Jamie Lee Curtis story

The Remarkable Rise to Fame of Jamie Lee Curtis


| LAST UPDATE 03/22/2023

By Arianna Morgan

The Halloween guru just scooped up her first-ever Oscar for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once; it was a "dream come true," she gushed. But this isn't the first time she's made waves in Hollywood...

Jamie Lee Curtis

We know her; we love her; she is Jamie Lee Curtis. The actress has been in the game for over four decades, and she just picked up her first Oscar for her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once!

Jamie Lee Curtis OscarsJamie Lee Curtis Oscars
Instagram via @jamieleecurtis

Known for her ongoing character as Laurie Strode in the Halloween franchise, Curtis landed the official moniker of the "scream queen." After years of being boxed into the horror genre, the actress eventually shifted to comedy and, since then, has been the face of some of our favorite films to date. Let's look back at where it all began...

Early Days

Born in Santa Monica, California, in 1958, Curtis is the daughter of actors Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Jamie had one older sister born in 1956 and four half-siblings from her father's multiple later marriages. Her parents divorced when she was just four years old, and they both remarried.

Jamie Lee Curtis Famous ParentsJamie Lee Curtis Famous Parents
Instagram via @jamieleecurtis

After her parents divorced at such a young age, Jamie later confessed that her father was "not interested in being a father" and, therefore, was "not around" much. After Tony Curtis passed away in 2010, she learned that she and her siblings were not even included in his will.

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Like Mother (& Father), Like Daughter

Fame was basically embedded into Curtis' DNA. Growing up with actors as parents, Jamie had a glimpse of the Hollywood lifestyle from an early age. Her father's career spanned over sixty years as he appeared in over 100 films! Curtis's career was most vibrant during the '50s and '60s, with his breakout role in Sweet Smell of Succes in '57.

Jamie Lee Curtis Parents WorthJamie Lee Curtis Parents Worth
Jim Smeal/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

As for her mother's career? Janet Leigh began her five-decade-long career in radio before transitioning to films. Like Tony, she appeared in a variety of genres, but it was her role in Alfred Hitchcock's psychological thriller Psycho that truly defined her career. The apple really doesn't fall far from the tree…

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Alternate Plans

Despite her parents flourishing careers as actors, Curtis originally did not show interest in following in her parent's footsteps. Jamie Lee attended the University of the Pacific in California with the intent to study law in order to become a police officer.

Jamie Lee Curtis Young CareerJamie Lee Curtis Young Career
Frank Edwards/Archive Photos via Getty Images

"I wasn't originally going to be an actress. I was going to be a police officer," she told Vulture in November 2022. "I thought I'd be a really good cop." However, she dropped out of college after one semester and decided to completely shift gears…

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Just like that, Curtis decided to listen to her heart and pursue acting. She enrolled in acting classes and began going out on auditions-but it took a second for her to find something. Eventually, she signed an entry-level contract with Universal, where she landed a role in the 1977 television show Operation Petticoat.

Jamie Lee Curtis HalloweenJamie Lee Curtis Halloween
Bettman / Contributor via Getty Images

However, she was fired from the series after the show was canceled just a few weeks into the second season. And in retrospect, Curtis really thought her career, "which was just brand new, was now going to be over," she told Vanity Fair. Little did she know, her breakout role was on the horizon.

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The Breakout Role

After thinking her career was over, the actress landed the role of a lifetime in John Carpenter's 1978 horror film Halloween. It's said the producer, Debra Hill cast Curtis due to her mother's legendary status as a horror film icon. Regardless, Halloween became the highest-grossing independent film of its time.

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween RoleJamie Lee Curtis Halloween Role
 Compass International Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

"What was amazing to me was [it was] an acting part," Curtis told Drew Barrymore at New York Comic Con in 2022. "There was a real opportunity for me to be an actor. I hadn't had that opportunity before. For me, that was incredible." Little did she know this low-budget film would soon define her career.

