Jamie Lee Curtis Revealed Growing Up With Such Famous Parents Changed How She Lived Her Life

It was always inevitable that scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis would pursue a career in the film industry. After all, she had two bona fide Hollywood legends, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, for parents. But what was it like for the Halloween actress to grow up in such a star-studded environment?

You probably know Tony Curtis best for his performances in Some Like It Hot and Spartacus. The legendary actor also appeared in the likes of Operation Petticoat, The Defiant Ones and Houdini during his enduring career. But Curtis was just as renowned for his dashing looks and striking blue eyes as his acting skills.

Unlike his most famous daughter, Tony didn’t appear destined for a life in showbiz. Before conquering Hollywood, he served in World War II as a member of the U.S. Navy. And it was only after the man got hitched to an already established actress that his film career truly took off.

ADVERTISEMENT

That actress was, of course, the one and only Janet Leigh. The future horror movie icon had first appeared on the big screen in 1947 drama The Romance of Rosy Ridge. And she went to rack up several other film credits before walking down the aisle with Tony in 1951.

Long before daughter Jamie became the face of the Halloween franchise, Janet had also established herself as an iconic scream queen. Yes, the star played the victim in that classic shower stabbing scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Janet picked up a Golden Globe for her efforts in the 1960 chiller too.

ADVERTISEMENT

Janet and Tony became parents for the first time in 1956 with the birth of daughter Kelly. They added to their family unit two years later when they welcomed Jamie into the world. Sadly, by 1962 one of Hollywood’s most glamorous married couples had decided to go their separate ways.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie once admitted to More magazine in 2011 that her arrival had been a last-ditch attempt to rescue her mother and father’s relationship. She said, “My parents’ bond had deteriorated precipitously as their stardom grew. And like any other save-the-marriage baby, I failed.” Jamie was aged only four by the time Janet and Tony officially split.

ADVERTISEMENT

And Tony wasted little time in moving on from the mother of his first two children, quickly entering into a relationship with a 17-year-old actress from Germany. Jamie told More, “[Janet] felt the slings and arrows of tabloid gossip and innuendo. She told me that she did the memorable scene on the train in The Manchurian Candidate the day she found out that Tony had filed for divorce.”

ADVERTISEMENT

This wasn’t the first time that Jamie had gotten candid about her parents’ difficult marriage. In a 2010 appearance on The View, the actress told the panel that she “grew up in a house filled with hatred.” According to the Halloween star, parents Tony and Janet didn’t get along for the entirety of their married life.

ADVERTISEMENT

Although she’s now just as famous as her parents, Jamie initially had little desire to follow in their acting footsteps. The star spent her teenage years focusing on cheerleading and her studies, eventually graduating from Connecticut’s exclusive Choate Rosemary Hall in 1976. Jamie then enrolled at the University of the Pacific, but she only lasted one semester there.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2020 Jamie explained to People magazine, “I thought I was going to be a police officer! I could barely get through high school. I got into the only college where my mother was the most famous graduate and studied criminal justice – like Intro to Corrections 101. Then my freshman year I ran into somebody who suggested that I audition for Nancy Drew. It was a total accident.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Yes, although she failed to land the role of Nancy Drew, Jamie belatedly got the acting bug and quit school to concentrate on establishing a screen career. Columbo and Quincy M.E. were just a few of the shows the actress guested on during her early years. But it was a ground-breaking slasher that propelled Jamie onto the A-list.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 1978 Jamie was cast as the lead in Halloween, the John Carpenter-directed hit credited with reinventing horror. The actress quickly capitalized on its success by landing roles in other scarefests such as The Fog and Prom Night. And a return to the Halloween franchise in 1981 further established Jamie as her generation’s ultimate scream queen.

ADVERTISEMENT

But there was more to Jamie’s talents than being scared witless. In 1983 she showcased her comic timing alongside Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places. The star would also take on more straightforward dramatic roles in the likes of Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story, Grandview, U.S.A. and Love Letters.

ADVERTISEMENT

From A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies to Freaky Friday and sitcom Anything But Love, Jamie has remained a fixture on our screens ever since. She’s also married to a man no stranger to the film world himself: This Is Spinal Tap star Christopher Guest. The pair have two children together: Annie and Thomas.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie has also extended her family’s legacy when it comes to giving back. Her mother Janet was famous for using her celebrity for the greater good, most notably with a group called SHARE that raised over $50 million for various kids charity organizations. And the Freaky Friday star was heavily inspired by such efforts.

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2020 Jamie told People, “Philanthropy helped me find myself. At 30, I started really owning my voice, to try to help in certain areas. I wrote my first book. Then, ten years later, I got sober. And I think the combination of writing 13 children’s books and 21 years of sobriety has given me an absolute sense of my own power. Now I am putting my money, my time, my creativity toward things that matter to me.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But there was another of her mother’s traits that Jamie was determined not to develop. Speaking to More in 2011, Jamie also detailed the complex relationship Janet had with her own body. She said, “Her face was undeniably beautiful, like a shot of something strong, and her body – that body was the chaser. She was intoxicating. Like anyone who becomes famous for what they look like, when that commodity starts to change, the relationship with it deteriorates.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie then referenced a photo shoot with the same publication eight years earlier in which she had appeared without any makeup or Photoshop. She said, “By acknowledging my own changing body, I rebelled against my mother’s fear of it. I know the article and the attention it got were difficult for her.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In the same interview Jamie revealed that Janet, who died in 2004, wasn’t the most affectionate mother figure. The star said, “She took good care of me, my needs were always met, and she showed up to everything, but there was no real intimacy. I think it was a generational issue as much as one of her own making, for many people my age have expressed a lack of connection with their parents.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie hasn’t always been so complimentary about her other biological parent. While appearing on The View in 2010, she revealed that Tony was never exactly dad of the year material. She said, “He was never interested in being a father. He did what he was supposed to do from an economic viewpoint. But he was never a father who really engaged with his children.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet Jamie and Tony’s relationship did get better as time went on, particularly as the Some Like It Hot star entered his final years. In 2010 the actress told Variety, “There was a time when I was the only child that was talking to him.” Alongside sister Kelly, Jamie also shared a father with half-siblings Alexandra, Allegra, Nicholas and Benjamin.

