Here's The Thing (Mary Ellen Matthews)

< Kathleen Turner


Monday, March 12, 2012

I’m Alec Baldwin and you’re listening to Here’s the Thing.

Kathleen Turner seemed to burst on the scene 30 years ago in the blockbuster thriller, Body Heat. Since then, she’s taken on the female roles actresses dream about playing. A word used often to describe her work? Brazen.

On screen we’ve seen her in Peggy Sue Got Married, Prizzi’s Honor, The Accidental Tourist. On stage, she’s earned Tony nominations for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  

Yet her career has not been without disappointment.

Her most recent Broadway play, High, closed last year after just 8 performances. Now she’s taken it on tour -- she’s performing in San Francisco later this month.

I had lunch with her at Telepan Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side -- the restaurant was between shifts, getting ready for dinner service, vacuums blaring around us, dishes being stacked as we talked.     

Kathleen Turner’s mind is always at work. Give her a half hour and she’ll solve the country’s problems.  

Kathleen Turner: So I've got an idea if you want to hear it.

Alec Baldwin: Hit me.   

Kathleen Turner: I think we should have a day when all women don't go to work. If a handful of people in this country are going to decide whether or not we will receive healthcare, whether or not we have control over our bodies as to when we wish to have a child, then what would happen if 52 percent of the work force one day just withdrew, and reminded those people in Washington of how important we are.

Alec Baldwin: Do you think that for you - 'cause I know this is true for me. That as some point, maybe not throughout your career, but at some point, there was a struggle to stay interested?

Kathleen Turner: No. I think I was brought up this way. My father was a Foreign Service officer. We were always in a sense politically aware growing up.  I swear to gosh when I was about ten years old, my father, we were at some event like Fourth of July in Caracas, Venezuela or something and my father said, 'Please remember that your behavior reflects on your country.'  And I can remember thinking vividly, 'Oh my God; whatever I do is gonna be what [they] think of the U.S.?' Which is a heavy burden for a ten year old; let me tell 'ya.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah, yeah. That might have been unfair of him.

Kathleen Turner: It might have been a little rough. He honestly believed it and that sense of being part of something and being responsible for something I think was instilled in me -

Alec Baldwin: So citizenship.

Kathleen Turner: - pretty early. Very much so.

Alec Baldwin: In some regard.

Kathleen Turner: Definitely.

Alec Baldwin: I mean a very basis sense of that. But at the same time, have you found it's been hard for you to stay interested in this business throughout many --

Kathleen Turner: You mean in the business of acting?

Alec Baldwin: Yes.

Kathleen Turner: No. No. I certainly don't I think make as much a priority of it as many other people I know in the industry.

Alec Baldwin: Yes.

Kathleen Turner: But if I couldn't act, I'd just curl up, shrivel up and die. Yeah, no, I can't live without it.

Alec Baldwin: That's what you want to do.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: Has your attitude toward it changed?

Kathleen Turner: It's gotten more passionate.

Alec Baldwin: It has.

Kathleen Turner: Well, I branch out now, 'cause I've been doing this for over 30 years now. And now I can teach as well, now I can direct as well.

Alec Baldwin: But the reason I say this is because - and I could be wrong, and this is my opinion. This is my opinion. The business, especially moves and television, the business lets go of you or you let go of it.  

Kathleen Turner: That's interesting.

Alec Baldwin: And I wonder if at some point in your career where you made films, especially if there's a decade where you make all these films -

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, top box office of the world; right?

Alec Baldwin: - and then all this stuff is going, but you strike me as someone where you let go of it.

Kathleen Turner: I suppose so.

Alec Baldwin: Did you lose interest?

Kathleen Turner: No. I never wanted to live in Los Angeles. I had a daughter. I was never gone bring up a girl out in L.A.

Alec Baldwin: Your daughter was born where?

Kathleen Turner: Here in New York City.

Alec Baldwin: And you only raised her here?

