There are horror icons, and then there is Jamie Lee Curtis. A trailblazer in modern genre cinema who also cemented herself as one of the finest comedic actresses to boot, Curtis is truly a one-of-a-kind talent, and we’re all lucky to have been able to enjoy four decades of her work in both film and television (Scream Queens FOREVER). This week, Curtis returns to the role that launched her career, Laurie Strode, for David Gordon Green’s Halloween (2018), which cleverly reboots the narrative of the beloved final girl and gives horror fans a legendary showdown that is 40 years in the making.
At a recent press day for Halloween (2018), Daily Dead had the opportunity to speak with Curtis about her return to the role that helped launch her career, and she discussed being able to revisit the character of Laurie Strode in a new way (through the work of H40 writers Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley, and Green), connecting with newcomer Andi Matichak, who plays her granddaughter Allyson in the sequel, how Jake Gyllenhaal is responsible for her coming aboard the new Halloween, and how her involvement in John Carpenter’s original Halloween helped launch a new direction of her career in comedy, courtesy of another Master of Horror, John Landis.
You had the idea to do H2O years ago, but there were some things that ended up compromised by the studio. Was this a chance to come back and do it right?
Jamie Lee Curtis: You know what, H2O was my simplistic idea of, "Hey, we're all still in show business. The movie's 20 years old. How often does that happen? I'm still in show business, let's make a 20th anniversary movie and deal with the trauma then." Of course, in her case she was running, so in H2O, Laurie has changed her identity. She is no longer Laurie Strode and she is running. But you can't run from the boogeyman. She was an alcoholic and a drug addict and we tried to explore it a little bit in that movie, but she wasn't Laurie Strode. She'd already given up her identity, and it just didn't work. I mean, it was good. There were great things in it. I don't think the studio compromised it, it just wasn't great. It was good. I'm happy with that movie, and I say it was simplistic because I think it was just more like, "Oh, people will love this." Do you know what I mean? I don't think it had the depth.
While we're on the subject of that one, I don't want to get too much into continuity and all of that stuff, but just for you, when you're prepping your character, this is a very unique situation. I don't think any other actors ever had to say, "Okay, part of my character's history is now off the table." Does that change your process at all?
Jamie Lee Curtis: No, because it couldn't. What was beautiful about what David, Danny and Jeff did is, if you imagine all the Halloween movies as their own inner tubes and you're on a lake, all they did was just untie them from the dock and they floated away. They all exist. There's two, there's four, there's five. The only one that this movie relates to is the first one. In order to tell this story, that was the way they could get it done. If they had to take all of those stories and try to weave them into this story, it wouldn't be possible. I'm dead. Do you know what I mean? It's not possible. I think the way they did it was beautiful.
Can you talk about the process of getting to know David on this film? I think he said earlier it was Jake Gyllenhaal who called you to be a part of this?
Jamie Lee Curtis: Yes. Jake called me because Jake had just done Stronger. Jake and I've known each other since he was little. I'm his godmother. He called me to say, "Look I had this really creative experience with this dude. He's a really interesting filmmaker. He wants to talk to you about a Halloween movie. Would you want to talk to him?" I just called David. It was that simple. He's a filmmaker, this guy is a very interesting weirdo filmmaker, and I haven't worked with a lot of filmmakers. I've worked with a lot of directors, a lot of producers and made some good movies, and some kind of "meh" movies, many meh movies and a couple really horrible movies, too [laughs]. It's all fine. We still all worked hard, everybody put their energy into it. But David was very clear, and this was a whole new experience for me.
Malek has been a part of this series for a very long time. How was it working with him again for Halloween (2018)?
Jamie Lee Curtis: The first day on the movie when I arrived on set as Laurie, of course the crew was incredibly welcoming. It was a big deal, like when John [Carpenter] showed up. They were very gracious, and it was very sweet. When I walked on to the set the first time, the first person I saw was Malek Akkad. His father invented Halloween, the babysitter slasher movie. He’s the person who went to John and said, "I want you to make me a babysitter slasher movie." And Moustapha, who was killed horribly with his daughter, Malek's sister, in a suicide bombing, the loss of their lives was a real tragedy. So, to see Malek as the very first person on that set, I just started crying.
From the moment I walked on that set, to the moment I walked off that set, six weeks later, every day was a very emotional experience for me. Malek, to me, represents his dad, the history of the past and the possibility of the future. Without Malek, this movie doesn't exist. He had to allow David to make this movie with Jason [Blum]. He could have said "no" any number of times. So, there is this history with Malek and Malek's father and that was a very emotional connection for me.
Andi Matichak, the young actress who plays Allyson, is starting off her career in this Halloween in a very similar way to where you were when you starred the first Halloween. Did that hit you at all?
Jamie Lee Curtis: It's completely wack. She and I had dinner the first couple of days when I was in Charleston. We didn't know each other. She was 19. She was going to college. She was going to be on a soccer scholarship and that summer before her college, she went to model in Greece and met an actor's manager, who said, "You could be an actress." She gave up college and moved to New York to become an actor at 19. When I was her age, I was going to college and ran into a manager who said, "You could act." I went up for a part and ending up quitting college and becoming an actor at 19. Halloween (1978) was my first movie. This is her first movie: a Halloween movie. Neither one of us were going to be actors and we both ended up actors in a Halloween movie for our first movie. It's incredible.
