Kathleen Turner holds forth on film and her figure

June 11, 1993|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

She came, she saw, she sort of conquered.

They came, they saw, they sort of worshiped.

That's the way it was at the Senator Theatre when actress Kathleen Turner appeared Wednesday night before a crowd of 800 to discuss her new film "House of Cards," her career and her nipples.

Yes, her nipples.

Question from the audience: "Were those your real nipples in 'Crimes of Passion'?"

Audience: Gasp!

Turner: "Yes, they were, honey."

Audience: Laughter.

Questioner: "You have the best breasts of anybody."

Turner: "Thank you but -- we can stop there."

In a tight black one-piece jumpsuit, Turner was every square inch the diva, the new Tallulah. At a table on the theater's stage, with her current director John Waters by her side as moderator, she held majestically forth on a variety of subjects, putting down the rebellious, rejecting the impertinent with flamboyant brutality, occasionally throwing back her head for a glorious, throaty laugh as she ran her hands through her honey-blond hair. At times it was like watching Bette Davis deal with fishmongers' wives, always amusing and a little awe-inspiring. Her voice -- that voice! -- sounded like maple syrup poured over charcoals.

Question: "What is your relationship with Jesus Christ?"

Turner: "It's none of your business."

Audience: Laughter.

Question (same guy): How can I become an extra?

It wasn't all banter and repartee, however. Turner's film, a Miramax production directed by Michael Lessac, depicts a child afflicted with symptoms of autism, and some parents of autistic children attended the screening and assailed Turner for the film's "inaccurate view" of autism.

"You simply can't get it that fast and be cured that fast," one mother said. She charged that "House of Cards" would set "autism back 20 years," to applause from some other audience members.

Turner dodged gracefully, proclaiming sympathy. "It's terribly frightening, living through these things. Of course I'd rather it did not happen to us -- but it does." She then stated that the film was "only a movie" and that the little girl in it was never formally diagnosed as having autism but only similar symptoms.

At one point, when the mother attempted to outtalk her, Turner snapped, "I'm not finished. This is a parable about the powers of the mind. No one is suggesting a miracle cure."

She also said the film opens a window on autism, the like of which hasn't been done in 20 years.

She had better luck with questions that asked her to describe her exercise routine, which consists of two 45-minute workouts a day, to a woman who said she didn't have time for even one.

"I work 12 hours a day," said Turner, "and I need the exercise routines just to help me maintain the energy to work that hard. Just do it," she said. "It'll help."

She had even better luck with questions that asked her to define the difference between theatrical acting and screen acting.

"On stage you use your whole body, and it's delightful to draw energy from all that movement. In film you have an exactness. You have marks to hit and you have to control your face. On an extreme close-up, you have to decide when to blink, and that can make a whole difference."

At one point, questioners lined up behind microphones four and five deep to get a word in to the movie star.

"John and Miss Turner, I want to tell you I admire your work very much. You're a great actress."

"Thank you," said Waters.

After it was over, Turner was hustled away in a gleaming black Lincoln Town Car, which poked its tentative way through mobs of exiting fans in the alley that abuts the old theater.

She rolled down the window, leaned out and said, "Out of the way, scum!"

No, of course she didn't, but isn't it pretty to think so?

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