Kathleen Turner: She has only lived here.

Alec Baldwin: So from that period, the last movie you played like a leading lady in was Warshawski?

Kathleen Turner: It would be Serial Mom, I guess.  

Alec Baldwin: Serial Mom.

Kathleen Turner: Right. And that's when I got rheumatoid arthritis. See so things sort of came around at the same time.  

Alec Baldwin: A combination of circumstances.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah. Yeah.  

Alec Baldwin: How old was she then?

Kathleen Turner: When I got R.A., she was in kindergarten, so she was four or five.

Alec Baldwin: So just all of a sudden you just didn't want to go out there any more?

Kathleen Turner: I couldn't fake it. I couldn't fake looking and acting well.  

Alec Baldwin: Oh.

Kathleen Turner: It was very, very hard to move at all.  We didn't really know what was going on for a long time, so I had all the fantasies of some kind of dread disease that no one had been able to diagnose that was killing me.  And then when they did diagnose is at R.A., then they start pumping me full of steroids and you know what that does to you.

Alec Baldwin: Oh, I've had that.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah. And so I bet for about a year and a half my entire - well, I'd say longer, I'd say at least two years, my entire focus was on being able to restore myself to some normalcy of life.  We lived in a brownstone, but I couldn't get up and down stairs, so we had to sell that and move into a one level apartment.  

Alec Baldwin: It changed your career path.  

Kathleen Turner: Yeah. But in the same way, I think I had always been ambitious toward and working for growing up into a full blown theater actor.

Alec Baldwin: Exactly.

Kathleen Turner: Coming home.

Alec Baldwin: How did that happen?

Kathleen Turner: In between films, I would always go back to the stage.  I met too many actors in Hollywood, in L.A., film actors, who were terrified of ever going back to the stage.

Alec Baldwin: Sure.

Kathleen Turner: They were afraid perhaps they had lost an edge or something.  Secondly, they were terrified that they'd be attacked because they had been film successes, you know, that the critics -

Alec Baldwin: They'd be unfairly --

Kathleen Turner: - or somebody would be after them you know -

Alec Baldwin: Sure.

Kathleen Turner: - just because they had the name.  

Alec Baldwin: They had a bullseye on them.  

Kathleen Turner: Yeah. When I did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which is my big Broadway come back in 1990.

Alec Baldwin: I remember I auditioned for it and I didn't get the part.

Kathleen Turner: I'm sorry, honey.

Alec Baldwin: That's okay.

Kathleen Turner: Do you want a break?

Alec Baldwin: No, no. That's okay. Who was it - Danny Hugh Kelly?  

Kathleen Turner: Yes, it was.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.  

Kathleen Turner: How did you remember that?

Alec Baldwin: Great. Oh, he was great. He was fantastic wasn't he? So, continue. Yes, please.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, well, okay honey. Well you didn't so bad you know in Streetcar.

Alec Baldwin:  Well, I sputtered along, but anyway.

Kathleen Turner: In Streetcar you did all right.

Alec Baldwin: Williams is a good one to fall back on.

Kathleen Turner: Not a bad one, yeah.  

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.  

Kathleen Turner:  So I did Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Honestly, Michael Douglas was calling me up, Jack Nicholson was calling me up, Warren Beatty was calling me up and saying, don't do it, don't do it. You know they'll just kill you. And I said you know you don't understand; I'm better on stage.  

Alec Baldwin: Right.

Kathleen Turner: And I think I am.

Alec Baldwin: But I also found that making films for me - I had an agent who once said to me, 'If you never did another movie again, what would you be missing?'  And at that point, I was looking at the movies that I could do. The ones I was doing were things where if we all went to work, everybody did their job perfectly, if everybody was perfect.

Kathleen Turner: Would we change the world?

Alec Baldwin: No. The best we could hope for was mediocrity, even if we were --

Kathleen Turner: Oh, that's a killer.  

Alec Baldwin: It's a killer. You go in and the script's okay.  

