When NME arrives at the swanky London hotel for our Jamie Lee Curtis interview, we’re told she’s running late. This is a shock, her publicist says, because Jamie Lee Curtis is never late. She is always early. On TikTok you can watch her joking about living by “JLC time” (15 minutes fast). And during shooting for the final Halloween film, which hits cinemas next week, she arrived 45 minutes before she needed to every day. She is extremely switched-on, as we’ll discover, and has crafted this reputation over five decades in Hollywood.
Right now though, she’s late – and in a rush. “Give us all the way until four – my bags are packed and I’m ready to go,” she tells an assistant as we sit down in her sizeable suite. Wearing a smart, black jacket and trousers, black t-shirt and rimless aviator glasses she perches at the end of a plush sofa while her agent shuffles around in the background. “I have to get on an airplane,” she explains. “That’s why we’re going to kick you out.”
Some people would pay good money to be booted from a room by Laurie Strode, so we’re not offended. Debuting as the original scream queen in John Carpenter’s surprise 1978 slasher hit Halloween, the bruised and bloodied babysitter made Curtis a star overnight. She returned for a less-appreciated sequel two years later (Halloween II); and again for Steve Miner’s late-’90s/early-noughties double bill of reboots (Halloween H20; Halloween: Resurrection) – but none of those titles quite recaptured the chaotic thrill of Laurie’s first face-off with Michael Myers, the unkillable masked boogeyman with a mysterious past. Later attempts to resuscitate the franchise were mauled by critics – and Myers appeared to have been finally buried for good. But then in 2017, Curtis’ phone rang unexpectedly…
“It wasn’t even a thought in my head to do another Halloween movie,” she says today. “I didn’t want to, but then I got a call from Jake Gyllenhaal, my godson who I’ve known since he was a little boy. Jake had worked with [director] David Gordon Green [on acclaimed drama Stronger] and he said David wanted to speak to me. So I told him to pass my number along and the phone rang again just a minute later.”
“It wasn’t even a thought in my head to do another Halloween movie”
After a brief chat duing which Curtis refused to discuss the movie until she’d read a script, Gordon Green agreed to have a draft sent over. Luckily for him, the new Halloween’s more emotional brand of filmmaking struck a chord. “David had hidden an indie drama in the middle of a horror film,” Curtis says. “He made something intimate that was layered in bloody tissue and exploding heads. I read it in about an hour and called him back immediately: ‘OK, let’s go.'”
It turned out to be a good decision. Gordon Green’s Halloween had the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film with a female lead over the age of 55 in history – and was soon picked up for a further two chapters, giving its creator his dream of a gory trilogy. Curtis hadn’t planned on reprising the role even once, so the prospect of another two blindsided her.
“There was no mention of a trilogy when we started in 2018,” she says. “I didn’t think I would do it ever again. Later, David mentioned that there were these three stories: Halloween, Halloween Kills and Halloween Ends. And here we are.”
We last found Laurie at a low point. Halloween Kills, released 12 months ago, climaxed with the death of her only daughter Karen, played by Judy Greer. The pair’s relationship had helped to ground Gordon Green’s ruthless narrative with some tender moments, so it was a bombshell to say the least. Karen’s absence leaves Laurie in a vulnerable place at the start of Halloween Ends, which has been marketed as “her last stand”.
“When we pick up with Laurie, she’s processed some things,” says Gordon Green, setting the stage. “It’s four years on and she’s writing her memoir. She’s got a loving granddaughter and she’s got friends around her. She’s taking steps toward a new, healthy path and mindset. But as often happens, Michael Myers gets in the way…”
The in-demand director is busy in post-production, so he’s sent us his thoughts via video recording instead. There’s a bit of philosophising in the clip, mostly about the message behind Michael’s murders, but Gordon Green also reveals what happened after he offed Karen.
“Michael’s been out of the headlines for four years,” he starts, carefully choosing words that are just vague enough to avoid major spoilers. “He’s gone dormant and has found this place where he resides. The mask has decayed and has mold and mildew on it. He’s in bad shape and has gone away to die. Then he meets an unlikely new colleague and they feed off each other’s energy which reawakens what he’s capable of.”
What Michael Myers is capable of has been the subject of 12 movies (only Halloween III: Season Of The Witch revolved around a different baddie). So it’s perhaps appropriate that the actor behind his greatest nemesis also has a love of longevity.