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Scream Queen

The 1978 slasher film soon became a cultural phenomenon thanks to the brilliant production team and combined on-screen work of Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis. Halloween follows Michael Myers as he stalks and kills teenage babysitters on Halloween night, specifically Jamie Lee as Laurie Strode.

Jamie Lee Curtis Scream QueenJamie Lee Curtis Scream Queen
 Silver Screen Collection via Getty Images

After the movie hit such high box office success, $47 million worldwide with a $300,000 budget, Carpenter and Hill knew they had struck gold. Halloween quickly earned a cult following, earning a permanent spot in pop culture, and Jamie's career as the "scream queen" had just begun.

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Just the Beginning

After her life-changing role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Curtis became known as the "scream queen" and, from there on, would be the face of all upcoming horror films. The actress was later cast in the 1980 supernatural horror film, The Fog, directed by Halloween director John Carpenter.

Jamie Lee Curtis Horror MoviesJamie Lee Curtis Horror Movies
 Debra Hill Prods/Kobal via Shutterstock

That same year, The Fog actress starred in the 1980 slasher film Prom Night, again securing her spot as the ultimate scream queen. The film received great financial success and soon developed into a strong franchise, earning a dedicated cult following.

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Horror, Horror, & More Horror

And the roles just kept on coming. She was the scream queen, and the horror genre absolutely adored her. Curtis landed the lead role in Roger Spottiswoode's thriller, Terror Train, followed by the thriller film Roadgames, which Quentin Tarantino championed.

Jamie Lee Curtis Laurie StrodeJamie Lee Curtis Laurie Strode
 Essaness/Quest/Kobal via Shutterstock

Soon she was right back in the same role that began her career just a few years prior. After the success of Halloween in '78, the team was back with the sequel, Halloween II, in '81, which didn't perform as well at the box office. "I wouldn't have anything in my life without Laurie Strode," Curtis told Barrymore at Comic-Con.

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Switching Gears

By the early '80s, she was the solidified queen of horror, but Curtis was looking to branch out of her comfort zone and try something completely new: comedy. Curtis was cast as the lead role in the 1983 comedy Trading Places alongside Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd.

Jamie Lee Curtis Trading PlacesJamie Lee Curtis Trading Places
 Paramount/Kobal via Shutterstock

Through her iconic role as Ophelia, Curtis was able to separate herself from her scream queen title and instead become recognized for her dynamic work as an actor. Trading Places was considered a major commercial and critical success, and Curtis won a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

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Tying the Knot

Amid her vibrant success, the Trading Places actress met her future husband, Christopher Guest. During a sit down with Interview Magazine, Curtis confessed she saw Guest's picture in Rolling Stone and "said out loud to my [her] friend, the late, great Debra Hill, 'Oh, I'm going to marry that guy.'" And as fate sure had it, she would.

Jamie Lee Curtis Husband ChristopherJamie Lee Curtis Husband Christopher
 Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Hill knew Guest and connected Jamie to his agent, but after not returning her call, they ran into each other in a restaurant. Jamie confronted the director, he called the next day, and "from there, the relationship was swift." They married four months later.

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Growing Family

Soon after saying their 'I do's,' the couple was ready to expand their family! However, due to infertility issues, Curtis and Guest became parents through adoption. "Motherhood is every wonderful cliché in the book. There is an unexplainable sort of thing you just feel. It's a permanent commitment, one I've changed my life to meet," Curtis said.

Jamie Lee Curtis Family ChildrenJamie Lee Curtis Family Children
Bei via Shutterstock

The couple adopted two children, Annie in 1986 and Ruby years later. Since their adoption, the actress wrote and published the children's book Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born in 1996, a story about "real children and real families joined by adoption."

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Celebrating Love

And thanks to Debra Hill, Halloween's producer, and friend of Curtis, the couple have been married for over 35 years. Curtis told Barrymore at Comic-Con, she would have "nothing" if it weren't for Halloween. "I wouldn't have a career. I would not have a family."

Jamie Lee Curtis Dating HistoryJamie Lee Curtis Dating History
 Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

In celebration of her 36th wedding anniversary, Curtis took to Instagram to celebrate her marriage to Chris. "One of the longest relationships I've had seeking comfort and contact and connection is with Chris," she wrote. "My hand in his. Then and now. Connected through our children and family and friends."

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Comedy Queen

After stealing the screen with her role in Trading Places and securing her spot in the comedy genre, Curtis had been able to shake off her scream queen label. Through her BAFTA award-winning role as Ophelia, she showed studios that she could work in any genre, not just horror.

Jamie Lee Curtis Comedy MoviesJamie Lee Curtis Comedy Movies
Mgm/Ua/Kobal via Shutterstock

And then she was cast in the iconic 1988 comedy film, A Fish Called Wanda alongside John Cleese and Kevin Kline. The film sees Curtis as Wanda, a con artist who attempts to double-cross her lover and two gang members with whom she plans to conduct a diamond heist. However, things get complicated when she falls in love.

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Continued Success

The heist comedy, filmed helmed by Charles Crichton, gained massive commercial and critical success, grossing $188 million globally. The film received multiple nominations, with Curtis receiving a BAFTA nomination for Best Actress and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Jamie Lee Curtis Fish Called WandaJamie Lee Curtis Fish Called Wanda
Moviestore via Shutterstock

"It was fun," Curtis told Vulture about working with the cast, adding that she bought all her co-stars "toothbrushes on opening day." LOL! "You know because it's gross! You're just gonna be making out with all these strange people. So I asked them to go brush their teeth," she said.

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Anything But Love

Curtis eventually was ready to expand her career and add television to her resume. So, in 1989 the actress starred opposite Richard Lewis in the sitcom, Anything But Love. The show followed Lewis and Curtis, coworkers who worked at a Chicago Magazine and didn't keep things strictly professional.

Jamie Lee Curtis Anything But LoveJamie Lee Curtis Anything But Love
20th Century Fox Television/Kobal via Shutterstock

The beloved sitcom ran for four seasons and landed Curtis a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy. The world was loving this side of Jamie Lee Curtis, and soon she would dip her toes in a new genre, comedy-drama.

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When I Was Little

After dedicating years of her life to acting, Curtis decided to switch gears and begin writing. In 1993, she published her first children's book, When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth. This was the first of many children's books the Trading Places actress would publish.

Jamie Lee Curtis Book AuthorJamie Lee Curtis Book Author
Monica Schipper/WireImage via Getty Images

Following the release of When I Was Little, Curtis' career as an author continued to thrive. Since then, she has penned over ten children's books, some of which have made The New York Times's best-seller list. Most recently, she has co-written an eco-horror graphic novel titled Mother Nature.

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A Halloween Ending

After taking a hiatus for nearly 20 years from the franchise that had made her career, Curtis was ready to rejoin the horror movie ranks. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later was back, and Curtis' mother, Janet Leigh, had a cameo! Like mother, like daughter!

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween FranchiseJamie Lee Curtis Halloween Franchise
 Nicola Goode/Dimension/Kobal via Shutterstock

However, Curtis was looking to end the series. After dedicating so many years to the franchise, she later confessed that she told the studio she wasn't in. "I said, 'I'm not going to do it, I'm not going to tease the audience again," she said at Comic-Con in 2022. "I came up with an idea to end it." Well, that wasn't the end…

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Freaky Friday

Curtis was the scream queen and beyond. With a number of horror, comedy, and rom-coms under her belt, the actress added a fantasy-comedy film to her resume! Curtis starred alongside Lindsay Lohan in the hit 2003 movie Freaky Friday, and the film was an instant success and considered a cultural phenomenon.

