Jamie Lee Curtis has many reasons to be grateful this year. She turns 60 on Thanksgiving (November 22), and she’s currently celebrating the monster success of Halloween. The new sequel to John Carpenter’s 1978 original earned $76.2 million (Dh279.8 million) in its first weekend — the biggest opening for a horror movie with a female lead and for any film starring a woman over 55.
Curtis plays Laurie Strode, the terrorised baby sitter turned avenging grandma who again battles the masked killer Michael Myers. And she pointed out the success of the new film (directed by David Gordon Green) in what she called a “boast post” that has been liked 187,000 times on Twitter.
“That wasn’t meant to be an ego boost,” Curtis said. “It was a moment of great pride for all of us. Let me be the bell-ringing, banner-waving representative of generations of women who have been in the movie business and have gotten no recognition. Let me be the one who stands up and says, ‘We can do it, we did it, and we will do it again.’”
She spoke via telephone from Australia, where she attended the film’s Sydney premiere. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What’s the reception been like Down Under?
I’ve travelled the world as the ambassador for this movie. Everywhere I’ve gone, the reaction is the same. The movie works on such a wonderful level. The experience people have seeing David Gordon Green’s movie, scored by John Carpenter [who directed the original and composed its haunting theme], told at a time when women taking back the narrative of their lives from their perpetrators is both life imitating art and art imitating life. And it’s thrilling to be the girl in the red power suit in the middle of it all.
Did you have any doubts about signing on to play Laurie again?
No. I first heard about this script in June 2017, and I said yes immediately after I read it. I understood what [the screenwriters] David, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley were trying to do. They were trying to talk about generational trauma in the middle of a slasher movie. I recognised the incongruity of that and yet the great forward strides it could yield.
This was before the #MeToo movement exploded.
Yes, it was before women all over the world started raising their hands and having the immense courage to name their aggressor and to stand behind their experiences, despite the onslaught of people trying to deny them their truth. The power that came from all those brave women, all those young gymnasts, all of Bill Cosby’s accusers, started to affect all of us as we were making the movie because it was happening concurrently. Here we were making a movie about the very theme that was playing out writ large. So we all understood that we had a much bigger responsibility, that we were telling a story that was bigger than we thought.
How has becoming a mother and grandmother affected Laurie?
Being a parent is the most transformative experience a human being can have. Laurie was a broken person when she conceived her daughter. She did her best to try to raise and protect her, but she was not able to allow her to have an innocent childhood, because Laurie was traumatised. I’ve never experienced something like that, and I have raised two beautiful, smart, open-minded people. But I’m not going to lie or obfuscate and say I haven’t had trauma and horrible, unexpected things happen because that’s what happens in life to everybody. [Curtis recently told People magazine about her 10-year addiction to opiates starting in the late 80s.] That’s the communal feeling that happens in a movie theatre. That’s why the movie is resonating.
How much of a factor is the current political environment?
Somebody with a much bigger degree than I’ll ever get might look back and do an analysis of periods of history when horror movies have had their zeniths. It’s when things feel out of control sociologically, culturally and politically, and the way you deal with it is you go into a dark theatre and you share something terrifying with a group of strangers. This level of PTSD is not unique to Laurie Strode. It’s universal to every woman alive because women have been oppressed since the beginning of time. Bigger than that, people have felt the boot of sexual, criminal, political, emotional and environmental violence. Watching a woman we’ve known for 40 years take back the power, somehow we can all pour ourselves into that same little girl we poured ourselves into 40 years ago.
Why does Michael Myers remain such a compelling figure?
He’s a big draw primarily because of his enigmatic evil. This is an evil that makes no facial expression, doesn’t have a voice, moves slowly but kills with a vengeance. This is a universal terror that you combine with a woman representing everyone, and you have a recipe for people going to the movie over and over again, which is what seems to be happening.
Would you be open to doing another sequel?
If my phone rang, and David Gordon Green asked me to do anything, I would do it as quickly as I could say, ‘Yes.’ Because for me at this point of my life, I go where the creativity is. And I’m very lucky to have been the head cheerleader for this movie.
Don’t miss it
Halloween is currently showing in the UAE.