Los Angeles -- What I liked best about Jamie Lee Curtis in
“Halloween” was that she seemed too smart to get into such a terrifying
situation. She wasn't one of your air-brain screaming teenagers, always running
right into the arms of the killer. She was a cool, intelligent young woman who
found it hard to believe she was really being pursued by a berserk maniac. That
made the movie a lot more effective.
projects that image in most of her movies, and now, walking past the pool at
the Sunset Marquis Hotel, she projected it in person. Her handshake was firm,
her voice was sensible; she seemed more like a young executive than like the
Princess of Horror who followed up, “Halloween” with “The Fog” and “Terror
Train” and various other Dead Teenager projects where half of her dialogue was
her horror period, Curtis was frank about what she was doing: She was, she
said, learning her craft, learning to walk before she ran. Then she started to
edge out of the screaming victim mode, with more challenging projects like the
hit comedy “Trading Places,” where she co-starred with Eddie Murphy and Dan
Aykroyd; the made-for-TV “Money on the Side,” about housewives who dabble in
prostitution, and “Love Letters,” a great movie that nobody saw, because the
studio dumped it. In that one, she was a disc jockey for a public radio
station, fell in love with a married man, and learned some hard lessons about the
man, herself, her own mother, and marriage.
you were a Hollywood casting agent and you had doubts about Jamie Lee Curtis
and you saw “Love Letters,” you would have known she could play just about
anything. Apparently that's what happened; on the basis of her great but unseen
performance, Curtis got the lead opposite John Travolta in “Perfect,” which
has, as they say, very good advance word-of-mouth.
key scene in the movie was shot right here, next to the pool at the Sunset
Marquis, which is the sort of hotel where you notice that Cyndi Lauper is
talking with three professional wrestlers on the other side of the pool. Curtis
sat down, ordered Perrier, and said, “I think it's a great movie. I think it's
even greater than great. I think it's almost a really great movie.”
movie is based on a Rolling Stone article by Aaron Latham about the whole
Southern California world of gymnasiums, aerobics classes and obsession with
physical fitness. In the movie, Travolta plays the magazine reporter, and
Curtis is the aerobics instructor he meets while he's doing research for his
story. If the plot sounds just slightly as if it needs an IQ infusion, Curtis
says the movie is not about pumping iron and looking great, but about what it
all means, and how the aerobics classes of the 1980s may be the singles bars of
issue of Rolling Stone the article appeared in was the ‘Looking for Mr.
Goodbody' issue, with Christie Brinkley on the cover, wearing a leotard and
lifting weights,” she said. “The movie is more about journalism than about
bodies. Travolta comes to California with the idea that he's going to trash the
health club scene. My character has been burned by the press before. I was an
Olympics athlete who boycotted the Games, and I trusted a reporter who said he
wanted to write about my beliefs, but wound up writing about my affair with the
coach. My swimming career was ruined, and now here comes Travolta, who also
wants me to trust him.”
said people have the idea the film consists of her and Travolta pumping iron
together, "but that's literally the backdrop. It's more about why people
are working out; the film makes an interesting comparison between New York and
I asked, is there this sudden emphasis on physical fitness in Hollywood? When
Travolta himself posed for the cover of Rolling Stone, proudly exhibiting the
new muscles he'd developed under Sylvester Stallone's training for their movie
“Staying Alive,” a lot of people thought he made himself look ridiculous. But
now lots of actors seem to be flexing their muscles, on screen and off.
think it's as simple as this,” she said. “There was a big drug time out here,
and now it's over. There was a time devoted to taking advantage of one's body
by alcoholism, drug-taking, smoking. Now all of those things are unfashionable
and health regimes are in. I sometimes think that underneath it all is the
thought that the world could end tomorrow, so why not experience your life now,
and be as healthy as you can?
movies, it has now become the norm for an actor to be in the best physical
shape possible. The realism of how actors look is changing. Everybody's all
pumped up and looking terrific. I've been a part of the physical thing for
quite a while, but my biggest concern is that I'll get typed as an aerobic
actress. You know: Hi, I'm Jamie and I work out, so buy my books and videos. I
keep myself in shape, but there's more to me than that.”
you already been to the gym today?
you worked out?
had breakfast. I probably work out three times a week. And I lift a few 5-pound
weights. I'm by no means a bionic person. You can carry anything to an
addictive extreme. Like compulsive exercising: People who work out at extreme
levels and start starving themselves and getting obsessed with how they look
are gonna get all screwed up. They're gonna go back to drugs and alcohol. When
you get fed up with something, it's like -- get away from me! Give me a
cigarette! A little moderation, that's what they need.”
looked around the pool area, at the rows of tanning bodies and at the cool
California pastel pinks and blues and turquoises, and said. “Just the look of
this place suggests a whole California feeling. When Travolta moves in here,
he's very much a New York guy, and he comes out here, and it's all dreamy.
“Perfect” does, as Curtis believes, rehabilitate Travolta's career after the
box-office failures of “Blow Out” and “Two of a Kind” and the critical debacle
of “Staying Alive,” it also may provide Jamie Lee Curtis with her own
springboard into major acting roles. I asked her how she'd evaluate her own
career right now.
coming along just fine. God, I feel like a racehorse, training for the Derby.
Coming along just fine, thank you. Doing ‘Love Letters' was important
for me. Doing it, I felt different, I felt confident. Afterwards, I knew I was
capable of serious acting. I'd been in the horror pictures, and when I went up
for anything else, it was always no, no, no, until I began to doubt myself.”
there a tendency for people to think all you could do was scream?
necessarily that. It was more that they saw me as a very innocent person -- the
innocent girl victim. In a way, though, that was lucky; the kinds of roles I
played were better than if I'd done eight horror films as the bad girl, always
mouthing off, sleeping around, a tough cookie. That kind of typecasting would
be harder to break out of.
I usually played was the stand-up, all-American girl. She was always educated
and she always fought back and she was strong, and yet she was vulnerable. I
was playing the kinds of roles they're writing now for women in the major
films; I just happened to be in horror films.”
will happen after “Perfect”?
get on more lists. They take you off this list and put you on that list. It's
like tennis ladders. I'll go to the bottom of the next ladder.”
Lee Curtis on her Leading Men:
John Travoltareminds her of her
father Tony Curtis: “They were both very handsome men who had to put up with
that image, and my father never got the credit he deserves. John will,
because the public is more ready to accept someone who is good-looking and
[they] still [will] believe he can act.”
Eddie Murphy:I wish I could say I
know Eddie and have great stories to tell. But in ‘Trading Places' most
of my scenes were with Dan Aykroyd. I got to know Eddie just sort of sitting
around. I think he's as serious as he is funny. He's very quiet. I was
amazed at how much he sleeps. When he wasn't working, he was in his dressing
room. He's not this crazed human being who runs around all the time. He's
shrewd and smart and funny, and he knows to save it for the cameras.”
Dan Aykroyd:“I think he's very
sexy. He could be a leading man. I think it's funny that he's always been a
second banana. He's been in some of the biggest movies, ‘Blues Brothers,'
‘Trading Places,' ‘Ghostbusters,' but who do you think of? John Belushi, Eddie
Murphy and Bill Murray.”