Kathleen Turner Channels Molly Ivins' 'Kick-Ass Wit' Kathleen Turner stars in Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, a one-woman show based on the life and work of a brassy Texan columnist who helped break journalism's glass ceiling. The show runs in Philadelphia through April 18.
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Kathleen Turner Channels Molly Ivins' 'Kick-Ass Wit'

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Kathleen Turner Channels Molly Ivins' 'Kick-Ass Wit'

Kathleen Turner Channels Molly Ivins' 'Kick-Ass Wit'

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Many of us first got to know Kathleen Turner as the sultry, murderous temptress in the film "Body Heat." From there she went on to a slough of starring roles in movies, including "Romancing the Stone" "Prizzi's Honor" and "Peggy Sue Got Married." She earned an Academy Award nomination for that. But Ms. Turner also kept up a rich career on the stage. She earned a Tony nomination for her most recent appearance on Broadway, in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" And this weekend, Kathleen Turner debuts a role as another brassy broad. She plays the lead...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Oh, there is that laugh.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Nice to talk to you, Ms. Turner.

Ms. KATHLEEN TURNER (Actress): Hi.

SIMON: Well, listen - you play the Texas newspaper columnist Molly Ivins, and here's a clip from the show.

(Soundbite of play, "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins")

Ms. TURNER: (as Molly Ivins) Oh, there I am at a debutante's ball or some other such virgin sacrifice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TURNER: (as Molly Ivins) Six feet tall, red hair and freckles. My mother said I look like a St. Bernard among Greyhounds. Now I was quick enough even then to know this was not a compliment.

SIMON: Kathleen Turner playing the late Molly Ivins. The show is "Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins." It's premiering at the Philadelphia Theater Company. The play is written by sisters Margaret and Allison Engel. But it's Kathleen Turner who brings to life the life brings to life the life of the unabashedly liberal syndicated columnist in her one-woman show.

She joins us now, Kathleen Turner does, from member station WHYY in Philadelphia, as you did just a couple of minutes ago.

So nice to be with you.

Ms. TURNER: Well, thank you very much. I'm glad to be here.

SIMON: You have the most amazing voice. How did you get it?

Ms. TURNER: Thank you. Part genetics, I guess, and a lot of work over the years. A lot of training, and well, you know, once I found it to be an asset, it was certainly something I cultivated.

SIMON: This must be a demanding play for you. It's a one-actor show.

Ms. TURNER: Yeah, it is. It's demanding because it's such a fine line in this sort of genre. I'm interpreting Molly Ivins. I'm acting Molly Ivins. So, but that doesnt mean mimicking or imitating, you know.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Ms. TURNER: So it's a funny sort of, oh, how do I say it, interpretation that one has to go through - process.

SIMON: I gather you at least met her.

Ms. TURNER: I did. I've been on the board of People for the American Way for many years, and one of our primary focuses is the protection of the First Amendment, which, of course, Molly was absolutely, you know, fervent about. So our paths crossed through that organization.

SIMON: What was she like in person? We should explain to our listeners, she...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TURNER: She was big. She was really big. She was our keynote speaker one year at one of our events, and she was introduced by Maya Angelou and she came out and she put her arm around her and she said, I just want ya'll to know the two of us were separated at birth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Of course, Molly Ivins died of cancer at the age of 62 in 2007. What brought you to this play?

Ms. TURNER: Well, after reading it, I thought that there was something that could work here, and I liked Molly so much. And I liked the idea of, oh, keeping her alive and in my way being able to honor her.

SIMON: Can we forget how not so long ago it was tough for women to break into journalism?

Ms. TURNER: Oh, I think not so long ago at all. I think, you know, Molly was the only woman, for example, when she started at the Houston Chronicle.

She was the only female reporter that was not delegated to the, you know, the social pages. She fought like hell to be one of the boys and to cover the real news.

SIMON: She did have some what I'll euphemistically call personal demons, didn't she?

Ms. TURNER: She did. She had a very, very - I think a very difficult and stormy relationship with her father throughout her life. Their political views and attitude toward life were diametrically opposed. And that - so they were always, always clashing.

And then within her profession - in the journalistic field - being one of the boys and breaking in and staying there with one of the boys led to a great deal of drinking with the boys. And so that really did get out of hand as time went on and she - I was with her before her death. She was able to get it under control. But it was out of control for many years.

SIMON: Was she happy?

Ms. TURNER: Hmm. I think she was happy in her work. She really, truly loved being a journalist and loved the reporting loved getting out there and puncturing balloons and making the ridiculous look ridiculous. I think that this was just a thrill, you know. She says celebrate the sheer joy of a good fight.

I think this completely overshadowed and was more important to her than any of her personal life. She never married. She never had children. And I think at times, of course, she thought about that. But it was never as important as the fight that she was carrying on.

SIMON: She was widely read and quoted. I wonder, was she influential?

Ms. TURNER: I think in many ways she was. I think when the whole Shrub thing started, you know...

SIMON: This is her reference George W. Bush.

Ms. TURNER: Yeah, she's the one who named Bush Shrub. I think that that really, you know, gave a real kick to her national level of exposure. So during those years in particular, which was up until her death, she became more prominent and more influential. Yes.

SIMON: Can I ask about your health?

Ms. TURNER: Yes.

SIMON: You've had I don't know how many operations at this point, right? Couple of...

Ms. TURNER: About nine.

SIMON: About nine.

Ms. TURNER: Because of rheumatoid arthritis. Because I have rheumatoid arthritis. And it started about - more than 12 years ago. I suppose about 15 or more. And, you know, after an endless regimen of physical therapy and being one of the most stubborn women I have ever known - you know. I mean, if I can't move, I can't act. And that is simply unacceptable. So I'm doing pretty well. Whatever it takes, you know?

SIMON: Do you know if this show will travel?

Ms. TURNER: Well, I've got a couple of obligations after the run finishes here. But let's, you know, let's see how it goes here. And this is the - put it on, you know, put it out on the floor for a spin and see if it stays upright.

SIMON: And may we ask about what those other commitments are that are in the offing or can't you say?

Ms. TURNER: Oh, sure. No. I'm doing an independent film next. And then after that it's another new play called "High,"�in which I play a recovering alcoholic foul-mouthed nun.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. TURNER: You see, I mean, there are endlessly interesting roles out there. You see?

SIMON: Ms. Turner, I hope you get to all of them.

Ms. TURNER: Ah, now that's a thought.

SIMON: Kathleen Turner, speaking with us from Philadelphia. Her new play,�"Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins," is at the Philadelphia Theater Company.

Ms. TURNER: Thank you.

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