Jamie Lee Curtis – WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity?

The new episode of the WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity video series looks at the life and career of Jamie Lee Curtis

The Jamie Lee Curtis episode of the WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity? video series (formerly known as Where in the Horror Are They Now) was Written and Narrated by Jessica Dwyer and Edited by Jaime Vasquez. It was Produced by John Fallon and Executive Produced by Berge Garabedian.

The final girl. The antithesis of every horror movie villain. The final girl typically has a few traits that has become the standard for horror films over the last few decades. She needs to have a sense of innocence, be intelligent, and have a girl next door vibe that makes her the dream girl for a lot peeps. But most of all she’s a survivor who manages to outwit and outlast a supernatural evil (usually) that has been terrorizing her friends and neighbors and puts a stop to it. The blueprint for the final girl really was minted by an actress who has become a legend in horror film history but has gone on to cement herself as one of modern film’s top actresses. But she never forgot her horror roots. Jamie Lee Curtis would take on a few slashers over the years but would manage to make her mark in the genre as the woman who was the survivor and would become as popular as the monsters, she fought… and won the battle against. On this episode of WTF Happened To This Horror Celebrity we find out just WTF happened to one of the reigning queens of horror, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Jamie Lee Curtis was born on November 22nd, 1958, in California to Hollywood royalty. Her parents were Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Leigh would become a legend in horror in her own right with her iconic role in Psycho as Marion Craine whose death in a shower would make fans and viewers alike switch to baths for a while. She’d also star in Night of the Lepus (yes, the giant killer bunny movie.) Curtis’s relationship with her mother was close but when Jamie was four years old her parents divorced. Tony Curtis didn’t have much to do with his children after this and would actually cut out all of his children from his will, it was revealed when he passed away in 2010. He and Jamie did come together throughout his life to help with charity work they both supported. When he passed away Jamie made a statement about how he would be greatly missed and was loved by his family.

Jamie Lee Curtis was going to school for Law when she decided instead to follow in her famous parents footsteps and become an actor. She began working in the mid to late 70s on a number of TV series. This included Quincy, ME, The Love Boat, and Buck Rogers. She was also a regular on Operation Petticoat. One interesting role of note was when she was in an episode of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries and starred opposite another soon to be horror icon in the guise of Robert Englund in the episode Mystery of the Fallen Angels.

It was in 1978 that Jamie Lee Curtis would be cast in the film that would cement her in film history and specifically in the bloody hearts of horror fans the world over. The low budget horror film was collaboration of young filmmakers who had no idea just what they were about to unleash on the world and would have Southern California stand in for a small midwestern town in Illinois that’s named would forever be associated with a night of terror. The town was Haddonfield, and the film was of course Halloween. Jamie would play the smart, girl next door heroine of the film Laurie Strode who was babysitting on a Halloween night that would change her life forever. The movie starts years earlier with the brutal murder of Judith Myers on Halloween. We soon discover that the killer is none other than her young brother Michael. Michael is placed in a psychiatric facility which he escapes from to terrorize the citizens of Haddonfield, pursued by his psychiatrist, Doctor Loomis, who has realized that Michael is no longer really human, but is simply now a force of evil that may be unable to be stopped.

Producer Debra Hill knew who Jamie was and cast her in part due to the fact her mother was an icon thanks to Psycho. That’s one heck of a flex for an indie horror film to make. The nods to Psycho would also include the name Sam Loomis, Marion Crane’s boyfriend in Psycho and now the name of Michael Myers’ psychologist. The movie would have a budget of 300K dollars and 20K of that went to the salary of Donald Pleasance. The next best-known actor other than Pleasance would be PJ Soles who had started in Carrie two years prior. Jamie would make around 8K dollars for her work on the film, but it was an opportunity to show the world just what she could do.

Halloween was filmed in the summer in California and so Tommy Lee Wallace painted up a bunch of leaves to be thrown around and then collected back up to be used again in scenes to represent fall. The film would be shot in only 20 days and Carpenter would finish the entire score for the movie in just 3. Halloween went on to become a massive hit and is now considered one of the best horror films of all time. The movie celebrates its 45th anniversary this year and a convention in Pasadena CA was just held celebrating this fact with fans flying in all the way from South Korea and Australia to celebrate it.

