Ask Me a Question, Any Question with Kathleen Turner

Ask Me a Question, Any Question with Kathleen Turner


So, I would like to welcome all of you here.
You know, this is part of the programming for the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist
Art. I am Elizabeth Sackler and instead of having this afternoon in the forum, we’re
having it here. Because, obviously, there are many, many people. There is my son Michael.
Michael this is Kathleen Turner. And, Kathleen wants us to be informal. We are all here.
And, part of what this is about is an opportunity really for dialog with all of you. And, before
we begin, I just would like to say that we’re going to ask the two beautiful women who just
arrived to come down, forward, so that you can dialog here. We’re going to be celebrating, the center
is going to be celebrating our third anniversary in March. Which feels like it’s right around
the corner. And, we’ve had such a fantastic two and a half years. It’s been more than
two and a half, obviously. And, it’s been delightful and I’m so thrilled that Kathleen
Turner is here, today. Part of our mission at the center is to raise
awareness of feminism’s contributions to the art and to culture. And, part of what I think
you might have an opportunity, perhaps, to dialog about today, with Kathleen Turner,
is that aspect of Kathleen’s life. She wrote in her book, “Sending Yourself Roses.”
“Send Yourself Roses” is Kathleen’s book. “Send Yourself.” Send Yourself Roses. Emphasis. We’ll have a book signing and sales outside,
when we’re finished here. In it, Kathleen wrote, and I have to get to that part and
put on my glasses. She wrote, “Actor and activist come from the same root. I consider myself
both. Early on, I was influenced by a saying of Margaret Mead, ‘That we should never doubt
that a small group of committed individuals can make a difference. And, indeed, it is
the only thing that ever has. It always breaks down to someone doing something, taking action.”
And, I was very excited when I read that. I think, both of us, I’m not an actor, but
I am an activist. You are an actor and an activist. I have a long, very beautiful biography
and I feel like it’s just almost redundant because I think everybody here knows. And,
I’d like to welcome Kathleen Turner. They’ve given me this microphone, I think
more for their own record than my need. Because, obviously. I don’t actually need one. No.
Just a little explanation. This is a full knee replacement that I just had to have done.
So, I’m not actually faking it. Oh, and the tape is a skin biopsy that I had a very enthusiastic
doctor who grabbed me for. OK. That’s over. Little history about myself. What I’d love
to do, very much, today, and how I have the most fun, which is of course of paramount
importance, is to talk to and answer. What I get from you all is we’ll find the topics
and the stories and hopefully the jokes and things that will come from what your interest
is in being here. OK? So, we’ll try and you’ll have to be brave also and all that good stuff. Little overview background. I’m 55. I grew
up mostly overseas, at least until I was 18. My father was with the Foreign Service Department,
a Foreign Service officer. So, I grew up mostly outside of the United States, except for Washington,
D.C. So, until I was 18, my last four years, high school, was spent in London at the American
School in London. So, then I suddenly found myself, when my father died suddenly, in Springfield,
Missouri, where my mother’s parents lived. And, started college, started university at
the Southwest Missouri State University. You have a dog. OK. Anyway. Where I learned a great deal, because
quite honestly, I think had this not happened, I would have become a kind of fake British
actress, rather than an American actress. And so, although the circumstances were sad,
it was very valuable to me to come back and end up in the Midwest of our country. And,
work my way through college to New York, where I have always lived. I have never enjoyed living on the other side
of the country. In some ways, I always sort of say that movies happen to me, rather than
my actively pursuing them. I always thought of myself as a stage actress. And, I still
do. But, what I hadn’t realized, in the early days, was that it would take me years to grow
into a great many of the great roles that are available on stage. That, of course, in the meantime, I thought
I’d fill them up in film. Yeah, right. I had a ball. I still have a ball. Well, actually,
I enjoy everything I do. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d do it. Let’s see. I am active. I’m on the Board of
Advocates for Planned Parenthood of the United States of America. I am on the board of People
for the American Way. I work with City Meals on Wheels, here, in New York City. I work
with Child Help USA. Primarily, a lot of the activism that I am focused on is women and
children’s health and rights. So, those are my strongest. I figure cancer can do without
me, it’s got enough people there. So, I try and work, really, with organizations that
I think offer practical and immediate help in many ways. OK. Let’s see. Honestly, the best way for
me to do it is not to talk at you, but to talk with you. Anybody want to start off,
with a question or comment or something that will get my juices going? Did you become active in community organizations
before being famous or later? Yeah. Oh, no, actually. Oh, yes, of course. I’ll repeat that so everybody can hear me.
Did you become active in the organizations before you became “famous” or was it afterwards
so that you could use your fame to help? Well, it’s certainly a real, one of the best
aspects of fame, that you can focus attention and interest on any one cause or organization.
But, no, I started working with Planned Parenthood when I was in college. Because, they were
the people I went to when I needed reproductive help. You know, when I decided to get sexually
active, I thought, “Ah, let’s do something about that.” So, I just continued with them,
throughout. When I moved from Missouri to Baltimore, for a year, and I worked in the
clinic there, and then when I moved from there to New York, I continued. And then they elevated
me up, you know, as I got famous. They elevated me up to board status. But, I’ve always been
involved with them. Oh, come on guys. Let’s get lively. Yes. As an educator, what advice would… I teach at NYU, also. I teach acting to junior
and seniors. Basically, I do master classes but I’ll teach a full semester when I know
I’m going to be in New York, for that amount of time. And I can make that commitment. Basically,
read. Honest to God. Read. There is so much that is … The acquisition of words, the
acquisition of the ability to be able to name of things, to conceive of things. I’m not
even speaking of any one kind of book or any one kind of material. I think that the exercise
of using and discovering and tasting and applying words is illuminating. There are the same
fights, now, that we had in our time. Very, very much. In fact, that now it maybe some
of them are more difficult. But more accessible. There is more we can do. For example. We were on the front very much
of…maybe not…I wasn’t on the frontline. OK. I was on the second line of women’s rights.
