After starring in a string of hit horror films in the late '70s and early '80s, Jamie Lee Curtis broke out of the “genre” mold with turns in such hit comedies as “Trading Places” and “A Fish Called Wanda” and James Cameron's big-budget 1994 actioner “True Lies.” And yet her reputation as a “scream queen” has stubbornly held; indeed, her most famous role arguably remains Laurie Strode, the bookish target of white-masked killer Michael Myers in John Carpenter's seminal 1978 slasher “Halloween.”
Still, even as she remains best known for playing a victim, Curtis has proven herself a force of nature both onscreen and in her public life. As the actress turns 57 today, we pay tribute to her fearless (fearsome) reputation. Here are seven times this leggy screen icon scared the hell out of us.
1. The time she gave this brittle “Halloween: H20” red carpet interview.
JLC suffers no fools. Hot damn. Here she is leveling a clueless Telemundo reporter (the relevant portion begins around two minutes in) after the woman tries her patience with the following sentence: “Tell me a little bit about your character.” “My character in 'Halloween'?” responds Jamie Lee incredulously. “It's the same character I played in the movie 20 years ago. Rent the first one.” Oof.
2. The time she performed this fearless striptease in “True Lies.”
Jamie Lee is on point in this famous scene from James Cameron's 1994 blockbuster that sees her performing a near-flawless striptease for a shadowy man she has no idea is her husband. I admit it was a little sexist to force Jamie Lee down to her skivvies in a male-dominated action film, but her commitment to the performance is fierce.
3. The time we first saw these paparazzi photos.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall in this restaurant. I am categorically against paparazzi prying into the private moments of famous people, but Jamie Lee's rage here is palpable and, frankly, frightening. That is the angriest sip of water I've ever seen.
4. Her entire role on “Scream Queens.”
Did you know that Jamie Lee Curtis cried tears of gratitude over getting this part on the fourth hour of “Today”? Well, she did, and I cried tears of gratitude right along with her. On the Ryan Murphy-created series, Curtis plays the sorority-hating Dean Cathy Munsch, who eviscerates the nubile Kappa Kappa Tau sisters with such brutally direct takedowns as “I'm going to be honest: I hate sororities and I hate you.” Learn from her, Emma Roberts.
5. Her final scene as Laurie Strode in “Halloween: Resurrection.”
To see the sweet former wallflower of the original “Halloween” transformed into the pale, joyless woman we're introduced to in 2002's admittedly awful “Halloween: Resurrection” is actually painful. And yet Curtis is so convincing as the battle-hardened Laurie Strode 2.0 that we almost fear for Michael Myers' safety. Indeed, when Jamie Lee tells her murderous arch-nemesis “I'm not afraid of you,” we're inclined to believe her.
6. The time she badmouthed “Virus.”
The 1999 sci-fi/horror film starring Curtis and William Baldwin was destroyed by critics and ignored by audiences, and in an interview with WENN several years later Jamie Lee didn't hold back her own opinions. “That's a piece of shit movie,” she said. “It's an unbelievably bad movie; just bad from the bottom. …It was maybe the only time I've known something was just bad and there was nothing I could do about it.” The director hasn't been seen since.
7. This scene from “You, Again.”
As an ex-teen queen performing one of her old cheerleading routines, Jamie Lee demonstrates not only admirable flexibility but some of the scariest mom energy I've ever seen. Even Sigourney Weaver was shaken by this, and she pulled herself out of an airlock once.
Happy birthday to a legend.