Fascinating Facts About Hollywood's Original Scream Queen, Jamie Lee Curtis

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Oct 17, 2020 1:25:51 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Miramax/Universal Pictures/IMDb

Ever since she first terrified audiences running for her life in Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis has enjoyed a successful career on the big screen. However, behind the scenes of her sometimes-scary, sometimes-funny flicks, Curtis has led a full and enriching life filled with much more than movies.

From her humanitarian work to her authorhood to her recovery from addiction, Curtis has proved more than once that being a celebrity doesn't make you any less human. Check out some of the most fascinating facts about Hollywood's original "Scream Queen."

She's Literally Nicknamed the “Scream Queen”

Jamie Lee Curtis has an impressive track record in the horror genre. From the Halloween franchise to Prom Night to The Fog, she has been a leading lady in the field since the early days of her career. As a result, she earned an epic nickname in the entertainment industry: Scream Queen.

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Photo Courtesy: Compass International Pictures/IMDb

Over the years, the term has been used for other horror movie actresses like slasher stars Jennifer Love Hewitt and Neve Campbell, but the terrifying title was literally created for Curtis. Her authentic and thrilling performances in the realm of horror launched her uber-successful career.

Her Mother Was Also a Slasher Star

Both of Curtis' parents were famous actors in their time. Her father, Tony Curtis, was the star of many ‘50’s and ‘60’s films, including Some Like It Hot and The Vikings. However, Curtis followed in her mother's footsteps more than her father's. Her mom, Janet Leigh, starred in numerous horror films, including Touch of Evil and Psycho.

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Photo Courtesy: Universal Pictures/IMDb

Curtis' mother passed away in 2004, and she still holds immense respect for her. "There are moments when I remember her beauty, unadorned, unposed, not in some artificial place...When those moments surface, I miss her the most," she told Zimbio.

She Loves Playing Video Games

Curtis' specialty may be in acting, but she isn't a stranger to recreational fun, including splurging on some epic fighting games. She loves online games such as World of Warcraft and has cosplayed before at different gaming conventions, often becoming unrecognizable in her disguises.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

She has crafted elaborate and true-to-character costumes for conventions such as BlizzCon, both to avoid a flood of fans and to honor her favorite games. Her most impressive costume was that of a WoW creature called an orc, which included green skin paint, a grand red cloak and a set of horns.

She Writes Successful Children's Books

Most people know Curtis for her on-screen personas, but she has also enjoyed success as a children's book author. She has written more than 13 illustrated books. When starting her first book, she referred to her daughter, Annie, sharing with The New Yorker:

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

"I wrote a list of things that she used to not be able to do...'When I was little, I didn’t know what a family was. When I was little, I didn’t know what dreams were. When I was little, I didn’t know who I was. But now I do.' I realized, Oh, this is a book for children."

She Has Two Adopted Children

Curtis has become a champion for mindful motherhood in the present day, but she wasn't always sure that she would get the chance to be a mother. Curtis and her husband struggled with infertility for years. Fortunately, they decided to adopt, and they now have two wonderful adult children, Annie and Thomas.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

Curtis once believed that her acting would get in the way of parenthood. However, she adores her role in the lives of her kids. "Motherhood has changed everything in my life," Curtis told Pact's Point of View newsletter. "I make every decision with my children in mind."

She Picked Her Husband from a Magazine

What is Curtis' secret for finding a soulmate? Pick one out of a magazine! Many young girls have pined over famous actors in the pages of tabloids. Ironically, Curtis successfully used Rolling Stone to predict her future marriage to actor Christopher Guest.

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Photo Courtesy: Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

"Debra and I were flipping through a Rolling Stone magazine when I turned to a photograph...I looked at the man on the right, wearing a plaid shirt and a waggish smirk," Curtis told O Magazine. "I'd never seen him before, but I pointed at him. 'I'm going to marry that man,' I said to my friend."

She Has a Royal Title

Do you think that Curtis' titles as an author, activist and actress are already more than enough for any celebrity? Well, you can tack on a royal title as well. Her husband was born Baron Christopher Guest, making his wife formally Baroness Jamie Lee Curtis.

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Photo Courtesy: Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Guest divulged the circumstances of his royal title, sharing with The Guardian, "I’m a baron...I’m Lord Haden-Guest. And yes, that’s a novelty. Born into it by accident, obviously. And then your dad dies, and you’re the next one." Unfortunately, Curtis’ and Guest's adopted children can't inherit the royal title under law.

