urtis made the first Halloween when she was 19 years old. She was not director John Carpenter’s first choice for the role, but when he learnt she was the daughter of Psycho star Leigh – whose Marion Crane may well be the most famous murder victim in film history – he welcomed the kismet.
Stepping back into the role of Laurie Strode four decades later (the 2018 iteration of Halloween is intended as a direct sequel to the 1978 classic, with audiences asked to disregard every other followup and reboot in-between) presented Curtis with something of a dilemma: how to make audiences forget that they are watching, well, Jamie Lee Curtis.
The answer came in the form of an unglamorous wig that leaves her looking like punk icon Patti Smith – or, at the very least, an art class teacher in need of a shower and a hug. “The first time you see me in the movie,” she tells Stellar, “I don’t look like Jamie Lee Curtis. Because Jamie Lee Curtis now exists in a very big, iconic way. That’s why we put me in a wig.”
When Curtis speaks of herself in the third person, she manages not to sound haughty but rather candid in explaining the influence that comes with an instantly recognisable public profile.
It’s also the main reason that Curtis has never appeared in one of the mockumentary films written and directed by her husband Christopher Guest, who she married in 1984. (The couple have two adopted children: Annie, 31, and Thomas, 22.) “Most of the people in his movies have become famous – they weren’t famous when they began working with him,” she says. “I am too famous. Plus, I don’t improvise. All of the dialogue in his movies is improvised – it’s a very specific skill and I don’t have it at all.”
It may be one of the few talents she lacks – aside from her work in film and television, Curtis has dabbled in inventing (she holds the patent for a nappy with a pocket that holds wipes), she blogs, tries her hand at photography and is a selfproclaimed queen of organisation.
“I was [Japanese organising consultant] Marie Kondo before Marie Kondo even existed,” Curtis quips. “I have always been compartmentalised – I am prepared. If you were at my house right now and said, ‘OK, bring me your second grade report card,’ I could go down my stairs, open my file and be back upstairs with it in 25 seconds.”
Her side hustle as a children’s book author, meanwhile, has only blossomed since she first entered the market in 1993. “Books are just the best thing,” says Curtis. “They are what I think about, they are how I think about the world. They’re music, they’re rhythm.” Earlier this month, she released her 13th title, Me Myselfie & I: A Cautionary Tale. “It’s about a mother who gets a cell phone for her birthday from her kids – and she goes crazy taking selfies, so the kids have to shut her down. It’s about our obsession with self-documentation.”
After Curtis returned home from South Carolina from the set of Halloween earlier this year, she found herself sitting down for a writing project of an entirely new kind. “I came back with full mojo, rejuvenated about the movie-making process,” she says. “Nobody was getting paid much and we worked our arses off… but I forgot how fun it is. And I ended up writing a screenplay, which is something I’ve never done and never thought I would do.
“I thought, ‘F*ck yes! I get it!’ I see why people do this… because this is who I am. Writing affords you the opportunity to say what you mean. I’ve been an interpreter of others’ ideas for a very long time, and I have to take responsibility for those ideas – to invest and digest and wear them like a skin.”
She points to Mother’s Boys, an all-butforgotten thriller from 1994 in which she plays a woman who abandons her husband and sons – only to return three years later, harassing and stalking them as she begs for reunification. “That movie is a great example: I had to wear that woman for a long time – and I didn’t agree with any of the things she said.” (As for a memoir, don’t hold your breath. “The only good memoirs tell the truth,” Curtis says, “and that means betraying confidences and intimacies. I’ve had it done to me and it’s been upsetting. So I don’t believe I would ever do so.”)
Mother’s Boys was a flop, but the film that hit cinemas mere weeks later would turn out to be the biggest hit in Curtis’s canon. “True Lies was a monster,” she says of James Cameron’s fizzy action blockbuster in which she co-starred with Arnold Schwarzenegger, reinforced the comedic chops she had
revealed in films such as 1983’s Trading Places and 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda and showcased her outrageously toned body in a scorching striptease for the books.
“It was such a great, transformative part to play – literally and figuratively. It was deeply emotional, wickedly funny and gorgeous to look at. There are sequences in that film that are just landmarks, and I can’t believe I got to be in it.”
Her memory of the film may be slightly marred, however – earlier this year, Curtis wrote an opinion piece in which she discussed the “new, horrific reality” that the #Metoo movement exposed, pointing to actor Eliza Dushku’s claim that a stunt coordinator on the True Lies set sexually molested her during filming. (Dushku, who played Curtis’s daughter in True Lies, was 12 at the time of filming.)
“I’m older and therefore clearly have some stories to tell,” Curtis says. “But my stories are private and not on that level of malevolence; I certainly didn’t have anyone sexually assault me.
“[But] it’s everywhere – it feels like a big wave. Women are mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.”
As for Curtis, she remains defiantly, contagiously upbeat about what the future holds – it is, she reckons, pretty much in her DNA. “I was a cheerleader in high school,” she notes. “And cheerleaders are really only there when your team is losing, to bring energy and support. I’ve always taken that role in whatever work I do.”
So when she turns 60 in November, Curtis will undoubtedly spend the day serving as her biggest champion, happily embracing the dawn of a new decade. And she already has a sense of how the day might unfold: “I believe we will be having breakfast at my house. I believe we will be wearing PJS… I like to not worry about what I wear. And I believe everybody will be gone by 11. Which, to me, is the perfect party: show up at nine, leave by 11. Thank you for your nice wishes. Now get the f*ck out.”