Kathleen Turner opens up about her struggle with rheumatoid arthritis

July 31, 2019

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During her forties Kathleen Turner’s life dramatically changed when she was diagnosed with the painful disease rheumatoid arthritis.

Twenty years later though, the award-winning actress is back on the West End stage in a new production, Bakersfield Mist.

But speaking on This Morning, Kathleen, 59, admitted that getting over the disease was a very long and tough process.

Tough time: Kathleen Turner reveals she had 12 operations, one a year, to overcome her rheumatoid arthritis

‘I think a lot of the damage that was done has been surgically replaced,’ the actress told Eamonn Homes and Ruth Langsford.

‘There were about twelve years where I had an operation every October. You have to keep moving, and keep flexible and active. I’m not [in enough pain] to stop me. I have a good tolerance.’

The first signs of the disease came soon after she gave birth in 1992, which doctors believed was triggered by hormones.

Bakersfield Mist: Turner plays an unemployed bartender who thinks she has found a Jackson Pollack painting i her new play

Turner was told that rheumatoid arthritis in women is common for those in their late 30’s and early 40’s, after they have given birth.

Kathleen was told by a physician that she would spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair, but rather than accept the diagnosis, she fired that doctor and endured a staggering number of surgeries.

She shot to cinematic fame opposite William Hurt in the 1981 classic Body Heat, and over the years has proven her worth in films like Romancing The Stone, Peggy Sue Got Married, and even voiced the animated character of Jessica Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

But despite her box office success, Kathleen says she’s always gone back to her first love, theatre, which is what she did after Body Heat.

‘[The attention from Body Heat] was pretty great, but I started in theatre. I was in Broadway long before I was on camera. I was not prepared,’ Kathleen explained.

‘Thankfully, I just went right back to stage. I would argue that all my choices have stood up well, but in between films I always go back to stage.’

She added: ‘I really believe you have to take a level of risk to the point of possibly failing so you know what you can do.’

Turner lived in London as a child, and studied at the American School in St John’s Wood.

‘I had such fantastic access to theater then. This is where it solidified for me that this is what I would do,’ the 59-year old explained.

It’s been eight years since Kathleen was on the West End stage in Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, and now she’s back with Bakersfield Mist.

The play follows the story of an unemployed bartender who finds a painting that could very well be a Jackson Pollack, and so an art expert flies out to meet her from New York to authenticate the work.

‘I’m not much of a scavenger, but my character, Maude Goodman; everything in her house, everything that she wears she’s found in thrift stores, junk shops, out of the bottom of dumpsters,’ Kathleen explained.


‘She’s proud about living this way, not spending, making a life out of what other people throw away.’

Olivier and Tony award-winner Ian McDiarmid (Life of Galileo, Faith Healer) directed by Evening Standard award-winner, Polly Teale.

‘I’m having a wonderful time with [Ian], and he is the ex-director of the Museum of Modern Art,’ Turner tells the hosts. ‘Terribly well educated, terribly upper-class and it becomes a real clash of classes and background.’

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