The great movie star Kathleen Turner was honored last night the Chicago International Film Festival during a brisk, ninety-minute tribute that featured scenes from her (many) memorable performances and a livewire Turner, who shared memorable anecdotes from her storied career onscreen, some of the most vividly acted portraits put on film in the 1980s.
I caught up with Tuner last night for a chat prior to a career retrospective at CIFF, and after decades of considering her the most unfairly discarded Hollywood A-list actress perhaps ever, the star, who delivered many unforgettable performances during her reign as maybe the last great movie star with PRESENCE (Body Heat, Romancing the Stone, The War of the Roses, Prizzi’s Honor, Crimes of Passion, Peggy Sue Got Married) shared stories about Coppola (“I asked him to place the camera in a different spot and he used my take”), Ken Russell (“a genius who drank wine at 6am but got my career best work from me”) John Huston, Anthony Perkins (“doing all sorts of drugs”), Jack Nicholson (“on a technical level, the best actor I ever worked with”) and why at 60, she still loves what she does, including her deep passion for the stage (“I’ve never spent more than two years away in my whole career”).
“I had just done Romancing the Stone, and they told me not to do Crimes of Passion,” she confessed about her work as a tortured Hollywood hooker in Russell’s 1984 trash classic, still the most daring career departure for a mainstream actress in history. And on Matty Walker, her iconic Body Heat femme fatale that launched her career and sex symbol status in 1981, she admitted that in the final scene her vixenish seductress had felt regretful, even sad. Turner was robbed of her 1986 Peggy Sue Oscar by Marlee Matlin (Children of a Lesser God -much lesser performance as well), but the work and the film have endured.
Sure, today Turner looks a bit different (“Get over it,” she said in a recent interview) — rheumatoid arthritis, steroids and a bout with alcoholism have seen to that — but she still has the voice, magnetism and dynamism, even one-to-one, that made her the one and only. I asked Turner about her signature confidence and dominating every scene she in which she appears, and she surprisingly said, “I get nervous, and when that happens, I get cocky.” I don’t believe that, for a minute.
Tonight is the Festival Centerpiece, with a pair of high-profile films in the spotlight, prolific Hollywood screenwriter-director Richard LaGravenese’s movie adaptation of the award-winning, off-Broadway musical The Last Five Years, starring Anna Kendrick, and the new Bill Murray comedy, St. Vincent, written and directed by Theodore Melfi. Both LaGravenese and Melfi will be in attendance.
ChicagoFilm will continue to bring you updates throughout the festival, including an upcoming interview with LaGravenese, as well as some key films and happenings up next. For more information, including schedules and tickets, visit the Chicago International Film Festival.