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Romancing ‘The Kominsky Method’: Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner reunite

Moviegoers have been flocking to see their favorite romantic couples on the silver screen since the early days of cinema from John Gilbert and Greta Garbo, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland and Errol Flynn, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and more recently Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. But none of those partnerships have endured nearly four decades.  Until now.

Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner first starred together in Robert Zemeckis’  romantic 1984 comedy adventure “Romancing the Stone,” which was the eighth-highest grossing film of the year, winning the Golden Globe for best comedy or musical and Turner winning the Globe for actress in the same category. Penned by the late Diane Thomas, “Romancing” cast Turner as plain Jane romance novelist Joan Wilder, who shares her apartment with her cat. After she get a frantic call from her sister who has been kidnapped by antiquities smugglers in Columbia, Joan finds herself in the middle of that country’s jungles where she encounters a handsome bird smuggler named Jack Colton (Douglas). They starred the following year in the sequel “The Jewel of the Nile” and then again for the dark, dark 1989 comedy “War of the Roses” as a wealthy couple whose seemingly perfect marriage falls apart.

Two years ago, they briefly reunited on the second season of  Netflix’s comedy series “The Kominsky Method,” starring Douglas as Sandy Kominsky, an aging Hollywood acting teacher  with several failed marriages who had early success as an actor.  Turner appeared as his first wife, Roz, a kick-ass acerbic doctor who knows which of Sandy’s buttons to push. The short phone conversation between the two was magical. And now, Turner is back as Roz for the third and final season of the Chuck Lorre-created series. And it just seems like old times watching those two veterans together.

Roz returns to Los Angeles to help plan the marriage of their daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker), who helps run Sandy’s small Hollywood acting studio, to 67-year-old Martin (Paul Reiser). Martin sports a manbun and makes his own shoes. But Roz also has returned home for another reason which is revealed during the six-episode season. Sandy and Roz’s relationship is more “War of the Roses” than “Romancing the Stone,” but unlike “War,” they truly love each other. They may verbally spar with each other but there is a tenderness between the two. Sandy realizes if he had been a better husband, they may have still been together.

Turner’s Roz also fills in the hole left by the departure after the second season of Alan Arkin, who brilliantly played Sandy’s friend and long-suffering agent Norman Newland, who is dead when the first episode opens.  Just as Norman, Roz also plays the role of Sandy’s conscience.

The pairing of the two in “Romancing the Stone” almost never happened despite Douglas being the producer. He had won an Oscar for producing the 1975 drama “One Flew “Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and starred with Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon in the acclaimed 1979 “The China Syndrome.” But he was still considered more of a TV actor because of his lead role opposite Karl Malden from 1972-76 in ABC’s detective series, “The Streets of San Francisco.” “In those days, there was a tremendous amount of separation between television acting and film acting,” Douglas noted in my 2019 Variety interview on “Romancing.” “I wanted to try to get the part, it was very difficult.” Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were among the movie stars who were pursued to play Jack Colton. Eventually, he was able to hire himself.

Turner also was a difficult sell. She had made a huge impression in her film debut as a femme fatale in 1981’s “Body Heat.” She quickly realized, though, she “had to fight right away to get out of the rut” of being typecast,” she told me in 2019. She successfully proved she had the comedic chops when she spoofed her image in the 1983 Carl ReinerSteve Martin comedy “The Man with Two Brains.” But could she pull off the plain cat lady Joan in “Romancing the Stone”?

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20th Century Fox wanted red-hot Debra Winger, who had received a first Oscar nomination for 1982’s “An Officer and a Gentleman” and was in Texas at the time filming James L. Brooks’ “Terms of Endearment.” Douglas visited her in Texas. “We couldn’t get a direct answer whether she was committed or not and we had concerns after being down [In Mexico] with Bob on locations and seeing how difficult it was going to be, we were going to need somebody to be a total team player.”

Enter Turner

“When it came to ‘Romancing,’ it’s like ‘yeah, okay, she’s sexy and she’s funny but can she be insecure and demure?’” noted Turner. “So, then you go in with cut-offs, baggy clothes, and no makeup and prove to them you can be. But it takes so much to convince them.” “As the producer of this show, I was so appreciative of Kathleen,” noted Douglas. “She was just great in it. I was totally enthralled with her.”

And so it seems was Turner. In a recent Los Angeles Times interview, she revealed a possible reason why they had and have so much chemistry together. “I certainly had a crush on Michael during ‘Romancing,’” she noted.  “That was before I had any involvement [in her future husband]. I was fancy-free, as they say. At that point, Michael said he was separated from [his first wife] Diandra. And so it seemed as though, you know, we could have a relationship, but then Diandra came down to Mexico and that killed that. So, there you go. But I was knocked out by him for a while, you bet.”

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