Jamie Lee Curtis WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity

Jamie would continue working with Carpenter and Hill in another classic horror film, The Fog in 1980. Jamie plays Elizabeth, a hitchhiker who is picked up by the one and only Tom Atkins playing “Nick” Castle, a nod to the actor Nick Castle who played Michael Myers. Nick lets Elizabeth know he’s weird and the two end up in bed together because…he’s Tom Atkins. The characters in The Fog have a number of familiar names like Tommy Wallace and Dan O’Bannon. The corner is even named Doctor Phibes. The film focuses on the return of vengeful ghosts to Antonio Bay, a town with a dark secret at its heart. Over the course of the 100-year anniversary of the town being established the ghosts of a crew that were aboard the Elizabeth Dane take their revenge. It seems the town elders wrecked the vessel because those sailing it planned to establish a leper colony on the spot. Instead they took the money on board after the ship was destroyed and the crew killed. The past sins have returned to rear their ugly heads and make the descendants pay.

The Fog is actually one of my favorite Carpenter films and Jamie Lee Curtis movies. It would also be one of the first times Jamie’s mother, Janet Leigh, would co-star in a movie with her daughter. The same year The Fog was released Jamie Lee Curtis would continue her tenure as the go to scream queen in the slasher genre with Prom Night. She’d co-star in the Canadian film with Leslie Nielsen who plays her father. The film seems to want to be a combination of Carrie and Halloween, with the pivotal murders taking place around Prom Night and the slaughter of teenagers. Eventually it is discovered who the slasher/killer is and the tragic backstory after Curtis’s Kim defeats him. This time around Jamie got around 30K for her work, quite the jump from her salary in Halloween. It would eventually be remade years later in 2008.

In October of 1980 the third horror film Jamie would star in would release. Terror Train was literally made to be Halloween on a train. The movie has a unique concept in that the victims are all trapped on a train with a killer who is literally offing them one by one. The film starts with a flashback to a prank gone wrong when Curtis’s Alana lures a young, inexperienced young man to a room with the promise of sex only for him to find a corpse from the medical lab laying there instead. This causes the young man, Kenny, to lose his mind and have to go to a psych hospital. In current day for New Years the same students responsible for Kenny’s experience go have a party on a train, complete with a magician (David Copperfield… no, really.) The trip doesn’t go as planned as the killer makes their way through the train, switching disguises as they do so. Terror Train has a twist of an ending and has become another cult favorite over the years, even being remade last year in October 2022, with a sequel ready to go and hitting in December of that year. Of Prom Night and Terror Train, Terror Train seems to have found a bigger fanbase thanks to the unique Groucho mask that the killer has for some of the film and just a great gimmick.

The following year Curtis would star alongside Stacy Keach in the Australian horror/action film Road Games about a killer stalking hitchhiking women on the road. It was filmed in Melbourne and over the years has gained a lot of love after not doing well when it was released. While not an out and out horror movie, it’s a taught thriller with a gnarly premise.

1981 would see Curtis return to the role that catapulted her to fame with Halloween 2. Taking place the same night as the original film, Curtis was once again joined by Donald Pleasance with Rick Rosenthal directing and Carpenter and Hill producing. There had never been an idea to do a sequel, but the success of the first film made the Shape rise again. Contained mainly within a hospital, the film focuses on the unlucky crew that pulled the short straw of working on Halloween and taking care of Laurie. Curtis is the focus of Myers, and the film has an explosive ending with Doctor Loomis basically blowing himself and Michael up. Curtis has cut her hair shorter, a trend she’d keep over the years, and this required her to wear a wig throughout the shoot on screen. Halloween 2 would be another hit at the box office, making 25.5 million off a 2.5 million budget. It also added a lot more blood and cringey scenes, more so than the original that really didn’t show that much on-screen gore.

The following year, 1982, Curtis would lend her voice to the 3rd Halloween film as the announcer in Santa Mira for Season of the Witch. She’d also take a major leap on the big screen, breaking out of her horror roles with the film Trading Places. Over the 80s Curtis would continue a massive career in films with the sexy exercise centered flick Perfect and the Oscar winning, multi award getting and nominated A Fish Called Wanda just to name a couple. She’d also do more television work, including hosting SNL in 1984 and playing Annie Oakley for Shelley Duvall’s children’s series Tall Tales and Legends in 1985.

