sailing.
7. Her Voice Was Very Unique
Turner knew her chances were slim in small towns, so she moved to the Big Apple and started auditioning for commercials.
There, she faced the critical side of show business—the casting directors would often tell her that she would have trouble getting a job because of her low voice. What did she do?
She embraced the heck out of her voice, knowing that it was a distinctive feature instead of a shortcoming.
8. She Was On The Big Screen
After years of stage work, Kathleen Turner finally made it to the big screen in 1981. Not only had she had her film debut with the hit thriller Body Heat, but she also upgraded to stardom at light speed. Her acting skills alongside her looks as the “ruthless Matty Walker” became the talk of the town—not only in the US, but on international terrain too.
She was officially a movie star.
Audiences couldn't get enough of her—and it wasn't just because of her acting chops.
9. She Was Hot
First came the movie reviews, then the reviews for Turner—which slightly prioritized her looks over her acting skills. She was named one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History and her debut was described as “jaw-dropping”. The New York Times stated that “she built a career on adventurousness and frank sexuality born of robust physicality".
Nevertheless, she was more than just a pretty face, and she was eager to prove it.
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10. She Was A Young Lauren Bacall
When Turner rose to stardom, people began comparing her to another stunning actress with a deep voice. Many thought of her as a younger Lauren Bacall. Reportedly, when Turner and Bacall finally met, Turner approached her with all her charming confidence, and said “Hi, I'm the young you”. You go, girl!
Of course, on her journey through Hollywood, destiny had more celebrity meet-cutes in store for her. One heartthrob, in particular, captured her special attention.
11. She Was Part Of An Iconic Trio
In 1984, Turner teamed up with Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito for the movie Romancing the Stone. This trio’s energy was uncanny—and the movie became a surprise hit. Turner even won a Golden Globe for her performance as the lonely writer, Joan Wilder.
However, behind the scenes, an alarming tension burned between the two lead actors.
12. She Flirted With A Co-Star
On the set of Romancing the Stone, Turner got awfully romantic with one of her co-stars—Michael Douglas. She knew that Douglas and her wife Diandra Luker had separated, so she didn't hold back.
When people asked Turner what happened between her and Douglas, she responded in a mysterious way, saying “None of your business”. But that wasn't all.
13. She Almost Fell In Love
While it was all fun and games in the beginning, Kathleen Turner knew that her deep feelings for Michael Douglas were raging beyond her control.
As she later put it, “I think we might have been falling in love”. Nevertheless, their relationship was still ambiguous… until someone furious came along to clear things up for them.
14. She Was The Other Woman
In the midst of all this flirting, someone visited the set. According to Turner, Douglas' wife flew down to visit them working and made it clear that “she did not consider Michael to be available”. Turner didn’t want to be in the middle of such drama, so she respectfully ended the “situation” with Douglas. Still, she noted that the attention Douglas paid her was "delicious”.
In lieu of what happened next, it was all meant to be.
15. She Met A Gentleman
As soon as the movie was over, Turner met a certain gentleman that she really liked. A real estate entrepreneur named Jay Weiss quickly became the center of the actress' life. In the blink of an eye, they were dating. Turner—smitten by her new lover—was in a good place careerwise, so she decided to take a bold step.
16. She Tied The Knot
As of 1984, Turner was sure that she wanted to spend her life with this New York City-based real estate entrepreneur and former musician.
Therefore, in a chic yet fast way, the two married the very same year. After that, Turner always referred to Weiss as her “best friend”.
Meanwhile, a grand reunion with Michael Douglas was right around the corner. This time, the set was about to become a tumultuous place.
17. She Hated The Movie
Everyone was ready to get back on track and the infamous trio—Turner, DeVito, and Douglas—was poised to make another splash. However, when Turner read the script for the sequel, The Jewel of the Nile, she despised it, so much so that she refused to do the movie unless they fixed the horrendous script.
Instead of saying “yes” to her wishes, the production team did something more alarming.
18. They Threatened her
As the discussions about the situation continued, the 20th Century Fox team stepped in—and they were mad. They talked with Turner, but instead of complying with her demands, they moved in the opposite direction.
They threatened her with a lawsuit—saying that they would sue her for $25 million for a breach of contract. But it didn't end there.
19. She Got Some Help
Amid the heated discussions, the film's producer—who was also someone close to Turner—came to the rescue. This was no other than Michael Douglas.
He convinced the writers to go back to the drawing board, and up until the first day of the set, they edited and re-edited the script to suit Turner’s wishes.
Finally, this hardship seemed to be over—so, of course, the next one began.
20. She Didn’t Want To Be Typecasted
Since the beginning of her career, Turner made conscious decisions when it came to the type of roles she portrayed.
After her Romancing the Stone adventure, she tried harder not to be typecast into the attractive “femme fatale” roles. In her following movies, both Crimes of Passion and her next one—Peggy Sue Got Married—she seemed to achieve her goal.
However, most of her characters had one thing in common.
21. She Had Burning Rage
When a reporter asked Turner what similar theme permeated her roles, she responded in a way that perfectly summed up her character. As she put it, “It’s rage”. She then added, “I was so angry at… the white male privilege”. She continued to talk against the same issue—and sometimes directed her ire at certain figures, in particular.