Of fighting for women’s equality and parity. Well it’s slipping again guys. You lovely
young women. It’s slipping again. And you all are in danger, and so are your reproductive
rights. This battle is very, very far from having been won. There is the same kind of activism needed
now, as there was then. In terms of our economy, in terms of what we can do ourselves. And
please don’t think that I have set myself up as any kind of expert or anything. But,
the need. The social need to be aware and help out in terms…of people with so much
less. I always tell people in my classes and stuff.
Schedule yourself and hour or week, say. An hour a week, say. Every Thursday at three
o’clock. You will give a hour to city meals. Or you will give an hour to another organization
that needs you. Write it in your schedule like you would a class. Or a weekly appointment
at the gym or something Give yourself. Set aside at least one hour a week. Where that’s
simply what you have promised to do, that day. Don’t make it an extraordinary event. That
you are going to suddenly have this burst of- God, I am going to do something good today.
And that’s it. Make it. Get yourself into the habit of giving. I don’t even want to
say giving. I just want to say be involved with something. And habit will lead on, and
this. You know, through this sort of thing, you meet people from different walks of life. Students in particular are very often have
a very limited range of exposure. You know, you mostly interact with other students. And
perhaps your parents, still. What ever. Your teachers. But not much of the greater world.
I mean sometimes when I go below 14th street. When I’m going down to NYU, it’s like a whole
another New York. Or if I go up to Columbia. But in between
it’s like adult world, and then there are these student worlds you know. So…I think
advise them to find an activity that takes them outside of their student little world
for a bit. When did you become sure that you would become
an actress? And was there a person who inspired that in you or was it always there. Secondly
everyone asking questions. Please ask into the mic’s, so it goes into the recordings.
Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. That she’s just speaking. Ah. Right. Which means we just have to wait
for the mic. At twelve. I was twelve actually. And it makes no sense whatsoever. I was living
at that time in Caracas, Venezuela. My father was posted to the embassy there. No one in
my family has ever been involved in the arts in any way. They are all scholars. We have four doctors
in my family, my siblings and my self. My mother, I must confess takes great delight,
when we are all together. In saying, and this is Dr. Turner, and Dr. Turner, and Dr. Turner,
and Dr. Turner. All right. Mine is honorable. OK. They gave
it to me. But I did ask my siblings if it was OK. You know, if I accepted it. And they
said yes. They thought I had earned it. So, we’re cool. But, anyway. No one had ever been involved
in the arts. I had no exposure. And living in Caracas, Venezuela was not exactly the
center of the arts. You know, in 1960 something. ’68. So, I don’t know why exactly I decided
that, that was my life’s work was to be an actor. But shortly after that. As I turned 13, we
moved to London. And I started the America’s school in London but the first thing I did.
The first night I was in London was go to see a play. You know, and…we didn’t have
any money or anything like that. So, I was sitting- in the English theater there are
four tiers. And the fourth one all the way up is called the God’s. Because you are so
close to him up there. So, but that was very cheap, you know. So I was up in the God’s and looking down
at the stage. And for the first time it hit me that I could actually earn a living as
an actor. Because we all knew what ever we did, we would all have to earn our own living.
There was no question about that. But, I think I was helped also by the fact that in England
it is considered a profession. It is an honorable profession to be actor. In this country it is still considered like…oh,
it just happened to you. Or somebody happened to see you sitting somewhere. I mean is if
it weren’t years of training, and intention, and scholarship that good acting takes. So,
the respect for acting as a profession, I think made it more possible for me to believe
that I could be- that I could earn a living with it. Needless to say, this absolutely horrified
my family. My father grew, up in China. And his grandfather, my great…no. His grandfather,
my great grandfather was a missionary, Methodist missionary to china. So my father was brought
up in Shanghai, by two maiden aunts and this missionary grandfather. So the thought to
him, that any child of his, would even dream of going into such a dubious field. You know.
I think he literally said to me- well why don’t you just go walk the streets, you know. So, I was fighting a lot of disapproval there.
But, then as I say…just before I turned 18, he died very suddenly. So, the support
was taken away, and so was the barrier. You know. I mean as much as it, sounds awful to
say it. It released me in some ways that I wouldn’t have. I would have to fight longer
and harder against him to be allowed to continue on path I had chosen. I just always knew. I swear to God. I always
knew that this was something that I had to do. And, I am one of those extraordinarily
lucky people, who has the talent to match the desire. You know very often it’s one or
t’other. I think the saddest thing is not to have the
desire, not to wake up in the morning and say- oh, I must do this. Or, I really want
to do this. I have to confess. I see a lot of people, many times young people who go
to the right schools who maybe live in the right neighborhood, or joined the right firm.
And keep waiting for these things to give meaning to them, their lives. It does not work this way. You know, you have
to decide what your life means. What your work means to you. And through that, find
the avenues to do it. But, it’s not going to come from somebody else saying- you’ll
feel great about yourself if you follow this path. So, I am lucky. I am just extraordinarily
lucky that I have always been given this conviction that this is what I have to do. Can’t explain
it. Wait, you got to get a mic over there… We’ve got one on this side don’t we? Oh, all
right. Well let’s start here, and we’ll get it over to you. I was just wondering why you
think that we’re losing the fight that…what do you think some of the… Ahhhh. You mean in terms of our women’s rights
and protections? Oh. All right. I guess- I’m sorry the mic
wasn’t on. I was just wondering why you think we’re going
a little bit backwards now. What you see happening in our culture and society right now. Well, because, for example, I have a 22 year
old daughter. She turned t22 two weeks ago. Wow. I really have to learn to let her go.