She Invented a Diaper Prototype

In light of all her other skills, it's no surprise that Curtis is also an inventor. She both designed and patented a type of diaper that minimizes the mess associated with diaper changes. The product includes a hidden pouch that holds cleaning wipes to make changes a breeze.

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Photo Courtesy: Randy Holmes/Walt Disney Television/Getty Images

On Jimmy Kimmel Live, Curtis opened up about the invention meant to make parenthood a little less messy. "In that moment, I said, 'A-ha, I have to invent a diaper that has a wiper built into the diaper.' And I invented Dipe and Wipe, and I patented it."

She Went to College for Social Work

Although Curtis has enjoyed an uber-successful career in the entertainment industry, the star never planned on becoming an actress. She was always funny and charismatic enough to pursue entertainment, but her original intentions were to work in law enforcement or social work.

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Photo Courtesy: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/IMDb

"I never thought I’d be an actor, ever, ever, ever, ever," Curtis told The New Yorker. "I was going to be a police officer, because I thought I would be good, and you didn’t need a lot of schooling for it. I went to a college...where my mother was the most famous person to have ever graduated."

She and Sigourney Weaver Are BFFs

Jamie Lee Curtis and Sigourney Weaver were leading ladies in the same era. As a result, they often went head-to-head for roles in popular flicks. This competition could have easily turned the two against each other. Instead, their constant interactions led them to develop an awesome friendship.

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Photo Courtesy: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

In 2010, the duo starred together in You Again, a flick about high school frenemies reconnecting in adulthood. Despite the nature of the film, this shoot is truly when their acting relationship blossomed into a full-blown best friendship. They even hilariously twinned for the premiere of their film, both rocking the same teal dress.

She Runs a Blog on Huffington Post

Curtis has become a stellar author of children's books, and she has also established her abilities as a journalistic writer for Huffington Post. She has blogged about parenting, current events, politics, human rights issues, relationships and more since 2011.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

Her first post, entitled "Mom, It's Not Right," detailed her opinions on parenting in the 21st century. "Where did our children get the message that the rules don’t apply to them?" she wrote. "And where did we, the mothers, get the message that if we abdicate our responsibilities as mothers, the universe will do our job for us?"

She Has a Famous Godson

Jamie Lee Curtis and Jake Gyllenhaal make an iconic celebrity duo, right? While they might seem like an odd pairing, given their ages and typical film genres, Curtis is Gyllenhaal's godmother. Curtis has been close friends with Gyllenhaal's parents, director Stephen Gyllenhaal and writer Naomi Foner, for years.

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Photo Courtesy: Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Curtis loves to hang out with her godson, and Gyllenhaal plays an active role in his godmother's life and career. In fact, he was the one who convinced her to reprise her iconic role in the new Halloween film while on a shared vacation in the mountains.

Her Legs Once Had Insurance

Curtis is known for her acting career rather than a modeling one. However, one portion of her body was once more valuable than her talent: her legs. Curtis' long legs were a subject of envy back in the 1960s when she became a breakout star in horror films. As her acting career took off, so did commercial interest in her legs.

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Photo Courtesy: Harry Langdon/Getty Images

In 1996, the company L'eggs signed her as a pantyhose spokeswoman. They wanted to ensure the star's legs were protected against any possible physical catastrophes, so they took out a stunning insurance policy on them. The cost? $2.8 million.

Her Older Sister Is Also an Actress

When it comes to Curtis' relatives, talent runs in the family. In addition to the acting careers of her father, her mother and herself, Curtis' sister, Kelly Curtis, is also an actress. She is best known for her role as Muffy in Trading Places and as Miss Sarda in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

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Photo Courtesy: Medusa Film/IMDb

Jamie and Kelly were close growing up, as they both understood the challenges that came with having a famous, detached dad. When Kelly lived with her father, she was forced to care for him, telling People, "If someone is that destructive, it doesn't matter who you are."