Kathleen Turner: It's a killer.

Alec Baldwin: And we think somehow we're gonna be able to make it better.  

Kathleen Turner: My problem with film more now, is I find its boring work.  I mean I'm not talking about the material; I'm talking about the process.

Alec Baldwin: The day.

Kathleen Turner: Acting for 20 minutes, walking away for an hour -

Alec Baldwin: Oh yeah.

Kathleen Turner: - while they reset everything. Coming back, acting the same material just from a different angle again, maybe shooting two, three pages a day; right.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.

Kathleen Turner: It's so boring.

Alec Baldwin: Right.

Kathleen Turner: It's so boring. As opposed to going --

Alec Baldwin: Did you ever want to do a TV show?

Kathleen Turner: No.

Alec Baldwin: Your own TV show?

Kathleen Turner: No. Never.

Alec Baldwin: Why? Tell me why? Oh look how emphatic you are about it.

Kathleen Turner: Oh I'm terribly emphatic about that.

Alec Baldwin: Now, now, come on. Why?

Kathleen Turner: I just hated the commitment. I hated the idea of being that tied down. I thought if I had to do the same character year after year, I would definitely slit my throat.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: Do you see this mark on my throat here?

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, yeah.

Alec Baldwin: I had it sewed up.  But I've been doing a TV show and the thing I like about it, the thing I thought I'd hate about it.  You know what I like, is I like being home in New York.

Kathleen Turner: Biggie.  

Alec Baldwin: I'm home, we shoot the show here and people think we're funny.  And as soon as they wrap me at the end of day, I wipe my makeup off my face and I'm in a restaurant with my friends in Manhattan at 8:00 every night.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: I have a life.

Kathleen Turner: That's fabulous.

Alec Baldwin: I have a great life from the shooting.  But you'd never do a series?

Kathleen Turner: No.  

Alec Baldwin: Really?

Kathleen Turner: No.  

Alec Baldwin: Talk about High.

Kathleen Turner: Oh what a heartbreaker. Has this ever happed to you? 'Cause this is the first time it's happened to me.  

Alec Baldwin: And it was working?

Kathleen Turner: I thought so. I really did. And you know the audience response which, I was never entirely sure if the play was as strong as it needed to be.  However, you reach a point in the amount of work that you do and your willingness to commit, you cannot have any doubts anymore. You simply say I absolutely believe in this.  That's how you must behave.  Although in the back of my mind, there some doubts as to the play itself.  I had no doubts as to the performances or the audience response or the heart of the material about addiction versus faith, you know which to me is a fascinating kind of concept.  

Alec Baldwin: What did the play say about that?  

Kathleen Turner: That it's a constant battle, that there is no winner.  That addiction has no cure and that faith can be part of making life livable again and breaking the bonds of addiction.  But there is no cure for either.  Perhaps it was not as uplifting -

Alec Baldwin: Right.

Kathleen Turner: - as some people might have hoped.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah, this was a Broadway house you were in?

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: Not off Broadway?

Kathleen Turner: No, this was Broadway.  

Alec Baldwin: Big difference.

Kathleen Turner: Oh stars and garters, it never ever occurred to me that we'd only be open a week. I mean the first thing I did of course was just getting sick as a dog. Don't you do this to your body?

Alec Baldwin: Sure.

Kathleen Turner: When you finish a long run or a long commitment or a season of something.

Alec Baldwin: You get sick, 'cause you can.

Kathleen Turner: Oh you get so sick.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: I remember I would be sick, I was doing a play and I had the flu.  You get the Saturday matinee and you know you have to do the Saturday night show.  So now you're rolling into your seventh show, you did two on a Saturday.  And I'd lay on my bed in my dressing room and I'd say a prayer. I'd say, 'Please God, I hope people come and rob the box office at the theater.  And while they're here, they come up here and shoot me in my bed and kill, 'cause I can't go down there and do this goddamn show again.' Cause I was in so much pain. Is your daughter interested in the business?

