...Emerald Green "Are You Joan Wilder?"
1984. It was a “seminal” year for me. 'Twas the year I saw (drum roll) the movie “Romancing the Stone.” Just a wee girl of eight, I loved movies, books, music – even TV commercials. I used to hide out in our family bathroom (where the acoustics were best) reenacting TV commercials. (Shower to Shower powder was one of my faves.) I had a serious knack for memorizing lines, mimicking voices, matching vocal speed, and even ad-libbing script. I was the classic “artsy” kid.
My favorite “artsy” activity was making up stories, and telling them to my dolls that I carried around the house. Even if I didn’t write my stories down as I do now in adulthood, I had a knack for creating them and endowing them with a powerhouse of adjectives, exclamations, and words that might’ve “sounded good” but I had no idea what they meant. My imagination was in full color. Everything and everyone inspired me. I created, created, created. My world was huge, and I loved it. I rode the magic carpet to Persia every day. Then, when I was done traveling, all I’d say was – “Tinkerbell, take me home!” And there you had it. Fantasy was my reality.
So it went for the character of Joan Wilder in “Romancing the Stone.” Kathleen Turner plays Joan Wilder – the award-winning romance novelist who lives in New York City and becomes the main character of her own real-life love story. Here’s her story: She travels to Colombia, South America, to save her kidnapped sister. While there, she meets and falls in love with con-man-turns-good-guy Jack T. Colton – played by Michael Douglas. (Jack swears the “T” is for “trustworthy.”) With a slew of nefarious characters on their tail, these two trek through remote jungles, hurl themselves down raging waterfalls, and wind up discovering a lost treasure – a massive emerald that even Liz Taylor would envy.
The movie is a fun action adventure/romantic comedy all rolled into one. It is fabulously cast – Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas deliver pitch-perfect performances. And they look gorgeously blonde and blue-eyed together. Their chemistry is palpable. (To learn that they were good pals in real life during the shooting of the film warms my heart even more.)
As an eight-year-old girl, I was enraptured. The scene of Joan and Jack’s first kiss, outside, at night, dancing at the Colombian festival, with white fireworks exploding in the background, and music swelling – spectacular, beautiful, so subconsciously penetrating my psyche. One could say that fireworks and swelling music is the utmost of romantic clichés that only an eight-year-old girl could love – but surprisingly I still love this scene today. Years later, it holds its power over me. Maybe it’s just another one of many fabulously shot scenes from director Robert Zemeckis in his breakout film, but this scene continues to loom large. I wonder why. Perhaps I love it because it is the breathtaking climax and culmination of being approximately an hour into a movie where I already feel so subconsciously “tuned in.”
I remember seeing Joan Wilder for the first time, at the beginning of the movie, her sniveling over her typewriter, wearing her headphones to block out the world, and witnessing her feeling of accomplishment after finishing what was sure to be another bestselling novel, and I literally pointed at the screen, and said – “That’s me.” That’s who I knew I would grow up to be. Even my wording back then astounds me today. I didn’t say – “That’s who I want to be someday.” No, I asserted it. I was bold. I knew it – “That’s me.” I felt my destiny, for the first time. It was a beautiful moment.
But, why did I feel like Joan Wilder anyway? She lived in New York City. She was a famous writer. She traveled to South America and had adventures. I somehow knew that my life was going to be about those three things. As for my pal Joan’s appearance (insert requisite “we are on a first-name basis” joke here), I, too, was blonde, had a round moon-shaped face, and had dimples in my cheeks. I also felt that my wardrobe style as an adult would be that of her “sexy librarian” look – great, chic brands hopefully worn well, yet with an air of frumpy “head in the clouds” romance. That was me for sure.
I also related to Joan’s big internal transformation during the movie. Though a successful novelist, she often comes off as shy and reserved to the world. She is not the type to go off galavanting through the monkey-filled jungles of Colombia, trying to shake off con men, assassins, and little but lethal pistol-packed Ralph – played by the luminescent Danny DeVito. Still, lo’ and behold, by the end of the movie, Joan “Wilder” has “gone wild.” She has bloomed into an “Annie Oakley of the Rain Forest.” It was an absolute pleasure to watch. Even better, she heads back to New York City where she miraculously gets the guy! Bravo! Bravo!
Now the big question remains – if I became Joan Wilder as an adult. Did I move to New York City? Did I become a famous writer? Have I gone to South America and had adventures? The answer is “yes” to all three. Admittedly, I can’t say I’m a famous writer yet, but maybe I’m getting there? We’ll see. I’ll ask the President of Uruguay his opinion the next time I see him. (Yes, I really did meet the President of Uruguay in 2007. I was even on Uruguayan TV. Bravo! Bravo! May my exciting adventures continue.)
This post is a tribute to one of my favorite actresses, Kathleen Turner. I'll always fondly remember meeting her in 1995 outside the stage door of the Broadway show "Indiscretions." We spoke in Spanish, not because of "Romancing the Stone," but because I knew she had grown up partially in South America. I love that. I spoke Spanish with Kathleen Turner.