LOS ANGELES — Nearly four decades ago, “Romancing the Stone” introduced audiences to the crackling chemistry between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner.
Now at 76 and 66 years old, Douglas and Turner are back on screen together in the third and final season of Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method.” Despite the many years that have passed since their third and last film together, their reunion was seamless.
“Like riding a bicycle,” Douglas said over a video call earlier this week. “We’d look at each other, and there’s a lot of memories coming back.”
The Los Angeles-set “Kominsky Method” doesn’t place the pair in the same exotic locations as 1984’s “Romancing the Stone” or its sequel “Jewel of the Nile.” But it does include the type of caustic barbs from their last film together, 1989’s “The War of the Roses.”
It was with that in mind that Douglas thought to invite Turner to join “The Kominsky Method” in its second season to play his character’s sharp-tongued ex-wife, who’s introduced during a phone call. The idea came to Douglas immediately when creator/writer Chuck Lorre mentioned introducing an ex-wife to the show.
“I just smiled and I said, ‘This is ‘The War of the Roses’ revisited 30 years later,’” Douglas said. “We’ve already got our back stories and we’re all set.”
As in the film, Turner often uses R-rated terms when speaking to Douglas’ character, which never fails to delight her in real life.
“(There are) two times at least when she gets to go, ‘No, I’m f——- with you, a——!” Turner recalled, laughing. “It was just such fun. And he takes it very well, I have to say.”
Seeing the two of them act together again was “thrilling,” said Sarah Baker, who plays Douglas’ daughter in the show.
“I like to think of myself as the ‘Romancing the Stone’ baby,” she joked. “The chemistry is just there, that timing, the rapport between them. It’s the kind of thing, it’s very difficult to fake, so when you have that just inherently between you, we just got to sit back and watch and had a front-row seat, which was amazing.”
Paul Reiser, who plays Baker’s fiance, said he was struck by the uniqueness of Douglas’ and Turner’s relationship.
“There aren’t that many pairings of actors … There aren’t that many that you’ve seen repeatedly,” he said. “You’ve got De Niro and Pesci. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. … You subconsciously have this history that the minute you see them. It almost breaks the frame in a good way. It makes what you’re watching seem a piece of what you’ve been watching for years. It’s a real treat to have that.”
Turner’s presence — along with an expanded role for Reiser and smaller parts for Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Allison Janney — helps make up for the third season’s absence of Alan Arkin, who left the show after its second season. His banter with and needling of Douglas was pitch perfect and earned both men Emmy nominations.
“He was such an instrumental part of our success,” Douglas said. “It was a little bit of a risk … but I felt strong enough for the other characters.”
Douglas said he’s sad the show is ending but that he appreciates what it has taught him.
“One of the main reasons why I did it was just to kind of learn a little more about comedy and how you do it and your timing,” he said. “At this point in your career you kind of say, ‘What have you done? What haven’t you done?’”
The experience has been “a joy,” he said, pointing in particular to Reiser’s comedic timing and Lorre’s writing.
Douglas is ready for his next acting challenge. He is about to start filming on the third “Ant-Man,” which will be his first time performing in a movie using a green screen.
“I wanted to see what it was like,” he said.
His reunion with Turner gave both of them a chance to reflect on their early careers.
Turner recalled first meeting Douglas over Mexican food before filming “Romancing the Stone.”
“‘Oh, he’s very sexy,’” she recalls thinking of him. But she didn’t let that intimidate her. “He’s quite sure of what he wants. He’s quite focused and specific. So you just kind of go, ‘Uh huh, uh huh, OK.’ But then when you saw the work: ‘I need to be a full partner.’ And he understood and respected that.”
After that, the two of them “went through a lot.”
From mountainous muddy roads in Mexico to oppressive desert heat in Africa, filming their first two films was a true adventure. “The War of the Roses” also had its challenges, despite 90% of the film taking place in a house.
Turner said she and Douglas recently had a laugh about the film’s famous last scene, in which their warring characters become precariously stuck on a giant chandelier. The actors had to sit in the chandelier for hours and hours over the course of two weeks to get all the shots.
“It was very painful,” Turner said. “Continuity loved it because all you had to do was lie down on the line of the bruises, you know? The arms, you just lined up the bruises, and then you were in the right position … That was a real test of many things.”
Turner also continues to challenge herself with new experiences, developing a one-woman cabaret show, “Finding My Voice,” which got rave reviews and repeatedly sold out in New York, London and other cities between 2017 and 2020.
“I now sing, baby!” said Turner in her trademark smoky voice. “It’s one more thing I haven’t done yet, so why not?”
Turner is currently filming an independent musical romance called “The Swearing Jar” in Canada.
As for her time on “The Kominsky Method,” Turner said it was a no-brainer.
“All I had to do was really sort of fit into the whole thing,” she said. “It was already working … And Michael is my friend. You know, we’re just, ‘Whoa, it’s you.’”