Kathleen Turner: She is a singer/songwriter.  

Alec Baldwin: Is she really?

Kathleen Turner: With an amazing voice and an amazing ability.  Her songs are just - I'm stunned.  And she's this charming, compassionate, interesting woman. I'm like -

Alec Baldwin: I like my daughter too, she's funny.

Kathleen Turner: - wow.  But well, you know there were a few years in there, teenage years when you really wonder how the heck she's gonna turn out.  I mean you really --

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.

Kathleen Turner: And you feel that it's outside your control.  You did what you could and all that stuff and she just turned out so good.

Alec Baldwin: My daughter's 15 and there's some days --

Kathleen Turner: Oh forget it, you don't know yet.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah. There's some days I want to send her to Afghanistan.  But not --

Kathleen Turner: Without a doubt. There were many days when I had that feeling.

Alec Baldwin:  When you look at your career then - 'cause this is something which I don't do, I don't think back.  I don't look back, I don't care.

Kathleen Turner: No, there is no museum of Turner in my house or anywhere else.

Alec Baldwin: No shrines to her?

Kathleen Turner: Uh-uh.

Alec Baldwin: But when you think about it, like when I look back at myself when I was beginning in this business, I'm like that poor schmuck, because I didn't remember that if I only focused on my work --

Kathleen Turner: I have to tell you something terrible.  

Alec Baldwin: Yeah, tell me.

Kathleen Turner: I agree with you. You were often a schmuck.  

Alec Baldwin: Really? How?

Kathleen Turner: Yes. You were just very full of yourself a lot of the time.

Alec Baldwin: Really?

Kathleen Turner: I believe so.

Alec Baldwin: You think so?  My God.

Kathleen Turner: Yes, I do.  And I apologize -

Alec Baldwin: I didn't think I was.

Kathleen Turner: - for saying so.

Alec Baldwin: No, not at all, not at all.

Kathleen Turner: No, I did think you were a bit of a schmuck.  But there you go, I probably was too.

Alec Baldwin: Well I was gonna say -

Kathleen Turner: Yes.

Alec Baldwin: - if we can call a spade a spade here.  

Kathleen Turner: Yes, indeed.

Alec Baldwin: People don't call you La Turner for nothing.

Kathleen Turner: No, no. See the only people who would say that are people who've never really worked with me.

Alec Baldwin: But when you do look back and think about what you were like making films, 1981 -

Kathleen Turner: I know, but that was such fun -

Alec Baldwin: - through 1991.

Kathleen Turner: - to say to each other. Go on.

Alec Baldwin: Well, we can have more of too in a moment.  More of that in a moment.  But from 1981 to 1991 when you make all these great big films, when you look back at her, what do you think of her?  What was she like to you?  What were you like when you were first starting up, but you --

Kathleen Turner: Naive.  

Alec Baldwin: You do?

Kathleen Turner: I think I was very naive.  Film kind of happened to me.

Alec Baldwin: Right.  

Kathleen Turner: You know I came to New York to be a Broadway star.  

Alec Baldwin: Right.

Kathleen Turner: I grew up in London, great theater shows and stuff.  I never had any contact with film or with TV making.  When I first move to New York, I got soap opera.

Alec Baldwin: I was on the same soap opera.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, you were, The Doctors.

Alec Baldwin: You were going as I was coming.  

Kathleen Turner: We just missed each other, that's right.

Alec Baldwin: I passed you in the hallway.  

Kathleen Turner: And then came -

Alec Baldwin: Body Heat.

Kathleen Turner: - Body Heat.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.

Kathleen Turner: That I always thought kind of happened to me.  

Alec Baldwin: I remember you had shot Body Heat and you came back to say hello to some of those people.  

Kathleen Turner: Of course.

Alec Baldwin: You came to New York and had a drink with some of them and I got say hello, goodbye to you fleetingly and you had just shot Body Heat.

