My parents were instrumental in the woman I became. From my mother I inherited a graciousness and innate courtesy. And from my father I got a sense of responsibility and honour. He was a diplomat so I lived in Cuba and Venezuela before he was posted to London and I attended the American School.
I had a lot of guilt when my father died the day after we’d had a huge fight over me wanting to become an actress. I was 17 and in defiance I got on the train to go and see the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford- upon-Avon. When I came back he’d died of a coronary thrombosis.
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 behaviour like many young actresses. 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.
There was a contempt for women in Hollywood. I would finish a film and get on the first plane back to New York. After Body Heat I found out that Michael Douglas, Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson would have competitions to see who could “get me”.
There was a great chemistry between Michael Douglas and me when we did Romancing the Stone. I understood he was separated from his first wife, Diandra, at the time and I was unattached. But I can’t imagine I’d have had the career I have if I’d been Mrs Douglas. Not that he ever proposed, let’s not go wild!
I fired the doctor who told me I’d be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life after my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis in 1992. I can’t exaggerate what a battle it was against the endless pain and fear of what I’d end up like. I kept my illness a secret for years, I had no choice. I was called a drunk and had awful things said about the way I looked, it was so cruel. Robert Downey Jr was known for his drinking, but the studios still hired him. But if I’d said I had a disease that wasn’t under control, no one would touch me.
I’ve always had a great belief in service and being able to affect change. I serve on the board of Citymeals on Wheels in New York. I’m the one they send to City Hall twice a year to ask for money and as soon as they see me coming they go: “How much?”
Lauren Bacall once told me at a party: “Oh you’re the young me.” That was a little intimidating. I told her, “There could only be one Lauren Bacall.”
I already have my epitaph: “More woman than you’ll ever get and more man than you’ll ever be.”
Finding My Voice is at the Other Palace in London from 17 April until 6 May (faneproductions.com/kathleenturner)