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March 31, 2000 07:22am
Kathleen Turner Bares All As Mrs. Robinson
Source: Reuters
by: Sarah Toms

(LONDON) - Kathleen Turner, the consummate older woman, lays bare more than just her soul when she strips naked to seduce a man half her age in a London stage production of ''The Graduate.''

Nearly 20 years ago, coupled with William Hurt, the American film actress became sex personified in ``Body Heat'' with curves men drooled over and an attitude women envied.

Now, at 45, Turner proves she can still turn heads and that casting her as Mrs. Robinson was an inspired choice.

``When Terry Johnson had the idea of adapting it for the stage, they sent it to me last August and I turned to my husband and I said 'What do you think of me doing Mrs. Robinson?' and he said 'Of course!''' Turner said in trademark husky tones.

``I don't feel that I've ever been locked into the role of sex siren, thank goodness. But it's an asset in that you get to use it.''

While Anne Bancroft showed only a tease of stocking-clad leg in the 1967 film, Turner turns fantasy into flesh at London's Gielgud Theater by going naked to seduce the clean-cut and virginal Benjamin Braddock, played by Matthew Rhys.

Preview audiences gasped then raved when Turner showed all. The theater isn't complaining either as ticket sales are booming for the play, which opens on April 5.

Off-stage, Turner had the enviable job of casting young bucks to play Benjamin. It seems only the Welshman would do.

``I told my girlfriends that I have to go and pick a young man and they said 'Oh that's just awful, isn't it?''' Turner told Reuters Television in an interview.

A ``Nasty Kind Of Woman''

Rhys, who admits to a certain amount of ``shaking and sweating'' when he met Turner and to the pressures of following in Dustin Hoffman's definitive footsteps, says he can relate to the allure of having an affair with an older woman.

But Turner is not overly fond of Mrs. Robinson.

``The way she treats her husband and her daughter and Benjamin, she's really a very unhappy and nasty kind of woman. I hate to say it but it's really a bit of a stretch for me -- I'm really a nice person,'' she said.

``But there is a delicious thing about seducing this young man and I am starting to feel a little enjoyment from it.'' Whatever Turner thinks of Mrs. Robinson, she sympathizes with a woman being left behind by a monumental societal shift.

``This takes place in 1964 and this is a period in which the society is just about to burst open,'' she said.

``The rules are so clear and so strict and she senses through what is happening with young people that the world is changing seriously and she is not going to be part of it. I think that makes her, oh damn it, furious.''

Although Johnson's adaptation more closely follows Charles Webb's book than the film, comparisons between Turner and Bancroft can't help but be made.

``I know her and I think she is an amazing woman. I don't think of myself in terms of comparison with her,'' Turner said.

``I don't think the thought of coming in and comparing us will last very long because it's such a different venue, such a different situation and a different script than the film that once you sit down and start the play that will fade.''

Turner Gets Big On Stage

London theater has been a magnet for Hollywood stars such as Kevin Spacey, Charlton Heston and Nicole Kidman, who was deemed ``theatrical Viagra'' when she shed her clothes on stage more than a year ago.

It's now Turner's shot at the West End and the role of Mrs. Robinson is a perfect vehicle.

``There's an exactness in film that you can achieve on camera with certain lenses and certain shots,'' she said.

``I am constantly being told on film to get smaller, to bring the voice down and bring the body down. I adore that, on stage, I can just go 'Phwaaaa', be as big as I can be and as strong as I want to be - and it feels wonderful.''

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