Jamie Lee Curtis on why she thought she'd be fired from 'Halloween,' the gift she got from Arnold Schwarzenegger and her secret code with Lindsay Lohan

Jamie Lee Curtis discusses her most iconic roles, including Halloween, Trading Places, True Lies and Freaky Friday.

Video Transcript

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I'm a bit of a smart aleck. I'm a flirt. I'm so sorry, everybody. And I'm inappropriate [LAUGHS] sort of every second of my life.


I was so excited to have a job where Laurie, the name of my character, was on every page. I had been in a TV series where I had got one line a week, and I was so happy to have that gig. But you can't do much with one line a week.

And the idea that I was able to actually create a character-- I was 19 years old. We shot it so fast. There were no expectations, except that it wasn't Jamie, that I was able to actually create a character. I get to dress differently than I dressed. I got to think differently than I thought, and it allowed me, really, a chance to be an actress.

- (SINGING) I wish I had you all alone, just the two of us.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: By the way, I'm not sure any actor that you interview isn't going to say that they think they're going to be fired after day one. I didn't think I had done poorly. It was a full day of work. It ended with Laurie walking down the street singing the song "I Wish I Had You All Alone." And I remember, right before we shot it, I said to John, what's the tune? Is this a song? He said, no, no, no, just make it up. And I remember thinking, wait, what? And then I remember making up the song.

(SINGING) I wish I had you all alone.

And I'm not a singer. And I went home, that day, and I thought, well, that was really fun. And had an early call, the next day. And I remember I was at home with my roommate. And the phone rang. My roommate said, it's John Carpenter on the phone. And you just don't want the call to come in, late at night, on your first day, that the director is calling you.

And so I remember walking over to the phone, really frightened, and I picked it up. And he's got Southern charm. He calls you "darling." He'll say, darling. And he picked up the phone. He said, hey, darling, I just want to tell you, you were fantastic today. And what an amazing first day. And I'm so excited.



Here's the problem. Michael's played by Nick Castle, who was one of John's best friends. He had two little kids. His wife was around, and he's this funny guy. And he's also a very talented director, and he's a musician. So I cannot lie to you and tell you, ooh, I was so frightened.


The truth is that "Halloween" came out. And it was not a runaway success, by the way. It was not a big blockbuster. It did very well, obviously. And I got no work. The only work I got were an appearance on "Charlie's Angels"--

- You're so fabulous.

- Thank you.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: --where I had played Cheryl Ladd's best friend. And I ended up with her, where a bridge breaks at her country home. And we end up in a river, and she wrestles an alligator. And the other episode was an episode of "Love Boat," where I played my mother's daughter, on my honeymoon, where my parents come on my honeymoon cruise.

- Hello, there.

- Gayle.

- Oh, hi.

- Hi.

- Hi.

- Hi, sweetheart.

- What are you doing here?

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Those are the two jobs I got, after "Halloween." So I had worked with my mother on "Love Boat." And then John Carpenter and Debra Hill felt bad that I hadn't gotten work, and they wrote the part in "The Fog" for me and my mother.

- Jesus.

- I'm sorry.

- Sorry.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: She is a delight. She's a legend. Of course, everybody on the crew was so thrilled that my mom was there. And that was fun, to see her feel that, because it's special. And after you've been a star for a long time and you no longer work, you don't get that feeling anymore. And I know she loved it. So I really honored them for giving her that opportunity, as much as me.

- You don't exactly look like the type that has a butler. If you're hustling me--

- Hustling you?

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I had moved away from horror. It was the only decision I ever made in my life, career-wise. I literally just said, after "Halloween II," I'm done. I knew show business pretty well. And I understood that, if I didn't try for something else-- I didn't know what I was-- comic chops? Darling, I didn't even know what that meant.

