After some work on New York stages and a brief stint on the NBC soap The Doctors, Kathleen Turner made her stunning movie debut as femme fatale Matty Walker in Body Heat, the sweat-drenched, sex-filled neo-noir thriller released in theaters 40 years ago, on Aug. 28, 1981.
The Double Indemnity-inspired film, which also marked the directorial debut of Lawrence Kasdan, paired Turner with William Hurt as the South Florida lawyer who conspires with her to kill her wealthy husband (Richard Crenna) as they begin an intense affair.
There was the film’s twisty premise, and there was also some rocky behind-the-scenes ordeals Turner had to deal with, as she told Yahoo Entertainment during a Role Recall interview (watch above).
“It was Larry Kasdan’s first time directing, and — this was a bit misguided — [he] decided that the first scene [filmed] would be the one scene with full nudity,” the actress said, implying she was uncomfortable. “Just to break the ice and get everything over with. That would be our first shooting. Yeah, I still don’t think that was the best idea.” (Kasdan, who was co-writing the original Star Wars trilogy at the time, would go on to direct films like The Accidental Tourist, which reteamed him with Turner and Hurt, The Big Chill and Silverado.)
Beyond rookie mistakes in decision-making, there were also technical kerfuffles.
“We were shooting that fantastic scene where [Hurt is] outside the house and he picks up the chair and smashes it through the window. We were using probably one of the first Steadicams, and it kept breaking down. So we would get halfway through the shot and [go] ‘No!’ So this went on and on and on all night, and the tension is building.
“And we finally get the shot, and Bill breaks in the door, rushes over and grabs me, and we hear, ‘Cut! Wrap! The sun’s up!’ We lost the whole night trying to get this shot. So at the height of the tension, at the height of passion, we had to pick it up the next day. Talk about your cold shower.”
Body Heat helped transform the husky-voiced Turner into an international sensation who would soon go on to make hit films like Romancing the Stone (1984), Prizzi’s Honor (1985) and The Jewel of the Nile (1985). She also became an instant sex symbol — something Turneer initially struggled over, but, in recent years, she has made peace with.
“Body Heat was a blessing because I went straight to being a leading actor and I didn't have to suffer any of this predatory male behavior like many young actresses,” she told the Guardian in 2018. “It doesn't frustrate me that nearly four decades after that film I'm still referred to as a sexual icon. I got over that a long time ago."
Stream Body Heat on Amazon.