Jamie Lee Curtis: The Scream Queen Within

David N. GroveInterviewsLeave a Comment

Jamie Lee Curtis says that if she’d cast the first Halloween film, she wouldn’t have cast herself in the role of Laurie Strode, the shy, virginal babysitter who is terrorized by escaped psychopath Michael Myers. “I was very much a smart aleck back then,” says Curtis. “I was the total opposite of Laurie Strode, although I was shy, in a way, because of my teeth. I never wanted to smile because my teeth were crooked and gray, so I would just smirk at people. That helped me in playing Laurie Strode.”

Fast forward forty years. In the new Halloween film, which was directed by David Gordon Green, Laurie Strode is a gray-haired, gun-wielding grandmother who has spent much of her adult life preparing for Michael Myers’ inevitable return. “Every since she survived the first film, Laurie has been preparing for another confrontation with Michael,” says Curtis. “Her level of preparedness has intensified over time, and this obsession has damaged her relationships, especially with her daughter and granddaughter. Her approach is very realistic. She’s not going to drop a nuke on Michael, and she’s not going to employ a semi-automatic weapon. She embraces the reality of her life in Haddonfield, Illinois, and the resources that are available to her. She’s ready for Michael.”

Curtis last portrayed Laurie in 2002’s Halloween: Resurrection, a critically-reviled sequel in which Laurie was killed. The new Halloween bypasses all of the lore that’s accumulated since the first film, an approach that Curtis heartily endorses. “What attracted me to this film was the script, plain and simple,” says Curtis. “I thought the script was very clever, especially in the way that it referenced the first Halloween film and connected that film to this new story. Psychologically, stylistically, visually, it feels like a continuation of the first film.”

Curtis was an un-credited producer on 1998’s Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, and Curtis says that her creative input was incorporated into the new Halloween film’s shooting script. “I just polished the scenes that involve Laurie,” says Curtis. “I mentioned things that I thought Laurie would do and say, and sometimes I would say, ‘No. I don’t think she would do or say that.’ I think the biggest change in Laurie that developed throughout those conversations is that Laurie became less of a badass. She’s not Ripley, and she’s not Linda Hamilton from the Terminator films. Laurie is a true survivor.”

So is Curtis. The success of the first Halloween film didn’t lead to a flood of feature film offers for Curtis, who followed Halloween with five other horror films (The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, Road Games, and Halloween II). “I couldn’t get a job for seven months after I did Halloween,” says Curtis. “People were congratulation me about the success of Halloween, and I was eating at McDonald’s.”

The Fog, the first feature film Curtis appeared in after Halloween, re-teamed Curtis with Halloween co-creators John Carpenter and Debra Hill. The Fog also co-starred Curtis’s mother, Hollywood legend Janet Leigh, although Curtis and Leigh barely cross paths in the film. “My mother and I spent years trying to find a project that we could star in together, and I didn’t want that to be exploited,” says Curtis. “The script for The Fog wasn’t about me and my mother, so that made me feel a lot better.”

Curtis followed The Fog with Prom Night, which began filming in Toronto, Canada, in August of 1979. In November of 1979, Curtis traveled to Montreal, where Curtis celebrated her twenty-first birthday during the filming of Terror Train. “It took The Fog a long time to get released, so I was anxious to find another movie, any movie,” says Curtis. “I was basically looking for anyone who wanted me, and I knew that would mean doing another horror movie. If I’d been a producer at that time, I wouldn’t have looked at me for anything other than horror, because that’s all I’d done.”

Curtis was nineteen years old when she acted in the first Halloween film. Curtis turns sixty on November 22. “I want to be older,” says Curtis. “I actually think there’s an incredible amount of self-knowledge that comes with getting older. I feel way better now than I did when I was twenty. I’m stronger, and I’m smarter in every way. I’m so much less crazy than I was then.”

For more information on Jamie Lee Curtis and her scream queen career, read the book Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen, which is available in paperback and through kindle.





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David Grove is an author, journalist and a produced screenwriter from Vancouver. He’s the author of the books Making Friday the 13th, Fantastic 4: The Making of the Movie, Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen, On Location in Blairstown: The Making of Friday the 13th, and Jan-Michael Vincent: Edge of Greatness.