Though she came to prominence in the 1980s, Kathleen Turner, with her blend of raw sexuality, beauty, intelligence, and drive, could give golden age-sirens like Lana Turner and Ava Gardner a run for their money. After years of working as a relative unknown in way-off-Broadway productions and in the television soap opera The Doctors, Turner burst onto the movie scene in a star-making blaze when she was cast as femme fatale Matty opposite William Hurt in Lawrence Kasdan's neo-noir thriller Body Heat (1981). She continued to wreak havoc on the opposite sex throughout the decade, appearing in a variety of popular movies that ranged from drama to lighthearted adventure to jet-black comedy.
The daughter of a U.S. ambassador, Turner experienced a peripatetic upbringing in a fiercely competitive environment. Living in Canada, Cuba, Washington, D.C., Venezuela, and England, she learned to adjust to new situations at a very young age. She later claimed the experience molded her as an actress and taught her to constantly refashion herself to meet the needs of particular situations. Turner first became conscious of wanting to be an actress while living in England, where, during her weekly visits to the theater, she was thrilled by the work of Diana Rigg, Christopher Plummer, Angela Lansbury, and others. While attending high school, Turner enrolled in classes at London's Central School of Speech and Drama. She studied there until 1973, when her father's death forced her mother to move the family back to her hometown of Springfield, MO. It was there that Turner would take voice lessons at Southwest Missouri State University, where she later enrolled. Finding the campus devoid of the culture she craved, however, Turner transferred to the University of Maryland and in 1977 graduated with a degree in theater. Following graduation, she moved to New York and, in between waiting tables, found work in television commercials and obscure stage productions until deciding it was time to try Hollywood.