Jamie Lee Curtis: a life in acting in a changing Hollywood
The award-winning actress, speaking at the FT Weekend Festival in Washington DC, discusses her highs and lows working in a changing Hollywood
You can enable subtitles (captions) in the video player
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So Jamie Lee Curtis has done just about everything in her Hollywood career.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: All at once.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Killed me.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Sorry.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: She's been a scream queen, she's been an ingenue, a hooker--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Hey, now.
I'm in Washington. It's fine.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: --a workout instructor, and recently she's been an IRS agent with a unique fashion sense and a pretty mean karate kick.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Thank you.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah. But no matter what her role has been, she's always been a movie star.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: No.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: You could also say that she's been a bridge between old Hollywood and new. Her parents, of course, were Hollywood royalty. Her mother, Janet Leigh, starred in all-time classics like Hitchcock's Psycho and the Manchurian Candidate. And her father, Tony Curtis, was in Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe and The Sweet Smell of Success, and many other great films. Jamie became a big screen star herself at the age of 19 in the role of Laurie Strode in a Grimes family favourite, Halloween. Seen it at least a dozen times.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Excellent.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Which also started off an amazing film franchise. So then she proceeded to show off her great versatility as an actress in comedy roles like Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Hey.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: She's done action films. True Lies with Arnold Schwarzenegger, right? And she's also many other things. She's a philanthropist, a prolific author, a patent holder, I've discovered, a parent of two children, and she's also been married to the immensely funny Christopher Guest for more than 30 years.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: So wait. No excuse me. We will be married 39 years this year. I think that's, like-- no, no, no.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: For close to 40 years.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Close to 40 years.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Close to 40 years.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Those nine years--
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: But this year, she became something else-- an Oscar winner. Right?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Woo!
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: For her role in Everything Everywhere All At Once. Got it in there fine.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Oh, you got it. It's all good.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So it's my pleasure to welcome to the FT Weekend Festival, Jamie Lee Curtis.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Thank you so much. Hi, everybody. We have a lot to talk about.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Big ideas.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yes. Well, let's start with Everything Everywhere. This was an indie film. Small budget.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: OK. Just so everybody understands, this was made in 38 days in Simi Valley, California. Simi Valley is about 45 minutes out of where I live. It actually was an hour to get there. It's sort of deep in the Valley to the left. It was made in 38 days in an abandoned-- interestingly enough, in the Countrywide Savings and Loan campus that was vacated in a day when all they did is come in and pull out the computers, and they left everything else.
So that IRS office was the Countrywide Savings and Loan office campus. And we shot the entire movie in that building almost. And it was shot in 38 days in January of 2020. We finished shooting the day COVID shut the world down, March 17, 15, somewhere in there. So this movie that then had two years, really, gestation, then was released a year ago.
I'm from California. I barely know who I am. We are in May. It's May.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah, it's May.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: So it was a year ago March that movie was released. And for an entire year, people just started. But it was a miracle movie made for nothing and made very quickly by very talented young guys, and this wonderful crew of people, and Michelle Yeoh. And we ended up having this miracle year. And I'm telling you all, I'm very happy to be here. I really feel like I'm in this incredible place.
I'm from California. I'm at the Kennedy Centre. The meaning of that, I want to let you know that I was born November 22, 1958. John Kennedy was killed on the day, the anniversary. My fifth birthday. My mother was a big supporter of the Kennedys. She ended up going to the dark side when she married my stepfather, Robert Brandt, who was a businessman.
I don't even know. Maybe you're all on the dark side, and maybe I'll be killed by the end of this. And that's fine. I can take it. But my point is-- but my mother was even offered an ambassadorship my mother, Janet Leigh, was offered an ambassadorship under Johnson to Finland, I believe. She did not take the gig because she was recently married to my stepfather, the Darth Vader of business.
And-- sorry. It's OK. It's all good. Big ideas. Big ideas, small government. Right? Stop. We don't have to get political. It's about show business. But my mother was this incredible woman, and she performed at the snowed in Kennedy inaugural with my father, Tony Curtis. So to be here in Washington, to be in this institution with my friends here, it's very moving to me to be me here in front of all y'all. So anyway.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Oh, no. To what I was going to say, Chris-- sorry-- is simply it's very important that you understand something. Because that moment that we just were talking about that occurred March 12th of this year, never in my life did I think that would happen. You have to understand. I did horror films. I was the little slutty girl who took off her shirt, and everybody loved me.