Anyway, I really do. I’m not really joking, I promised. I promised. But, I have this impulse
whenever I see her to say, “Wait, have you done this? And, did you call so-and-so?” I’m
learning, though. I’m learning to let go, I swear to God. She, and many of the young
women I’ve met of her age and circle, seem to feel that there’s no threat to their reproductive
rights, for example. And yet, in the first passage of the Congress’s health care reform,
there is a specific clause against the use of these monies toward a medical abortion. Now, we’re talking about women who probably
… I do not believe that any woman chooses abortion as a matter of birth control. I just
don’t. Yes, there may have been carelessness or lack of forethought and we certainly have
the after pill, or whatever, that is fairly accessible. But, even so, and in catastrophic
birth instances, it is a medical necessity. And, to say to a member of our society, “You
need this medical procedure. You can have everything, but that.” Is the kind of exclusionary
thinking that I think opens the door to a great many dangers for us. Now, I would love to see a comprehensive health
care reform bill passed. And, I will happily pay more taxes. I honestly would. Instead
of thinking that some of my fellow citizens will be without any care that they need? You
bet I would. And the fact that our country pays less than almost any other country in
the world, any civilized country, we should say, perhaps, or industrialized. I think that
we have a very narrow understanding of our role as citizens within a greater society. Which leads me to another topic which really
burns my ass. Why don’t they teach civics in school again? Like half the arts programs,
it’s been tossed out, right? As an unnecessary. You’ve got to hire another teacher, you’ve
got to schedule another class. The truth is, we have people growing up who have absolutely
no idea what their responsibilities, or their rights, are in this country. And I think that
is completely wrong. How can you participate as a citizen unless
you have an idea of what you can do? OK, that’s a real bug of mine. Go home, go to your local
school boards, say, “Excuse me, I want civics taught again.” Yes. Oh, wait, wait. That gentlemen up there. … Wait, but we missed him. OK. Remember him
in the … … Alright, fine. Hello, hello? Yes, you’re on.
I take classes at a local community college. You just have to speak into it. I have to speak like this? There you go. OK. I take classes at a local community college.
And, what I see is that many of the young people are so used to the advantages that
we fought for that they don’t realize that they have to continue to fight for it. As
an example, and it’s not women’s rights, about a year ago I attended a conference in which
there was a member of the clergy who was speaking about his experiences marching with Dr. King. And, there were African American students
in the audience that really got antsy and said, “Why do I have to listen to this garbage?
This doesn’t pertain to us.” And, it certainly did, because if he didn’t march with Dr. King
or Dr. King didn’t march, they wouldn’t have what they have today. And it’s the same with
women’s rights, as well. Well, it’s the same with many, many issues.
But, I think probably every generation of us has said this. You know? “That you guys
don’t realize the work that we did to get you here.” It’s true. No, I’m not saying it’s
false. I’m saying that it is part of our job. Is to say, “Wait a minute. Don’t you understand
what was accomplished?” I think that in the fullness, I would trust, in the fullness of
time. And, a little context. Especially, as they gather more experience in their own lives.
They will see how the changes have happened. Even within their own working life span or
even within 10 years span. And, they will probably look back and say, “Well, now you
can do what we, you know.” It’s a little too simplistic, to my mind, to say that the young
people don’t appreciate it. No. I think that they have their own battles, in many ways,
their own struggles and their own barriers. They are very different from some of the ones
we faced. In some ways, I think ours were simpler. Because, the input now, and the global
confrontation. The global interaction that people, my daughter’s, the young 20s, have
to deal with now. The impact across the world. Our issues were really a little smaller in
a lot of ways. It is a shame that the boys, or the people,
of that age don’t seem to show true respect. They’re wrong. They’re just wrong. But, they’ll
probably learn it as they go along a ways and find out how difficult it is for them.
And, what they have to overcome. And, they’ll say to their kids, “If you knew. What it was
in my time.” I say to my daughter. First of all, I threaten that she will have absolutely
no inheritance whatsoever, unless she becomes very active in several organizations. But,
because I really do believe in putting yourself where your mouth is, you know? But, I do, I do say to her, “Be careful. Be
very careful. You’re not aware of when the Supreme Court, before Sotomayor, when it was
a serious five-four bias, with the possibility with Bush still in office, of another appointment.”
You know, the damage that that could have done. I asked President Obama, he wasn’t president
then, he was a candidate. You know, what would he do to protect women’s rights, if and when
he was elected? And then, he was very, very straight forward. He said, “Well, obviously,
I can nominate for the Supreme Court, but I cannot insure that anyone judge is elected.” But, the first line of defense for the presidency
is the First Circuit Court. That those judges are appointed by the president. And that is
where he would have the greatest impact and influence. That, plus the fact that you must
not misunderstand, or underestimate, the influence of the White House and the atmosphere in the
White House on the country. I mean, look at the change from when Bush
was in office. Even within a year, toward women and women’s issues. And, the issues
that are paramount now, on a social conscious level, that were quite, quite ignored, or
certainly, certainly less important, shall we say? Under the previous presidency. Oh, heavens, now I’ve wandered astray. Haven’t
I? I just started going on and on. Ah, let’s move on. Good afternoon. To echo what you were speaking
of before, activism. I’m really proud to say that, a number of years ago, one of the things
I did was put aside a career and begin working in public schools as an aid for Special Ed
kids. And, I look forward to waking up every morning. You alluded to that. I also look
forward every day interacting with the kids. I also go out of my way to encourage the younger
women in the class to feel empowered, which is nice, but that’s not why I’m here, I have
to admit. I’m glad you are all those things. Yeah, all those things, but the reason I’m
here is serendipity. Throughout much of the early ’80s, I was dating a wonderful young
woman, and every time there was a wedding or bat mitzvah… She was related to your
cousin. I would always sit at your table. And you were never there, but I did want to
thank you for one thing. Oh, my God. I only have a couple of cousins. Well, I don’t want to say names. Huh? I don’t want to say names, but the Elkins? Oh, are they in New Jersey? I’m sorry? Are they in New Jersey? One is. One was Brooklyn. They’re all over
the place. That’s neither here nor there. Our fathers didn’t like each other at all. I want to thank you for all the wonderful
desserts that I ate… …in your name. I think I had an entree or
two. I do recall the desserts. It was serendipity, where I was walking in, and I saw you. I had
to say thank you for everything. Oh, that’s fun. All through the early ’80s. I tell you, there have been some very embarrassing
times. Not necessarily for me, although once I was in between airplanes in St. Louis. Staying
all… I’m in the club, right? Waiting for the other flight to get ready. This one girl
walked up to me, and said, “I work with your first cousin in the bank.” I said, “I’m sorry. I really don’t have any.
