Role Recall: Kathleen Turner on 'Body Heat,' 'Roger Rabbit,' and More

Blessed with a sultry voice, drop-dead looks, and an effortless ability to pivot between comedy and drama or romance and action, it’s no wonder Kathleen Turner became a major star. She rocketed to fame in the ’80s with an impressive string of credits.  

Three of the Missouri native’s first five movies were major attractions: the neo-noir scorcher Body Heat (1981), the action-adventure hit Romancing the Stone (1984), and the Oscar-winning drama Prizzi’s Honor (1985). A few years later, she starred in the 1985 Stone sequel Jewel of the Nile and Francis Ford Coppola’s 1986 comedy-drama Peggy Sue Got Married. Towards the end of the decade, she memorably lent her smoky vocals to the curvy femme fatale of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Now 60, Turner doesn’t appear in nearly as many movies as she did during that remarkable ’80s run, but when she does turn up on the big screen, she exerts the same force. Her latest project falls squarely in the comedy sector of her skillset. In Dumb and Dumber To, she plays the grown-up version of Fraida Felcher, the girl for whom, fans of the original Dumb and Dumber will recall, both Harry (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd (Jim Carrey) had affections for, but we never see. In To, we find out Fraida and Harry had a child together — news that sends our lovable dummies on a cross-country mission.

In our latest episode of Role Recall, which you can watch above, we turn back to the clock with Turner to talk about six of her most famous screen appearances, and one very unforgettable voice.

Body Heat (1981)
Lawrence Kasdan’s film was modern-day noir, and the blonde ingénue Turner was its sizzling femme fatale. The actress says Kasdan had her and co-star William Hurt shoot their fully nude sex scene on the first day, but there’s another sequence she remembers more vividly. Kasdan was executing one of the very first Steadicam shots, filming the scene where Ned Racine (Hurt) hurls a chair through a window just before he and Matty (Turner) get intimate. The camera kept breaking down, though, even as the intensity was building between the two actors. Just when they thought they’d nailed it, “We hear, ‘Cut! Wrap! The sun’s up,’” she says. “We lost the whole night trying to get the shot. So at the height of passion, at the height of tension… we had to pick it up the next day. Talk about a cold shower.”

Romancing the Stone (1984)
Turner says the chemistry came fast and easy between her and co-stars Michael Douglas and Danny DeVito on Robert Zemeckis’s action-comedy hit. The movie’s famous mudslide scene certainly helped her bond with the former, as they commiserated over the difficult conditions. “It was pretty scary, actually,” she says. “There was a lot of water behind you. They would dump tons of gallons of water behind you, and we were in this sort of trough. We had a little wooden Frisbee thing for our butts, and they’d dump this water behind you and you’d just go shooting off. Yikes!”

Prizzi’s Honor (1985)
John Huston’s darkly comic crime drama paired Turner with Jack Nicholson as mob assassins who fall in love with another — the black comedy was a precursor to the Brangelina hit Mr. and Mrs. Smith. And Jack made quite the impression on the actress: “He was probably the best actor I’ve worked with,” she says, before adding: “I apologize to anyone else who might be hurt by this.”

Peggy Sue Got Married (1986)
Francis Ford Coppola was a few years off from cinematic masterworks like The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and Apocalypse Now when he enlisted Turner to star in this time-hopping comedy alongside Nicolas Cage (and Jim Carrey, in one of his first movies).  But Turner wasn’t about to let the revered filmmaker rest on his laurels. She recalls her retort when Coppola asked if he could direct a scene from the cozy confines of his trailer. “I said, ‘No! And I’ll go act in mine.” This, we’re sure, was the end of that conversation.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
Turner was very pregnant when she lent her famously seductive voice to the impossibly curvy Jessica Rabbit in Robert Zemeckis’s comedy-mystery that blended live action with animation. And she almost got all the way through it: “I missed the last day because I went into labor,” she says. “I’m in the hospital saying, ‘Call the studio! Tell them I won’t be in today!’” She admits the gig was perfect, though, for an actress so pregnant. “I was not my most attractive at that point. And yet I’ve got this bombshell I’m voicing, huh?”

Serial Mom (1994)
After becoming a real-life mother, Turner play several big-screen moms in the ’90s, starring in movies like Undercover Blues and this black comedy from Baltimore-based maestro John Waters (Hairspray). “He is one of the kindest people,” she says. “His humor is never hurtful, it’s not malicious, it’s sweet…. It’s not humiliating to someone else, which I think is a real problem now, I think, in a lot of our comedies.”

The Virgin Suicides (1999)
Thirteen years after acting alongside a young Sofia Coppola in Francis’s Peggy Sue Got Married, Turner would star in the budding filmmaker’s breakout drama about one particularly ill-fated family. “That was a hard role, it hurt. It was very, very painful to me in many ways,” she says. The fact that the actress’s daughter, Rachel Ann Weiss, was in her teens at the time made the subject matter all the more difficult for her. “I kept calling home and just saying, ‘Stay alive!’ I can be ferocious when I want to be.”

Watch Turner in a clip from Dumb and Dumber To: