Since her breakout role as femme fatale extraordinaire Matty Walker in Body Heat (1981), Kathleen Turner has delivered pitch-perfect performances that cut across genres on screen and stage. From playing dark comedy in War of the Roses (1989) to action/romance in Romancing the Stone (1984), Ms. Turner has crafted a diverse filmography that has established her as a leading screen talent. Standout roles include Irene in Prizzi’s Honor (1985) and the title role in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986), for which she received a best actress Oscar nomination. Memorably, Turner also lent her slinkiest voice to Jessica Rabbit in the animated Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988). (Complete filmography)
On stage, Ms. Turner made her Broadway debut in 1978 in Albert Innaurato's Gemini, with Reed Birney. In 1990, breathing life into the role of Maggie, she delivered a striking performance in Tennessee William's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, in which she starred opposite Charles Durning. In 1995, Ms. Turner portrayed Yvonne, a codependent mother to Michael, played by Jude Law, in Indiscretions, an adaptation of Cocteau's Les Parents Terribles.
Two plays of note traveled from Broadway to London's West End: In Terry Johnson's The Graduate, Ms. Turner played Mrs. Robinson, starring opposite Jason Biggs; and in Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Ms. Turner redefined the role of Martha, earning her highest marks to date. The onstage chemistry with co-star Bill Irwin was shattering and garnered rave reviews. As Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times: “When [Turner] sits at the center of the stage quietly reciting a litany of the reasons she loves her dearly despised husband, you feel she has peeled back each layer of her skin to reveal what George describes as the marrow of a person.”
Back on Broadway, in High (2010), Ms. Turner employed this same intensity to embody a foul-mouthed, alcoholic nun charged with trying to save a young addict (Evan Jonigkeit). In 2014, at the Duchess Theatre in London, she starred opposite Ian McDiarmid in Stephen Sachs' Bakersfield Mist.
Ms. Turner has relished opportunities to perform in illustrious regional theaters, notably as the title character in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins at the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Geffin in Los Angeles, and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. At Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., she mesmerized audiences in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children and in Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.
In addition to her strong work on big screen and stage, Ms. Turner has left her mark on television, with memorable appearances on Friends as Chandler’s cross-dressing father; in Californication as the sublimely lecherous Sue Collini; and most recently in Hulu's The Path. She has also leant her inimitable voice to iconic animated series such as The Simpsons and King of the Hill.
Ms. Turner recently expanded her repertoire with the development of her first cabaret performance, Finding My Voice, which debuted in Philadelphia in the fall of 2017 and which will continue in selected cities across the country.
What the Critics Say
As Maggie in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof
“From her salt-cured accent to her unabashed (and entirely warranted) delight in her own body heat, Miss Turner is an accomplished Maggie, mesmerizing to watch, comfortable on stage and robustly good-humored. Merely to see this actress put on her nylons, a ritual of exquisitely prolonged complexity, is a textbook lesson in what makes a star.” –Frank Rich, The New York Times
As Irene in Prizzi’s Honor
“Turner, who is flowering as a wonderful comic actress, plays her Mafia killer like a bright, cheery hostess. She could be selling cosmetics.” –Roger Ebert
As Joan Wilder in Romancing the Stone
"Turner knows how to use her dimples amusingly and how to dance like a woman who didn’t know she could; her star performance is exhilarating." –Pauline Kael
As Peggy in Peggy Sue Got Married
“Turner, who is actually 32, plays a teenager by making certain changes in her speech and movement: She talks more impetuously, not waiting for other people to reply, and she walks in that heedless teenage way of those who have not yet stumbled often enough to step carefully. There is a moment when she throws herself down on her bed, and never mind what she looks like, it feels like a 17-year-old sprawled there. Her performance is a textbook study in body language: She knows that one of the symptoms of growing older is that you arrange your limbs more thoughtfully in repose.” –Roger Ebert
As Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Kathleen Turner .. gives a performance of huge gusts and guts. She begins as an overblown but sexy tyrant. She could be an ageing jazz singer, stewed for years in whisky and fags, but she also has the imperiousness of someone brought up to expect people to jump to it: never before has her position as the daughter of a college principal made so much sense; she is as haughty as she is desperate. –Susannah Clapp, The Guardian.