I have a couple of cousins in New Jersey, but I don’t think I’ve talked to them in 30,
40 years.” Anyway, this woman said, “No, no, no. Her
name is Debbie. Debbie Turner, and she works at the bank with me in St. Louis.” I said, “I’m sorry. I don’t have any relatives
in Missouri, other than my mother and my grandmother, and I don’t have anybody in my family named
Debbie.” And she went, “Oh, that’s great.” She said,
“She is such a bitch.” “Wait until I get back and tell… She’s been
telling everybody she’s your cousin.” I thought, “Oh, my God. The poor woman. She’s
going to get killed.” It’s not my fault. I don’t actually have a cousin named Debbie.
You. Have you enjoyed playing your role in “Californication”
recently, and has it been a big stretch for you, compared to the other roles? I mean,
“Body Heat” was very good, too. Uncle! I tell you, that has been… That was
quite a… Oh, here. Honestly, I am shocked by what I have done. I’m the kind of actor
that when I’m doing it, I don’t think about what somebody else thinks. It protects me
from all kinds of things. But, everybody in the studio used to come and gather at the
table readings, because I’m actually so innocent. We would get across a line, and I would say,
“What does that mean? What does it mean, “rusty trombone?” I had the whole cast and crew on the floor
laughing, to see what Turner didn’t know that week. Of course, I did make a point of learning
it, and in fact, at times, I learned the medical term for some of these things, and suggest
that we could say perineum as opposed to taint. But, they did not think that was as amusing.
In any case, no, she was quite… I had a ball. I had an absolute ball. What the hell.
I haven’t done that kind of thing. Honestly, if you really want to get me, dangle something
I haven’t done in front of me before. It’s like, when I did the Friends thing and they
came to me, I was doing a play of Tallulah, based on Tallulah Bankhead in San Francisco. The writers came up, and they said, “Listen.
We want you to play Chandler’s father.” I said, “What was that?” They said, “Well, you know he’s a man playing
a woman.” I said, “So, let me get this straight. You
want a woman to play a man to play a woman.” They said, “Yeah.” “I haven’t done that.” I’m very attracted by things… Honestly,
I won’t do something I find… There were a couple of times in the shooting of the series
when I just said to them, “Look, I can’t do that. I can’t say it.” And they would say,
“Fine. No worries.” But, on the whole, I think I kind of had a
ball being so awful. I watched the first show, the first episode with my daughter, and a
bunch of her friends. At one point, my daughter turned to me, and said, “Never do that again.” I said, “Get over it. You’re 22. Come on.” What’s been your favorite role as an actress,
and what’s been your most challenging role as an actress, and why? I think that would be both one, actually,
because I think challenging is something I love very much. I believe that you’ll have
to take a… You have to push yourself to the point of possible failure, of possibly
falling flat on your face. Because if you don’t, then you’re playing it safe, and then
you don’t know how good, or how extraordinary you might have been. That might have been…
I don’t want to live with what might have been, or what I might have done. That is unacceptable
to me. That would make it Martha, in “Who’s Afraid
of Virginia Woolf?” That’s a role that… We were speaking, Elizabeth and I earlier.
I literally read that play when I was 20 in college, and said, “When I’m 50, I’m doing
that role.” How bizarre. Why, as a 20-year-old, I thought
I must do it is probably something for deep analytical study. However, although we can
talk about others, if you like… When I was 49, I thought I better get on the
stick, you know? I found Albee’s producer, and took her out to dinner, and said, “It’s
really… This hasn’t been done on Broadway since 1975. Colleen Dewherst was the last
actress to play Martha, and before her, Uta Hagen. So, it’s only been done twice in the
history of the play in New York. She said, “You know, I don’t think Edward
would be interested in a revival. He’s doing new work. He’s not… really want to be know
only for…” I said, “No, it needs to be done. It really
does. La, la, la, la, la.” I finally talked him into grabbing Edward
for a lunch. The three of us had lunch, and at the end of the lunch, he said, “So, what
do you want?” I said, “I want a chance to read it for you.
That’s all. Just let me put together a reading, and you listen.” He agreed. I got Bill Irwin and a couple of other actors
who did not end up in the play, but they were nice young people. Anyway, not right, but
it was a reading. You know. We put it together, in the director Anthony Page’s loft. We put
together a reading, and at the end of the first act, we took a five minute break, and
Edward came over, and he said, “I have not heard anything like this since Uta Hagen.” After my heart started again, I said, “Oh,
and there are two more acts to go.” Where I get it, I don’t know, man. I mean, talking
back to Edward Albee like that? Jesus. However, there was something, and is something, about
Martha that I am most satisfied that I achieved her. She, for some reason, has been a real
goal for me. At that point, for 30 years. So much to do with a woman being caged. Really,
truly. I think it is, in 1962, imagine this woman,
a daughter of a university president, and the wife of many years of… Who is still
an associate professor. In 1962, a woman… There were no women presidents of universities.