Kathleen Turner: Well, yeah, they --

Alec Baldwin: And they all looked at you like you were Secretariat.  

Kathleen Turner: No. Not just that. People would say you know where have you been, I haven't seen you for six months.  I've been shooting a film; you know a movie in Los Angeles.  And they go, oh what's it called.  Body Heat.  And they went, oh honey.  Okay, I confess, I went out to be a porn star, yes.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah, yeah. But then you made those movies in that period -


Kathleen Turner: Oh ___________.

Alec Baldwin: - and you think she was naive and why?  Was there something you wish you did differently?

Kathleen Turner: No.

Alec Baldwin: No.

Kathleen Turner: No. I turned down a lot of things.  You know I turned down your basic Body Heat 2, 3, 4, 5, you know.  It seems as though every time you have a success in one sort of genre, then you're just supposed to do that same thing.  

Alec Baldwin: You get five more shots at that.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.  But you already did that.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah, they want you to make five of those in a row.  

Kathleen Turner: Because it proved successful.  That's not interesting to me. I proved it was successful, thank you very much.

Alec Baldwin: But just in a voyeuristic way for me, what was it like working with John Houston.

Kathleen Turner: Oh, very interesting.  

Alec Baldwin: Tell me, 'cause I idolize Houston.  I mean you got work with him _____.


Kathleen Turner: John, the one before his last - Prizzi's Honor was his last major film.  You know he had terrible, terrible emphysema and couldn't move without an oxygen tank.  You know you would see him count the steps he would have to take to get from one place to another.

Alec Baldwin: Wow.

Kathleen Turner: You know sort of counting the breaths that he would need.  Didn't stop his thinking any, but he would I think probably gave Jack and me more liberties than he would have --

Alec Baldwin: Than he ordinarily would have.

Kathleen Turner: I think so because he would say --

Alec Baldwin: Had someone pointed that out to you?  Did someone who knew his methods say that you?

Kathleen Turner: His daughter.

Alec Baldwin: Angelica said -

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: - it's a different Houston on this film.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.  He would say all right you know you show me something and then we'll - so I'd look at Jack Nicholson and go, well okay how 'bout we start the scene where, like, I'm face down over the arm of the sofa and you're just pulling away as the camera comes.  You know and Jack goes, oh yeah that's great I mean we, [sound effect].  So you know my idea was who's on top in the bed scene -

Alec Baldwin: Right.

Kathleen Turner: - you know when we ultimately rolled off the edge of the bed, you know with Jack going, my back, my back, the whole time.  Anyway, so he would give us more freedom I think then ever.

Alec Baldwin: 'Cause of his restrictions.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.  And then he'd come in and say yes or no or you know write direction or whatever.  But there was day in particular when it was a scene where the character really had to break down in fear of her life because she'd been called out, you know essentially.  And we're shooting in this terrible claustrophobic little house, which made every angle and lighting issue impossible.  And he would have a camera and everything set up.  I'd waited four hours.  I'd come and we'd do one run through and he's say, no I don't like it this way, go back there.  He'd take another four hours.  Hour after hour after hour until you're ready to scream and cry and kick with frustration.  And I overheard him say to one of the first AD’s, "You think she's ready now?" And I thought you son of a - yes, I was ready.  That was the only time he really did that to me.

Alec Baldwin: Who's a director that you think helped you?  Who's a director you really admired?

Kathleen Turner: Coppola.

Alec Baldwin: Coppola.

Kathleen Turner: Coppola, tremendously.

Alec Baldwin: From Peggy Sue.  

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, tremendously.

Alec Baldwin: In what way?

Kathleen Turner: He had such an extraordinary grasp of the possibilities of the images in --

Alec Baldwin: Of that woman going back in time.

Kathleen Turner: Well, of what the camera could do and what it could see and I learned so much from him.  Bizarrely, some of my best work I think was with Ken Russell, you know who's certifiable.  I mean but then he's certifiably a genius too.

