Curtis, Jamie Lee 1958-
CURTIS, Jamie Lee 1958-
PERSONAL: Born November 22, 1958; daughter of Tony Curtis (an actor) and Janet Leigh (an actress); married Christopher Guest (an actor, writer, and director), December, 1984; children: Annie, Tom. Education: Attended University of the Pacific, 1977. Hobbies and other interests: Photography.
ADDRESSES: Home—California. Agent—Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
CAREER: Actress, 1977—; author, 1984—. Television appearances include Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story, 1981; Money on the Side, 1982; As Summers Die, 1986; Anything but Love (series), 1988-91; The Heidi Chronicles, 1995; Nicholas' Gift, 1998; Pigs Next Door (series), 2000. Film appearances include Halloween, 1978; The Fog, 1980; Prom Night, 1980; Halloween II, 1981; Love Letters, 1982; Trading Places, 1983; Grandview, U.S.A., 1984; Perfect, 1984; A Fish Called Wanda, 1988; Blue Steel, 1989, Mother's Boys, 1994; True Lies, 1994; House Arrest, 1996; Fierce Creatures, 1997; Homegrown, 1998; Halloween H2O, 1998; Virus, 1999; Drowning Mona, 2000; The Tailor of Panama, 2001; Daddy and Them, 2001; Boogeyman, 2001; Halloween Resurrection, 2002; and Freaky Friday, 2003.
AWARDS, HONORS: British Academy Award for best supporting actress, 1983, for Trading Places; Golden Globe Award for best actress in a television comedy, 1990, for Anything but Love, and for best actress in a motion picture, 1995, for True Lies; American Comedy Award for funniest actress in a motion picture, and Saturn Award, Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, both 1995, both for True Lies;Emmy nomination, 1998, for Nicholas' Gift; awarded star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 1998; Woman of the Year, Hasty Pudding Theatricals, 2000.
When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Where Do Balloons Go?: An Uplifting Mystery, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
(With mother, Janet Leigh) There Really Was a Hollywood, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1984.
WORK IN PROGRESS: My Mommy Hung the Moon, a picture book for HarperCollins.
SIDELIGHTS: Nicknamed the "Scream Queen" for her role as the teenage victim in the 1978 Halloween, actor and author Jamie Lee Curtis has come a long way in her career. Enjoying success on both the big and small screens, Curtis made her film debut in a series of low-budget horror films and—by sheer determination—moved from those into comedy and action-adventure hits alongside such big-name stars as Kevin Kline, John Travolta, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Known by film audiences for her sleek figure and her sly, flirtatious smile, Curtis has overcome both professional and private hurdles as she has forged a successful Hollywood career and started a family with her husband, actor Christopher Guest.
Avoiding stereotypes and pushing the creative envelope is a Curtis trademark, and in 1993 Curtis, the proud parent of an adopted son and daughter, began to forge yet another career as a children's storybook author with When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth. That book made it to the New York Times best-seller list and has since sold almost a million copies. Curtis has published four more children's books since then, all illustrated by Laura Cornell. And for Curtis, her career as children's author possibly outshines her film career. Speaking with Lisa Birnbach on CBS's The Early Show about her 2002 book, I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, Curtis noted, "What I get to do is invite a child on to their parent's lap, and spend fifteen minutes together reading this and then talking about, perhaps, what makes that child like themselves."
The daughter of film stars Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee was born on November 22, 1958. Four years later, her parents divorced, and Curtis and her older sister, actress Kelly Curtis, were raised by their mother and stepfather. Try as she might, Curtis could never escape from the shadow of her famous parents. "I've always said I have the longest middle name," she once told an Esquire interviewer. "'There goes Jamie Janet-Leigh-and-Tony-Curtis's-Daughter Curtis.' . . . I wanted to be a typical little girl from Smalltown, U.S.A." The desire to escape her celebrity status continued throughout her teen years, which were a difficult time for the soon-to-be actress.
After graduating from high school in 1977, Curtis enrolled at the University of the Pacific, but was unsure what direction she wanted her future life to take. After a semester, she dropped out and, with no formal training as an actress, began auditioning for roles in Hollywood; due to her striking looks, she was quickly signed to Universal Studios, where she worked as an extra and in small roles on television series. "It's just never been hard for me to be someone else," Curtis confided to Neal Karlen in Rolling Stone of the ease with which she assumed the occupation of actress. "I think the fact that I had very low self-confidence growing up and in high school made me a good actress. It was easy for me to be a preppie with preppie kids and a hippie with hippie kids. I learned early to be a chameleon, to turn whatever color was needed."
