Kathleen Turner Recalls Losing 1990 Tony Award to Maggie Smith

Kathleen Turner may have lost at the 1990 Tony Awards, but she did gain a new friend that night — her competition, Maggie Smith.

Broadway Stars 

“I can tell you a funny story. My first nomination for best actress in a Tony was Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. That year, I was also hosting Tonys. And so bye-bye — Tony went to Maggie Smith,” Turner, 68, exclusively tells Us Weekly. “Quite right. Maggie and me have been friends since then. And she was like, ‘Oh darling, were we competing?’ Yeah, yeah, we were. And she goes, ‘Oh, sorry.’”

The Harry PotterStar, 87, was honored for her contributions to the community. Lettice and Lovage. Turner would also star in other plays, such as Indiscretions, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The GraduateIn 2002, opposite a young Matthew Rhys. It was oddly enough. Dustin Hoffman — who played Ben Braddock in the 1967 film version — that would give some comical advice to Turner after Smith took home the statue.

Kathleen Turner at the 44th Annual Tony Awards.
Richard Drew/AP/Shutterstock

“Dustin was over there with me and he said — this is after Maggie had won — ‘I want you to say, ‘It’s an honor just to be nominated.’ I said, ‘All right. It’s an honor just to be nominated,’” Turner recalls. “And he said, ‘No, no, no. I’m not buying it. Again.’ ‘It’s an honor just to be nominated.’ ‘No, no.’ ‘It is an honor just to be nominated.’ And he said, ‘That’s acting!’” She mused: “It was great.”

Turner’s 45-year career has spanned across stage, TV and film. Although the mediums change, she’s consistent with why she chooses certain projects.

“Usually if I haven’t done it before. Usually if it is not a character I’m going to repeat or would be repeating. It’s not interesting to me if it’s sort of a ‘been there, done that,’” she explains. “So if there’s a quality, a conflict I haven’t explored before as an actor, yeah, boy, that grabs me.”

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For her, the difference between all three is just a “question of time.”

“You have a little more time in film to create the characters, to work out the scenes, the shooting, the lighting, the everything. My experience is that TV shoots very fast. You move scene by scene. And if you’re working with a lot of professionals, with a lot of people who know exactly what they’re doing, like The Kominsky MethodYou can bang it out, babe. But that isn’t always true,” she notes. “And in film and in independents, this is where I find the work so much more interesting. Hollywood studios are banks to me. They’re not actually creative cauldrons anymore. The creativity is now always pretty much in independents, but that also means that there isn’t a lot of money. Now, even if everybody agrees as has been done to take scale salary or whatever in order to pump that money into the production itself, still, you’re not talking dozens or hundreds of millions of dollars. You’re talking maybe a couple million. And so you’re not always going to get the most experience, the most extraordinary workers. Talent is attracted to you. See alright, there’s another reason. You see, I have the ability to bring in people to work for me. And that’s important to me. It is very important to me that the work is of high quality. I don’t want it to be compromised. … I’m getting arrogant now that people will want to work with me. That’s a real gift. And I can bring that as well as my acting.”

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As for the advice she’d give her younger self, she would’ve said to not be so single-minded. “I just wanted to do the work. And I don’t believe I’ve injured anybody along the way. I have excellent relationships and friendships with my ex [Jay Weiss]With my daughter [Rachel Ann Weiss]. All is well,” she says. “But I think I could have been more open-minded to more experiences than just acting. But I probably wouldn’t have been.”