“I would turn down all the wealth of Croesus for love.”

An actress who has made more films than any other actress in the world with some 200 to her name, the beloved “Sultan” Türkan Şoray, of the Turkish film industry talked with us about her first book, “My Cinema and I”, and her new projects

“I’m going to fly home and go on living as a renewed and rejuvenated person,” says Türkan Şoray, catching a breath after a long day of book signings. Şoray has spoken and had her photo taken with, and signed copies for, hundreds of people in connection with her book, every word of which she wrote herself, every photograph in which she personally chose. Yet she is still bursting with energy. She has never used a stand-in in any case. Whether on stage or in the wings, it was always she herself. She dove into icy waters, drove a motorboat for the first time in her life, even fell off a horse and broke her neck, all “for the sake of the film”. “For the sake of the film” has shaped her way of life in conformity with the spiritual values of the common people, and she has always chosen to live, as she puts it, “a controlled and moderate life, simply, unpretentiously, like everybody else.” She says she gave up her personal life for the cinema and the people: “The love I feel for my audience became the meaning of  my life.” Her respect for herself and those around her and for her work, her inability to hurt anyone, her selflessness and her courtesy are just a few of the qualities that make Türkan Şoray inimitable. When she speaks of the love of her fans, who have “taken her into their hearts”, she frequently knocks on wood saying that not everybody is as fortunate as she is. The Sultan sums up her life philosophy without batting an eye: “I would choose love over all the wealth of Croesus.”

When did you decide to write a book? And why? Can you tell us about the early phases of the process?

They said I needed to write my memoirs. I agreed but I just couldn’t get started. One morning a couple years ago I was sitting on the balcony communing with nature. It was one of those moments when I was most overcome with its beauty. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be nice to document the beauty of cinema?” It started to flow through my brain, through my soul, like a film strip, and I began to write. My aim was to describe my struggles over the years to develop my acting skills. To describe my pain, my hopes, my low points - my own personal road to becoming an actor - for those who want to be actors today, and to explain to new filmmakers the conditions under which those films were made.

Let’s talk about the writing process. Was it difficult? Did you have any reservations, any things you weren’t sure you should  write about?

Writing a book is like acting. It’s a way of expressing yourself. I just wrote what came from inside me, without any thought about whether it was couched in proper sentences. I was not out to write a “literary book” in any case. I just wrote from the heart. I did a lot of research to be able to tell the true story of the Turkish film industry, which came into being on popular demand, as it deserves to be told. But I never considered writing about the people who hurt me, I considered it superfluous. I would never think of describing my private life. A person should have privacy, and my private life has to stay with me. In the book I describe the cinema up to the point where it touches on my private life.

Every film was certainly important in your life in the cinema, but which ones would you characterize as milestones?

When I look back at my 200 films, there are some that were merely commercial, and others that are real, quality films. There are a few films of mine that established my career in the cinema. Films like Acı Hayat and Vesikalı Yarim. These are some of the most moving films in Turkish cinema because they are about real love.

Do you have a new book project?

I’m going to keep on making films for as long as I live, so I might write a book about the films I’m going to make from here on out.

What’s the first film in which we will see you now?

I’m going to make two films this year. I’m also directing one of them. In other words, I’m going to act and direct. One of them is a film with Osman Şahin that takes place in rural Turkey. I’m making the other one with Selim İleri.

We know that before you started out in the cinema you were interested in music. Is there any chance of an album?

I was considering singing my songs in the films, but I changed my mind because some singers have already made such an album. If I make an album, it will be a one-time thing, I won’t do it again. I have 200 films, I have my costumes on display, and I have my book. I’d also like to have a recording of my own voice. On the album I’ll sing some Turkish art songs that I heard from my mother when I was a child and have loved ever since.

 Which foreign actors do you like?

 Dustin Hoffman and Anthony Quinn.

 You’ve worked hard all your life. How do you feel about housework? What do you like to do?

 I love my house and I love housework. I love having guests for dinner. I go into the kitchen myself and cook great meals. I like to read, both books and the newspaper, and keep up with what’s going on in the world. I also like to enjoy fresh air and nature, and I like to be with my friends and with my daughter, Yağmur.