t has been nearly four decades since Jamie Lee Curtis landed on Australian shores to a welcome she has long since chosen – or at least tried – to forget. In 1980, at the height of her run as the cinema’s reigning “scream queen” in a stretch of films that kicked off with the horror landmark Halloween two years prior, Curtis was cast to play Pamela, a foolhardy hitchhiker going it alone on the Nullarbor Plain, in the Ozploitation film Road Games.
“I just only recently remembered this,” Curtis tells Stellar. “I arrived, and there was a kind of chill from the crew, like something was going on. I finally found out when I was sitting there and somebody said, ‘ Yeah, there was an actress already doing your part – and they basically fired her to bring you on.’”
Without even realising it, Curtis had become an unwitting pawn in a messy tug of war that involved duelling film commissions, actors’ unions and, yes, competing forces out of Sydney and Melbourne. Hungry for name-brand American talent, and perhaps suffering from a severe bout of cultural cringe, producers had shuffled Curtis into the production, knocking out actor Lisa Peers in the process.
Today, the 59-year-old actor can only look back on her lone movie-making stint Down Under with the resigned affect of someone who has pretty much seen, heard and done it all. “We ended up out on the road, travelling between Perth and Adelaide, just a little band of filmmakers,” she says. “It was a weird vibe. I remember feeling so bad and so sh*tty.”
Curtis is certain to receive a far warmer welcome when she returns to the country next month to unveil Halloween, the eleventh (and potentially final) entry in the vaunted film series that reignited the slasher genre and made her a star. In the years since she appeared as teenage babysitter Laurie Strode, famously cowering in a bedroom closet, waving a butcher knife and screaming in terror as sadistic killer Michael Myers stalked her, Curtis has found success across a wide cross-section of films – horror and otherwise; headlined successful television series; launched a side career as a children’s book author and promoted a range of humanitarian causes.
“I’ve been very lucky,” Curtis tells Stellar over the phone from Los Angeles. “I’ve had every version of it – I’ve had things hyped in a big way that have been wildly successful, and
I’ve had things hyped in a huge way that were blocked. I’ve had things that had little to no hype at all that became successful, and all the areas in-between. It’s the nature of the beast. Nobody knows anything, which is why you have to go into it with integrity.”
Curtis refers to the industry into which she was born – she is the daughter of actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh – as “show-off business” and despite her pedigree, she insists upon bringing a hearty sense of egalitarianism to every job. “Just so you know,” she says, “I insist everyone wears name tags when I work with them, because it’s not fair they know my name and I don’t know theirs. I am often the number-one person on a movie or a TV show – the person at the top of the call sheet. And I think that carries with it a big responsibility in terms of who I emulate. If you asked me who I’d most want to be like in this industry? George Clooney. He is a generous man, he is incredibly positive. He is fun to work with and I think that even he pinches himself when he realises he has this life.”
Curtis certainly does. Even now, despite the fact she would have frequented them in her youth, “Every time I drive onto a movie lot, I pinch myself. I can’t believe I get to do this work. I think I got it from my mother, this understanding how rare it is to be able to do this job.”
SILVER SCREAM (below, from top) Jamie Lee Curtis as a toddler (far right) in 1961 with her A-list parents, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, and big sister Kelly; in her breakout role as babysitter Laurie Strode in 1978’s the “wickedly funny” 1994 smash True Lies; upcoming Halloween sequel.
J ulia Zemiro is feeling a little hoarse. She’s been in the studio doing voiceovers for her new Seven Network show, All Together Now, and then there was the trip to Adelaide where she was “smiling and talking” for four days nonstop in her new role as artistic director of the city’s Cabaret Festival. Even for a woman who’s made a career out of conversations, it’s a lot – yet the 51-year- old is still happy to have a chat about her latest projects. Including one, she admits, that she almost self-sabotaged.