So the reason I'm in "Trading Places" is horror films, because John Landis was doing a documentary short called "Coming Soon," which was a documentary about '50s horror film trailers. And he needed somebody to narrate it

- One of my favorite parts of the moviegoing experience has always been the trailers.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I had never met him. I showed up on the backlot at Universal. Obviously, I spent three or four days with him, cracking wise and being who I am. By the end of that, he was the one who gave the part in "Trading Places" to me.

- I am Inga from Sweden.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Not Paramount. They did not want me. Nobody else wanted me. I guarantee you John Landis was the only person who said, she's going to play this part. And without that moment, I wouldn't have, now, the career that I get to have.

- I knew it. You're Archie Leash.

- Leach.

- Right.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: John Cleese had seen "Trading Places" and decided to write a part of Wanda for me in the movie. I remember I got a phone call from a friend of mine who said, John Cleese is looking for you. I had recently gotten married, and my husband is a very talented comedian and very funny comic actor. I just assumed that John Cleese, Monty f-ing Python, would want to talk to my husband, not me. Why would he want to talk to me?

And it turns out he had called me and said, I've written a movie for you, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, myself. And we're going to have a great time, and it's going to be really successful. And I was like, OK, John Cleese.



- Harry! Harry!

- The bridge is out.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Jim Cameron saw me in "A Fish Called Wanda." And then Jim Cameron wrote the part for me and Arnold. Now Arnold knew me as Tony's daughter. Arnold-- you may not know this-- directed one movie, that starred Tony Curtis and Dyan Cannon, called "Christmas in Connecticut." It was a TV movie. But he only knew me as Tony's daughter. He'd loved Tony Curtis.

So I'm sure Arnold just looked at me-- it'd be like kissing your niece or something. It's weird. I'm sure he did not want me to be in that movie. I guarantee-- In fact, he did not want me to be in that movie, I think, for those reasons. We knew each other a little bit, socially. I just don't think he thought of me as his leading lady. I think he thought of me as Tony's little girl. And it was Jim who said, no, I've written this for her. She's the one to do this with you.

And I will tell you, Arnold gave me the greatest gift because when we finished that movie, I remember where I was sitting. Now, you know, in movies, it says, Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies starring Jamie Lee Curtis. I got a call, with Arnold and Jim on the phone. I was sitting at home. Phone rang. Hello? Hi, Jamie. It's Jim, and I'm sitting here with Arnold.

I'm like, oh hey, what's up? And Jim said, I asked Arnold if it would be OK with him if I put your name above the title because I feel that it's appropriate for the film. And even though that's not in your contract, Arnold has agreed.

Now, you have to understand, for Arnold Schwarzenegger to allow my name to be with his, above the title of the film, was such a moment of grace, for him, and generosity, and lack of ego. That he was able to say, I've seen the movie, Jim. I agree with you. It's about these two people, not just me. And that moment of generosity spoke volumes to who he is, as a human being.

- It's me, mom.

- You're not my mother.

- Yes, I am. Get away, your clone freak.

JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Lindsay was right along the ride with me, the whole way. She was fantastic. She and I, our memory together-- and it's our secret code because with phishing, you get a lot of texts from people like, hey, Jamie, it's Lindsay. And I'll be like, hey, girl, where are you? Somebody will answer, and then I'm like, how do I know it's you? And we have our secret code. So now I'm about to give it away. And now I'm going to have to come up-- there's another story that I have, which I'm not going to tell you.

There's a song called "Like I Love You" by Justin Timberlake. And Lindsay and I were doing a scene in a car, and there was a lot of time in between takes. There's a rap in the middle of that song, by Clipse.


(SINGING) Clipse and Jay Timberlake-- now how heavy is that?

She and I were trying to learn the words. And we were sitting there with a pad, like, girl, what you want to do? It was like we were writing them down, and then we would do the scene. And then we'd play the song and try to lip sync the few words that we knew. I'm telling you, we laughed. And that is my secret code with her. What was the song we were lip syncing to in the car? That's my secret, but now, I've given it away. But I have another one.