Alec Baldwin: How many movies did you make with Ken?

Kathleen Turner: Only one.  

Alec Baldwin: That's what I thought.   

Kathleen Turner: Crimes of Passion.  

Alec Baldwin: That's it.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.  

Alec Baldwin: Now what about him did you like?

Kathleen Turner: For example in Crimes of Passion, there is a scene; she's this $50.00 hooker on Hollywood Avenue at night.  The scene takes place at this hotel room and the walls are papered with this hideous pink on purple shiny wall paper.  And he had a flashing neon light set off to the side that was like the motel sign on the street.  That was the only light.  Our acting had to take place within the timing -

Alec Baldwin: Pulse.

Kathleen Turner: - and the pulsing of that neon lamp, which he regulated, you know and the reflections that came off the wall paper.  It's genius.

Alec Baldwin: The older I get, the more it's all technical to me now.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, agreed.

Alec Baldwin: You either have the inspiration or you don't.  I don't need anybody to inspire me to play the part.  

Kathleen Turner: No.  

Alec Baldwin: Typically.

Kathleen Turner: No.  

Alec Baldwin: But in the theater where you've done all this complex material, who were the theater directors who were the most memorable to you?  Who's someone who you just loved working with in the theater.

Kathleen Turner: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Oh, his name of course just left my head.  British director, absolutely brilliant, I'll have to look that up.

Alec Baldwin: Howard Davies?

Kathleen Turner: Yes, yes.  

Alec Baldwin: Right.

Kathleen Turner: And then also with Virginia Woolf which was some of the most --

Alec Baldwin: And who directed that?

Kathleen Turner: Anthony Page.  Some of the most gentle, misdirecting directing I've ever had.  I mean you didn't really realize until much further into the process how much he was actually giving you.  You know?  

Alec Baldwin: But when you did that part --

Kathleen Turner: I really got the end of Martha, finally.

Alec Baldwin: You did?

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, but it took that whole time.

Alec Baldwin: Was it tough to do that?

Kathleen Turner: No it was glorious.

Alec Baldwin: I'm sure.

Kathleen Turner: It was glorious to feel so used up.  It was so satisfying.  You understand.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah. There's a thing that's happened - and you don't have to share this opinion, I understand. But like Elizabeth Taylor, like Bacall, like Stockard Channing, you're asked to play women who have a lot of authority.

Kathleen Turner: Yes.

Alec Baldwin: You're asked to play women who straighten people out a lot in the show or who have to --

Kathleen Turner: Don't depend on others.

Alec Baldwin: Right.  

Kathleen Turner: Yes.

Alec Baldwin: Are independent women and there's a kind of forcefulness to that.  Do you find that you would rather play the other side?  You can't play the weak woman, you can't play --

Kathleen Turner: I'm not good a victims.

Alec Baldwin: You're not?

Kathleen Turner: And I think it's a real limitation, yeah.  Something in me would just kick and scream and come out.  I just know that if I actually said, okay, okay, I'm gonna do this poor helpless little woman who doesn't fight for anything, I would betray it somewhere down the line.  I know I would.

Alec Baldwin: What do you want to do next?  What's a part you haven't done in the theater?

Kathleen Turner: I just got a whole slew, which is always nice.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.

Kathleen Turner: Having just lost my job, you know.

Alec Baldwin: Well, they lost you, honey.

Kathleen Turner: Yes. Thank you. A couple of interesting ideas we've come up.  One is an old play called The Killing of Sister George.  You remember this?

Alec Baldwin: I've heard of it, yeah.

Kathleen Turner:  About a British radio drama. I'm not sure how I feel about it, which is very intriguing to me.  There's a great deal of humor in everything.  At the same time, the woman is absolutely wretched, awful, abusive.  You know qualities that I truly despise.  On the other side, I just adore her.  So you know we're gonna sit down and have a reading on that one.  

