Janine Turner's Life Story

She left the Hollywood scene, risking everything she'd gained from Northern Exposure and Cliffhanger, to go home to the range and get a life.


After emerging as a star on the hit TV series Northern Exposure, Janine Turner landed the female lead in 1993's Cliffhanger, which had worldwide success. She was suddenly poised for a big-screen career. But a break for R&R among the bluebonnets and mockingbirds of her native Texas turned into a four-year hiatus from features, and Turner is just now resurfacing as the cookie-baking mom June Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver. I flew down to Dallas to spend the day riding horses with Turner at her ranch, and to find out why she's been hiding out.

WOLF SCHNEIDER: Why don't you live in L.A.--is it the smog or the Industry

JANINE TURNER: Both. I feel like I'm on this empty--what are those things hamsters go on? Well, I feel like I'm on this: empty wheel. I just think there are a lot of false notes about L.A. and the Industry, and I personally have a very hard time in L.A.--I feel suffocated. I went through some tough times there between 17 and 23. When my engagement with Alec [Baldwin] broke off, it was tough. I didn't have anybody around, I couldn't call my family and go have pizza with them. In Texas, with my horses and family and a boyfriend, I think I can be a much better person.

Q: Is your boyfriend an actor or a cowboy?

A: He's not in the Industry. His name is Jerry Jones Jr. You've heard of Jerry Jones who owns the Dallas Cowboys? That's his dad

Q: Can you carry on a career in Hollywood from this distance?

A: I think you can work, work, work, but if you don't take time to nourish your soul ... I mean, gosh, I never had a love life. I wrapped Northern Exposure in Seattle one day, flew to Italy the next day to film Cliffhanger, flew home through Texas for like six hours, then went back to Northern for another 10 months. I was offered Miami Rhapsody-- remember that Sarah Jessica Parker movie? They really, really wanted me to do it. But I was just tired and missed my family

Q: Have you lost roles because you're not in L.A. to pop by for a last-minute audition?

A: Yes, I was supposed to meet Robert Airman for_ The Gingerbread Man_, which stars Kenneth Branagh, but it didn't get coordinated in time. That's the nature of the business. I got very close, supposedly, to [Rene Russo's role in] Tin Cup.

Q: You say you never had a love life. But besides Alec Baldwin, you dated your Cliffhanger costar Sylvester Stallone, didn't you?

A: Yeah, but we met long before Cliffhanger. That was just a casual thing--we only went out a handful of times, if that.

Q: You also dated Mikhail Baryshnikov, right?

A: Misha was more like a friend and there was a lot of distance. Monogamy wasn't in his book--he had a long-term girlfriend, who, unbeknownst to me, got pregnant while we were going out. But I was in love with him.

Q: I can understand wanting to run away to Texas after working with [director] Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone--how was that?

A: If you don't have confidence in this business, you're eaten alive. I had to do everything 150 percent to their 100 percent in order to be taken seriously. One day we were filming with these explosive devices popping out of the snow and one hit my face. I was like, "Oh my God, my face," and they said, "Yeah, well, do it again." Then one hit Sly's face and they said, "Stop production!"

Q: Is it true that you had a breakdown while living in New York?

A: I was heavily depressed and 27. I'd been working since I was 15 and I was completely worn out. So I was blowing money and I was low on the romantic side. I just felt destitute and very, very depressed. My mother ended up flying out with my brother to kind of pick me up off the floor.

Q: I notice you grew your hair out a little bit for Leave It to Beaver.

A: People have this thing about my hair. This man walked up to me in the golf shop and he says, "What did you do to your hair?" And I said, "I'm letting it grow," and he said, "Why? You have a face for short hair." He got genuinely upset--it was hilarious.

Q: Did you offer to bleach it blonde to play June Cleaver?

A: I did and it was a nightmare. It kept breaking.

Q: Who did you want your mom to be more like when you were a kid--Mrs. Cleaver, Mrs. Brady or Samantha from Bewitched?

A: Mrs. Cleaver, for the security. You know, she was the strength behind the men.

Q: You bought your horse from your recent TV movie Stolen Women: Captured Hearts. Tell us, what is it between a woman and her horse?

A: Horses are like Valium for me. I could be having a miserable day and the minute I get on my horses, I relax. I love the way they smell, the way they pee, the way they walk and swish their tails.

Q: Do you have any movie-star neighbors?

A: Tommy Lee Jones and Madeleine Stowe both live in Texas. You know, it's not that I don't love to act, it's just that I think it's so important for me to have a life. That's why I'm here.


Wolf Schneider is a senior editor of Movieline.