Some 43 years since she first appeared as Laurie Strode in the original slasher film Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis last year reprised her role in the 12th instalment of the franchise
The film, directed by David Gordon Green, picks up exactly where the previous film ended in 2018. We caught up to interview the splendid Jamie Lee Curtis at the Venice Film Festival, where we spoke about everything from her first movie role to feminism, and of course discussed the latest instalment in the Halloween series.
Halloween Kills premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival, where Jamie also just so happened to pick up the Golden Lion award for Lifetime Achievement.
Curtis is an artist with that rare ability to turn on the star quality whilst still seeming like someone you’d love to hang out with. We tracked her down at the Festival and had a chance to find out we can expect from the film, as well as discussing the highlights of her impressive career.
Coming full circle
Jamie’s career began with Halloween, where we met her character Laurie for the first time back in 1978. Her success in the role subsequently earned her back-to-back casting in other horror films, and status as a ‘scream queen’.
She credits her beginnings in the horror scene for her international career spanning six decades, which led to her meeting John Landis. The rest, as they say, is history.
“My performance in [Trading Places] was a gift from John, who by the way met me, weirdly enough, because of horror films. John did a short that he directed called Coming Soon, which is a ‘50s horror film short about those wonderful trailers that you used to see. And he needed somebody to narrate it and who would you call except the young woman who was now in horror movies?
“He met me and … he must have figured out something because the next thing I know, he hired me to be in Trading Places. And because of Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda happened, and because of A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies happened. I owe a great deal of gratitude to John Landis for having the courage to hire me in that film, which really did change things.”
On top of her impressive filmography, Curtis has lived a rich life. She has two adopted children with her husband Christopher Guest: a daughter, Annie, and a transgender daughter, Ruby. Her marriage to Christopher came five months after she saw a picture of him from the film This is Spinal Tap and told her friend Debra Hill, “I’m going to marry that guy.”
She’s very open about the fact that she is a recovering alcoholic, and was addicted to painkillers. She’s been sober since 1999, and maintains that recovery is the greatest achievement of her life. Jamie was guest of honour at the 11th annual Women in Recovery gala and fundraiser in 2003, which is a California-based non-profit organisation for the rehabilitation of women in need.
All about Halloween
One of the most important things we’ve witnessed is Jamie’s relationship with her character, Laurie. She explained to us how exciting (and unusual) it is to be an actor in the same role for 43 years – particularly as a female actor, and a survivor.
“The beauty of human beings is that we change. We are battered and bruised and we emerge and grow; our bones heal, we move forward, and then we get battered and bruised again,” she muses.
The beauty of human beings is that we change. We are battered and bruised and we emerge and grow
The power of Laurie
She explains that what she loves about Laurie is her relatability. While what we’re seeing within Laurie is scripted for the big screen, the fact is that people can identify. “We are all human, and you relate to Laurie because you are wounded too. You are fighting back against demons in your life. And you somehow look at me and Laurie and say, ‘I am Laurie.’
“There was a moment during my last shot of the 2018 film, where Laurie is alone in her truck watching Michael leave the prison. And it’s written as ‘Laurie is alone in her truck, there’s alcohol, there’s a gun…’ and 40 years of her experience come back to haunt her. There’s no dialogue, it’s just Laurie alone. It was my last shot of the movie and I prepared in my trailer.
“As I approached the set and the entire crew – I’m someone who likes name tags in movies, where it says, ‘Hi, my name is…’ so I can know everybody’s name – and the entire crew were all wearing name tags that said, ‘We are Laurie Strode.’ And what they were saying in the moment was ‘we’re all Laurie Strode, and we are with you Jamie, in this moment, as you face it.’ I must tell you, that was a profound moment for me as an actor, and a profound moment for me as a human being. Because it said that we are all the same, we’re all human, we’re all battered, we’re all bruised, but we’re all still here.”
So how did she prepare for the role?
“I scare easily. I know it’s a silly thing to say, but I am an untrained actor. I’ve never been to acting class. I prepare emotionally, but that’s my job. I scare easily. And I hate these movies, I loathe them, I do not like to be frightened. I think that genuine, emotional connection to being afraid… you are watching what is happening in real life, on screen.
“There is no psychological preparation. It’s just… I’ve been traumatised, I’ve had sad things happen, and I’ve had violent things happen. So all of these reactions are just natural manifestations of my own experience.”
Success vs criticism
The Halloween franchise is hugely successful; perhaps one of the most well-known franchises worldwide. How does that feel?
“I think what sets these movies apart is there’s not a lot of deep fake – these movies are real. There’s not a lot of CGI. There are real people in real places, doing scary shit. What I love about Halloween, and particularly Halloween Kills, is that the brutality is real. It’s not a construction. And again, I think that’s why people attach back to them. They’re real and to the point, even the recreation of a dead person is almost real. And I think that’s what also makes these movies all so special, is a little secret sauce.”
I did Trading Places, and I took my shirt off, and I was suddenly what they called legitimate, an A-lister. Now, today, the women’s movement would love Laurie Strode
But with success comes criticism, as is often the case. One of the most significant criticisms of Jamie’s involvement in this franchise is the anti-feminist comments surrounding the first film. John Carpenter – the original director – used to get very frustrated with people calling the film ‘anti-feminist’ or saying it was ‘women-bashing’, mainly because the only one that didn’t die was the virgin.
But Laurie was smart, capable, and John stated: ‘she had no time for boys.’ As a feminist icon, Jamie’s thoughts around this were important to us, and she admitted herself that “the women’s movement kind of hated me.”
But she feels like maybe the this was all back to front, no pun intended…
“I did Trading Places, and I took my shirt off, and I was suddenly what they called legitimate, an A-lister. Now, today, the women’s movement would love Laurie Strode.
But at that moment, it was interesting for me as a young actress, because I’m playing the very thing that we really – I think – respect, particularly about women; their strength and intelligence and ability to, excuse my pun here, shape shift. And, you know, fight back against the adversity that women have done since the beginning of time. And yet, it was sort of anti-feminist. Anyway, I always thought that was funny.”
An uncertain star
Someone at the Venice Film Festival asked Jamie if she was aware that Trading Places was shown every Christmas Eve in Italy. Of course, it also appears in the UK too. But it seems like the US doesn’t get the full unedited version, certainly not on TV. Jamie is surprised.
“Somebody mentioned that to me today and I said, ‘They show it on television?’ and they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘They show all of it on television?’ and they said ‘Yes! It’s a beloved film here in Italy.’ And I’m thinking about 14-year-old boys at Christmas seeing my incredibly beautiful 21-year-old self and thinking ‘Wow – that’s very different from America’. I love that movie.”
Now, in 2021, Jamie has received the Golden Lion Award for Lifestyle Achievement. She explained she has mixed feelings about winning this sort of award and was finding it hard to wrap her head around it.
“[That achievement] seems to be sort of closed, whereas I’m working more and more creatively today than I have been since I was born. So it’s odd for me, and yet I am incredibly honoured,” she explains. She thinks of Halloween, A Fish Called Wanda, and True Lies as the three films she’d called her legacy, though explained that of course there were others, work she bluntly refers to as “pieces of shit”. And no, we don’t know what she’s referring to!
If you want to try and get ahead before seeing the latest film, it looks like most of the Halloween films are on Amazon Prime, although goodness only knows which order to watch them in! Wikipedia can probably tell you that.
As told to Jenny Davis / edits Carly Pepperell
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