Jamie Lee Curtis, the original scream queen, speaks: “I do not like horror movies”

Jamie Lee Curtis is doing a dance, right before our very eyes, at 92y, the New York cultural centre. No, put thoughts of ‘Dancing Queen’ – and any associated other ‘leading ladies’ – aside, that’s a whole other horror story. Curtis’ own dance has a name – she calls it the ‘Halloween Hustle’, and takes place to the tune of Van McCoy’s ‘The Hustle’, which she sings, waving her arms around jokingly but still ever-so effortlessly stylishly.

Today’s ‘hustle’ is to promote the movie Halloween – not the 1978 John Carpenter classic that launched her career (though somewhat confusingly that’s also back in selected cinemas) – but the 40th anniversary direct sequel, also called Halloween, which conveniently ignores the subsequent existing sequels and two remakes. Still with us? All you need to know is that in this timeline, Laurie Strode has spent 40 years preparing for the return of masked killer Michael Myers. And girl, is she ready.

‘Halloween’ Film Review: 40 years on, Michael Myers has still got it – and so has Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode

It was losing a job that brought Halloween into your life, wasn’t it?

Jamie Lee Curtis: “I was 18 or 19, I was a regular on a ABC show, I thought I was a tough shit. I was making $835 a week, bitches. I thought I was all of that, and I got fired! Had I not been fired, the worst day of my professional life at that point, I would not have been available to audition for a movie. I didn’t care what it was, all I can tell you is that the name Laurie was on every single page of that script, and I had done a show where there were 13 regulars on a half hour show where the women each got one line a week or two.”

You didn’t care, but it went on to be game changing!

“Game changing, but nobody knew that. It was a little tiny pish of a horror movie shot in 20 days. I’m being honest. I mean, it’s nice that it has a fanbase… I’m not trying to be facetious or cute or clever. Although I do try to do that often… It just bothers me because there’s some feeling that this was some preordained, planned mastermind and that’s just bullshit. And John Carpenter will be the first person to tell you. We were making an exploitation slasher movie about killing babysitters. And that’s what it was. Shot in 20 days, shot for nothing. Fast, furious, vicious and what it became really had nothing to do with the intent of the work. The intent of the work was to make a movie and then, as a young filmmaker, make another movie. It became then the thing you could get another job from, not that it was going to become something.”

And you’re often quoted as saying you don’t like horror movies, true?

“I do not like horror movies. I do not say this for a joke, although it gets a laugh, I really don’t. There’s nothing I like about being scared. I’m this person [puts hands over her face]. I sing songs to myself when things are terrifying. I mean, fucking Aladdin scared me. I’m not joking! You know when Jafar becomes a dragon? With his red eyes and stuff? That shit scared me.”

When did this version of Halloween first come into your life?

“I was on vacation. It involved my husband and golf, mountains and fresh air. And the phone rang and Jake Gyllenhaal, who starred in David’s (Gordon Green) amazing movie Stronger, who I’ve known since he was a wee lad – friends with his mom and dad – he called me and said, ‘I’ve just finished this movie with this dude and he’s really cool, it was a very good creative experience for me and he wants to talk to you about a Halloween movie, will you talk to him?’ That was it. Called him. He tried to pitch me, he tried to explain.”

Apparently you said ‘Shut up and let me read the script’…

“Literally [motions shushing]. ‘I don’t want to know anything.’ I’ll tell you what sealed it basically in five pages, although I read the whole thing. The original opening, Alison, my granddaughter is running, so you get this tableau of Haddonfield, Illinois. Finishes her run and runs into the house, goes upstairs into her room and goes into her room and opens the louvered closet door and pulls the bare bulb light to illuminate her clothes. And in that second [snaps fingers] I was right back in the closet, 40 years later with my granddaughter and I knew everything he was going to do. ‘Fuck! That’s beautiful’. No I mean that was just BEAUTIFUL. I’m back in the fucking louvered closet, but it’s my granddaughter. And I thought, ‘that’s just beautiful, now lets see what happens’ and of course I read it, called them back and said yeah.”

“With the original Halloween, I didn’t care what the movie was.
All I can tell you is that the name Laurie was on every single page of that script, and I had done a show where there were 13 regulars on a half hour show where the women each got one line a week or two.”
– Jamie Lee Curtis

You did your own stunts again, didn’t you?

“Every actor does their own stunts. And I mean that. There’s no action movie actors that are not doing stunts. That’s just a lie. It’s impossible. You can’t not do it. I obviously have a stunt double and she does things I can’t physically do. She does things that would be insane. Shit happens. But it has to happen with you because it’s a fucking movie. If it’s camera tricks, it’s not worth it. Even in True Lies, I’m hanging 250 feet over water by a helicopter. Because it’s fucking gotta be you! My double, she literally fell off the roof. I fell off the roof from my standing height to the ground and I cracked a rib. I mean, that shit happens. There’s nothing you can do about it. Because still, no matter what, I’m 150 pounds and you’re dead falling basically on your ribs. And it hurts.”

No spoilers, but there’s a musical moment that didn’t eventually didn’t happen in the final scene – what was it meant to be?

“There’s this really arcane, sounds like Nick Cave kind of song… Google it, download it. Whatever the fuck you do. Find it and pull it out of the sky and put it into your fucking device that can you listen to. It’s called ‘So Tell The Girls I’m Back In Town’ [by Jay Jay Johanson]. It’s fantastic. It’s really obscure and weird. It obviously, ultimately, wasn’t correct for the movie.”

What was it like having a fan at Comic Con, who had survived a home invasion, tell you he was inspired by your character?

“I literally got off the stage and went and hugged him. I mean, it was a moment. That was, like, the opening note of what has now become a symphony of zeitgeist and culture and news and women and truth and me too and all of it is this big swirling fucking thing about trauma. Lady Gaga on Stephen Colbert the other night, talking about A Star Is Born, really knocked the socks off the room because she started talking about trauma. So the capital T word is now, in October, right here. We’re ALL talking about it. Christine Ford, standing up with her hand. Everybody is talking about past trauma. Burying it, hiding it, squishing it, silencing it, shutting it up and it’s amazing that this is the world. We’re talking about this movie that, actually at its core, is about trauma. And trying to put a real face on horrific trauma. And that’s what we attempted to do. So it’s just been an amazing, very emotional, experience.”

What have you learned from Laurie this time?

“I mean really, just the only thing I can say is never give up. Just never give up. This is a woman who could’ve given up so many times and she didn’t. Things are going to be OK, which is really the answer to the question.”

Halloween is in cinemas now. With thanks to 92y.org.