Jamie Lee Curtis was the child of Psycho star Janet Leigh and Some Like it Hot star Tony Curtis. She seemed destined for stardom, but her initial aspirations were more ordinary.
It took decades for Jamie Lee to develop the acting bug but, once she began, she couldn’t stop. She experienced a meteoric rise to fame after her breakout role in the horror staple Halloween.
The actress overcame the difficulties of standing in her parent’s shadows and a 10-year struggle with addiction. Today, she continues to impress audiences with her talent but is more focused on philanthropic efforts and spending time with her family.
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Her Early Life
Jamie Lee was born into celebrity on November 22, 1958, as the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. They ended up getting divorced when she was 3. She was then was raised by her mother’s 4th husband, Robert Brandt and seldom ever saw her biological father.
She went to 3 high schools over the course of 4 years and struggled to keep her grades up. She claims that she had gray teeth due to her mother taking tetracycline when she was pregnant with her. She made up for her alleged lack of beauty by developing a genial personality and sense of humor. Despite her insecurities, she managed to become popular and enjoyed typical teenage activities like cheerleading and hanging out with her friends.
At first, she wanted to be a police officer, but a manager named Chuck Bender convinced her to audition for a role as Nancy Drew after her first semester at her mother’s alma mater, the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. She didn’t get the part, but what she did get was a case of the acting bug. Her college was even willing to give her acting credits for going to auditions.
Jamie Lee was one of the last actresses to be under contract at Universal. When her time on Operation Petticoat ended, she lost her job along with 11 of the 13 other actors. She was convinced her career was over until she landed her breakout role in the classic horror movie Halloween in 1978. To this day, she is still convinced that her famous family was the reason she got the job after many auditions. She wasn’t yet confident in her abilities and had the all-too-common experience of expecting to be fired after the first day of shooting. Instead, director John Carpenter personally called her to tell her how well she’d done.
The audience agreed, and the film was a huge hit. She soon found similar roles in Prom Night, The Fog, and several Halloween sequels. They earned her the nickname the Scream Queen.
Ironically, Jamie Lee admits that she doesn’t even like horror films because she doesn’t enjoy being scared. She’s managed to shine in other genres, including comedies such as Trading Places in 1983 and A Fish Called Wanda in 1988. She earned Golden Globes for the 1989 sitcom Anything but Love, the 1994 action film True Lies, and the 2003 comedy film Freaky Friday
It wasn’t only talent and dedication that made Jamie Lee a star; her beauty also became a major asset. She earned a second nickname “The Body” after her role as an aerobics instructor in the 1985 comedy Perfect. McCall’s magazine included her on their list of the 10 Best Bodies in America in 1985. Even Al Bundy said she had perfect legs and breasts in the Married With Children episode The Poker Game. She appeared in commercials for L’Eggs Pantyhose while working on True Lies, and the company took out an insurance policy on the famous legs that earned her the moniker. They’re still insured for $2 million today.
Like many famous children, she initially struggled not to be identified only by her parents’ achievements. The 1977 series Operation Petticoat was based on a movie that Tony Curtis had starred in. Even her other roles had connections to her parents; detective Sam Loomis from Halloween was named after a character in Psycho, and her father’s birth name Archie Leach was the name of a character in A Fish Called Wanda. She even managed to appear in 2 films with her mother; The Fog in 1980 and Halloween H20: 20 Years Later in 1998.
Jamie is proud of most of her work. While she doesn’t feel that any of her roles are underappreciated, there are a few that she regrets. She considers the 1999 film Virus the worst film she’s ever worked on and notes she only did it because another project fell through. The 1984 film Grandview USA comes in as a close second. She never wants to see either film again and says they’re both nasty. She’s also surprised The Fog became popular and called Halloween Resurrection a joke.
Despite these missteps, Jamie Lee’s work earned her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 3, 1998.
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Her Opioid Addiction
Jamie Lee once said in an interview that “once you mess with your face, you can’t get it back.” She learned that lesson the hard way after a harrowing experience led to a 10-year struggle with opioid addiction.
She earned a part in the movie Perfect when she was 35 years old. Cameraman Gordon Willis refused to shoot her because of her puffy eyes, and she went to get plastic surgery the next day. Curtis was prescribed Vicodin for the pain and became addicted in 1989. She didn’t reveal this to her family until entering recovery in February of 1999.
She also worried about what the press would do if they found out about her addiction. During an interview with Redbook about her latest children’s book, she noticed how often she used the word better when describing how she felt. When the interviewer asked her why she admitted that she’d been sober for two years. Since then, she’s been more willing to talk about her struggles with addiction in public. She now sees herself as a representative for former addicts and anyone struggling with body image and hopes to help them.
Her Life Today
Jamie Lee has been sober for 22 years and says she’s finally learned to accept herself.
She’s been married to Christopher Guest since December 18, 1984. She first saw him in an issue of Rolling Stone magazine in a promotional photo for the film This Is Spinal Tap. She fell in love at first sight and gave her number to his agent. They were introduced by her Halloween II co-star Leo Rossie while playing in a celebrity softball league, and the rest was history. Today, she calls him her one and only and calls herself a romantic. She even claims to fall asleep each night watching videos of surprise flash mob proposals set to the Bruno Mars hit “Marry You.”
She once told a German magazine that 2004’s holiday classic Christmas with the Kranks would be her last role, but that turned out to be a lie. The acting bug that she got in college never left and, while her career has slowed down, it’s not likely to end anytime soon.
Jamie Lee played Laurie Strode in Halloween films released in 5 different decades, including the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s. She considers it the best experience she ever had and her best part until True Lies. Luckily for her, and in large part due to her expert acting, the franchise is still alive and well. The 2018 reprise broke box office records by grossing $256 million. 2 more movies are in the works, including Halloween Kills in October 2021 and Halloween Ends in 2022.
She’s also working on setting boundaries and ending vampiristic relationships. Friendship is important to the actress, and she’s developed an entire podcast about it titled Good Friend.
Her early experience with divorce gave her a heart for vulnerable children. She once said that the main purpose of fame is charitable work, so she now supports children’s charities. She even started a few of her own. The Syzygy foundation supports children’s health and environmental causes. The website myhandinyours.com is an online shop that benefits Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. It raised over $250,000 in less than a year.
Although many of her fans may not know about them, her extensive philanthropic efforts haven’t gone unrecognized. She’s an honorary chairperson for the Building Resilience for Young Children Dealing with Trauma program and earned an award from the US Department of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman for her charity work and children’s books.
She has written over a dozen children’s books since releasing her first one in 1993. It was inspired by the day her daughter stomped into her room, complaining about not being able to use a diaper anymore. She suddenly realized that children have a past and that talking about it would make a great topic for a children’s book. She wrote When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth, and had family friend and literary agent Phyliss Wender send it to Harper & Row, now known as HarperCollins. One of her latest books, Me, Myself, and I, is a cautionary tale against parents exhibiting self-obsession in front of their children. In 2003, she was even nominated for a Grammy for Best Spoken Album for Children for her recording of the books.
Jamie Lee adopted two children. She recently revealed that her 25-year-old child has transitioned to a woman named Ruby and she’ll be officiating her wedding. She has one other daughter named Annie, who is 34 years old and married. She doesn’t have grandchildren yet but is looking forward to the day when she does.
Jamie Lee Curtis has been an icon for decades. She was practically born famous as the child of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, but her talent and beauty have helped her carve out a unique niche for herself.
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