Barbara Turner, the Emmy and Writers Guild of America-nominated screenwriter and mother of actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, has died. She was 79-years-old.
Barbara Turner was born Gloria Rose Turner in New York. The showbiz bug hit her early on, and after high school, she attended the University of Texas for a year before returning to New York to study acting at Dramatic Workshop. Later, Turner would go on to continue her study of drama under Paul Mann at his Actor’s Workshop, where she would eventually meet her first husband, Vic Morrow. Turner and Morrow moved to Hollywood in the mid-1950s, when Vic got a part in the 1955 film Blackboard Jungle. In 1957, Barbara Turner married Morrow.
Before Turner became a screenwriter, her career in showbiz began with acting. After her move to Hollywood with Morrow, Barbara took roles in theater productions and then in television in series such as Playhouse 90 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. In the 1960s, Barbara Turner began focusing on writing screenplays. Her first was an adaptation of the Jean Genet play Deathwatch in 1966, which was directed by Morrow.
In 1968, Turner wrote the screenplay for the adaptation of Petulia, for which she would go on to receive a Writers Guild of America nomination. Further accolades for Barbara Turner’s screenplays include an Emmy nomination for 1977’s television movie The War Between the Tates, Emmy and Writers Guild nominations for the HBO movie Hemingway & Gelhorn(2012), and the Christopher Award for 1987’s Eye of the Sparrow. Barbara Turner was also a Humanitas Award finalist for her TV movie screenplays Widow and Out of Darkness, reports Variety. Turner’s other screenplay credits include 2000’s Pollock, adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga by Steven Naifehand and Gregory White Smith, and 2003’s The Company starring Neve Campbell, James Franco, and Malcolm McDowell.
The director and star of Pollock, Ed Harris, received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his turn as Jackson Pollock in the film, and co-star Marcia Gay Harden won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her portrayal as Lee Krasner, Pollock’s wife.
Barbara Turner wrote the screenplay for her most well-known work, Georgia, in 1994, which she also produced along with daughter Jennifer Jason Leigh and the film’s director, Ulu Grosbard. Leigh starred in the film alongside Mare Winningham and won the Montreal World Film Festival best actress award for her role. The film itself won the 1995 Montreal Film Festival’s Grand Prix of the Americas award for best picture.
According to Entertainment Weekly, in an interview with People earlier this year, Leigh credited her mother for her acting chops, explaining that Barbara Turner’s penchant for extensive research taught her a lot about preparing for roles.
“My mother always helped me because she was kind of a research fanatic. When she would write a screenplay there would be so much research all over the walls. And so when I started working as an actress I would do the same thing. She instilled in me a love of taking everything very seriously. It didn’t matter what it was.”
A 1995 interview with Barbara Turner in Scenario Magazine further explained Turner’s love of research, and why she felt it was so important when writing a screenplay.
“I do a lot of research… so everything is sunk in a kind of truth. People are wonderful, they’re extraordinary. They do and say and create extraordinary things. And that’s the joy of writing for me: just going out there for each screenplay and listening to people, and learning how they view the world, how they experience life and each other. My thought is, why make anything up when it’s so wonderful as it is?”
Barbara Turner died in her Los Angeles home on April 5 at 79-years-old. Turner is survived by her three daughters, Leigh, Carrie Ann Morrow, and Mina Badiyi Chassler, whom she had with second husband Reza Badiyi, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
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