She Is Recovering from Addiction

Throughout her Hollywood career, Curtis spiraled into a cycle of addiction. She began abusing alcohol early on, and after suffering from surgical pain that required prescriptions for painkillers, she became hooked on opioids. Luckily, Curtis decided to get sober, and she has been clean for nearly 21 years.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

"Getting sober just exploded my life," Curtis shared. "Now, I have a much clearer sense of myself and what I can and can't do. I am more successful than I have ever been. I feel very positive, where I never did before, and I think that's all a direct result of getting sober."

She Won't Watch Scary Movies

How is it possible that the queen of horror doesn't like scary movies? While Curtis is the star of several horrifying thrillers, she gets too freaked out to watch scary flicks in theaters — including some of her own.

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Photo Courtesy: Universal Pictures/IMDb

"I don’t like horror films," she shared with The New Yorker. "I scare easily — I have since I was a child. Loud noises scare me; suspense music scares me. There’s not a movie that my friends haven’t all said, ‘Oh, I’m going to go see this movie,’ and then they look at me and say, ‘But you can’t go.’"

She Has Her Own Production Company

There's no denying that Curtis has had a fruitful career in acting, yet that wasn't always the case. After starring in Halloween (and receiving great commercial acclaim for her role), she struggled to snag another significant gig in Hollywood. Growing restless while waiting for a role to come along, she decided to take matters into her own hands.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

In 1981, she decided to create a production company, Generation Productions, with her mother and sister (Kelly). Curtis hoped they would develop their own films with her mother in a starring role. Sadly, the company didn't produce any such pictures.

She Wrote a Film Treatment

After years of experience navigating the horror genre, Curtis was ready to take a stab at horror writing. After starting Generation Productions in 1981, she began drafting a treatment for a frightening new film she called The Myth. While Curtis hadn't previously written any scripts, she was excited at the idea of creating her flick.

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Photo Courtesy: Bystander Revolution/IMDb

The Myth revolved around a series of co-occurring natural disasters. In Jamie Lee Curtis: Scream Queen, author David Grove shared a quote from Curtis: "It's my idea and my horror film. I wrote a horror film. In fact, I wrote a wonderful horror film. It’s absolutely fabulous."

Her Last Name Is a Stage Name

Although Curtis' last name is now permanently associated with the actress, it wasn't passed down through her family tree. Her father, Tony Curtis, was born with the name Bernard Schwartz. However, when he began to perform, he was urged to adopt a snazzier stage name that didn’t sound quite so Jewish.

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Photo Courtesy: Time Life Pictures/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

While agents and casting directors were a fan of his handsome appearance, his last name was fairly lackluster. In his attempt to come up with a more notable pseudonym, Schwartz settled on the name Anthony (Tony) Curtis. This stage name stuck and was passed down to his children, including Jamie.

Her Brother Died from an Overdose

When Curtis was addicted to alcohol and opioids, she danced with death until she chose to enter recovery. While she managed to make it out of the worst of her addiction, her half-brother, Nicholas Curtis, wasn’t so lucky. He passed away from a heroin overdose in 1994.

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Photo Courtesy: Frank Trapper/Corbis/Getty Images

Curtis' relationship with her family was fractured, and many of the children on her father's side (as well as her father) battled addiction in the form of alcohol abuse and drug dependency during their lifetimes. "The loss of my brother brought the whole family together somewhat," Curtis shared with The Irish Times.

She Stays Connected to Her Roots

Curtis may be living the American Dream, but she hasn't forgotten her roots. Her grandparents immigrated from Hungary and Denmark for opportunities in America. Throughout her career and within her personal life, Curtis has continually reflected on and celebrated her Hungarian-Jewish background.

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Photo Courtesy: Bettmann/Getty Images

The actress has coupled her drive for charity with her heritage to promote the preservation of culture and respect for immigrants. She and her father both helped finance the reconstruction of the historic Great Synagogue in Budapest. At her father's funeral, Curtis called him "a bit meshuggah" — the Hebrew word for "crazy."

She's an Active Humanitarian

When it comes to charity, Curtis is hands-on. The actress is a humanitarian at heart and an active member of a variety of organizations that hope to better the world. Their honorable goals include ending world hunger, fighting diseases, acquiring equal rights for all people, regardless of sexual orientation, race, economic status or gender, and more.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

She is involved with a variety of charities and human rights groups, including (but far from limited to) the American Foundation for Equal Rights, the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, Clothes Off Our Back, Feeding America, Green Cross International, Red Cross and the Starlight Children's Foundation.