Do you know what I mean? Like, I was that girl. I was in exploitation films. I don't know if any of you noticed, but I sold yoghurt that makes you shit for seven years. And all of that resulted ultimately in me being cast in this movie that ultimately got me the prize that if you go back and watch a repeat of that awards ceremony, watch my face. Because the last thing in the world I thought would ever happen to me would be that moment.
And so you brought it up. I'm addressing it. I'm telling you, you know me already. You already know me. You already know me. I could leave now and you go, yeah, I know her, because you know I'm telling you the truth. It's why I sold you yoghurt that makes you shit for seven years successfully.
Because I tell the truth. Because-- [LAUGHS] so it's really important that you understand who I really am. I'm not going to pretend to be something here. That moment for me was mind blowing and continues in this moment. Like when you just-- when you announced. Like, that's mind blowing. That for the rest of my life, people are going to say that. So I'm just saying that, right? OK. Enough.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So was there something about this movie when you first heard about it? First learned?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Nope.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: No. You had no idea?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Nothing.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: You had no idea.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Nothing. I knew it was going to be shot in Los Angeles talking about business. You know, California, right? The entertainment capital of the world? Bullshit. Texas, Georgia are the entertainment capitals of the world. Hungary has become the entertainment capital of the world. Atlanta is the entertainment capital of the world. They don't make movies in Los Angeles anymore.
When Arnold was governor, he couldn't even bring back production to California. A guy who made his living. I know he tried-- anyway, it's a bigger problem. But my point is simply that it was being shot in California, so I didn't have to move away from my home and away from my family, which I have to when I work.
I wasn't the lead. It was a fun part. And I really did it because Michelle Yeoh was going to play that part and I was going to get to play with her. And I think she's amazing, and now the world knows she's amazing.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: And your chemistry is amazing.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: It was fantastic. And that whole group of people became very close. And I am by nature, as you can probably tell, a bit of a cheerleader, and I cheerled a lot because we were the little movie that could. We were made for nothing. I used to taunt the Marvel people. I used to-- seriously. Because the Doctor Strange, or one of those movies, was released sort of at the same time, and I kept referring to them as Marvel-less.
I won't end up in a Marvel movie, I'm just letting you know, because I taunted them. But I went after them because I kept calling us the little movie that could. Our budget was what they used for the craft service tables on a Marvel movie. I swear to you. It was made for $12 million.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Wow. And it made over $100 million.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Oh, yeah.
Yes, it did.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So I have to tell you. You work in an industry that has not always been great for women over a certain age. You've won the Oscar at 64. How meaningful do you think this is for-- or how significant do you think this is? Or what does it say about women in Hollywood now?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: We're in a time of tremendous change. We're in a time where we have to ask ourselves a lot of big questions. Big questions. Women have been fighting for the right to exist for a long time. We don't have the ERA. It is not equitable. I work with an organisation in California, a progressive political group called Fund Her, which simply is trying to raise money to help support women to run so that you can at least make the California legislation gender parity.
Like, it's insane, because women choose differently than men. It's OK. And I'm not trying to make some big gender statement. I'm saying women respond differently, and we vote differently. And when you have an unequal balance, it reflects what happens politically to all of us as we're seeing in this country right now. So because of that, women have been fighting for the right to exist. And in the movie business, there have been pioneers, have been great women.
There have been good strides made. The Academy itself, as you know, OscarsSoWhite. They went through a big transition where they tried to bring people of colour, diversity, into that august organisation so that it could better represent. We're looking for equal representation. Let's just remember that the Constitution says all men and women-- doesn't say it, but it should-- all humans, all people, are created equal. That has to mean gay people, trans people, women.
Like, I'm not trying to be political here. I'm saying-- I'm not. And I'm not trying to incite violence. I'm saying inclusivity is the goal. We cannot exist as a society without it. And so in show business, it's fantastic that I'm a 64-year-old woman that won the Oscar, and Michelle Yeoh was a 60-year-old woman who won the Oscar. That is fantastic. A 60-year-old Asian woman, the first Asian woman to ever win the Best Actress in a movie.