In 1978, Curtis won her first starring role, in the low-budget slasher film Halloween, one of the top-grossing B-movies of all time. With this role, nineteen-year-old Curtis achieved a measure of personal satisfaction in making her own mark on Hollywood. Unfortunately, she soon found herself typecast, with script after script of horror films sent her way. Prom Night, The Fog, and Terror Train followed in close succession until the young actress turned her back on the horror genre in favor of supporting roles in television films. Her role as a prostitute alongside Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy in 1983's Trading Places won her her first major award, the British Academy Award—the United Kingdom's equivalent of an Oscar—for best supporting actress.
Curtis's career flourished in the 1980s with films such as Perfect, the comedy hit A Fish Called Wanda, and the television series Anything but Love, which ran from 1988 to 1991 and netted the actress another prestigious award: the Golden Globe Award for best actress in a television comedy. Marriage, motherhood, and a move to Sun Valley, Idaho, also entered the picture, and after the cancellation of her television series, Curtis retired from television to devote herself to feature film work. In the 1990s, Curtis began acting in a new genre: the action-adventure film. Her role as the mild-mannered wife of an international spy in the 1994 Arnold Schwarzenegger film True Lies earned critical praise. Curtis has continued to act in films and in television movies, such as the 1998 Nicholas' Gift, for which she received an Emmy nomination. Other notable film appearances include the twentieth anniversary return to her original character in Halloween H2O, as well as the 2002 reprisal of the same role in Halloween: Resurrection. She has also had leading parts in Virus, The Tailor of Panama, Daddy and Them, and the remake of the Disney classic, Freaky Friday.
In addition to praise for her acting abilities, reviewers have commended Curtis's picture books for children. When I Was Little, published in 1993, describes the growing list of accomplishments made by a proud youngster as she looks back upon infancy: no more "goo and yucky stuff" to eat, no more "floaties" to help her swim, no more being "a handful." Curtis got the idea for the book when her own daughter, Annie, then only four, began telling her about all the wonderful accomplishments she had made, including ceasing to use her pacifier. Curtis simply began taking down a list of such milestones, and the result was her first book, a critical and commercial success. Calling the young girl's perspective on babyhood "truly hilarious," Debra S. Gold wrote in a review for School Library Journal that Curtis's "simple text is funny and honest, perfectly capturing that whimsical, innocent way that children view the world."
Inspired by her own experiences of adopting her daughter, Curtis wrote her second book for youngsters, Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born. A Publishers Weekly reviewer wrote, "It's hard to imagine a warmer celebration of the special joys of an adopted family." Framed around the retelling of a favorite family story, Tell Me Again describes memories of that special moment when they first held their new child. From the ring of the phone in the middle of the night to announce the arrival of their daughter, to the trip to the hospital, the first diaper change, and the first tears of joy, Curtis's book "affirms family love, the pleasure parents feel about new babies, and how pleased children are to hear the story of their birth," according to School Library Journal critic Ruth K. MacDonald. Ricki Blackhall, reviewing the picture book in Magpies, thought the reader would be in for a "heartwarming surprise." Blackhall went on to note, "This gentle picture book tells of the celebration of the special joys of an adopted family. . . . A wonderful, wonderful book."
With Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, Curtis and Cornell detail thirteen different feelings that a young girl describes having over the course of two weeks. From silly to quiet to cranky to sad, the little redheaded girl presents such moods in rhyming couplets, as in "Moods are just something that happen each day! / Whatever I'm feeling inside is okay." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly found such a message "upbeat," and further dubbed the book an "amiable enough outing," despite finding certain "missteps" in the writing. Booklist's Stephanie Zvirin called the same book "colorful [and] energetic," and one that "uses comedy to promote an understanding of common emotions." Similarly, Valerie Caghlan, writing in Books for Keeps, lauded the fact that Curtis's book lets children know "that it is normal and acceptable to have mood swings." Caghlan further noted that the book is "engaging and good natured." And Karen MacPherson, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, felt that Curtis uses "typical good humor" to deal with various emotions, and "amazingly, she does all this in a lilting rhyme that's unforced and witty."
Curtis and Cornell again teamed up for the year 2000 Where Do Balloons Go?: An Uplifting Mystery. A little boy lets go of his purple balloon and, watching it float away, wonders what will become of it. Will it catch cold or get married or write postcards back? Curtis found the inspiration for this tale while attending a birthday party with her son, Tom. When rain approached, all the guests took shelter in a gazebo, but one young guest decided to untie all the balloons and as they drifted upward, a little girl asked her mother where all the balloons went. Thus was born a book of questions and exploration rather than of didactic answers.