Jamie Lee Curtis Freaky FridayJamie Lee Curtis Freaky Friday
 Ron Batzdorff/Walt Disney/Kobal via Shutterstock

Both Curtis and Lohan received great reviewers, and Curtis earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role! And according to the scream queen, a Freaky Friday 2 is "going to happen." She posted a photo of her and Lohan on Instagram, writing, "It's Friday. I'm just sayin! Freaky fingers crossed!" Our fingers are crossed!

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Christmas with the Kranks

As long as we're talking about all-time favorite movies, let's throw in the ultimate Christmas comedy film, Christmas with the Kranks. The 2004 iconic film, starring Curtis and Tim Allen, follows the couple who decide to take a pass on the holidays one year, but their plans quickly change, and things start to spiral hilariously.

Jamie Lee Curtis Tim AllenJamie Lee Curtis Tim Allen
 Moviestore via Shutterstock

And as far as working alongside her partner in crime for the role, Tim Allen, she told Movieweb, "You know, he is as good as it gets, in the sense of the kind of person he is. He is as nice a person as you see and as smart a person as you see." We can only imagine that duo!

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Taking a Break

However, things came to a short halt for Curtis after her 2004 blockbuster hit Christmas movie was released. In 2006, the mother of two announced, "I'm not an actor anymore." She told Access Hollywood in an interview promoting one of her children's books, "I really don't imagine I'll do that again."

Jamie Lee Curtis DaughterJamie Lee Curtis Daughter
Jim Ruymen/UPI via Shutterstock

"I'm just focused on my family and just can't imagine anything that's going to pull me away from them right now," she explained. Was that the end of Curits' acting career? She had dedicated years to the art and planned to focus on being an author and a mother, but when it came down to it, she didn't stay gone for too long.

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Back to Work!

A year later, Jamie was back on the big screen, joining Disney's live-action animated film Beverly Hills Chihuahua alongside Piper Perabo. We're glad she changed her mind! In 2010 she starred in the comedy film You Again with Kristen Bell and her close friend, Sigourney Weaver.

Jamie Lee Curtis Scream QueensJamie Lee Curtis Scream Queens
 FOX Image Collection via Getty Images

The actress continued taking voice roles in animated films such as The Little Engine That Could and 2011's From Up on Poppy Hill. And in 2015, she starred in the horror-comedy series Scream Queens (how appropriately named), where she was then a nominee for a Golden Globe.

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And in 2018, she returned back to her roots. After 16 years, Curtis reprised her role as Laura Strode in Halloween. "[Director David Gordon Green] sent me a script and said she spent 40 years hiding behind barbed wire, emotionally and physically," Curtis said of her character at Comic-Con. The movie picked up where the 1978 film left off.

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween RoleJamie Lee Curtis Halloween Role
Ryan Green/Universal/Kobal via Shutterstock

And after facing off against Michael Myers yet in the 2018 horror film, Curtis immediately returned for the sequel in 2021, Halloween Kills. Now a grandmother, Strode guided people affected by the Myers killings. "Her life had great purpose, she was a fighter," Curtis told Variety of Strode's character.

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Good Friend with Jamie Lee Curtis

Not only is she an award-winning actress, New York Times best-selling author, and mother of two, but she also hosts her podcast! The actress launched her podcast Good Friend with Jamie Lee Curtis for iHeartRadio in 2021, and we sure can listen to it on repeat!

Jamie Lee Curtis Podcast InterviewJamie Lee Curtis Podcast Interview
YouTube via The Kelly Clarkson Show

Curtis sits down with friends of hers and people she wants to get to know as they discuss the ins and outs of friendships. In these "unscripted conversations," Curtis and her guest discuss "how to deal with conflict between friends and how to know when it's time to let a friendship go."