There were very, very, very few women with tenure of any kind. There was no career for
women in academia, as it were, in those days. There were very few careers in many areas. So, they lived, she lived through her father
and her husband. Her father looked down upon her, did not care for her. And her husband
had none of the ambition that was essential. And here is a woman of intelligence, of power,
of energy, with absolutely nothing to do. She, what? She goes to a committee of the
wives of the teachers of the history department, to put together a tea. Whoopee! So, the anger
inherent in this character, and the restlessness, ooh, has always just grabbed me and has never
let me go. I don’t know why, but I do- although it has
lessened a little bit over the years, I hope and pray- have this reservoir of anger in
me that is just, when something is wrong, or, I’m with you… Or is just the frustration of not being able
to do something about something, just drives me up a wall. And Martha just encapsulated
all of that All of some of my best and my worst aspects of personality, I think, found
release in Martha. Now, what we found in the production, and I think gave to people who
had not had it before, was extraordinary humor. That’s inherent there. It’s not a play about
two people, two drunks screaming at each other all night. And if any of you got to see it,
there are huge laughs throughout the entire show. Ultimately, it’s about two people who
love each other, who cannot live without each other. So, whatever- all the pain, and all the anger,
and all the humor, and, oh, God, the energy there. It just seems to be, and maybe I’m
basing this too much on myself, that we try so hard to make our mark on the world, not
necessarily towards anything just to make a difference? yes. You may choose to make
a difference by giving up a career and going into public school- excellent, in my mind.
You may choose to make a difference simply by being terrific at your job and how that
job serves the community. I’m not even saying that every job must serve.
What I am saying is that you need to know that you can do something really well, and
that you do, and that you don’t cop out and you don’t chicken out. Martha, to me, is that person that’s been
trapped and kicking against the walls. I don’t know about you, but I think a lot of us are
that way. I’m just lucky because a lot of the walls that I kick go down. Is that a good
answer? Yes. OK. Thank you. Oh, you want it? I’m sorry. Hi, Kathleen. My question was about your new
book. I was wondering what it was about and how that all came about for you. My book is an autobiography. It basically,
I suppose like anyone does, it sort of skims over my thoughts and experiences. It’s a little
history because you’ve got to have a little history to figure out where I’m coming from.
But it’s not my fault; it’s this woman’s fault right here. Her name is Gloria Feldt, and
we grew to be great friends because she was a president of Planned Parenthood. Ergo, we
had a close association, which grew into a very good, strong friendship. And she came
to me one day and she said, “You have a lot of stories, and you should put them in a book.” I said, “Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no. That’s
just so arrogant. God, a book about me, write about that? Why should I have that stuff?
No.” Anyway, she wore me down. She took me and
she got me drunk. Margaritas, very good ones. Anyway, so I thought, OK, we’ll go for it.
What we did, basically, was she had all the work. I swear to God. I just talk. So we had
40-some, or is it 60? It’s 40. It’s 40-some hours of me on tape. And we talk
about issues that would come up, things that were happening that day, about this film,
or that play, or something. We’d get together and she would record all of this endlessly.
Then, so see, it was her job to make some sense out of this, to give it some structure.
So, we did agree upon the structure of going job by job. So, to take the jobs and relate
that to some of the things that I learned in that time, both because of that job and
around the time of that job. And that would lead to an overall philosophy, I suppose,
would be a good term. So, she had… I mean, no, really, honest
to God, she had to do much more work. I just had to go back and say, “Yes, no, yes, no.
Oh, you don’t want that story. And wait, wait; what happened to this one?” But on the whole, all the structure was done
by Gloria, who made sense of it. So, yes, every word is mine, but it would not be coherent
in any form without Ms. Feldt. There you go. That’s not true. All true. Elizabeth? Yes, I have a question for you since you’re
talking about your book. In your book, which I love by the way, and I really encourage
everybody to buy it. We’ll have a book signing afterwards. I really enjoyed reading it, Kathleen. Thank you. And I thank you, because it is hard. You will laugh. There are so many books in the world that
one thinks, why does one need another book? But I can assure you, your book is needed,
and I thank you for it. In it, you do mention how you did not want to be typecast as an
ingénue after “Body Heat.” And as I was thinking to myself, even a really, really sexy ingénue,
which you were. At what point, when “Body Heat” really hit the cinema and it made the
waves that it did, did you know before it came out that you didn’t want to be typecast?
Did you realize that you could potentially be? Did you know that you had the potential
for that upfront? Yeah. Oh, right. And what did you want to do? Well, I think that, first of all, I don’t
believe that I had any real understanding of the impact of “Body Heat.” I don’t. Again,
as I say, I have a blissful sort of blindness when I’m working that I don’t think about
how the work is going to be received or what it’s going to do, of the effect that it’s
going to have, when I’m doing it. I may finish a day’s shooting, or finish a performance,
and go, “Oh, crap. What are they going to think of that?” But that never occurs to me
when I’m acting, so I’m blissfully unaware and protected in that way. But I had no idea
that “Body Heat” would have the historical impact that it seems to have had, first of
all, because I didn’t believe it myself. I never thought of myself as a very sexy woman.
I was a tomboy. I always beat up my brothers and most of the other kids. I can remember
my mother once saying, “Oh, why don’t you let them win, once in a while?” I said, “Why?” Why would I? Because they’re a boy? It doesn’t
make any sense to me at all. Anyway, but it did occur to me when I saw the impact of “Body
Heat, ” the first time I saw it with an audience, that I was in deep shit, that this could potentially
really trap me. And sure enough, in the months that followed, all I got were like “Body Heat
1, ” “Body Heat 2, ” “Body Heat 3, ” Body Heat 4, ” script after script after script
of essentially the same character. With the same, “Woman drives man mad, and therefore,
he does anything for her” crap. So, and in any case, no, it was apparent to
me right away that that was a real trap, that that was really dangerous and so I refused
to do any of them. And then I wanted, I’ve always, the lesson that I learned then and
have continued since, any time I do one kind of character or one kind of show, I will follow
it with a contrasting or even opposite. For example, after “Body Heat,” came “The Man
with Two Brains.” Yes, I’m a femme fatale, but an outrageous comedy. And I always thought
I was making fun of the femme fatale, you know, a woman named Delores Benedict, a painful
traitor, come on. You know how much more obvious can that be? And that was followed by “Romancing
the Stone, ” a naive adventurist. And that was followed by “Crimes of Passion,”
Ken Russell’s film. You know a desperately, awful dark film about a woman who so loathed
herself you know that she would put herself in a position of being a fifty dollar whore
on Hollywood Boulevard by night. Each choice is truly determined by the choice made before. So that I do not, first of all, I don’t want
to repeat myself, it’s not interesting. What am I going to explore? I already did that.