And yet, we're also-- there are big conversations about degendering art awards so that they are degendered. That's a big conversation because women have been fighting for the rights to exist, and that's a legitimate question that needs to be addressed. So I feel like we are taking good strides, and the patriarchy is very strong. The white patriarchy is very, very strong still in show business, or what I like to refer to as show-off business. And there are all of these changes are like everything in politics. Hollywood is politics, and it's get a little, move a little, two steps forward, three steps back.
And we're in the middle of a strike. I believe we're going to be in the middle of a big strike, because the Screen Actors Guild is going to go out on strikes. The Directors Guild is going to join them. That's going to be a big moment for our industry, because-- I know that you addressed it here-- because Mallory Walker told me that there was a whole conversation about AI and that-- is it possible to remove it or not. Is there a way to police it? And I heard today that someone said, no. And somebody else was like, well, we can't. And it's a big question.
AI exists in Hollywood in a very big way. Can you imagine what a screenwriter is dealing with right now?
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: This is a big part of their ask.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: This is a big part of their ask. And the streaming and the advent of streaming. And so it's a-- these are big questions. They are people way beyond my pay grade and way beyond my acumen to understand the intricacies of it. But it's the tipping point. Streaming arrived, and the tipping point has occurred, and we have to create an equitable world for creators as if we could live with an AI screenwriter world. So it's a big problem.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah. You raise so many interesting things here.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: That's my job.
Isn't that why you asked me all the way from California?
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Exactly.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Girl with barely a high school education.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Have you--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: 840 combined on my SATs. Combined.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: It was a different test then.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: They gave you-- I won't tell you. But they gave you, what was it, 200 for writing your name?
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: So basically I had 400 already, and I had 840 combined. [LAUGHS]
And I met them financially.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: You should have seen--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Here's what I'm going to tell you. I once did a speech-- I once did a speech. I-- a lot. And I can make some good sense, I think. And for a long time, when I was trying to raise my youngest child, I would do speeches. You get paid to go and-- the world according to Jamie. And it's a good speech, and I've done it many, many times.
But I went-- I was hired by the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award to be their keynote on a Sunday right before the golf tournament. So every guy-- all guys, 95% white guys-- were wearing golf shirts sitting there with this look on their face like they couldn't believe they had to listen to me before they could go to the shotgun golf tournament. And what I'm going to tell you is I was sitting backstage, and I didn't know what I was going to say.
There was some expert on the stage before me, and I'm sitting backstage. I was like, what am I doing here? Why am I here? Oh, my goodness. And they called my name, and I went out. And I stood there in front of people like you, and--
Well, no. I'm not disparaging you. I'm saying a big group of people, a big group of people on a Sunday morning in Palm Springs, California. And I stood there and I said, I have no idea why I'm here. I don't even know if it's better to be in the red or the black. And from the back of the room, a guy shouted, if you're red, you're bleeding. And I went, oh. Now I know.
And I said to them, look, I really don't know why I'm here, but I promise you we'll figure it out by the end. And by the end of it-- it was like an hour of me-- by the end of it, here's what I said to them. And I say it to you, and I say it to you, at the end of the day, nobody cares how much money you have. At the end of the day, no one when you die is going to care that you were a titan of business and how much money you made.
What they're going to care about is who you were with that money. What did you do with it? How much of it did you give away? How much of it did you give to museums? How much of it did you help people who need help?
How did you treat your family? How did you treat your employees? How did you treat your assistant who was pregnant? And how were you a human in the world? That's what they will talk about when you're dead, not how much money you have. And that's why it doesn't matter that I had 840 combined. I'm at the Financial Times conference because ultimately what I am is a human being trying to figure it out just like all y'all.
And try to do it with a little humour. And I say the F-word a lot, and I'm going to try very hard to-- I've reined it in so far.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: It's OK. We can even publish that word now.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: You know what? You're the pink paper. I'm going to just not say the f-word if I can avoid it.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So let's talk a little bit about the business. Have you ever seen a moment where Hollywood was freaking out about so many things? Because we've got streaming, as you said. The cable business is kind of falling apart. You've got--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Over.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So it really feels to me that there's a lot going on. There's a lot to deal with. Have you seen these moments before in Hollywood, or is this one really unique?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: We were talking backstage. The name of this conference is Big Ideas. I spend my entire life on the daily talking about old ideas and new ideas. Everything, everything in my life in any area, is it an old idea that is past its old use? And is it a new idea and one that can enhance and expand my life? And I take that the answer to your question is it's an idea of new ideas.
