There are great Halloween movies, but then there is Halloween. John Carpenter’s 1978 slasher movie, about an escaped lunatic wearing a white William Shatner mask and wrecking havoc on a small town, had a terrifying villain, a spine-tingling score, and the perfect young heroine. Jamie Lee Curtis was only 19 years old when she starred as Laurie Strode, the wholesome babysitter who becomes the target of Michael Myers’ sister obsession. It was an iconic genre role — not unlike the one her mother, Janet Leigh, played in Psycho — and she spent the next few years being chased and screaming in movies like The Fog and Prom Night.
Though Curtis eventually became better known for movies like Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda, and True Lies, Halloween has always been in the shadows… lurking. She circled back in the late 1990s to revisit the franchise for two sequels, and in recent years, she’s embraced the nostalgia and the passion that surrounds the original film. Last year, she was blown away by the warm reception she encountered at a horror-film convention, and that experience led her to tap that community for her most recent philanthropic efforts with the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Starting today and until Halloween, fans can visit Charitybuzz.com and bid on a special Michael Myers mask autographed by Curtis and virtually every living member of the cast and crew.
Curtis, who showcased some of her Halloween memorabilia — including the mask — during her last visit to The Tonight Show (see clip below), chatted with EW about what other movie memorabilia she might put up for auction, working on the Veronica Mars movie, and why she wasn’t cool with Seth MacFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” Oscar song and dance number.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been very involved with Children’s Hospital for many years. How did this particular fundraiser come about?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I had this epiphany about a year ago after I realized that the people that love horror films love them with a fervor that I maybe don’t even understand. I realized that there’s a way to monetize my fame and to try to connect it to something that can raise money for charity — not for myself obviously. Just so you understand kind of where this all began, last November, I actually went to a horror film convention. I went to Indianapolis for a two-day horror film convention called HorrorHound. I brought a documentary film crew with me, because I said to [the organizers], I’m going to do this once — one time only. I wanted to make sure that if people were really going to cough up the kind of money that we were going to ask them for, that they realized that I was serious. That I am doing this totally for charity. And that I would be doing this once. It could not have been better. We raised over $150,000 in two days — cash. For charity. And the re-release of the 35th anniversary [Blu-ray] of Halloween comes with the little documentary.
I meant to ask you about that. Is that the extra titled, The Night She Came Home?
Yes. The original Halloween poster tagline was “The Night He Came Home,” so we entitled this The Night She Came Home. It really gives you a behind the scenes idea of what [those conventions] look like.
And what did it look like? Did anything surprise you?
The surprising thing is you don’t judge a book by its cover. Now that’s an old adage, but it’s sort of shocking how quick your bias kicks in when you descend into a room of people with jet-black hair and tattoos. It’s just a rough-looking crowd, but the takeaway from this weekend was there couldn’t be a sweeter, sunnier, more lovely group of people that I’ve ever spent time with: patient, polite, really into it, really dedicated to this cause. It was very, very moving. There were people at the end of their lives, coming to see me before they died. This was their bucket list. A man had me sign his thigh and then he came back an hour and half later with it tattooed. Awesome.
So that experience sort of opened the door for the Michael Myers mask auction?
I’m not someone who hoards things, but when I got home, I realized that I have a few things that are potentially very valuable. And the first thing I have are these masks. The second thing I have are the actual clap-boards for syncing the film that are at the beginning of every shot in a movie. And I have every one of them from every movie, including the original Halloween clapboard. This mask is actually signed by as many people as I could get to, so I would be hard-pressed to imagine anyone has anything with those signatures on it. Which is like badges in Boy Scouts: people collect the signatures. Many people came to me at the convention and said, “You’re the last one. I’ll have all of the signatures once I have yours.” And that’s great. This mask has a group of signatures that would be very hard to replicate, and I’ve numbered them. There are five masks, and this is No. 1 of five that is going up for auction.
From all your movies, do you have something that is untouchable, a holy grail of memorabilia that you wouldn’t think of parting with?
Are you kidding? You obviously don’t know me. I am the terminator. If a bag doesn’t leave my house on a daily basis, then it’s not a good day.
So there’s no holy grail.
