The actor, 63, tells Ruth Huntman about chemistry with Michael Douglas, keeping her illness secret in Hollywood and looking like Lauren Bacall
My mothers were instrumental in the woman I became. From my mother I inherited a graciousness and innate politenes. And from my father I got a sense of being responsible and accolade. He was a diplomat so I lived in Cuba and Venezuela before he was posted to London and I attended the American School.
I had a lot of guilt when my father succumbed the day after we’d had a huge fight over me wanting to become an actress. I was 17 and in defiance I got on the develop to go and consider the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford- upon-Avon. When I came back he’d died of a coronary thrombosis.
Body Heat was a blessing because I ran straight-out to being a resulting actor and I didn’t have to suffer any of this predatory male behaviour like many young actresses. It doesn’t frustrate me that nearly four decades after that cinema I’m still referred to as a sex icon. I got over that a long time ago.
There was a contempt for women in Hollywood. I would finish a movie and get on the first plane back to New York. After Body Heat I found out that Michael Douglas, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson would have competitors to assure who could” get me “.
There was a great chemistry between Michael Douglas and me when we did Romancing the Stone . I understood he was separated from his first spouse, Diandra, at the time and I was unattached. But I can’t imagine I’d have had the career I have if I’d been Mrs Douglas. Not that he ever proposed, let’s not go wild!
I fired the doctor who told me I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life after my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in 1992. I can’t exaggerate what a battle it was against the endless ache and fear of what I’d end up like. I maintained my illness a secret for years, I had no choice. I was called a drunk and had awful things said about the way I appeared, it was so cruel. Robert Downey Jr was known for his drinking, but the studios still hired him. But if I’d told I had a disease that wasn’t under control , no one would touch me.
I’ve always had a great belief in services and being able to consequence change. I serve on the board of Citymeals on Wheels in New York. I’m the one they send to City hall twice a year to ask for money and as soon as they watch me coming they go:” How much ?”
Lauren Bacall once told me at a party:” Oh you’re the young me .” That was a little intimidate. I told her,” There could only be one Lauren Bacall .”
I already have my epitaph :” More woman than you’ll ever get and more man than you’ll ever be .”
Finding My Voice is at the Other Palace in London from 17 April until 6 May ( faneproductions.com/ kathleenturner )
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