“I am loyal to Laurie Strode”
Curtis married her husband, Spinal Tap’s Christopher Guest, 37 years ago. Her inner team has remained largely unchanged for much longer than is usual in this industry. And, of course, she has played the same character on and off since 1978. When she goes in, she is all in.
“I am a creature of habit,” agrees Curtis, slapping the table to emphasise her point. “I am at my core loyal – and I’m loyal to Laurie. I will look back on my life and think that was a good quality.” We ask why that is and she pauses to think. It’s the longest pause in our whole interview. “I am the product of 13 marriages in my immediate family between my mother [Janet Leigh, famous for being in Psycho, among others], my father [the popular actor Tony Curtis] and my stepfather [stockbroker Robert Brandt]. That has an effect…” She stops again and sighs. “I read a description of Los Angeles once which said it’s a city of novelties and regrets – and also short-lived contact. When I meet actors who have their original agent, but have become big stars I’m always like: ‘Fuck yeah man! You stayed with your agent. That’s amazing.’”
Despite her long career, it’s not always been easy for Curtis to get gigs. Soon after breaking out in Carpenter’s Halloween and 1980’s The Fog, she moved over to big studio pictures like Trading Places (1983) and A Fish Called Wanda (1988). The ‘90s were spotty, but Curtis would pop up with a blockbuster every so often (1994’s True Lies, for example) to keep her name firmly on the A-list. Post turning 40, however, the prestige parts predictably dried up. When Gordon Green came calling, her most recent successes had been roles in family films like Freaky Friday (2003) and Christmas With The Kranks (2004).
Curtis nods her head enthusiastically when we suggest Halloween 2018 kicked off a comeback. “That film changed my entire life!” As much as the original? “More so! At 64, I have an entire career. Now I’m a producer. I’m a writer, I’m a director, I’m an active boss, I’m a creative partner. I can collaborate with artists in a way that I’ve always dreamed of. I never expected to be making the movies that I’m making now.”
“I never expected to be making the movies that I’m making now”
She is certainly on a hot streak. Playing arch heiress Linda Drysdale in the deliciously entertaining whodunnit Knives Out has gifted Curtis another huge franchise to champion. Meanwhile, Everything Everywhere All At Once, the surreal action thriller heating up the Oscars race, allowed her to “hot dog finger Michelle Yeoh”.
“I didn’t mean that!” splutters Curtis, before moving her head closer to NME’s dictaphone as if to speak directly to the reader. “I misspoke! I meant I get to hot dog finger love Michelle Yeoh. Please don’t quote me on the previous.” She leans even closer: “Please, please, please, please, please, please!”
For those of you who haven’t yet seen Everything Everywhere All At Once, it is a mad, Marvel-esque, meta spectacular. The laws of physics regularly collapse and the characters hop between different realities. In one of those realities, to which Curtis is referring, her and Yeoh play romantic partners whose hands are replaced with giant, lolloping sausages. It’s wonderfully weird and totally unique, not to mention hilarious.
And Curtis’ creative renaissance isn’t over. Following Halloween Ends, we’ll soon see her alongside Jared Leto in Disney’s Haunted Mansion remake. Then there’s the campy action drama Spychosis, as well as massive video game adaptation Borderlands, with Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart and Jack Black.
“I’m looking at this as a decade of creativity, 60 to 70, that I never expected,” she tells us. “I always knew I was an incredible collaborator, but all of a sudden my life has exploded creatively.”
It’s at this moment that the assistant pokes their head around the door. “You’ve got one last question, then I have to go,” acknowledges Curtis. “Good luck. I know I’ve probably already answered everything. I’m good at this.”
She has indeed exhausted NME’s list of questions. Jamie Lee Curtis is very skilled at steering conversations where she wants them to go. If you watch interviews of her on YouTube, she will often talk non-stop for minutes at a time, covering different topics and telling multiple stories to journalists in one go. It can sometimes feel like she is interviewing them. We ask her what the next few weeks look like.
“Well, I finish opening Halloween Ends,” she says, which involves a few more media stops in Ireland and Mexico, and a couple of premieres too. “After that, I might introduce myself to my husband and family a couple of times. I also have a dog, to whom I will have to make up for the month I’ve been gone on this promo tour.” Would that be a good time to pause, and take stock? “Take stock?!” She cringes at the thought. “Take stock?! No, I need to shut the fuck up and keep going!” We’d expect nothing less.
‘Halloween Ends’ is released in cinemas on October 14