I landed a one on one interview with film legend Kathleen Turner for, of all things, the long-awaited sequel Dumb and Dumber To. She plays Fraida Felcher, a long lost love of Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carey), who reveals she had a daughter given up for adoption. So the dummies go looking for the long lost daughter.
When Harry and Lloyd meet Fraida now, they mistake her for a man and make fun of her aged appearance. Turner totally plays along, and was happy when I brought it up in our interview. Of course we also revisited Kathleen Turner classics like Romancing the Stone, Roger Rabbit, Body Heat and my personal favorite, The Man With Two Brains. Dumb and Dumber To opens Friday.
Kathleen Turner: Fred, who are you with here?
Nuke the Fridge: I am with a site called Nuke the Fridge.
Kathleen Turner: What is that? I’m sorry I’m ignorant, but I’m older, you know.
Nuke: Oh, that’s okay. Thank you for your interest. I don’t know if you’ve heard the expression “nuking the fridge.” It’s the new “jumping the shark.” It’s based on the last Indiana Jones where he survives a nuclear explosion by hiding in a refrigerator.
Kathleen Turner: Oh, I saw that, yes.
Nuke: Nuking the fridge is when they’ve gone too far and jumped the shark.
Kathleen Turner: Excellent, I like that now that I understand it.
Nuke: Thank you. My little secret is I actually like that movie and that scene.
Kathleen Turner: Yeah, I thought it was pretty clever.
Nuke: It’s fun, it’s like the new version of running from the boulder.
Kathleen Turner: I mean, the fact that it’s completely impossible, but they all are.
Nuke: Exactly. Now I suppose at the height of your career you may have been known more as a femme fatale, but I remember you in comedies like Serial Mom and The Man with Two Brains. Did Dumb and Dumber To bring you back to that kind of comedy?
Kathleen Turner: It’s not the same kind of comedy. I don’t think there’s anything quite like Dumb and Dumber To. It’s not formulaic. It’s really character driven. It’s these guys that fall into the stupidest stuff because of who they are. It’s not like there’s a plot that tells you where they are. I mean, there is a plot. Okay, I’m mucking this up.
Nuke: Right, they have to find the daughter and get to the conference.
Kathleen Turner: Yeah, they’ve got to get ahold of the daughter, right. But I had so much trouble when I first started out, convincing people that I could be funny, because after Body Heat, and then when I wanted to do Romancing the Stone, they said, “Oh yeah, she’s sexy but she’s not funny.” I said, “Yes, I am funny.” So then I had to go audition for Carl [Reiner] and Steve [Martin], fall down and climb up Steve’s legs and knock things over, just to make them laugh. That worked out okay. Then when John [Waters] came along and asked would I do Serial Mom, that was crazy. John was just honored at the Lincoln Film Center, 50 Years of John Waters, can you imagine?
Nuke: Wow, I have the DVD set but I didn’t realize it spanned 50 years.
Kathleen Turner: Yeah, they honored him for 50 years in film. Yikes! He couldn’t believe it. Anyway, the comedy in this, to me I’m not really a straight man because it’s not the kind of comedy where you set ‘em up and you have a straight man. I think of myself as a semblance of normalcy.
Nuke: Was the role also contingent on making fun of how you look, and were you comfortable with that?
Kathleen Turner: Yeah. Very. Actually, that was a big reason why I wanted to do it. It’s this funny thing. I turned 60 this summer and Body Heat was 33 years ago. The whole idea that people are disappointed you don’t look the same way. Well, come on. Let’s get real here. So in part, there was a little part of me that wanted to say, “No, I don’t look like I did 30 years ago. Get over it.”
Nuke: Nor should you!
Kathleen Turner: I don’t think I should. Most of my work is theater. That’s what I love and quite honestly, if I looked the same, if I tried to look much younger, I would lose a lot of the character acting that I love. I wouldn’t be able to Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I wouldn’t be able to do Mother Courage if I looked like a model for God’s sakes, and those are the roles I want.
Nuke: Fraida Felcher was mentioned in one line in the first movie. Did that impact you? Did you pay attention to that line and the history in the first film?
Kathleen Turner: No, no. I didn’t. No, I didn’t. I was just told that she’d come up in the first film, but no, I don’t remember.
Nuke: I didn’t remember either until I went back and watched it. Did Jim Carrey stand out to you in Peggy Sue Got Married?
Kathleen Turner: Yes. Yes, he did. We had a great group of young people. In that film, Barry Miller and Jim. Helen Hunt had just recently started. Oh yeah, we had a really great group of young people in that film, a lot of whom went on to do good work.
Nuke: Would you have guessed that Jim Carrey, Helen Hunt and Nicolas Cage would all become big stars on their own?
Kathleen Turner: I would not have been surprised at all. I certainly thought that Helen would. She just had this beautiful, luminous quality to her. I thought that she would have a marvelous career.
Nuke: So did Dumb and Dumber To make you an offer, or did you have to audition?
Kathleen Turner: They made me an offer and we counter offered and they came up. We worked it out.
Nuke: They’re doing their sequel after 20 years. You did Jewel of the Nile one year after Romancing the Stone. Did that seem a little quick to you?
