SEND YOURSELF ROSES: THOUGHTS ON MY LIFE, LOVE AND LEADING ROLES, by Kathleen Turner with Gloria Feldt, Springboard, 265 pages, $24.99
In the early pages of her exuberant memoir, the overtly sexy actress Kathleen Turner tells how it felt to play the demanding role of Martha in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" in London in 2006 at the age of 50: "I liken the energy and the skill this takes to being an Olympic athlete."
Which is believable for a play that takes 3 1/2 hours for one performance, and some days she did it back-to-back, as if it were "one six-act play." Having "sacrificed most of her toe bones to rheumatoid arthritis," she felt the physical toll, but only after the curtain falls.
Amazing, considering that she had her right knee replaced before taking on the role.
"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 allow myself to feel the body pains, to feel the mental pain, to feel the heart pain, of the character."
Turner has starred in 25 films, including "Prizzi's Honor" (with Jack Nicholson), "Romancing the Stone" and "The War of the Roses" (with Michael Douglas). She has also starred in 12 Broadway shows, including, most recently, "The Graduate," reprising the role Anne Bancroft created in the popular film of the same name.
Turner has been known throughout her career for portraying women "bigger than life," because her personality and her acting style are so strong. She thinks acting above all is "the study of human behavior" and through diverse roles she has found it "endlessly interesting." But many of her characters have also emphasized a sexiness that Hollywood producers initially liked more than her innate acting talent.
Her beauty, her husky voice and her commanding presence allowed her to be the femme fatale in several movies, most memorably, "Body Heat" with William Hurt, when Turner was only 26. She always wanted to be more than that, which she has achieved quite remarkably in her more recent roles when she has taken chances, done the unexpected, and been successful.
Most readers would probably not be surprised to learn that Turner prefers "bad girl" roles. She finds more opportunity to emote, to differentiate herself from other actresses. Her witty, charismatic personality is fully revealed in this memoir, even though she employs a good friend to help her write it.
The friend must know her very well, because Kathleen Turner jumps off the page just as she has so regularly jumped off the screen.
Turner includes many amusing anecdotes, as in the way she and other actors practically froze while filming "Body Heat" during a Florida winter: "The actors were dressed in little T-shirts and shorts. The crew was wearing duffel-coats and snow hoods. We just wanted to kill them.
"We relied on tricks so we didn't look cold when in fact we were freezing our butts off. We'd tense and tense and tense and tense every single muscle in our bodies; when they said, 'Roll,' we let it go. And then we couldn't shiver because we'd held our muscles so tense. We'd put ice cubes in our mouths and spit them out when the director said, 'Roll,' so our breaths didn't come out as clouds. My mouth felt like a Popsicle all the time."This is an autobiography that captures Kathleen Turner, page by entertaining page.