The THREE Hollywood stars who tried to seduce me

The THREE Hollywood stars who tried to seduce me: As she returns to TV in a new thriller, Kathleen Turner reveals why she’s never dated another actor – although she did have Nicholson, Beatty and Douglas all trying to bed her…

  • Hollywood star Kathleen Turner opens up about her legacy of being ‘difficult’ 
  • READ MORE: Kathleen Turner reveals why a relationship with her Romancing The Stone co-star Michael Douglas would never have worked

As stories go – and Kathleen Turner has plenty of them – it’s a cracker. Fresh from her big-screen debut as siren Matty Walker in the 1981 hit Body Heat, she was having dinner with Hollywood heartthrobs Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson and Michael Douglas.

After a fun evening she left early to prepare for work the following day and thought nothing more of that night until years later when her pal Michael Douglas let slip that the three men had been engaging in a secret competition to see who could bed her first (none of them succeeded).

‘Well, I was the hot new thing and they were hot things and we were all supposed to link up, only nobody bothered to tell me that!’ she says now.

And how did she feel after discovering that she had been their unwitting trophy? She replies, in the gravelly tones for which she’s renowned, ‘Scornful.’

Clearly you mess with Kathleen Turner, who returns to television this week in Sky’s new Watergate mini-series White House Plumbers, at your peril. Hollywood sleazeballs never stood a chance (‘They didn’t bother me much, one good look from me was like, “Drop dead, OK?”) and at 68, despite 45 years in showbusiness, she says she’s never had a relationship with another actor.

Kathleen and Michael Douglas in Romancing The Stone. The chemistry their first film together, was palpable and everyone – Kathleen included – thought it would continue off-screen

‘I’ve always considered male actors much more vain than women,’ she says. ‘I’ve never seen one pass a mirror yet.’

Vanity has yet to compel her to indulge in plastic surgery or Botox, and when producer Ray Stark not-so-subtly sent her a box of diet food prior to shooting the 1986 film Peggy Sue Got Married she immediately sent it back.

‘I thought I looked like a healthy woman. Was he deciding how I should look? I don’t think so.’

Even the cast of Friends don’t escape her ire. She appeared as Charles Bing, the transgender parent of Matthew Perry’s character Chandler, but says, ‘The cast were not gracious to guest stars. I was dressed up in an appalling spangled dress with a pound of hairspray on my head and none of them offered me a seat. I thought that was wrong. They should have taken care of their guests better. But I think they were just so tight they didn’t see others.’

While she’s clearly a hoot in conversation, her frankness has at times landed her in trouble. After agreeing to film The Jewel Of The Nile, the sequel to 1984 action romcom Romancing The Stone, she tried to back out.

‘I wouldn’t agree to lower my standards and the script was nowhere near the quality that Romancing was,’ she says.

She was hit with a $25 million breach-of-contract suit, and ultimately made the film after hashing out the scenes with her co-star Michael Douglas, who was also producer, but it contributed to her reputation of being difficult.

‘Any woman who says “I want this, I don’t want that” is difficult, while a man is decisive – this has not changed.’

Jack Nicholson and Kathleen in Prizzi’s Honor. The star recalled one evening in the 1980s when she was having dinner with Jack, Michael Douglas and Warren Beatty

Kathleen says that she was a ‘hot new thing’ and Warren (pictured), Jack and Michael were ‘hot things’ 

Has it cost her big roles? ‘Probably. But I never did anything I didn’t want to do and I think that scores high on the other side.’

Her latest role is possibly one of her quirkiest yet. White House Plumbers tells the story of the Watergate scandal that rocked the US in the 70s from the perspective of E Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux), known as the ‘plumbers’ because they ‘fix leaks’.

Members of a covert special investigations unit hired to protect the Richard Nixon presidency by digging up dirt on the opposition, they instead managed to bring it crashing down when their unlawful actions were uncovered.

From their botched attempts to bug the Democratic National Committee by breaking into its HQ in Washington’s Watergate Complex (in the show they attempt it four times) to their ludicrous disguises, the show is a dark comedy made even darker, says Kathleen, because ‘obviously this whole thing is based on actual facts. This is not made up, it’s just incredible and fantastical and true.’