Curtis employs "snappy rhyme," according to Horn Book's Susan P. Bloom, to ponder these questions. Meanwhile, the artwork shows the balloon out dining or visiting a spa, artistic "nudges adults will enjoy," as Bloom mentioned. The message, Bloom pointed out, is about "holding on and letting go." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly felt that the book "may well raise youngsters' spirits," and—like the high-flying balloon did to the young boy in the tale—start imaginations flying "way out there—in a kid-pleasing way." Calling the book a "lighthearted romp," School Library Journal's Marie Orlando commented that "While there are no definite answers to all this speculation, the fun is in the wondering."
Curtis has also celebrated having a positive self-image in her 2002 I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem. Again using rhyming text, Curtis describes how a young boy and girl are determined to like themselves even if things are going badly. The little girl says, "I'm gonna like me / when I'm called on to stand. / I know all my letters / like the back of my hand." The little boy in turn says, "I'm gonna like me / when my answer is wrong, / like thinking my ruler / was ten inches long." Once again accompanied by Cornell's artwork, this book is a "pleasant addition" to the genre of self-esteem works, according to Roxanne Burg, writing in School Library Journal. Booklist's Karin Snelson noted that author and illustrator team up to "advocate a sort of jubilant self-love," while a contributor for Publishers Weekly called the work a "lively, emotionally reassuring picture book." And a critic for Kirkus Reviews likewise lauded this celebration "to being individuals," whose "overall message is a good one."
Speaking with Shannon Maughan on KidsReads.com, Curtis noted, "It wasn't any grand plan or dream of mine to write a children's book." Yet this "accidental" career has opened up new vistas for Curtis, who continues to write well-received children's books as well as act in movies. As MacPherson commented in her article about the award-winning actress and author, Curtis "is an exception to the rule that most celebrities who want to be writers shouldn't quit their day jobs."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Volume 32, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Curtis, Jamie Lee, When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Curtis, Jamie Lee, Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Curtis, Jamie Lee, I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, illustrated by Laura Cornell, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, 4th edition, edited by Tom Pendergast and Sara Pendergast, Gale (Detroit, MI), 2000.
Booklist, October 1, 1993, p. 352; October 15, 1996, p. 432; October 15, 1998, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, p. 426; October 1, 2002, Karin Snelson, review of I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, p. 334.
Books for Keeps, September, 2001, Valerie Caghlan, review of Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, p. 22.
Children's Book and Play Review, January-February, 2001, Carla Morris, review of Where Do Balloons Go?: An Uplifting Mystery, pp. 17-18.
Entertainment Weekly, August 18, 2000, Clarissa Cruz, review of Where Do Balloons Go?, p. 120.
Esquire, July, 1985, interview with Jamie Lee Curtis, p. 66.
Horn Book, January-February, 1997, pp. 50-51; November-December, 2000, Susan P. Bloom, review of Where Do Balloons Go?, p. 745.
Horn Book Guide, fall, 1999, Jennifer M. Brabander, review of Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born, p. 231.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1996, p. 1149; July 1, 2002, review of I'm Gonna Like Me, p. 952.
Magpies, March, 1998, Ricki Blackhall, review of Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born, p. 26.
New York Times, July 17, 1994, Caryn James, review of True Lies, p. C13.
Publishers Weekly, July 19, 1993, p. 252; August 5, 1996, review of Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born, p. 441; September 7, 1998, review of Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, p. 94; August 21, 2000, review of Where Do Balloons Go?, p. 73; September 30, 2002, review of I'm Gonna Like Me, pp. 70-71.
Rolling Stone, July 18-August 1, 1985, Neal Karlen, "Jamie Lee Curtis Gets Serious," p. 35.
School Library Journal, November, 1993, Debra S. Gold, review of When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth, p. 78; October, 1996, Ruth K. MacDonald, review of Tell Me Again about the Night I Was Born, p. 91; December, 1998, Martha Topol, review of Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, p. 82; December, 2000, Marie Orlando, review of Where Do Balloons Go?, p. 106; October, 2002, Roxanne Burg, review of I'm Gonna Like Me, p. 100.
BBC News,http://news.bbc.co.uk/ (August 23, 2002), Chris Jones, "Jamie Lee Curtis: The Body Beautiful?"
CBS News,http://www.cbsnews.com/ (October 9, 2002), "The Early Show with Lisa Birnbach: Jamie Lee Curtis, Author."
HarperChildrens.com,http://www.harperchildrens.com/ (March 6, 2003), "Jamie Lee Curtis."
KidsReads.com,http://www.kidsreads.com/ (March 6, 2003), Shannon Maughan, "A Talk with Jamie Lee Curtis: Actor, Author, Mom," "Books by Jamie Lee Curtis."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Online,http://www.postgazettte.com/ (November 10, 1998), Karen MacPherson, "Jamie Lee Curtis, One Celebrity Author."
That's a Wrap,http://www.thats-a-wrap.net/ (March 6, 2003), "Total Jamie Lee Curtis."*