I’ve been there, I’ve done that, it’s not interesting to do it again. I want to look
for something I haven’t done before and explore that even if it means, see this used to drive
the studios absolutely fucking nuts, because, once you have a success in one area, they
want you to continue in that line because it gives them a certain amount of guarantee
that you’ll sell enough tickets, you know. Whereas if you say, “No, actually now I intend
to do a very broad comedy, ” they’ll say, “Well what are you talking about? No one knows
you as funny.” You’ll say, “Yes, but they will.” “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, we
know you can do this. So we want to keep you doing this.” “No. Absolutely not.” That is a direct and
path of decision making in my career is to say, “Just did that, have to do something
else.” It’s funny, the result in some ways, it’s
kind of finally catching up now that the whole sort of body of work is becoming more clear
in a way over the years. But I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve had over the
years where I’ll say, “Yeah, well that was like in oh, ‘Prizzi’s Honor’.” “Oh God, that
was a good film.” “Yeah I really, oh that’s right, you did ‘Prizzi’s
Honor’.” Say, “Well yeah, ‘Accidental Tourist’.” “I loved that film ‘Accidental Tourist’.”
But nobody ever put together all the work that I’ve done, it’s as though I’m just one
thing to every person because of the one film that they love. So you know, the price of that is that the
whole body of my work often gets overlooked. OK, it’ll catch up one day. How many people with disabilities have you
worked with and how many have you trained, what roles have they played? I did a film called, “House of Cards.” Don’t
know if you’ve seen that. It was a friend of mine named Michael Lesshac, wrote it and
directed it. And in fact it took us almost seven years to get the financing together
to get it done. Ended up doing it with Tommy Lee Jones. And it was about a child with autism
and we worked in a school with Down’s syndrome children and autistic children and I learned,
whoa, I learned so much. We were doing this shot one day where I’m walking down the school
corridor just to, you know, just passing from point A to point B and one of the men with
Down’s syndrome was standing at the locker and as I passed by, thank God the camera was
wide, he turned and he went, “You’re hot.” And I looked back at him and I went, “Thank
you.” You know it was such an extraordinary thing. Took a lot of the patience. You know
it’s not as though you can say, “Alright I’d like you to do it again exactly the same way.”
Can’t work that way, can’t think that way. And no need to, you know. What you get is
always going to be pretty special. That was my one experience of really being concentrated
in terms, when you speak of disabilities, do you mean more physical? Physical, mental… I have not done a film about that other than,
as I say, this film “House of Cards, ” which does, that is a central issue of it in many
ways. So that’s my one real experience with people with disability. Based on your speech before, I assume you
won’t be doing any more Michael Douglas movies? Well no, that’s not, no, no, no, no, no. We
did “War of the Roses”, That wasn’t my real question but. We did “War of the Roses, ” that one wasn’t
“Taxi, ” that wasn’t exactly the same. True, no it’s true. Actually what I was going
to ask was, now that you’ve done the role of Martha, is there a next great role that
you’re looking into? Well, luckily, one of the good things, believe
it or not, about getting older as an actress is so many of the roles on stage are for older
women, for women my age now. And yeah, I’m looking forward to a couple of really interesting
ones. I’m talking to, one of my favorite producers in London about doing “The Sweet Burn of Youth,”
by Tennessee Williams? The Contessa in that is just whoa, what a character, you know,
you’re nodding, you know this woman, yeah. There are, there’s a new play that has been
written by Larry Gelbhart, who unfortunately just passed away about, it’s essentially it
comes down to a marriage of many, many years and oh, they’re in their 50s or early 60s.
Do they choose to stay together because they’re afraid that they might then spend the rest
of their life alone if they were to separate or to go and dissolve the marriage? Which
is very, very pertinent. I got a divorce after 22 years, just three years ago and it crossed
my mind, “Wait a minute, does this mean that I may be spending the rest of my life alone
or will I find companionship again?” Haven’t yet, you know. The position is open.
But it was a thought that crossed my mind, you know. So I find this, that character very
interesting. We’ll see if we can put that production together in the next year or so.
Theater takes a long lead time, you know, to get things done. Yeah, yeah, I’m actually
at a really great time for women’s roles on stage and stage is my heart so I’m kind of
glad to have gotten here. There’s terrific talent out there. I mean,
I come from a generation of amazing talent, Meryl Streep and Jessica Lange, you know,
I’m a generation of women that have really done extraordinary and continue to do terrific
work. So it’s, it’s, I don’t like naming people. I’ve enjoyed working with all the actors,
well, no, two I didn’t like. Nicholas Cage and Bert Reynolds, assholes. But everybody else has been pretty great. This is the truth. Going back briefly to “Californication”. I
was just curious how that character’s… When you are picking a character like that and
you have these ideals about feminism, that character is so out there and can be… Some
people could say that “Well it’s like a super feminist character” and other people are going
to say “Oh, this is like the worst thing somebody could do”. … How… You said you were in that little space
where you have these blinders on. Right. But I don’t think about the… But you don’t have the blinders on when you
are picking the role. No. I do not blind myself when I am picking
out the roles. I do not believe it is my job as an actor to preach. As I believe in this
separation of church and state, the separation of my work as an actor and… I don’t… It’s
not my job to give a message to people. To tell people how to think or what they should
be thinking. Or what is right or wrong. That is not my job. What I will and how I do exercise
my choice in terms of characterw is I will not participate in anything that involves
what I call “kidjap” the use of children as terror or… I just can’t stomach it. I can’t
stomach any kind of project that uses child fear to further itself. Can’t, won’t touch
it, won’t have it. A lot of any kind of really brutal and senseless
violence, I will not be part of because I simply don’t want to contribute to the world
library of that shit. However, I doubt that you could look at almost any character I have
ever chosen to play that one would end up calling “a victim.” Think about it. Can you? I don’t think I can. That is the bottom line
for me. I don’t play a woman who doesn’t make… She may fail. She may try and fail. But I
will never and have never played a woman who will not try to improve herself, save herself
or get herself out of whatever situation she must get from. I don’t do victims. Period.