Kathleen Turner: No, there were problems. Jewel of the Nile was a difficult situation at first because I had signed to do a sequel, and I loved Romancing. I thought it was a great film. I thought we did a great job, but when they got me the script to Jewel of the Nile, I didn’t like it at all. I felt it was nowhere near the same quality of writing that Romancing had been so I said no, I wasn’t going to do it. I had agreed to do a sequel but not to compromise my standards. Anyway, so then we got into a legal thing which got kind of crazy and they agreed to bring the original writer back and rewrite a lot of the script, which was great, which was all I wanted. So we went ahead. No, I didn’t have any problem with that being quick. I thought it was right where we left the characters in Romancing, it was a really great question, were they going to make a go of this marriage? I thought that was good. I like the quickness.
Nuke: I love sequels and there are different ways you can do them. You can follow up right away, or revisit them years down the line.
Kathleen Turner: Well, I think it works for this one because look what nonsense they’ve been up to.
Nuke: When they did the Roger Rabbit animated shorts, did those feel like mini-sequels to you?
Kathleen Turner: No, just cartoons.
Nuke: I liked that they kept coming out.
Kathleen Turner: I did too, but you know the process of doing that is so expensive. Crazy. Roger Rabbit will never be done again. It was hand painted on frames. Now they will just use computers.
Nuke: I thought Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl had a very Kathleen Turner vibe as a femme fatale. Did you see it and what did you think?
Kathleen Turner: I haven’t seen Gone Girl. I want to. I like the work I’ve seen of hers a lot. I saw her in of course the Jane Austen [film]. I’ve seen her in several projects. I watch a lot of British TV too. I like her. I really like her. She’s got a mystery to her and she’s so beautiful.
Nuke: Did you turn down a lot of femme fatale roles in the ‘80s, knowing how Hollywood always wants you to do the same thing?
Kathleen Turner: Yeah, I absolutely did. After Body Heat and after it proved to do well, there was Body Heat 2, 3, 4. Not from Larry [Kasdan] but ripoffs. Didn’t interest me. If I’ve done something well, I’ve never wanted to repeat it. Been there, done that. If you look at my filmography, you’ll see that most of them are in contrast to the one before. So there’s Body Heat and then there’s Man with Two Brains which is a spoof of Body Heat, the femme fatale. And then Romancing, to go to an insecure and timid woman, followed by Crimes of Passion which is a $50 whore on Hollywood Blvd. Really truly, the only predicting you could probably do was that it will be as far away from the one I just did as possible.
Nuke: Where is Peggy Sue in that?
Kathleen Turner: Peggy Sue comes along after China Blue.
Nuke: Film now is all shot digitally. Do you miss shooting on film or is this easier?
Kathleen Turner: Not really. I think technology is great because, first of all, it’s allowing so many more independent and lower budget films to be made. Come on, those Panavision cameras cost the Earth. And the crew you needed to cart them around and run them. This lovely little film I did, The Perfect Family, a couple years ago, we had this wonderful little camera that could do great things, and it didn’t take five bodybuilders to be able to move it. I think it’s essential. What’s happening, I find very promising, very hopeful is that because of the advances in technology, we can have so many more interesting independent films. The problem is still, and will be I’m sure, the distribution and studios still have a lock on distribution. However, the festivals are gaining more and more power and importance. So it’s going to even out at some point or at least get better. Right now, to me, most of the films coming out of the studios are just predictable, done, boring, unimaginative.
Nuke: I agree. I love superheroes but all the superhero movies they’re making are the same movie over and over.
Kathleen Turner: Yeah, and if they’re not doing that, then they’re making a TV show into a movie. It’s really boring.
Nuke: I understand theater became your passion.
Kathleen Turner: It always was.
Nuke: Do you still have fond memories of the classic films you made?
Kathleen Turner: Oh, sure. No, I love the ones I made. I always did. I was just always aware that as I got older as a woman, there would be less and less roles for me in film. Which is quite true. I never stopped working on stage. This will be my third play this year. I created Mother Courage January through end of March. Then April 1 I go to London and create a new play on West End. Now I’m going up to Berkeley Rep to do a one woman play, Red Hot Patriot. Molly Ivins is this great Texas columnist, humorist, political columnist. She’s the one who called Bush Shrub. She’s a Mark Twain of our time, so I have this great play written on her life and writings.
Nuke: Some of your best movie roles have had movie counterparts, like The Graduate and Virginia Woolf. Is that a fun crossover?
Kathleen Turner: First of all, Virginia Woolf was a play first and foremost always. They made that into a movie, and not a very good one. Edward Albee was not pleased with it and quite rightfully so. It’s not the play.
Nuke: Oh really? That’s the only way I know the material.
Kathleen Turner: Then when you get a chance to see the production, you’ll see it’s extremely different and much better. George, for example, in the play does not get drunk. So you don’t have these two drunks screaming at each other all night, which is rather unattractive and you don’t learn much from it. The play is entirely different in some aspects, much more brilliant.
Nuke: That’s so funny. My first reaction to the film was I don’t want to see people scream at each other for two hours, and then it grew on me later in life. But that isn’t the original intention anyway.
Kathleen Turner: That’s not the play, no. Now, The Graduate, Terry Johnson, that was a film first. Terry Johnson made it into the play and his intention really was comedy, to find the humor in all of this rigidity of the time and the roles. That’s what it was. The audiences just howled, so that was great. Then I suppose Cat on a Hot Tin Roof would be seen, but that again was a play first and always. Besides the fact which I never liked Elizabeth Taylor’s voice, so I always thought I did a better job than she did anyway.
Nuke: You have a right to be a voice snob.
Kathleen Turner: I am a voice snob, yes.