Alec Baldwin: Is there other Albee you want to do?

Kathleen Turner: Well, he's writing a new one.

Alec Baldwin: Is he?

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, yeah. Which is interesting.  

Alec Baldwin: What was that experience like working with him, 'cause he's very hands on.  He's very present.  

Kathleen Turner: Very, very present.  At the time though, his partner of 35 years was dying.  In fact, it was race between whether we'd open on Broadway first or his partner would breathe his last.  So Albee probably gave us less attention than -

Alec Baldwin: Than typically.

Kathleen Turner: - he has in many, many, many years. Which I rather liked 'cause he can be difficult.  

Alec Baldwin:  Yeah. If I remember right, he's very, very controlling about -

Kathleen Turner:  He is.

Alec Baldwin: - interpretation of his material.

Kathleen Turner: He is. And he's not as good a director as he thinks he is.  

Alec Baldwin: Uh-huh. Do you go the theater much?  

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: Are you much of a movie goer and theater goer?

Kathleen Turner: I go to theater more than films. I always have. You know when your show is canceled you say, and the idiots put money in that.  

Alec Baldwin: Right.  

Kathleen Turner: You know it just makes you angry because of course there's no rhyme or reason for it really.

Alec Baldwin: What did you see that you liked?

Kathleen Turner: I liked Good People.  I was interested by the play. It's intricate, interesting writing and I think that Frances --

Alec Baldwin: McDormand.

Kathleen Turner: Oh, she's lovely. Lovely work. Then of course there was The Book of Mormon.

Alec Baldwin: How as that?

Kathleen Turner: Honey, I don't usually laugh out loud in public.  

Alec Baldwin: Really?

Kathleen Turner: And I was simply howling.  

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.  

Kathleen Turner:  And at the end of the show, this guy in the aisle behind me had his phone out and he said, 'I'm tweeting that Kathleen Turner peed in her pants.' I said, 'Go right ahead.' 

Alec Baldwin: Yeah, yeah.  

Kathleen Turner: 'Go right ahead, hon.' 

Alec Baldwin: I'll be very honest with you about something. I've been in tremendous physical pain myself for the last couple of years.

Kathleen Turner: I didn't know that.

Alec Baldwin: Very bad back from doing a play on a raked stage when we did Streetcar in '92.

Kathleen Turner: That's hard. It's hard.

Alec Baldwin:  I never had one back problem in my life and I was fairly young, I was 34.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: I did that play in 1992, I was 34, my back has never been the same. Now I can't take anything, 'cause I can't work in my business --

Kathleen Turner: Yes, yes. Okay.

Alec Baldwin: In this business I can't be high.

Kathleen Turner: Nope.

Alec Baldwin: I can't.

Kathleen Turner: Nope, nope, nope.  No.

Alec Baldwin: So I gotta go to work in a lot of pain.

Kathleen Turner: No, no.  I used to make that mistake.  You know in terms of when the R.A. was at some of it's very, very worst, I was doing a show on Broadway and I was doing Indiscretions with a raked stage, by the way.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah.

Kathleen Turner: Which really can kill you. In any case, as soon as that curtain came down Sunday night, until Monday night, I drank. Because I'll tell you alcohol kills pain, but you have stop by Monday night because you have to be back on stage Tuesday. So I would get through the week thinking you know four more nights, three more nights, two more nights, until I can start.  I couldn't take pills.  You can't take pain pills.

Alec Baldwin: No.

Kathleen Turner: You can't think.

Alec Baldwin: And doing the TV show I can't pill, 'cause we talk so fast.

Kathleen Turner: You're not clear, you're not timed.  

Alec Baldwin: You lose everything.

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, it's no good. I've found extraordinary people to help me in terms of physical therapy, swimming, massage.  

Alec Baldwin: You quit smoking.

Kathleen Turner: On and off. I've quit smoking I don't know how many times.  

Alec Baldwin: 100 times.