I don’t. We have someone up in the back. What happened
to the other microphone? Oh well, never mind. Not my business. Hi. I was just wondering if you could talk
a little bit about “Serial Mom” and working with John Waters. If you were scared and everything… Oh, I laughed every day. I laughed every single
day on “Serial Mom” until… I mean, there were days when we would just cry with laughter.
What amazed me in many ways… Again, this is a woman who… She was perfectly reasonable,
she’s a good mother, she’s a good community person but don’t fuck with her kids. Otherwise…
I understand, this is a mother with the sit taken a little far, but John Waters has the
ability to take these extraordinarily unattractive people, in many ways, I mean, think of some
of the characters that he’s used in the past, and make you care for them. I thought that
was an extraordinary talent. John, even though he’ll make fun… Either
within the script or in person, he’ll make fun of someone. But if he sees that they are
getting hurt, he’ll stop. There’s not any maliciousness whatsoever in that man. I think
that comes through in the work. That all of these people however awful some of them are-
and some of them are really awful- are good hearted. What can I say? As is John. We stayed good
friends over the years, which is one of the blessings of this industry. Because you get
so close to people when you are shooting or when you are doing a play. You spend so many
hours, so many days, for so long with people, you become your own little camp, I call it.
Like summer camp, you know? As long as the production lasts. If you stay friends after that, you probably
have a friend for your life. But “Serial Mom” was just funny. Oh, but I will tell you a
story. OK. Sam Waterston, who I love and has stayed friends,
takes things very seriously. He said to me one day “Now Kathleen, aren’t you really concerned
that we might be glorifying serial killing?” I said “No Sam, no. I’m not actually thinking
that we’re going to glorify. Make people want to become a serial killer. No. That’s not
on my mind. I think it’s just a movie.” Silly man. He’s that serious. You’ve worked the gamut of different genres.
Is there a particular genre that you prefer to do than another? Do you prefer comedy,
drama or thriller? Also, you’ve done the voice of Jessica Rabbit and Miss Liz on “King of
the Hill”. Is there a different process in doing a voice-over for animation as opposed
to doing something live action? It’s very interesting. Each discipline- film,
theater or something- has its own demands, its own needs. Something you love in one medium
may not work whatsoever in another. It’s fascinating that on camera, with film, you can be so minute,
so specific. You can use a lens. If you ever… In “War of the Roses” this shot where she
gives him pate, he gives her a glass of wine, they raise it to their lips and they stop
to see which one will go first… Well, that shot narrowed down to just eyes. So, when
you choose to blink is an entire sentence. You would never see that on stage. In fact,
after the tenth or twelfth row they can’t see your face that well. There you are talking
about your entire body, your energy and yourself. In many ways I gravitate more towards stage
because they keep telling me on film that I’m too loud, that I’m too big. “Be a little
quieter Kathleen. Be a little quieter. Pull it in a little, pull it in.” On stage no one can say that to me. There
I get to be as big and as loud as I want, which I like. I must say I lean towards comedies,
definitely. I just like to laugh. I like to make other people laugh. I think there’s a
great deal of truth and pathos in a laugh. Where and why one laughs can be a great lesson. It’s also a challenge. Again, back with the
challenges. I’m a challenge junkie. When you do most of your basic dramatic roles you are
talking about really “gut” instinctive reactions. Anger, shame, fear or pity. All these things
are just communicated and felt by the audience instinctively, immediately. When you are making them laugh, you are conveying
a thought. Now, how do you do that? That’s a whole different process. When I hear somebody
laugh I know they got the idea, not just the feeling. When you have a two, three, or four
level theater and you hear the laugh in the “gods” at the same time that you hear it in
the “orchestra”, which is physically impossible because sound doesn’t travel that way, then
you know what’s happened is that the audience has in fact become an entity of its own. When people leave the theatre, they should
have felt part of something. They should have… They’re sitting closer to complete strangers
than they would sit in their own living room. They know nothing about the person they’re
sitting next to; their beliefs or anything. Yet you sit there with this little arm in
between you trusting, accepting and then what happens is you start to breath together, in
and out. You’ll hold your breath at the same time. You’ll laugh at the same time. There’s a wonderful…I’ll tell you a trick.
Got to give all my tricks. I was doing the play “Camille” up at the Long Wharf Theatre.
Almost anybody knows that Camille dies at the end of the play of consumption. You know,
Greta Garbo. So my challenge is to find a way to make her death moving and new. Not
to do just a copycat sort of thing. So the last scene, Camille comes out on stage.
Lies on this daybed and she just trying to breathe so there’s complete silence and she’s
just-. Twenty seconds later the audience goes gah. That’s the secret. You die on the inhale.