Starting the decade of the 90s, Curtis starred in the Kathryn Bigelow written and directed Blue Steel, a crime drama that was produced by Oliver Stone. She’d follow this up with the tear jerker My Girl and Mel Gibson’s Forever Young. In 1993 she took a turn as the mother from hell in Mother’s Boys, playing a villainous and murderous manipulating mama. 1994 saw her return to the sequel to My Girl, My Girl 2. That same year Jamie showed the world she still had it and would never lose it in the mega blockbuster Arnold Schwarzenegger action film True Lies. In 1997 she’d rejoin the crew from A Fish Called Wanda with the semi sequel Fierce Creatures.

Jamie Lee Curtis WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity

1998 Curtis would once again come back to the role of Laurie Strode in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. The sequel shows Laurie as a teacher and a bit of an alcoholic with a son. Michael returns, using that snazzy skill of being able to drive he learned at some point, drives from IL to California to find Laurie and finish it. The film would co-star Josh Hartnett and Adam Arkin as well as LL Cool J, Jospeh Gordon-Levitt, and Michelle Williams. It would also be the second horror film for Curtis to share the screen with her mother Janet Leigh… as well as Leigh’s car from Psycho. H20 would have that iconic moment of Curtis screaming out Michael’s name and would be another hit at the box office, with fans being rabid to see Laurie face down Michael again. It raked in 75 million on a 17-million-dollar budget.

In 1999 Curtis would star in the sci-fi horror film Virus opposite Donald Sutherland and Billy Baldwin. The movie tells the story of aliens wanting to turn humans into cyborg zombie like servants. Sutherland is particularly creepy and unhinged in this. In 2002 Curtis would return, seemingly for the final time, in Halloween Resurrection. Her time in the film is brief with Laurie in a sanitarium due to having killed the wrong man at the end of H2O and knowing Michael would eventually find her. This was basically Laurie’s swan song and Curtis very nearly didn’t do the film because she didn’t want there to be another sequel. But she finally agreed and filmed her scenes where Michael appears to have finally succeeded in killing her. Laurie kisses Michael’s mask and with a final “I’ll see you in hell” falls to her death.

In 2003 Jamie starred opposite Lindsay Lohan in a remake of Freaky Friday, where a mother and daughter swap bodies so each of them can learn the grass isn’t always so greener on the other side. The comedy was a hit, raking in nearly 161 million on a 26-million-dollar budget.

Over the early 2000s Jamie Lee Curtis was constantly working in a variety of different film genres, but in 2012 she did something she had never done before or has since. She came to a horror convention. HorrorHound Weekend in November of 2012 was considered The Night SHE Came Home. Curtis stated the event was a one and done and she signed autographs, took photos, and did a Q&A for fans, some of whom came from all over the world for the opportunity to meet and see her. Every penny Jamie earned on the sales of photos and autographs (which there were many over the weekend, I was there, I saw it… she was a machine) was donated the charity. The event also included a number of celebrities from the Halloween franchise and was filmed for a documentary that was included on the 35th anniversary DVD release of Halloween the following year.

In 2015 Curtis continued to embrace her horror roots with the Ryan Murphy series Scream Queens. The show was a black comedy meets slasher with a number of Murphy’s go to actors including Billie Lourd and Emma Roberts. Jamie played Dean Cathy Munsch, head of the college that the sorority at the center of the show is. A slasher is stalking the co-eds named The Red Devil, the second season changes venue and introduces another slasher called The Green Meanie. Scream Queens aired on Fox and would see a number of familiar faces over its two-season run including John Stamos, Kirstie Alley, Nick Jonas, Ariana Grande, Charisma Carpenter, and Alan Thicke just to name a few.

Jamie Lee Curtis would surprise us all again in 2018 with one of the most glorious returns to happen in the horror genre for a while. David Gordon Green, Jeff Fradley, and Danny McBride came together to write a new trilogy of Halloween films, with Green directing them. This project would do something no other films in the series had done before…. which was wipe the slate clean of all the sequels and would only see the original films events as canon. Curtis’s return as Laurie was not an easy one for the character. Laurie’s traumatized by the events that happened in 1978. 40 years later she’s alienated herself from her daughter, is a loner, and a major survivalist. The film also aged appropriately Michael Myers who escapes from his hospitalization in order to return back home.

