Jamie Lee Curtis

Actress and author Jamie Lee Curtis's screen career arced from early success as a heroine in peril in horror films like "Halloween" (1979) to critical praise and awards for brassy turns in comedies like "Trading Places" (1983) and "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988) and later, a fearless embrace of middle-aged and senior women with brio to spare in "Freaky Friday" (2003) and "Halloween" (2019). Born November 22, 1958 in Santa Monica, California, she was the daughter of two popular postwar Hollywood actors-Oscar nominee Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh-who divorced when she was four years of age. Though raised in a show business family, she initially showed little interest in following in her parents' footsteps, and focused on life at Westlake School and Beverly Hills High School, before graduating from Choate Rosemary Hall. She found those experiences emotionally draining due to her low self-confidence, and made it through a single semester at the University of the Pacific before dropping out to try her hand at acting. She made her television debut as a military nurse on the short-lived "Operation Petticoat" (ABC, 1977-79), a sitcom based on the 1960 comedy that starred her father, before segueing to guest roles on other series, including "The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries" (ABC, 1977-79). She was not the first choice to play the teenaged heroine of "Halloween" (1979), a low-budget horror film by USC grad John Carpenter, but her connection to Leigh, who had famously starred in Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho" (1960), helped to win her role; the film became a runaway success at the box office and launched not only an enduring film franchise but also the slasher film boom of the 1980s. For Curtis, it led to a string of starring roles in other horror films, including "Halloween II" (1981) and lesser efforts like "Terror Train" (1980), which minted her, for a time, as a scream queen. But Curtis broke free from the label on the strength of critically praised performances in the TV movie "Death of a Centerfold: The Dorothy Stratten Story" (NBC, 1981) and a brassy, BAFTA-winning turn as an escort in John Landis' "Trading Places" (1983). These successes led to Curtis moving up to leads in A-list features, though several of these early efforts - "Perfect" (1985), with Curtis as an aerobics instructor - did little more than showcase her dedication to her roles. She finally earned a project worthy of her talents with 1988's "A Fish Called Wanda" (1988), which cast her as a con artist who fell for her mark, a hapless barrister played by John Cleese, who also wrote the script. She continued to work in films but found greater success as the star of "Anything But Love" (ABC, 1989-1992), a wry office comedy with Curtis and Richard Lewis as co-workers who attempted to keep their romance under wraps. For her performance, Curtis earned a Golden Globe and People's Choice Award, and followed it with another Golden Globe nomination, this time for her starring role in a TNT adaptation of Wendy Wasserstein's play "The Heidi Chronicles" (1995) and a second Golden Globes win for playing undercover agent Arnold Schwarzenegger's mousy wife in James Cameron's Oscar-nominated "True Lies" (1994). After a string of minor box office successes - including a return to the "Halloween" franchise for "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later" (1998) and "Halloween: Resurrection" (2002) - and recovery from an addiction to painkillers and alcohol, Curtis scored another hit with a remake of "Freaky Friday" (2003), for which she and screen daughter Lindsay Lohan switched personalities. Subsequent efforts, however, failed to generate audience interest, and by 2006, she told interviewers that she had put her screen career on the backburner to concentrate on her family with comic actor-director Christopher Guest of "This is Spinal Tap" (1984) fame. Curtis had also established a popular second career as a children's author, beginning in 1993 with When I Was Little: A Four-Year-Old's Memoir of Her Youth (1993). It was soon followed by Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born (1996), which was inspired by the birth of her adopted daughter, Annie, and then earned a New York Times bestseller with Today I Feel Silly, and Other Moods That Make My Day (1998). Her literary career and a string of commercial appearances for a probiotic yogurt kept Curtis busy for much of the 2000s until 2012, when she signed on for a recurring role on "NCIS" (CBS, 2003- ). A stint on Ryan Murphy's self-referential horror series "Scream Queens" (FOX, 2015-16) preceded another return to her roots with "Halloween" (2019), which found Curtis's heroine, Laurie Strode, now a grandmother and survivalist with an arsenal waiting for franchise villain Michael Myers' inevitable return. A huge success due largely to Curtis's intensely physical performance, "Halloween" signaled the launch of an all-new franchise with Curtis at its head for two more films announced for 2020 and 2021. While serving as star and executive producer on these projects, Curtis also joined the ensemble cast of Rian Johnson's "Knives Out" (2019), with Daniel Craig as an acerbic detective rooting out a killer from the ranks of a squabbling family that included Chris Evans, Toni Collette, and Michael Shannon.