“When they asked me to do [the Adelaide Cabaret Festival] I was so overwhelmed with excitement but said, ‘Are you sure you want me?’ Because I’m not a musician per se,” she says. “[They] said, ‘No, you have such a history of different things: you’ve been in musicals, you’ve done TV, you’ve
done rock TV, you do interview shows, you talk with people, you’ve been an emcee, you’re a host,’ and I thought, ‘ Well, look, OK, I have actually had a bit of experience in all that stuff.’” That’s quite the understatement. Since the ’90s, Zemiro’s career has been a medley of hits, from short films and Shakespeare to hosting New Year’s Eve broadcasts and Eurovision, appearances that have made her one of the country’s most familiar faces – and given the woman herself a unique insight into Australia’s tastes. And through her new gig fronting All Together Now, the rest of us will get a feel for the nation’s preferences, too: as a range of singers take to the stage, a group of 100 judges will decide whether their performance is worthy of joining in on the song and earning the performer points, or whether they’ll sit it out. “Music out there is a big beast and everyone has different tastes,” says Zemiro of the show’s appeal. “In ‘The 100’ there’s some opera singers and there’s a glam rock band… it’s a broader spectrum. It’s really about being flexible with your tastes; don’t lock yourself in, don’t miss out on things that are quite interesting.” It’s advice Zemiro is well placed to give, having had a career marked by diversity. A self-described “actor who can sing”, she was born to an Australian mother and a French father in France, where they lived above the family restaurant. (“One of my loveliest memories is my dad making me hot chocolate with real dark chocolate. We had a big slab of chocolate that he would use for the restaurant, he’d cut that up, melt it into some milk and zhoosh it up with a spoon.”) The family moved to Australia when Zemiro was two. After studying acting at the Victorian College of the Arts, regular gigs with Bell Shakespeare and Totally Full Frontal followed, and when she was tapped to I’m certainly not complaining. I’m extremely happy with the amount of work I get and the sort of work I can say no to that I don’t like.”
When she’s not working, she’s at home with her partner, Carsten Prien, whom she met on a plane five years ago. “He happened to change flights that day to that flight, and I happened to be literally moving from Melbourne that day; I’d packed everything up and sold my place. It was like, ‘ Wow, you really have to move cities to meet The One.’ You know how sometimes if you make a big change that is really scary and you go, ‘Oh, is this my reward? I’ll take that, that’s a good reward.’ You know, you’ve got to be more alert when you’re on a plane. Look around, chat, look nice, try not to go in your thongs and a singlet. Maybe just wear a closed shoe and a closed shirt – and you never know.” All Together Now premieres 7pm, Sunday October 7, on the Seven Network.
Flying cars, jackets that can automatically dry themselves and – of course – hoverboards. If Back Tothefutureii taught us anything, it’s that trying to predict what’s coming in the years ahead is a losing proposition.
But if one company is well-placed to gaze into the crystal ball and see how things are shaping up, it’s the Swedish furniture giant, IKEA.
Whether you’re a student furnishing a share house or new parents fitting out a nursery, chances are you’ve walked into one of its big blue stores and left with a trolley loaded to tipping point. The company has an unrivalled insight into how the average Australian lives, and the ability to shape our home life in the years ahead.
So when IKEA brought Democratic Design Days to Sydney in August, it was a great opportunity to learn about the company’s vision for the future.
The three-day program of talks, workshops, exhibitions and dining experiences, held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, raised the curtain on product development and home-living innovations at IKEA, and gave a glimpse into the future of home life in Australia.
One of the most popular events of Democratic Design Days was the keynote address by IKEA head of design, Marcus Engman.
Engman had the crowd enthralled as he spoke about the evolution of design across the 75-year history of IKEA, explained how the company turns insights into solutions for homes and looked at the future of the retailer.
“Every product should have great form and function, great quality for everyday use, [and be] produced in a sustainable way and accessible for more people through low prices,” he said, laying out the principles that guide the Democratic Design at IKEA.
How will these products change our lives in the years ahead? Expect smart homes to become the standard, with