Kathleen Turner's unique blend of beauty, intelligence, raw sexuality, and drive has propelled her career. Now, in this gutsy memoir, the screen icon reveals the risks she's taken and what she's learned, both personally and professionally. From her film debut as the sultry schemer in Body Heat to her recent craft-stretching role as Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, she shares behind-the-scenes stories of working with Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, Nicolas Cage, William Hurt, Steve Martin, Francis Ford Coppola, John Huston, John Waters, Ken Russell, and Edward Albee.
Turner also talks openly about the father she lost at a young age, her 20-year marriage (and recent separation), her successful struggle with rheumatoid arthritis, and how her life of activism refl ects her deeply-held beliefs. Her stories of triumph, along with humorous stories from her acting career, make for a wonderful read.
Turner has starred in films as diverse as Body Heat and Romancing the Stone; she's had rave reviews for her stage performances in The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Now Turner, with the aid of Gloria Feldt, bares her heart to readers in an upbeat account of her life and work. Turner discovered the theater when she was a teenager living with her Foreign Service family in London; from then on, she took every opportunity to study acting and to perform. Eventually, she landed the steamy lead in Body Heat. Playing such a sexually voracious female role might have typecast her, so she followed it with a comedy, The Man with Two Brains. As she discusses the other acting roles she's chosen, she's emphatic that the selection of material and characters I play reflects my values. She's also been deliberate in her offstage life--her decision to marry, to have a child and to divorce. With great candor, she details some of her worst struggles, battling both rheumatoid arthritis and alcohol. In the end, she's realized it comes down to taking the lead role in her own life. While she may indulge in swear words a bit much for some readers, Turner's vision of life's many possibilities--even as she gets older--is surely inspiring. (Mar.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Grand Central Publishing
February 13, 2008
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Excerpt from Send Yourself Roses by Dana Bate
The Best Role
I am fucking exhausted. Wonderfully, joyfully exhausted, and filled with such extraordinary happiness and gratitude.
Those were my feelings after the two closing London performances of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? on May 13, 2006.
People ask, "How can you do that--two grueling three-and-ahalf- hour performances one right after the other?" The four of us actors-- Bill Irwin as George, Mireille Enos as Honey, David Harbour as Nick, and me as Martha--joked that it's actually one six-act play on days when there are two shows, since we're all on stage during most of the show. I liken the energy and the skill this takes to being an Olympic athlete. Which is quite a feat for someone whose feet have sacrificed most of their toe bones to rheumatoid arthritis. That's why I padded around the stage in those funny soft little slippers.
I never feel tired when I'm onstage. Offstage before and after, I wonder how the hell I did it. But onstage, it just doesn't happen. The exhaustion doesn't hit me until the very, very end when I, or rather Martha, is on the floor and George asks, "Are you all right?" and Martha says, "Yes . . . No." Then I can allow myself to feel the body pains, to feel the mental pain, to feel the heart pain, of the character.
There's a moment in the curtain call after we've all taken the first bow together. Bill and I step back and Mireille and David take their bow. Then Bill and I step forward to take ours. The sound crescendos; it comes in this huge wave. It feels as though it pushes me back physically. It's such an amazing feeling that it takes my breath away. And I just start to beam. I feel so grateful, so grateful, to us, to them, to me, to God, that we have this incredible experience in our lives. All of us: the audience, cast, and crew. Even the critics--everyone says it's the first time the London theater critics have all agreed and given rave reviews to any play. The audiences jumped; they were on their feet applauding us almost every night. It has been a tremendous, absolutely amazing reward for the effort we have all put out and, yes, somewhat of a redemption for me.
I look out at the audience and return the waves of their love and appreciation with a full heart.
When I first read this play in college, I knew I wanted to play Martha someday. I was thrilled by Martha's recklessness, how she has no thought of consequences. Like the way she slices through George, contrasting his inadequacies in sharpest detail to her own "necessary greater strength." She's dangerous as hell but also very exciting and rather endearing.
Or at least I was convinced I could make her endearing. Even back then, I was sure I had the skill to make audiences love the characters I played. Heavens, I was twenty, and I believed I could do anything and that Martha would be a fitting challenge for me when I turned fifty. I always kept this idea in my mind.
Fearlessness at twenty springs from not knowing what challenges lie ahead. Fearlessness at fifty comes from having wrestled with life's challenges and learned from them.
Many challenges good and bad, steps I've deliberately planned or opportunistically seized, choices I've made, risks I've taken, came between the idea and the reality of playing Martha. Each of them helped to form me, to teach me, to prepare me.
The Right Moment to Tell My Story
People say to me all the time, "Oh, you're such a regular person." And I wonder, As opposed to what? An artificial construct?
Just before I left New York for the London run of Virginia, this book started--as many good things do--over tamales, jicama salad, and a margarita (light salt) at Zarela, a favorite Mexican restaurant. Gloria, who has been a good friend since we worked together at Planned Parenthood Federation of America--she as its president and CEO and I as chair of its Board of Advocates--said she wanted to write my biography. She told me I had a lot to say. I was rather embarrassed at first by the thought of that much emphasis on myself. It seemed too egotistical.
Then I thought about something I'd heard, that the object of our lives is the growth of our souls. And I feel that my soul is finally in a place where I can contribute. This particular moment in my life is a good time to take stock of all that. So I said I would like to be the practical, regular person that I am, and share my life lessons that might be of service to others. Finally we both figured out that I couldn't share my lessons very well without telling my story too.
I feel about this book like I feel about my acting roles. Send Yourself Roses is my truth as I see it. But every story has many truths. Take from mine whatever you will.