22. She Felt Grossed Out
At a party in New York, Turner met the epitome of white male privilege—Donald Trump—and not surprisingly, she didn’t like him. According to Turner, he had this “gross handshake” where “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”.
Her response to such a move was—of course—"Yuck”.
23. She Rose To The Top
In 1986, Turner scored a big role in a big movie.
She portrayed a woman who was about to be divorced in Francis Ford Coppola’s comedy-drama Peggy Sue Got Married. The movie ended up bringing Turner her Academy Award, alongside upgrading her to the next level in Hollywood. But even though the movie became legendary, her experience on the set was dreadful.
24. She Didn’t Get Along With Her Co-Star
On the set of Peggy Sue Got Married, the movie crew worked tirelessly—twenty hours a day, six days a week. As you can guess, the stress levels were over the top. In addition to that, Turner noted that she particularly had a difficult time working alongside Nicolas Cage.
She said that he caused problems, adding, “He was arrested twice for drunk driving and, I think, once for stealing a dog”. When Cage heard what she'd said, he retaliated.
25. She Was In The Wrong
Cage was furious about Turner's allegations and he was eager to protect his image. He sued the actress for defamation and to Turner’s disappointment, he won. She had to apologize publicly and promised to make a substantial donation to a charity at the demands of Cage.
Turner was a magnet for drama—but this wouldn't be her last feud.
26. She Became A Mom
In 1987, Turner and Weiss welcomed a brand new edition to their family. Turner gave birth to her daughter—Rachel Ann Weiss. Little Rachel Ann would eventually become a successful singer, but for that period, she was part of a small happy family.
Turner, on the other hand, was still unhappy about her co-stars.
27. She Talked About Her On-Screen Kisses
It was no surprise that Kathleen Turner had a long list of co-star feuds. However, her Switching Channels co-star Burt Reynolds was surely on top of her list—and not only for their fights. In an interview, she referred to Reynolds as “Burt what’s-his-face" and said that he was her worst on-screen kiss. She even added the comment, “He sucked”.
The outrageous interviews were becoming a habit for Turner, so the media gave her a taste of her own medicine.
28. People Called Her Difficult
The word was out:
Turner was "a certifiable diva," according to The New York Times. Her actions and words in the 80s resulted in a hard-to-shake reputation for being difficult to work with, and difficult to be around. At some point, she even confessed that she turned into "not a very kind person". Nevertheless, her scandalous comments kept on coming.
29. She Had Many Suitors
While comments about her being difficult were all over the magazines, Turner stuck to another narrative. Whether it was true or not, she said some not-so-humbling things about herself and her co-stars. According to her, Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, and Warren Beatty were all in “competition” about who would “get” Turner.
Her comments were getting crazier by the day—and then fate swerved in.
30. Her Health Took A Nosedive
In 1992—while Turner was filming another movie—she realized something strange about her feet. At first, she had swollen feet.
Then, she wasn’t able to walk or even hold a glass. A year later, she finally got a disturbing diagnosis: She had rheumatoid arthritis—a chronic inflammatory disorder.
By this time she "could hardly turn her head or walk, and was told she would end up in a wheelchair". She felt awful, but this was just the beginning.
31. The Media Criticized Her Looks
Shortly after the diagnosis, Turner’s appearance began to change—she gained some weight and the illness took away her “shine” so to say. Of course, the media jumped at the opportunity to turn this into breaking news. Sadly, they were merciless when it came to criticizing her looks.
However, her looks weren’t the only thing they took a swing at.
32. She Kept A Dark Secret
Turner admits that her notorious attitude might have become worse with the chemotherapy and the medications she needed to take, but the media portrayed this change in such a way that people thought she went psycho.
They described her as “angry," a “washed-up diva,” and “out of control”.
Nevertheless, she was still hesitant to reveal the real reason behind her behavior. She kept her illness a dark secret, not knowing the consequences.
33. Her Coping Mechanism Wasn’t Healthy
The secret illness, its pain, and the anxiety of dealing with a bunch of people calling her “out of control” exhausted Turner. She desperately looked for ways to ease her pain—unfortunately, she found it at the bottom of some bottles.
Turner knew that she was drinking too much and that she was destroying herself—but it stopped her pain. It didn’t stop her aggressive behavior though.
34. She Had Problems With A Colleague
When Kathleen Turner starred in a Broadway show alongside Eileen Atkins, her behavior was unbearable to her co-star.
The only surprising thing about this incident is the gender of the co-star this time. Even though Atkins praised Turner’s acting skills, she hated her personality.
She referred to Turner as "an amazing nightmare". And of course, Turner fired back.
35. She Defended Herself
Turner spoke about her relationship with Atkins, stating that the actress was hostile to her.
According to Turner, Atkins was unhappy because Turner often failed to memorize her lines. To Atkins, this was extremely unprofessional—but Turner pulled the health card and said her medicine was making her “fuzzy”.
Moreover, Turner went on to tell a story that villainized Atkins in a shocking way.