Kathleen plays Dita Beard, a potty-mouthed lobbyist who unwittingly blows the scandal open and then does everything she can to avoid being questioned, including faking a heart attack.

Kathleen as Dita Beard (right) in White House Plumbers, which tells the story of the Watergate scandal that rocked the US in the 70s from the perspective of E Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux)

‘I mean, going to a hospital in Colorado to escape a senate hearing – who believes this stuff?’ she laughs. But it did actually happen.

She thought she was going over the top with her portrayal, but the director told her it was spot on.

‘So I said, “OK then!” I have no idea what Dita was like other than the dialogue I was given, which is fairly bold and explicit. But she was the only one who came out of it well. She ended up with a horse farm in Virginia and everybody else ended up in jail.’

It’s a peach of a part, and while many actresses bemoan the paucity of roles as they get older, Kathleen says, ‘I haven’t stopped working in years.’

One of her most recent stints was in the Netflix series The Kominsky Method, alongside her old sparring partner Michael Douglas, and as she says, ‘Who the hell else could play his ex-wife?’

Their chemistry in Romancing The Stone, their first film together, was palpable and everyone – Kathleen included – thought it would continue off-screen, since at the time Michael was separated from his first wife Diandra Luker. But when Diandra showed up on set one day it put an end to any potential romance between the stars, because as Kathleen remarked, ‘You don’t mess with another woman’s husband.’

Would their screen chemistry have been ruined if they’d become involved?

‘I imagine so. Michael was a very active man and I was not,’ she says pointedly. ‘So I think our lifestyles would not have worked out. He’s a misogynist. He was. But I think Catherine [Zeta-Jones, to whom he’s been married since 2000] changed him.’

Kathleen is speaking over Zoom from her home in New York, and with her simple black top, her hair lush and coiffed, she looks in rude health. That she continues to work steadily in addition to teaching university students would have been unthinkable when she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis over 30 years ago. 

Her doctors told her she’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life. ‘So I fired them,’ she says.

Nevertheless, it had an immediate effect on her career. ‘I had to give up leads and go to supporting roles because I couldn’t guarantee I could work the hours needed for a lead. I wouldn’t take a contract I couldn’t fulfil, so it had a tremendous impact.’

The steroids she was taking caused significant weight gain, and because Kathleen hadn’t publicly disclosed her condition it led to rumours of drink and drug abuse. 

After starring in the 1995 Broadway production of Indiscretions she was labelled ‘an amazing nightmare’ by her co-star Dame Eileen Atkins.

‘It doesn’t matter, we did some good work,’ says Kathleen. ‘But Eileen discovered during the run that she had breast cancer so, God love her, she was dealing with that.’

It was nonetheless ‘a time that was very hard and I did find, as people have over the centuries, that alcohol helped control the pain, so of course I abused it. In the short run, vodka and Advil [ibuprofen] was a great mix.’

It was during her 2002 Broadway run in The Graduate that she realised she had a problem.

‘I would never, ever drink before a show, but I’d get home Sunday night and start drinking, which made me miss all my Mondays off with my family, with my daughter, and that was not acceptable.’

She checked into rehab. ‘They worked out new medications and I was able to pull myself up and do a reset.’

She’s very close to her daughter Rachel, 35, a singer-songwriter, and although Kathleen and her husband, property developer Jay Weiss, divorced in 2007 after 23 years of marriage, they remain friends.

‘He’s a good father,’ she says. ‘He has another family now but we still have holidays together. It’s all very nice.’

Would she marry again?

‘Why?’ she asks, agog. ‘I have no desire for that. Certainly I enjoy being with a man but I have no desire to live with one again. In my experience, every man who is age appropriate expects to be taken care of and I’m done with that.’

Looking back, she admits there’s one part she might not accept today – that role in Friends.

Charles Bing was a trans woman and Marta Kauffman, the show’s co-creator, recently stated it was a ‘mistake’ to refer to her as Chandler’s father.

‘But unfortunately there was no thought of casting a trans person back then,’ says Kathleen. Does she regret taking the part?

‘Why would I? They weren’t offering it to someone else, but I doubt I would take it now. Now I would be able to recommend someone else.’

And since it’s Kathleen Turner, they’d be foolish not to listen.

White House Plumbers, Tuesday, 9pm, Sky Atlantic and NOW.

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