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Lifetime Achievement Award

Decades into her career, Curtis was recognized for all her talents by winning the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice International Film Festival. "It seems impossible to me that I've been in this industry long enough to be receiving 'Lifetime Achievement' recognition," she teased in a statement.

Jamie Lee Curtis Lifetime AwardJamie Lee Curtis Lifetime Award
Maria Laura Antonelli/AGF via Shutterstock

Curtis received the award right before Halloween Kills was on the horizon, thanking her "partnership with Laurie Strode" for everything. "Laurie Strode launched and sustained my career, and to have these films evolve into a new franchise that is beloved by audiences around the world was, and remains, a gift," she explained.

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Goodbye Halloween

However, all good things must come to an end-right? After more than four decades of being haunted by Michael Myers, Jamie Lee Curtis and her Halloween partner in crime, Laurie Strode, have said goodbye to their taunting killer once and for all in Halloween Ends.

Jamie Lee Curtis Halloween EndingJamie Lee Curtis Halloween Ending
Universal Pictures/Moviestore via Shutterstock

Curtis began her life as Laurie Strode at just 19 years old, and now at 64, she is celebrating the evolution that is Laurie. Her character "represents perseverance, courage, tenacity, bravery, and the ability to stand tall," according to Curtis, and we can see and feel it all.

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Everything Everywhere All at Once

And just as the last installment of the Halloween trilogy came to a close, Curits landed yet another role that would ultimately change her life. The forever scream queen appeared as Deirdre Beaubeirdre in the comedy-drama action film Everything Everywhere All at Once alongside Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan.

Jamie Lee Curtis Everything Everywhere All At OnceJamie Lee Curtis Everything Everywhere All At Once
YouTube via A24

Little did anyone know that the absurdist slipstream action-adventure comedy film would go on to become the most-awarded film of all time, and Curtis was part of all the winnings. After four decades in Hollywood, the actress won her first-ever Oscar for her role as Deirdre.

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The 2023 Oscars

One of the most coveted nights of the year, The Academy Awards, celebrates Hollywood's best for their film achievements every year. And this year, Everything Everywhere All at Once swept the stage with 11 nominations and seven wins, with Curtis taking home her first-ever statue.

Jamie Lee Curtis Oscars SpeechJamie Lee Curtis Oscars Speech
Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP via Shutterstock

"I know it looks like I'm standing up here by myself, but I am not. I am hundreds of people," Curtis said during her acceptance speech before honoring her coworkers on Everything Everywhere All at Once, saying, "We just won an Oscar." She then thanked her family and fans of the "genre movies" that she has made through the years.

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Nepo Baby

Curtis continued her speech by reminding audiences that although her parents were nominated for Oscars, she had "just won an Oscar." In light of the Nepo Baby controversy, she told the audience during the SAG awards, "I know you look at me and think 'nepo baby,' that's why she's there, and I totally get it," she said, but…

Nepo Baby Jamie Lee Curtis Nepo Baby Jamie Lee Curtis
Christopher Polk via Shutterstock for SAG Awards

"The truth of the matter is I'm 64 years old, and this is just amazing." Curtis previously shared her thoughts on the whole Nepo Baby conversation, explaining, "there's not a day in my professional life that goes by without being reminded that I am the daughter of movie stars." But the conversation is designed to "denigrate and hurt."

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A True Icon

But at the end of the day, Jamie Lee Curtis is the moment. She might be the daughter of two Hollywood stars, but it was she who was standing on that stage accepting her first-ever Academy Award at 64 years old. Curtis made it all happen for herself.

Jamie Lee Curtis 2023 Oscars WinnerJamie Lee Curtis 2023 Oscars Winner
 John Locher/Invision/AP via Shutterstock

A few years ago, Curtis spoke to NPR about her lengthy career and the "gift" of being able to play Laurie Strode all these years. "I've worked hard, but I don't expect it — and that's what a gift is when you don't expect something, and then it's given to you, and you open it and go, 'Wow, thank you!'" she gushed.

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