Kathleen Turner: Okay. I don't know. Yeah, right. Well, I'm quit at the moment. Okay. We'll put it that way.

Alec Baldwin: It's okay. Let's take that again. So you quit smoking?

Kathleen Turner: Yes.

Alec Baldwin: Yeah, fantastic.  

Kathleen Turner: Yeah.

Alec Baldwin: Good for you. I'm so proud of you.

Kathleen Turner: Thank you, Alec.

Alec Baldwin: Yes.

Kathleen Turner: And acupuncture and every single day. The thing that has helped, the single most thing the best, is Pilates.  

Alec Baldwin: That's what I take. That's what I do.

Kathleen Turner: Pilates is the best.

Alec Baldwin: Has it ever affected your work?

Kathleen Turner: Had you ever had to work through a show where you were in agony?

Alec Baldwin: Oh God. In Indiscretions, there was a three story metal staircase that the characters had to go up and wait on a catwalk up there.  I kept tissues and a mirror and lipstick and powder up there.  And by the time I got to the top of it, I'd sit down with the cast, I'd be sobbing.  And I would hear a line from Roger Rees and I would wipe my face, put the lipstick back on, re-powder my nose and go back down.  And that's what got me through it every single night, was just letting myself sob by the time I got up there.  I've had nine operations on my knees and my feet and stuff and hand and things.  But I have never had that back problem.  I've always been lucky.

Alec Baldwin: Do you still have the house on the island?

Kathleen Turner: No. I just sold it this fall.

Alec Baldwin: You did?

Kathleen Turner: Yeah, sold it in November. The kids grow up; they don't want to spend the summer out there anymore.

Alec Baldwin: So that's why you kept it.

Kathleen Turner: And then my husband and I divorced five years ago.

Alec Baldwin: How do you like being single?

Kathleen Turner: Love it. Love it. Twenty-two years and now you know what I love, I love to get home, be in front of the door of my apartment and know that no one else is inside.  It's such a relief.  I don't have to take care of anybody. I think maybe it's more of a woman thing, I don't know.  First thing I'm gonna do tomorrow is go get my hair all cut off.

Alec Baldwin: What are doing?

Kathleen Turner: I don't know. I don't care.

Alec Baldwin: Oh.

Kathleen Turner: So tomorrow I'm gonna go in and say do something creative for me.  What do you do when you want to, like you say [sound effect] that chapters over?  Do you get a good haircut?

Alec Baldwin: What do I do? Well, no it's not the same as for women, where you guys do a dramatic alteration in your physical appearance.  God, I wonder.  That's a very good question.  What do I do when I want to signify a big change in my life?  I hate change.

Kathleen Turner: Oh, really?

Alec Baldwin: Oh, I hate change.  

Kathleen Turner: I think all change is good.

Alec Baldwin: Well, I'll tell you something --  

Kathleen Turner: Ultimately it's not easy, but it's always good.  

Alec Baldwin: Maybe for Kathleen Turner.  

I do hate change.  Kathleen’s comment reminded me of a quote that has stuck with me.

TAPE: This was Rauschenberg’s obituary in the New York Times, I saved this.

Painter Robert Rauschenberg died in 2008.  In his obituary, he was quoted talking about his first solo show.

TAPE: Quote -- “Everyone was trying to give up European aesthetics, Rauschenberg recalled, meaning Picasso, the Surrealists, Matisse.  That was the struggle and it was reflected in the fear of collectors and critics.

John Cage said fear in life is the fear of change.  And if I may add to that, Rauschenberg said, “Nothing can avoid changing.  It’s the only thing you can count on.  Because life doesn’t have any other possibility.  Everyone can be measured – I love this -- by their adaptation to change.

And that’s the thing I’m working on.  

This is Alec Baldwin and you’re listening to Here’s The Thing. Our show is produced by WNYC Radio.

Hosted by:

Alec Baldwin

Produced by:

Emily Botein and Kathie Russo