36. She Claimed To Be The Victim
According to Turner’s accounts, there were days that her rheumatoid arthritis would cause swelling and pain in her wrist, so she would ask the other cast members to be careful. Atkins, however, would intentionally hurt Turner's wrists, even sitting on them in a particular scene.
No matter who did what to whom, Turner’s quarrels with her colleagues were getting out of hand, and people were a little tired of her.
37. She Made Mistakes
Not only were people tired of Turner, but she also lost her edge when it came to picking good, challenging roles.
As she turned down the lead roles in mega-hit movies like Ghost and The Bridges of Madison County, she realized that nobody was knocking on her door with opportunities anymore.
She suddenly found herself in a rut, yet she was still stubborn about fixing this one thing that might have ameliorated her public image.
38. She Kept Her Lips Sealed
At that time, even though no one was hiring her anymore, Turner still wanted to keep quiet about her illness. Her rationale was that people would hire an actress with a drinking problem, but they wouldn’t hire someone with “a mysterious, scary illness they didn't understand”.
It took a long time for her to realize that people were not hiring her at all…until one day, she got lucky.
39. She Played An Iconic Role
In 2000, Turner finally scored a big role, which required her to move to London.
She starred in the stage version of the iconic movie The Graduate as the sexy Mrs Robinson. She was happy to discover that she still had star power. Moreover, the BBC announced that ticket sales skyrocketed when "it was announced that Turner, then aged 45, would appear naked on stage".
40. Her Dreams Crashed And Burned
Unfortunately, Turner's portrayal of Mrs Robinson didn’t get the same buzz as that first announcement did. No doubt the show was popular with the audiences, but it wasn’t doing so well with the critics. After a two-year run, the play moved to Broadway, but the criticism remained the same.
Turner took it very hard, and she eased her pain the best way she knew how—until she had a major wake-up call.
41. She Burned Out
Turner's life was miserable—and in 2002, she made a critical decision. She entered rehab for an eye-opening experience. Her first revelation was that she was not like most of the people who entered rehab.
In her words, “I’m not an alcoholic, but I am an abuser [of drink]”. No matter what she was, she was determined to not be one any longer.
42. She Got Better, But It Didn’t Happen Fast
After checking out of rehab, Turner dedicated all her time to coping with her illness. At first, the disease progressed—but she didn’t lose hope. After years of hard work and optimism, her chronic disease went into remission.
Soon after, an opportunity presented itself like a congratulatory gift.
43. She Had Beef With The Friends' Cast
Turner began to make appearances here and there—mostly on TV. Besides her small gigs, she booked a huge one when she appeared on Friends. This was a huge moment for her both because she was on a hit TV show, and she was portraying a transgender man. Yes, she was playing Chandler Bing's father, a drag performer.
Yes, she was playing Chandler Bing's father, a drag performer.
44. She Didn’t Like The Cast
While a lot had changed in Turner’s life, one thing was still the same—she didn’t have any good things to say about other cast members. After portraying the controversial character, she spoke about her time with the cast.
She said that she didn’t “feel very welcomed” by them. Of course, there was more.
45. She Thought They Were Rude
Turner shared one of her memories on the Friends' set to prove her point. From her perspective, she didn’t feel welcomed because none of the actors were helpful. She noted a particular occasion when she was wearing high heels for a scene, which caused her extreme pain.
According to her, none of the actors helped her or even offered her a seat.
For her, problematic sets were nothing new—yet what followed would be.
46. She Was Single Again
For the first time since they married, Turner and Weiss faced serious problems at home. The two were struggling with their marriage, and as of December 2007, they called it quits.
After 23 years of marriage and one daughter, Turner and Weiss divorced. But fate had another twist in store for her.
47. She Took To The Stage
Turner had her fair share of big breaks, however, this one happened right when she needed it most. In 2005, Turner auditioned for a Broadway revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? There were many contenders, but the playwright was in awe of Turner, saying that she had "a look of voluptuousness, a woman of appetites, yes ... but a look of having suffered, as well”.
It looked like her scandalous life had paid off—and she got the part. This thrilled Turner, but an unexpected person appreciated this even more.
48. Her Mother Finally Appreciated Her Gift
As we all know, Turner’s parents weren’t always her biggest supporters when it came to her career. However, she had a bittersweet moment with her mother in 2005.
After she did the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, she received a shocking letter from her mom.
It said that she owed Turner an apology because she had never fully appreciated her gift. Turner thought it was lovely, and soon after, this became a very poignant memory.
49. Her Mother Said Goodbye
In 2015, Turner went through a harrowing ordeal. She watched her 92-year-old mother approach the end of her life. Turner later shared, "My brother and I were with her; we were holding her. One thing I absolutely adored, about an hour or so before she died, she kind of turned her head around and she went:
‘What a dumb way to die’!”
But though she'd suffered this terrible loss, she still had an undying passion for acting.
50. She Reunited With An Old Friend
After years of doing small jobs here and there, Kathleen Turner was happy to finally see a friendly face—her old flame and co-star, Michael Douglas. She got the chance to work with him again when she joined the cast of The Kominsky Method—a Netflix comedy series that launched in 2019. It was a reunion worth waiting for.