Streaming was a new idea. It has transformed Hollywood. It has been very challenging for Hollywood. It's trying to figure itself out while this tidal wave of success has happened, and we're trying to figure it out. I'm my age. I've never been such a player as I am now. So I can't really speak to how the business was run back then, but I can tell you that the most important thing is this understanding between old ideas and new ideas.
And I try to look through a lens of old ideas versus new ideas every day. And so much so that I'm visiting my friends here in Washington, DC, who used to live in a house in Georgetown, and they've recently moved into an apartment in Georgetown because the house in Georgetown was an old idea. They raised their kids there, and the kids went to school. And now they no longer have young kids, and it was an old idea.
It worked for them then, and they took the decision correctly for a new idea, and it has given a new life to them, their relationship, the whole thing. I immediately left their apartment, I called my husband in California. I was like, honey, we have to talk, because I live in an old idea house.
I don't have grandchildren. That was the house I raised my small children in. What are my husband and I doing this house? It's an old idea, and it's not serving us. And I think we have to look as individuals as to what serves us now and be able to make these big changes.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: And you have a lot of new things going on right now. You've been saying that--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I'm a boss, baby.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: She's a boss.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Mommy became a boss.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: When did you become a boss?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Mommy became a boss-- by the way, it's also very dangerous. You've invited somebody here who refers to herself as mommy.
And it's kind of catching on. And so it's not good. I have to stop it.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: It's fine.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Yeah, I'll be dead soon. It's fine. It's all good. I turned 60. And I-- I turned 60, and I woke up and realised that I was going to die sooner than later. You do the actuarial tables, you look how-- seriously, you look how old your parents were, you look how old you are, and that ruler of time is much smaller.
And we can all go, no, no, no. It's just it is. And if you're not thinking that way, you're lying and you're in denial. If you're 65 years old, your mother died at 85, 80, 76, and your father was 85, tick tock, tick tock-- and I'm not talking about the thing that the kids use to get recipes. I'm talking about time, time, time, and the limit of time.
And I woke up at 60 and said, if not now, when? If not me, who? And everything in my life changed because I understood I'm a creative person. I write books for children. I'm a creative person. I live a creative life.
And I realised that all of those ideas that I've had in my head were going to die with me. That if I didn't express them into some form, that that's the tragedy of my death. Not that I'm dead. You're going to hear I'm dead. Oh, Jamie Lee Curtis died? Oh.
Oh. You're going to make that face, and then you're going to go, oh, I really liked her. I saw her. We saw her at the Kennedy Centre. She was great. She was funny, and she didn't say the f-word. I liked her. How old was she?
And then whatever age. And they'll go, oh. What are we having for dinner, honey? It's that fast, you guys. It's Instagram. It's that fast. And so I realised I better get it done. I had to-- like, it made me-- so I wrote a screenplay. I formed a company.
The success of the Halloween movies. I have never tried to turn that into something. I went to the people that run that company. I was going to make three movies for them. Those movies made a lot of money, and I said, I have ideas. I would like--
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: With Blumhouse.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: With Jason Blum. And they set me up with a company. I have gone out and hustled some projects. And I know it was announced, so I can actually say it out loud-- even though it was leaked-- that we're making a TV series out of the books by Patricia Cornwell, the Kay Scarpetta books. And Nicole Kidman is going to play Kay Scarpetta, and I'm going to play her sister, and we're going to make that for Amazon.
But that's what I'm telling you. Like, I went after it.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: And to interrupt you, this is a big deal. People have been trying to get these rights.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Oh, they've never made-- they've never turned one of her books into anything.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: And this is one of the biggest--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: And this is where I am putting a lot of my energy and focus into getting to do things. I wrote a screenplay. I'm hoping to direct it. I am hungry for this part of the show business experience. To be a producer, to be a partner. I have a very big deal that I can't talk about that I am feeling very much a partner in.
I can't talk about it because I'm not allowed to yet.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: I mean, we're among friends.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I know we're here, and it's all quiet, and nobody Tweets anything. I know. It's all good.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: And you've also-- you've done a graphic novel?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Well, I wrote a screenplay, and then the graphic novel is from the screenplay. Because I was in the middle of making these other movies, and it's too long, the story of why I found the artist Carl Stevens. But yes, it's being released in July. I have a bunch of movies that I've acted in that are coming out soon, so I have the Haunted Mansion movie. I-- did somebody just go like, wow?