By the way, I don't have my phone right now, but there is a picture of my mother at 19, and if you go on one of my social sites, I posted a side by side picture of my mother and Andi. It's uncanny. She looks like her twin sister. She's a very grounded girl from a good family. She's going to be a big star.
What path were you on when you decided to become an actor?
Jamie Lee Curtis: I was going to be a cop. Really. I barely made it out of high school. I was such a poor student. The only college that took me was the college where my mother was the most famous person to have ever graduated. They wanted me with my D+, 840 combined SATs. I was what they wanted [laughs]. They were very gracious to accept me in college. I was going to major in corrections and be a social worker or a police officer. And I would have done it very happily, because I think I would have made a great cop. I am a great cop, talk to my family [laughs]. But my acting career was by accident, totally by accident. Never thought I'd be an actor, ever.
A manager who I knew, he used to be a tennis teacher, and his name was Chuck Bender. And I credit everything to him. It was Christmas break time when I came home, and he was teaching tennis at my friend's court. He said, "Hey, they're looking for Nancy Drew. Why don't you go up for it?" I said, "Okay, Chuck, sure." I went and auditioned at Universal for Nancy Drew. I didn't get it, but they somehow liked something about me. That following January, I ended up staying home from college and did an independent study, which I still have the paper that I wrote, “How to Break Into Show Business.” I did an independent study for one month, which you could do for drama credit, and I basically went on auditions and took acting classes and wrote a paper, like a journal. It was a daily journal of what I did and then I was going to go back to college on January 24th and then start my second semester of school. I ended up auditioning for the contract system at Universal and the woman, Monique James, signed me to a seven year contract on January 22nd and I didn't go back to school. It was all by accident. The last thing in the world I thought I was going to do is become an actor.
When you came into the first Halloween 40 years ago with John and this ragtag group of friends coming together to make a movie, where you had to carry around these bags of leaves and stuff–
Jamie Lee Curtis: There was one bag.
Jamie Lee Curtis: One bag. After each take, we would rake them back up to use them over again and again.
Oh, wow. So, coming into this character now, and here you are four decades later, what kind of weight do you feel because of the fanbase and what this series has meant to the genre for four decades now? From a fan’s standpoint, it really is a remarkable thing to have someone that has become so iconic come back and embrace the roots of their character, because we don't always get that, or we don't often get it in a way that feels satisfactory.
Jamie Lee Curtis: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, but I never thought I was going to be an actor, as I said. The only conscious decision I have ever made as an actor is to not do another horror film after Halloween II (1981). It was the only time I said, "I don't think I can do that again, because if I do that again I'm going to get stuck in that world only." Even though I had no discernible talent—I had no skills, I had not gone to acting school. I didn't know anything. I was an accidental actor. Now I've done these movies, now I made these horror movies and I somehow knew because I think I was around show business, that you can get pigeonholed. Even though I didn't know what that was going to be, I knew that if I wanted to have an opportunity to do anything else, I needed to stop. And I stopped and literally said, "I will not do another horror movie." A week later I was cast as Dorothy Stratten in a TV movie [Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story] about her murder by her husband. Two months or three months later, weirdly enough, the reason I'm in Trading Places is because of John Landis, it's because of horror movies.
Nobody knows this, until now. John Landis was directing a short about ’50s horror movie trailers called Coming Soon. He needed somebody to narrate and be the host of the documentary. So, who did John Landis call? Jamie Lee Curtis. I'd never met him. We shot it on the backlot of Universal. It's me with a crane going, "Hi. I'm Jamie Lee Curtis." So, here I am, narrating this documentary about horror movie trailers, but as most people know, I'm sort of a smart-ass, or I'm very frothy or whatever the f--k I am. Clearly, I made him laugh a few times because it was John Landis who single-handedly told Paramount that he was going to cast me in the only female part in a very big-budget Paramount comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. The only female part in the movie, and John is giving it to me. And I know that there was blowback, too. I know it, I've read it, they told him, "No. Are you crazy? No, no, no, no, no. No, no, no, no, no. We're going to put somebody else in it." He was like, "No, I'm going to put this girl in it."
And I never would have known John Landis had it not been for horror movies, because it was that short that I did for him that he then went, "Oh no, she's funny. I'm going to put her in Trading Places." That's why I'm in Trading Places. Then Trading Places leapfrogged to John Cleese seeing Trading Places and writing A Fish Called Wanda. And then, Jim Cameron saw A Fish Called Wanda and ended up writing True Lies for me. All three written for me and none of it would have happened had I not been in a horror movie because of John Carpenter. Literally, that's why I'm here today, because that succession happened. None of which would have ever happened on their own. I would have never been in Trading Places, no way. It just never would have happened.
Stay tuned to Daily Dead in the coming days for more interviews for the new Halloween, and in case you missed it, check here to catch up on all of our previous Halloween (2018) coverage!