Kathleen Turner Was Warned Against Working with John Waters: ‘It’ll Ruin Your Career’

"You can't work with John Waters," Turner recalled her agents telling her. "You don't do B-movies."
Kathleen Turner in "Serial Mom"
Kathleen Turner in "Serial Mom"

According to Kathleen Turner’s former agent, working with John Waters could have sunk her career.

Turner starred in Waters’ 1994 satirical film “Serial Mom” and beat out Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, and Roseanne Barr for the lead role. However, Turner was warned against collaborating with the “B-movie director” due to its perceived effects on her career.

“My agents and all the other people around were like, ‘No, you can’t do that. You can’t work with John Waters. He’s a B-movie director, and you don’t do B-movies. It’ll ruin your career,'” Turner recalled to Vulture about her former team telling her. “Which of course set my back up.”

Waters sent Turner the script, which she said she “of course” read after seeing “Cry-Baby.”

“I got to the point where she sticks the poker in and pulls out the guy’s liver, and I went, ‘No! Gross!'” Turner said of her first reaction to the “Serial Mom” screenplay. “I threw the script down in my office and puttered around, and then I went back to it. I started reading on, and it was fine until the lit hairspray with the kid. Nope! Couldn’t do that. I still hate that, actually. It was the only thing I didn’t like when we got to doing it.”

The “Romancing the Stone” actress continued, “Anyway, I threw it down again, and again I went back. I finished it, and I thought, ‘OK, this will either be the height of absurdity and humor, or it can be a gore-fest.’ So I called John and said, ‘Here’s the deal. I need to know exactly how you would shoot this because if it’s going to be a gore-fest, that’s not for me. I don’t do that.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no. Are you going to be home this afternoon?’ I gave him my address, and four hours later John was ringing my doorbell. He just jumped on the train and came to my house in New York. He had storyboards and explained to me exactly how he would shoot it. I thought, ‘OK, this is kind of what I was hoping for.’ It tickled me. I liked that sense of celebrity-excuses-all crap. I said, ‘All right, I’m going to do this with you.'”

Turner added, “Well, that’s when the screaming started” between her agents. “What was I, some kind of institution that had to be put in a glass case? The crap with that shit. So I said, ‘Yeah, well, watch me.'”

Looking back, Turner said, “Honestly, if you’d said to me, ‘You’re going to do this John Waters film,’ I’d have said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.'”

Yet according to the “Body Heat” actress, Waters was a dream director.

“Oh God, the first thing I think is how we laughed. I mean, we just howled every day,” she said. “I liked John, and what I came to learn about John is he’s honest to God one of the kindest people I have ever met. Yeah, he’ll dig an elbow into you when he sees a weak spot or a sore point, but if he sees that he’s actually hurt you, he’ll back off and apologize. Think about it. His great strengths have been taking truly unattractive people and making you care about them, and I just think that’s admirable.”

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