What I’m saying is that the extraordinary sense of that we shared, particularly in theatre
but it can happen in film, in film theatres as well, is that communion that people become
part of something more than just an individual sitting there. That, I think, is one of the
great opportunities of my job. Did I answer you sufficiently? OK. One last question please. I’ll take the last one. What was it like working with John Huston
towards the end of his career? Good question. Well “Prizzi’s Honor” was really
John’s last major film. I mean he did do the “Dance of Death” after with Anjelica and stuff
in Ireland. But it was a much smaller production. I think “Prizzi’s Honor” was his last studio
film. He was pretty sick. He had emphysema towards the end and everywhere he went he
carried, he had an oxygen tank and was on oxygen the whole time. You could see when
he was standing, sitting there, he would see like where he had to go. You would see him
count the steps in his head before he would get up and get himself over there. Didn’t
change his mind in a lot of ways, I don’t think. I don’t think it affected his thinking
or his creativity. Although, I think it probably allowed Jack and I more freedom than he usually
give his actors. Because John would say to us, “Block something.
Put something together. Get an idea and then call me and I’ll come back and look at it.”
So we got to block a lot of the film which, something tells me, Huston wasn’t always,
didn’t always let people do. But he was still a tremendous manipulator.
He was not a great respecter of women. He came from a generation that was quite misogynistic.
He would not let me play poker with him. Women don’t play poker, in case you didn’t know.
He was just afraid I’d beat him. But, for example, there was one scene that
was rather integral, rather crucial. When she comes to the house. When Charlie has discovered
that she’s married and he is waiting for her in the house, and his assignment being to
kill her. She comes to the room and finds and has to really talk for her life. Convince
him not to kill her kind of thing. Well, we were shooting in this house out in
L.A. and it was a fairly small room, which makes it extremely difficult. You got a very
large camera and the three people you need to operate the camera, as well as the first
AD, as well as who else within this room along with the actors, and it’s gets very tight
and very… Anyway, and this was not a set in a studio
where you could move walls and things like you usually could. This was in a house. So
we blocked and we tried it and he’d say, “No, no, no no. No. That’s not it. That’s not it.
Put the camera over there and we’ll try it this way.” Then we would work another couple
of hours and try to get the lights and the angle and everything right with everything
going this way. Then he came back and said, “No, I don’t like
it. I don’t like it. It doesn’t work for me. All right we’re going to try it with the camera
over there.” And you go, “Jesus. God.” Like 9/10 hours into the day and into the scene,
I’m literally on the floor ready to sob with frustration. And he comes into me and says,
“Are you ready?” And I looked up to him like “What, Are you kidding?” And he goes, “She’s
ready.” I know we did. Kathleen. I would like very much to thank
you for your generosity. Thank you for your spirit. Thank you for all
of the wonderful work that you have given all of us and all of our children. I appreciate
it very much that you came here to participate with the Center for Feminist Art. We have
sign in sheet in the back if you’d like to be on our email blast. We have a what’s happening
so that you can see what’s going on in the museum and also in the Center. December 5th,
in conjunction with the Whitney Museum, we’re having a screening of Alice Guy Bache’s, “Le
Vie du Christ” which is inspired by the Tissot watercolors, “The Life of Christ, ” which
are on exhibition now here in the museum. So that will be very good. On November 19th, Kiki Smith is going to be
honored at the Women in the Arts luncheon sponsored by the Brooklyn Museum Community
Committee. That will support educational programming as well as the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center
for Feminist Art. I’m very grateful always to the community committee for their work. On December 13th, my wildcard day is a screening
of the award winning documentary “Pray the Devil back to Hell” which was produced by
Abigale Disney. She’s going to have some really good karma for the Disney family after this
one. It’s a fabulous, fabulous movie. It’s directed by Gini Reticker. We will be doing
that in conjunction with UNIFEM, and we’re hoping we’re going to have also a reception
afterwards. It’s about the women of Liberia peace initiative
and protest which actually overturned and they took back their country. Talking about
taking back the night. They took back their country, ending the horrors of civil war in
Liberia where women and children really were the primary targets and victims. That certainly
will be a wonderful screening. Gloria Feldt, thanks for joining us. We will
have a book signing and an opportunity if you’d like to ask anymore questions if Kathleen
gives us a few more minutes it will be wonderful. We can do that at the book signing. Thank
you so much. It was just wonderful.

34 comments

  1. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. ZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. .Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

  2. @jimmeecrazee Serial mom, Jane Wilder, VI Warshawski, and the rest of them grew old with Kathleen just like you're going to grow old. We can't remain young and sexy forever. So braze yourself.

  3. Kathleen Turner, you are Lana Turner, [are you related?], Rita Hayworth, and yourself, rolled up in one bundle of joy for viewers of your awesome films. You were the best of the best. The last word in the Black Widow catagory. Not to mention Body Heat, and all the others. A Fan

  4. Don't care what she looks like, she's hilarious, a great actor, and she's trying to make a comeback. I would see anything she's in because she's brilliant!

  5. The LORD is about to shut the door ( Rev. 3:7b ) on The Ark of HIS Grace. When this happens The Flood of Great Destruction will sweep across the whole world. A persons Obedience to Romans 10:9 &10 will ensure then entrance into The Ark. Do NOT delay to come on board. Today is The Day of Salvation.The Gift of GOD is? Eternal Life ( Romans 6:23b ) It is The Will of GOD in Christ is that all be Saved (1 Timothy 2: 4 & 5 ) GET SAVED TODAY you may not have another opportunity to do so MARANATHA-Amen

  6. Turner enjoys everything she does – does that sound like someone's holding her back. It always amazes me that people who you think are intelligent rational people are really dimwitted.

  7. Why hasn't she considered a U.S. Congressional seat? She has command of serious leadership and civic authority above and beyond those we normally see in public office. Perhaps her honesty and forthcomingness  is a drawback?

  8. One sensational lady indeed,my question,hmmmm not all that proper to put into written words.She still does it for me!

  9. her show bout Tallulah was awful
    I do like her tho
    she raced thru her lines so fast she was incomprehensible
    eager for a cocktail maybe…
    best!

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