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Former Hollywood 'Sex Symbol' Kathleen Turner's Addiction Derailed Her Successful Career

Rebelander Basilan
Dec 18, 2018
09:35 P.M.

Kathleen Turner became a big name in Hollywood for being a seductress in the movie “Body Heat.” Besides having a successful career, the star struggled with personal issues with addiction.


Kathleen Turner, 67, was best known for her roles in movies like “Romancing the Stone” and “Body Heat.” She earned herself the title of Hollywood’s “sex symbol” before fading away.

Kathleen was known for her confidence and happiness in her skin. She expressed this very well by the many acting roles she took over the years but a personal struggle messed with her success.

Kathleen Turner on the set of "Prizzi's Honor" which has a June 13, 1985, airdate | Photo: ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty Images

Kathleen Turner on the set of "Prizzi's Honor" which has a June 13, 1985, airdate | Photo: ABC Photo Archives/Disney General Entertainment Content/Getty Images


Mary Kathleen Turner was born in Missouri, where she was the only one of her four siblings born in the US. Allen Richard Turner, her father, was raised in China before joining the army.

He worked as a US Foreign Service Officer, and during World War II, he was held in Japan for four years in a prisoner-of-war camp. Kathleen once revealed that her father never discussed his time in the prison camp.

Kathleen Turner at the premiere of "Trance" hosted by The Cinema Society & Montblanc at SVA Theater on April 2, 2013, in New York City | Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Kathleen Turner at the premiere of "Trance" hosted by The Cinema Society & Montblanc at SVA Theater on April 2, 2013, in New York City | Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

The actress explained to the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST) that she pieced together what happened to Allen through stories told by others. While in London, she heard one particular story.

Kathleen informed ADST that older people would approach her to gush over her father. At one point, one of them praised Allen for having saved their son’s life.



Some fans might recognize Turner from the sitcom “Friends,” where she starred as Chandler Bing’s transgender biological father, Helena Handbasket. However, she rose to fame long before that.

She found her stardom when she appeared on the TV series “The Doctors.” The actress played the role of Nola Dancy Aldrich from 1978 until its end in 1979, for a whopping 243 episodes!


Some of her other acting roles included “Peggy Sue Got Married,” “The War of the Roses,” and “The Jewel of the Nile.” However, in the mid-‘90s, her stardom began to fade because of a combination of things.


Due to illness, addiction, and an unfair reputation for being hard to work with, Kathleen’s success dwindled. In September 2018, she spoke to “Good Morning America” about her addiction to alcohol and her arthritis diagnosis.


In 1992, Kathleen was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her late 30s and was in a lot of pain. Seeking to find relief, the actress turned to alcohol because it was an excellent painkiller, stating:

"Oh, I abused alcohol.”

A doctor that she saw told her she would be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life, so she fired him. The actress confessed how she’d kept her illness a secret for years because she felt she didn’t have a choice.


Speaking to The Guardian in 2018, she recalled how she was called a drunk. People were so cruel to her that they even said awful things about how Kathleen looked.


She also noted how fellow actor, Robert Downey Jr., was known for being an alcoholic but studios still hired him. Kathleen said she knew if she’d confessed to having arthritis that was under control, no one would work with her.


She felt the industry had more tolerance to Downey Jr. even though he allegedly showed up to sets drunk. The star said the issue was the sexism against women because a man speaking his mind on set was seen as decisive, unlike women’s voices.


Having arthritis meant the actress would have to question normal activities like holding a pen, standing up, or climbing stairs. She confessed in 2018 to Vulture that she felt a loss during that time.


Kathleen’s confidence had been based on her physical looks, and she questioned who she was without that. Even though she struggled with getting the recognition she used to have, she kept pushing.


Since then, the former “seductress” turned her energy to the theater. She also conducts regular master classes for acting students across the country after being a professional actor for more than 41 years.


The Sun also reported in November 2021 that Kathleen was set to star in a one-woman show on the New York City stage in December 2021. The show, “Finding My Voice,” would include music and humor.

The story would focus on the actress’s rise to fame. Fans can see her at New York City’s Town Hall on December 16, 2021, with tickets available for purchase on the show’s website.



Kathleen’s work earned her several nominations over the years and led her to win two Golden Globe Awards. She won the accolade for best performance by an actress in a motion picture for “Romancing the Stone” in 1985.

Her second win came in 1986 when she won for the best performance by an actress in a motion picture for the film “Prizzi’s Honor.” Besides being an actress, the star has also had the pleasure of working as a director.



Even though she’s had her ups and downs in the acting world, Kathleen revealed that one of her fondest acting memories was when she was filming “Romancing the Stone.” She said she had the most fun ever in the movie.

Diandra [Douglas] flew down to Mexico and confirmed she was still married to [Michael] Douglas.

She got to be back in South America, where she grew up. Being a sex symbol, however, meant men were always trying their luck with her, and some of them were still quite famous today.


Kathleen’s role on “Body Heat” saw her starring as the femme fatale Matty Walker. After appearing in that movie, she became a sexual target, and later she found out that two famous male actors wanted her.


Michael Douglas, Warren Beatty, and Jack Nicholson competed to get the actress first. The star proudly noted that none of them actually did!



Even though none of the men got to hook up with her, Kathleen and Douglas almost had an affair. The pair had great chemistry while working on “Romancing the Stone.”

The actress believed Douglas was separated from his first wife, Diandra, and that she and he were falling in love. It all went down the drain when Diandra flew down to Mexico and confirmed she was still married to Douglas.

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