ADVERTISEMENT

But it seems as though Jamie never forgot how distant Tony was during her childhood. On his passing in 2010, the True Lies star told ABC, “He was not a good father. He was not an engaged father, and for that reason, I see him from the same perspective as everyone else… as a fan.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In fact, Jamie had a much stronger connection to her mother’s fourth husband: Robert Brandt. In 1985 she told Rolling Stone magazine, “My stepfather, who raised me since I was a little girl, is Daddy, the one I go to with dad problems. He has always been around and supportive – a complete papa.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Robert didn’t just serve as Jamie’s dominant father figure either. He also helped to show the Halloween actress the secret to a successful long-running relationship. Jamie explained to Closer in 2019, “My mother and stepfather were married for 43 years, so I had a very good role model for that.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2019 Jamie once again opened up about her parents and how they affected her life in an interview with The New Yorker magazine. When asked about her roots in the Big Apple, the actress replied “Oh, yes –Tony [Curtis]. He grew up in the streets of Manhattan. He was a Jewish boy, and he lived in the Jewish neighborhood.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie continued, “He said in order to go uptown you would start running at full speed. Because, by the time you crossed into the Italian neighborhood, the Irish neighborhood, the Polish neighborhood, you had to be running, because you’d get the s––– beaten out of you if they caught you. That told me so much about the hardship of his life.”

ADVERTISEMENT

According to Jamie, mom Janet also experienced a “poor, economically insecure” upbringing, in her case in the Californian city of Merced. In stark contrast to both of her parents, the My Girl star has enjoyed a life of luxury from the moment that she was born. And Jamie is fully aware of her privilege.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie added, “It’s important for me, given that I’m this bougie princess from Los Angeles, even if I claim I worked hard, I’ve never really worked hard a day in my life.” The Golden Globe winner revealed that she’s even used her affluent background as inspiration for her creative work. Jamie said, “I wrote a short story once that was semi-autobiographical, which I’ll never publish, a novella actually, the child in the story was raised in New York with famous parents.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In the story, the father figure penned a memoir named “Access of Kings.” Jamie explained, “It was that idea that, when you’re famous, you get this incredible access, you get opportunities to see things that other people don’t get to see, you get ease of access everywhere you go. All of that is a great, lovely benefit to the part that you give up, which is your privacy. So it’s a balance.”

ADVERTISEMENT

And Jamie also acknowledges that having two screen icons for parents was definitely an advantage during the early part of her career. In her chat with The New Yorker, the actress referred specifically to the time she auditioned for the character that would make her a star in her own right. Who else but Laurie Strode in Halloween?

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie recalled, “I auditioned many, many, many times. And then it was between me and one other woman, whose name I know, but I will never say publicly. I’m sure the fact that I was Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis’s daughter, and that my mother had been in Psycho – if you’re going to choose between this one and this one, choose the one whose mother was in Psycho, because it will get some press for you.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Unlike many celebrity offspring who follow in their famous parents’ footsteps, Jamie has no qualms about acknowledging that she benefited from nepotism. She added, “I’m never going to pretend that I just got that on my own, like I’m just a little girl from nowhere getting it. Clearly, I had a leg up.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Having Janet Leigh for a mother didn’t just help when it came to Hollywood, either. Jamie revealed that she only managed to further her education because she was related to the Psycho star. She said, “I went to a college where my mother was the most famous person to have ever graduated. It was the only school that took me with my D average plus 840 combined SAT.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie continued, “I’ve been doing this for a long, long time, and I’ve been successful at it since I was 19. There’s not a day I don’t walk down the street and somebody goes, ‘Hey, I love you. You’re fantastic.’ And I appreciate it. I get it. It’s been my gig. I don’t need any more attention.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Attention certainly wasn’t in short supply even before Jamie became famous either. The A Fish Called Wanda star revealed that she was quite a commanding presence during her school years thanks to a force of nature character. And this was something that she’d developed to combat her perceived lack of beauty.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jamie explained, “You have to remember, I had gray teeth, because my mother took tetracycline when she was pregnant with me. My teeth were gray. I was not pretty. I was cute. I had a lot of personality. My lack of any school success I made up for in personality. I was a jokester from a very young age.”

ADVERTISEMENT

In 2020 Jamie once again paid tribute to the woman who had inadvertently given her gray teeth. To celebrate what would have been her mom’s 93rd birthday, the actress posted several stills from Janet’s most iconic film Psycho on Instagram. They were captioned, “The world will never forget your beauty, talent, grace and grit.”

ADVERTISEMENT

A month earlier Jamie had also honored her late father Tony and her late stepfather Robert on the same photo-sharing platform. She wrote, “One gave me life and a love of creativity. One gave me a way of life, an appreciation of nature and a steady, loving firm path to follow. I respect them both. I miss them both.”

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT