The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles houses the treasures of the film world – and that’s where we met one of them.
“This is my hometown, right here, everything,” Jamie Lee Curtis said, referring to Hollywood.
“Here you grew up, here you raised your children?” asked correspondent Tracy Smith.
“I have that. I mean, it’s weird and beautiful.”
And for Curtis, “weird” and “beautiful” might just be the words to describe her life.
She’s known for having good jump scares, but in more than 40 years in the business, she was also the one who could capture our attention – and hold our breath. And her best work, she said, comes in the moments when she can just let go.
“When I’m free, I’m fantastic,” she said. “It’s a weird job. But when I can be free, I’m unstoppable in everything. It’s just who I am.”
“And when did you feel the most free?”
“Work-wise? I mean, Deirdre, it’s me flying!”
And she really does fly: In this year’s Everything Everywhere All at Once, her character Deirdre Beaubeirdre is a flying attacker—and in an alternate universe, she’s an even scarier villain: an IRS auditor.
“Now you might just see a bunch of boring forms and numbers, but I see a story. With nothing but a stack of receipts I can follow the ups and downs of your life. And it doesn’t look good… look good.”
Curtis said, “I know women like Deirdre Beaubeirdre. I think we all do. We’ve all had so many disappointments, so many heartbreaking opportunities. And I think Deirdre’s heart just got broken. I know her I love her.”
Critics loved her too. Oscar talk is already in the air. It’s the logical result of hard work, talent and maybe good genes.
Her mother, Janet Leigh, famously shooed us out of the shower on Psycho. But she was also someone who could hold her own in a scene with Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate. And her father, Tony Curtis, was a legend in his own right.
Jamie Lee was the second of her two daughters.
Smith asked, “You called yourself the save-the-marriage baby?”
“Yes, absolutely. Sure.”
“That didn’t save the marriage?”
“My parents divorced when I was three years old,” Curtis said. “It was terrible. Terrible, terrible, terrible. I was also raised by my mother who came from nowhere and treated this industry with big wide eyes. I don’t have big, wide eyes about it. I understand the industry. But I’m just as grateful for that.”
“Are you anything like your dad?”
“Oh, sure, sure, sure. He’d like to go into a big room, Hello, everyone. Hello, this is Tony. Hi. you know he loved it He loved Tony Curtis’ performance. And I’m caught in the middle.”
And like both of her parents, Curtis went on to become a star, but it seems she was luckier in love than she was. She said she fell in love with actor/director Christopher Guest after seeing his photo in a magazine in 1984. “I was with my friend Debra Hill and I said to Debra, ‘Oh. huh I will marry this guy. ‘ And she said, ‘Who?’ I said, ‘This one. I’m going to marry him.’” Long story short, it actually happened later that year.
She said he could make her fall on the floor laughing, and so can her co-stars, which isn’t always a good thing on a movie set. Smith asked, “I read somewhere that you have a trick.
“I stepped on a thumbtack. I put it in my shoe. And when I’m standing there, I just press on it with my heel. Because I have to. You have to distract your brain.”
“And it worked?”
“Oh, it works beautifully.”
However, she is best known for one serious role: Laurie Strode from the “Halloween” series. She was 19 when she was first cast in John Carpenter’s horror classic. And this year’s “Halloween Ends” is (supposedly) her final bow.
To watch a trailer of Halloween Ends, click on the video player below:
For Curtis, playing Laurie Strode was more than just a role in a movie; She said it’s a bridge to anything she’s ever wanted. “Every time I talk about it, I cry. Because of what it gave me.”
“What did it give you?”
“My whole life. My whole life is because of Laurie Strode. I don’t know what would have happened. I know I would never have succeeded. I have incredible respect for it. And I feel very honored and proud of it.”
Curtis also runs an online store called My Hand in Yours, which sells everything from bronze sculptures of clasped hands to hats to hand sanitizer, with every penny benefitting Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “My little company raised almost a million dollars in two years,” she said.
At this point in her life, so much is about giving back. She bought the naming rights for one of the pillars of the Academy Museum and devoted herself to a few pillars of the industry: her parents.
“There she is,” she said. “She’s right there. But see, what I like is, see, they just left it really rough. But it’s cool!”
And perhaps it’s no surprise that Jamie Lee Curtis, who has repeatedly faced death in the films, has a pretty clear idea of what she wants to leave behind.
Smith asked, “What do you think about when you think about what your own legacy will be?”
“I hope my legacy will be kindness,” Curtis said, “that I understand that life is hard. And I really feel like I’m aware that life is really hard for people. Maybe humor, a little humor would be good. Don’t take it so damn seriously. You know, just loosen it up a bit. But kindness. At the end of the day, I hope it’s kindness.
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Story produced by John D’Amelio. Publisher: Lauren Barnello.