She Stole the Show in a Comedy

Curtis' 1980s fans hardly expected to see the Scream Queen tackle a non-horror movie, but she blew her first comedic role completely out of the water. Her part in Trading Places was hilarious and very well received. She won a BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the cheeky prostitute.

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Photo Courtesy: Paramount Pictures/IMDb

Believe it or not, director John Landis had to convince studio executives to put Curtis in the film. Curtis told Birth Movies Death, "I know that there was blowback...I've read it. They told him, 'No. What are you crazy?’...He was like, 'No, I'm going to put this girl in it.'"

She Fiercely Supports Sick Children

Curtis is an incredible parent to Annie and Thomas, and her motherly instincts extend beyond her own two children. The actress is extremely involved with the kids at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where she visits sick children, donates to their foundation and helps support leadership projects to improve the hospital for its patients.

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Photo Courtesy: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Children's Hospital Los Angeles

"The older you get, protecting children becomes more and more the focus of your life," she shared on the Children's Hospital Los Angeles red carpet for their annual Noche de Niños Gala. With Curtis' help, the hospital opened another inpatient wing in 2011.

Her Knives Out Storyline Is Authentic

Warning: Spoilers ahead! In the new flick Knives Out, Curtis' character gets snubbed by her father when she is written out of his will. Surprisingly, Curtis was written out of her father's will in real life as well — along with all her siblings. Her father, Tony Curtis, didn't leave his family a single dime.

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Photo Courtesy: Media Rights Capital/IMDb

Despite this, Curtis doesn't bear any ill will toward her father. At his funeral service, she shared, "We are the evidence of him. We walk the walk led by him. All of us got something from him. I, of course, got his desperate need for attention."

She Got Her Start on Mystery Sitcoms

For most of her career, Curtis' fame came out of her feature flicks. However, the star got her start on a variety of mystery and horror sitcoms and shows. She got her first role in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew series, and her first notable part was on Columbo (which her mother also formerly appeared on as a guest star).

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

Her most recent long-term television role was on Scream Queens, in which she played a key character during the show’s run in 2015 and 2016. Curtis doesn't seem to favor film over television, as her strong work ethic makes her excited for every part she lands.

She Used Her Kids to Get Out of Engagements

What parent hasn't used their kids as an excuse to leave a party early? In one of the most relatable confessions ever, Curtis admitted that she often used her children as an excuse to get out of prior engagements or social gatherings that she wanted to ditch.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

On The Late Late Show with James Corden, Curtis shared, "My favorite dinner party is one that gets canceled an hour before...It's the reason to have children, because you can immediately blame it on them. You know, 'They have diarrhea,' and then right away, they don't want you to come."

Her Daughter Is a Star Dancer

Does the performance gene run in the family? Curtis' daughter, Annie Guest, showcases her creative talent through dance. She pursued her passion in Kenyon College, where she graduated with a BFA in Dance. She was also deemed the best choreographer by her school.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

Annie is now a full-time professional dancer. She taught dance at the Archer School for Girls, Paul Revere Middle School and Windward School and served as the Co-Director of the MNR DF dance team. Additionally, the award-winning dancer/teacher is best friends with her mom. Curtis often posts about her daughter's talents on Instagram.

Her Acting Career Has Been Tumultuous

She may be an extremely successful actress, but Curtis' occupation hasn't been entirely linear. Throughout her career, she has taken multiple breaks and steps back from the big screen in order to focus on her mental and physical health, her family, her recovery and parenthood.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

As she has grown older, she has taken less interest in continuing her career in acting, particularly as she has achieved greater peace within herself. "The more I like me, the less I want to pretend to be other people," Curtis shared in the Laredo Tribune.

She Spent Years in Boarding School

Although Curtis reported experiencing a loving (albeit chaotic) childhood, she was often a loner in the classroom. In 1975, she was sent to attend a renowned, expensive boarding school called Choate Rosemary Hall in Connecticut. While there, she struggled with feelings of depression.

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Photo Courtesy: @jamieleecurtis/Twitter

"I didn’t want to be an individual; I just wanted to fit in and be normal...It was a nightmare," Curtis shared with Rolling Stone. Fortunately, her high school yearbook quote showcased how she came to embrace her uniqueness: "Weirdness is a virtue that only some can project successfully. My bosoms aren’t big, but they’re mine."