Plan my career?” Jamie Lee Curtis nearly does a spit-take with the cup of tea she’s been sipping in the Gardens Restaurant at Los Angeles’ Four Seasons hotel. ”Are you kidding? I can’t even plan my f—ing week.”
This month, with the release of the psycho-thriller Mother’s Boys, Curtis’ career swerves in yet another unplanned direction. After years of being stalked by homicidal trick-or-treaters (in the Halloween horror flicks), baring her boobs for the masses (Trading Places), and cutting up with Richard Lewis in prime time (ABC’s Anything but Love), the 35-year-old daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis is stepping into a role unlike any she’s played before — the bad guy.
Part Fatal Attraction, part Oedipus Rex, Mother’s Boys stars Curtis as a whacked-out mom who abandons her husband (Peter Gallagher) and three kids, then returns three years later to weasel her way back into their lives. It’s by far the nastiest part Curtis has ever done — one queasy bathtub scene has her exposing herself to her 13-year-old son — but it has given the actress a welcome stretch from her usual babe-next-door roles. ”The words perky and energetic and approachable are attached to my image,” she says. ”I have a strange sort of sanitary quality. This role wasn’t just another likable-Jamie character.” u The likable Jamie can still be found in My Girl 2, the recent sequel to her 1991 puppy-love hit with Dan Aykroyd. And this summer she’ll be Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron’s action opus True Lies. But before Curtis mouths off anymore about these and her other on- and offscreen personas, a brief readers’ advisory may be in order: ”I’m a trash bag of a woman,” she says. ”I’m vulgar. I’m insane. I’m strange. I’m just a weird, twisted creature.”
Jamie the Terrible ”I always assumed that eventually I’d play my dark side,” she says. ”It was just a matter of time.”
You don’t get much darker than her character in Mother’s Boys, a first wife from hell who hatches murderous plots to wreck her ex’s new romance and turn their kids against him. ”There have been a slew of movies with unstable women — what you guys in the press call psycho-bitches — and I didn’t want this to be part of that cycle,” she says. ”It would have been too easy to play Jude as a glossy cliché, some sort of robotic bad girl.”
Instead, Curtis makes her a master manipulator who wields her sexuality the way Freddy Krueger wields his talons-although some of her more outrageous exploits didn’t make the final cut. ”Unfortunately, a lot got taken out,” she says. ”American audiences apparently don’t want to see me (performing oral sex on) Gallagher, which I thought was important to the story. You needed to see the sexual power my character has over him. I think the movie was a fuller, more realistic portrait before it got cut.” (Director Yves Simoneau’s take on her noshing scene: ”The test audience reacted very badly. There are certain things that mothers just should not do.”)
Still, not all the racy parts were cut — the bathtub scene, for instance, remains intact. ”That’s a perfect example of necessary nudity to make a dramatic point,” she says. ”It wouldn’t work if you didn’t know the son was looking at a vagina for the first time in his life — and it happened to be his mother’s.”
Jamie the Sexpot ”I don’t have a beautiful body — I have a beautiful figure,” insists the woman once dubbed The Body. ”There’s a difference. There’s a line to a woman that’s beautiful, the line of the shoulder, the shape between the breast and the waist. I’ve had a nice figure since I was 18. But I don’t have the sort of body you’d want to strip in the midday sun and ask to play volleyball. I turn down half the scripts I get because of demands for nudity,” she continues. ”And I’ve talked my way out of another large percent. There was a gun fight in Blue Steel [Curtis’ 1990 police thriller] — it was written as a nude scene, but I said no way was I going to run around with a gun in my hand in the nude. Everybody would be watching my breasts flopping around instead of watching the scene.
”Ultimately, there’s very little nudity in my work. It just so happens that I have a very nice figure, so any tiny glimpse gets blown way out of proportion.”
Jamie the Profile Subject Curtis has never been known for her great love of the press: ”By sitting down here with you, I give you the right to decimate me. You could write every bad thing about me.” But when Hollywood’s publicity-industrial complex calls, she answers. ”My favorite interviews are the Q&As where they ask you what’s your favorite perfume or when you get to describe the contents of your purse.”
For the record, Curtis’ purse contains a key ring, a makeup bag, pictures of her dog Henry, her 7-year-old daughter, Annie, and her 46-year-old husband, Spi¨al Tap-er Christopher Guest, as well as assorted soup recipes, breath spray, a pass to the 1991 Cannes Film Festival, and an article about Curtis cursing out a Manhattan salesclerk. ”I like to chronicle-ize my vulgarities,” she explains.
Jamie the Nimble-Fingered ”I work. My husband works. I have a child who goes to school. But 90 percent of the time I’m alone. I live in Los Angeles, which is the vacuum of life. I’m lucky if my neighbors call up and ask me to play backgammon. I’m f—ing lonely a lot of my life.”
To keep herself entertained, she has written a children’s book, When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old’s Memoir of Her Youth, now in stores. She’s also invented a new disposable diaper, as yet unmarketed. ”It’s called Dipe’N’Wipe, diapers and wipers in one.” She reads a lot (”Churchill’s history of World War II — really, honest, it’s in my car right now”), tunes in to MTV on occasion, and contemplates producing (she’s currently taking meetings on Repeat Caller, a thriller set in a suicide prevention clinic). And, oh, she has one other hobby: ”Masturbating. I still find that an unbelievably good pastime.”
Jamie the Action Hero Curtis will reveal none of True Lies‘ plot details, except to say pretty much what you’d expect to hear from a star of a megabudget Schwarzenegger spectacular. ”It’s got a great story, huge stunts, and terrific comic characters.” On her role: ”The best part I’ve ever had. I get to play my insides and outsides.” On Ah-nuld: ”A wonderful guy and a wonderful actor.”
But she does let slip some juicy info about her own future.”I’m not interested in growing old on camera. It’s too brutal a profession. I’ll probably give it up not long from now. That’s how I quit drinking — just woke up one day and thought, ‘I won’t drink anymore.’ I quit drugs the same way.
”I’ve been around a long time. I don’t have anything to prove anymore,” she says. ”And frankly, my talent isn’t that ridiculously special that anyone is really going to miss it.”
Maybe not, but it’s still kinda tough to imagine Jamie the Retiree.