Halloween (as it was simply titled) would also get rid of the plot that Laurie was Michael’s sister. It would show the trauma to the people directly involved with an event like Michael’s rampage but over the course of the trilogy it would show how it changes families and a community. Green and company would bring back a number of the original films characters and actors, including Nick Castle (reprising his role as Michael in certain scenes.) In Halloween Kills, the 2nd in the trilogy Charles Cyphers, Nancy Stephens, and Kyle Richards would return.

Jamie Lee Curtis WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity

Halloween would make nearly 260 million dollars on release with a budget of 10. It would be produced by Blumhouse and would be distributed by Universal. John Carpenter would return to compose the music with his son Cody and Danie Davies. Halloween Kills would again make a killing (hehe) with nearly 134 million dollars. Halloween Ends would be Laurie’s true finale according to Curtis and would give the character and Haddonfield closure. The film would be divisive to a number of fans due to the focus switching from Michael to a new character in Corey Cunningham. But as someone pointed out, Ends had Michael Myers on screen for longer than the original Halloween did. The last film in the trilogy, while having the lowest box office of the three, would still make back nearly 3 times its budget with 105 million.

In between the trilogy’s films she would star in another massive hit with a massive cast, Knives Out, a mystery with one of the most dysfunctional families we’ve seen in a while.

The same year that Halloween ended for Curtis, the universe gave her the gift of Everything Everywhere All At Once, a movie that truly defies description other than a multi-dimensional family comedy drama and love story. Curtis plays Deidre, an IRS inspector and her multiversal selves. The film was a surprise hit and garnered massive praise and awards, winning seven Oscars and one of those went to Curtis. When Jamie Lee took the stage to get her little gold man, she thanked the genre fans who had supported her over the years stating WE JUST WON AN OSCAR. That year genre fans truly had a moment of magic shared with them and it was a thing of beauty.

Jamie Lee Curtis is still going strong. This year she starred as the legendary Disney character Madame Leota, the crystal ball dwelling spirit who guides us through the Haunted Mansion. Also this year, Curtis appeared in the hit series The Bear as the matriarch of the Berzatto clan, Donna.

It was in 1984 that she’d see a handsome metalhead in Rolling Stone magazine who was a member of a little band called Spinal Tap. She told Debra Hill at the time “I’m going to marry that guy.” She in fact did only five months later. They have two daughters, Annie and Ruby. Ruby, who came out as transgender (and has led to Curtis being a staunch LGBTQ ally) got married to her partner Kynthia in a World of Warcraft wedding in 2022 that Jamie officiated, and she did it while wearing WoW cosplay. Ruby’s a computer game editor and gaming is a big deal in the family. Which is probably thrilling her when she found her mom is going to be in the new live action Borderlands film as Dr. Tannis that’s releasing next year that’s directed and co-written by Eli Roth.

Jamie Lee Curtis is Hollywood royalty, but she embraced her genre roots all the way to the top. While she may not watch horror movies (they scare her too much) she helped create one of the most epic characters in their history, a survivor just as beloved as the monster she fights… which is pretty rare. She shows all of us that age doesn’t matter and that the best thing you can be is to be honest to yourself and those around you. She tells you like it is (call her a nepo baby, she doesn’t care.) She’s got her talent all on her own and has a range that can go from drama, action, comedy, horror, and a bit of all of them. So here’s to you Jamie Lee Curtis, Final Girl and Scream Queen… I raise my pumpkin spice flavored yogurt to you. Long may the queen reign.

A couple previous episodes of WTF Happened to This Horror Celebrity? can be viewed below. To see more, click over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

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Jessica was raised on a diet of Dark Shadows, Doctor Who, and a lot of things she saw way too young. She’s been writing for nearly a quarter of a century about the world of entertainment and her own fiction (and that sound you heard was her bones turning to dust.) Jessica loves being a JoBro as well as creating content for her site/channel/Podcast Fangirl Magazine/Fangirl Radio. Her favorite things are writing, movies/tv, video games, reading, and trying to summon the ghost of Vincent Price.