No. I have the True Lies dress. The breakaway True Lies dress, with the poofy collar and the poofy sleeve and the poofy peplum, and it all rips away… to yield, you know, this hot little black velvet dress. I’m not a hoarder. I don’t keep a lot, so since it’s unlikely the Smithsonian’s going to be calling anytime soon to get my little dress from True Lies, I’m assuming I will sell it too.
I saw that you were working on another project with an equally passionate fanbase, the Kickstarter-funded movie, Veronica Mars.
I did a little Veronica Mars — just a brief but sweet, funny, little moment in the Veronica Mars juggernaut. I’ve known Kristen Bell for a long time now, since we did You Again. I’m heading to New Mexico next week to do a movie called La Vida Robot, with George Lopez. It’s the true story about four undocumented Mexican high school kids who take on many colleges in an underwater robotics competition. I play the principal of the high school who shepherds them along in their quest.
I think fans of both New Girl and NCIS really appreciated your guest-starring roles last season.
New Girl was sweet but I’m not sure if they can expand [the role of Jess’ mom] at all. And NCIS could not have made me feel more welcome, but I did learn something interesting: women don’t want Mark Harmon to be happy. The women fan base, I really do believe they believe that if [his character] is unhappy, guarded, and alone, that one of these days, he will knock on their door and ask for a cup of a cool water. You know what I mean? There was a male contingent that was really happy that he was in a relationship with a woman that challenged him and who was going to break the mold with him and kind of get into the basement with him. Kind of bring out the stuff in the basement. And women did not. [Laughs]. I had a lot of women, when I would do a book signing all over the country, they’d kind of waggle their finger at me, kind of like, “Leave him alone. Don’t mess with him. We don’t like where you’re going with this.” I think the fact that Dr. Ryan came walking down the steps from upstairs — [to the basement] where he once lived happily, I think they were not happy, and I think they made themselves heard.
That bums me out because part of me was hoping you might try a TV show again, something like Anything But Love, the 1990s show you did with Richard Lewis.
For me, the best job I ever had. It was really that job that led to True Lies. Because John Ritter, who was one of the producers on the show, very early on in the whole process, he pulled me aside and he whispered in my ear, “You have really funny legs.” What he was saying was, “Let go. Just have more fun. Go for it more.” And it really did whet my appetite for that freedom as an actor and as a comic actor. That kind of job I would love to do again.
I did read that you might be working on an ABC Family horror series, titled The Final Girls, which seems to piggyback off of your Halloween fame. Is that still in the ether?
It’s more than ether. It actually has form. It’s still moving… That’s as much as I can say to you. It’s awesome.
You would play a Laurie Strode type who leads a collection of girls who have all endured a similar experience?
Yeah, she’s someone who’s survived a very unbelievable set of circumstances. I think it could be fun.
Can I ask about the Oscars?
Seth MacFarlane opened last year’s show with a “We Saw Your Boobs” musical number. You wrote an op-ed in the Huffington Post criticizing him for it. What was the feedback from your friends in the industry?
You know what, it was just a point of view. That’s all. It is what it is. We’re a country of people who agree to disagree. Look at the way we are today, with our government. So it was nothing more than expressing an opinion. Probably I was speaking to and for a group of people that felt the same kind of feeling I did. As we are learning in everything, numbers are the only thing people care about, and maybe ever cared about. I mean, it’s a business, I get that. Seth MacFarlane is a talented guy. I can’t imagine he’s going to be hiring me any time soon, but that’s okay. I wish the guy well, but I felt it was inappropriate in that setting in that moment. Maybe I was channeling my sweet mother.
One of my earliest memories as a journalist was interviewing your mother for a new DVD of The Manchurian Candidate.
Did she tell you about her getting divorced? She found out that my father had filed for divorce — and remember these are the Brad and Angelina of their day — on the day she was shooting the scene on the train. Somehow a phone call came through, and then she basically went out and did that scene. She was something. My mother wrote a book called There Really Was a Hollywood, which was about how green she was and how innocent — literally innocent — to the ways of the business. She was and probably always would remain very innocent, very old-fashioned. And I probably have a very deep vein of that in me: an old-fashioned idea of how things should be. And that was the vein that Mr. MacFarlane probably tapped into it. Simply that. It was just sort of, “Really? Really?” Something that used to mean something different. So I think that’s where that was all from.