Kathleen Turner: Relishing Raunch in a New Era

PHOTO: Kathleen Turner

Once a sex symbol, always a sex symbol.

To be sure, Kathleen Turner today looks a lot different from the siren who made movie goers sweat in 1981's "Body Heat." Stalled for years by rheumatoid arthritis and the alcoholism that ensued, the 55-year-old actress has been to hell and back.

But in Showtime's raunchy, rowdy, David Duchovny-helmed "Californication," the girl prove's she's still got it -- the power to enthrall audiences with her throaty drawl, the ability to make all other characters fade into the background when she steps into a scene.

Video: Kathleen Turners new role on Californication.
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Of course, it's hard to focus on anything else when Turner's Sue Collini, a middle aged Hollywood agency exec. with the mouth of a porn star and the sexual appetite of a college co-ed, sucks the finger of her favorite foot soldier and object of desire, Charlie Runkle (Evan Handler), and shoves it in her skirt with nary an explanation but a breathy groan. What she does say in the series can't be printed here. Collini is over the top and out of line, and Turner loves it.

'80s Sex Symbols: Then and Now

"I like doing outrageous things. I seem to be sort of making speciality of it, being this crazy middle aged woman," she told ABCNews.com. "When I'm doing something, I don't think about what other people are going to think about it. Just doing it is where I get my kicks. Then of course, to see it with other people, you realize how out there it is."

The "out there" factor drew Turner to "Californication," much to the delight of series creator and executive producer Tom Kapinos.

"I've grown pretty cynical at this point but when I come up with a character, there's a prototype in my head, and for Sue Collini, I thought 'Oh, Kathleen Turner,'" he said. "And when you're doing TV, you think Kathleen Turner and you end up with someone far down the list. But we called her, and the deal closed within a day. I figured I'd have to call her and plead and promise that she wouldn't be having sex with animals or something."

Nope, though maybe it helped his case that "Californication" hasn't broached bestiality (yet). Turner was hungry for a role with meat, something she said is hard to come by for middle-aged women in Hollywood these days.

'Californication' Character Parallels Turner

"If you don't have stage training, you're truly limited. They don't write good roles for women. If you're not immediately identifiable as the ingénue or sex symbol, they don't know what to write. Write a character? I mean, a character? Who has thoughts and feelings and opinions? They don't know how to do it."

With Sue Collini, Turner's found a role she can dig into, and a character that mirrors some of her favorite qualities.

"She's ballsy, which I like. I would give myself credit for that. She's unapologetic; I'll go with that one too. She has a good sense of humor, and I like that."

Turner's funny as well, with a dry, self-depreciating wit that no doubt evolved as armor necessary to survive in the acting industry for so long.

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