Wow. Haunted Mansion fan. Look at you, mommy.
I play Madame Liotta, who's the woman in the crystal ball. If you've ever been on the ride at Disneyland, and there's the woman in the crystal ball.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: I saw a preview-- I saw a preview for this. It killed.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I think people are going to really like it.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: So I'm acting in things. I'm trying to produce things. I have a new book for children next year. I'm still married. I'm trying-- no, I'm saying I'm trying to-- I'm trying to really take advantage of all of the opportunities that I have right now. It's very important to me.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah. Somebody said that you've never had a creative burst like the one that you're having right now.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Never in my life, and never did-- I mean, I have been planning my retirement for 40 years, because show business is notorious for women over a certain age. You just don't get jobs. And so I'm one of those people. I want to leave the party before you ask me to leave or before you stop inviting me to the party.
I want to be the girl at the party who's in the middle of the party, and I go, oh, you know, I left something in my car. I'll be right back. And then I'm gone, and then you're like, where's Jamie? Where'd she go? I don't know?
That's what I wanted to do. I wanted to do it-- you have to remember, my parents, giant movie stars. Giant. Like kind of movie stars we don't see anymore. The impact that they had in the 50s was enormous. And I watched both of them lose their-- gesundheit. I watched both of them lose their careers.
And I mean their careers. The work that they love to do, people stopped asking them to do it. It's incredibly difficult when you're famous and you don't get to do the thing that makes you famous, but all people do is remind you you were famous for the thing you used to do, but you don't get to do it, anymore and you have to smile and say thank you the whole time.
I watched that. Both of my parents. I watched it. I watched them no longer get to do the thing they loved to do. And so I have been trying to take a couple of steps back because I didn't want to be that person.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Right. But was it in the back of your head the whole time? And you were trying to guide your career in a way so that that wouldn't happen?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Oh, guide my career. Guide my career. There is no guiding of a career. I don't-- I took every job I ever got.
Some of them turned out great. Some of them were horrible. I'm being totally straight with you. There is no plan. Like, I guarantee you, I didn't go, you know, I'm going to do this weird indie where I'm going to play the villain, and I'm going to set myself up to get an Oscar.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Oh, come on. You totally did.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Dude.
I almost said the F-word. And I didn't, because my friends are sitting in the front row and they were raised well. No, I didn't. Are you kidding?
Do you understand that when you see movies are being made and everybody has trailers, I'm sure you've seen those things where people have big motor homes, and that's where all the actors go, and they sit there and boom, boom. We didn't-- not only didn't we have trailers, we used offices in the abandoned building as where we change our clothes. There were no trailers-- I mean, it was made for nothing.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So glamorous.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: It was not glamorous. It was in Simi Valley. It was not glamorous. But I'm letting you know that it was, like, the last thing anybody involved with that movie thought was that they were going to make a movie that was going to change the world.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Wow. So what lessons did you learn from your parents? I heard you talk about your mum and her work ethic that--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Yeah.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Tell me a little bit about that.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I mean, I was raised-- by the way, my stepfather was a Marine. I still say, yes, sir, yes, ma'am to people all day long. I was raised very strict family. I was raised in a country environment, like a dirt road kind of country environment in Los Angeles in a canyon. I was not raised in a fancy house at all. It was not a fancy life at all regardless of my parents.
And my parents divorced when I was very young. Tony was off doing his thing. I barely knew him. Great talent and, you know, shitty dad but good talent. And I'm being honest-- I mean, I'm telling you right now. He was not interested in being a parent, and that's fine. So I was really raised by my stepfather, Bob, who started a business in the fourth market before computers ever existed where he and his business partner started a company with a card table and telephone books and two bulletin boards.
And it was the fourth market they were dealing in institutional trades. Big ones. And they would call, every day, rotary phones, two phones, card table, First Bank of Boston. Hi, who's in? My name is Robert Brandt. Robert Brandt and [INAUDIBLE] and Company. May I speak to the person in your institutional trading department? OK. Thank you.
Hi, there. My name is Robert Brandt. See. Are you looking to buy or sell any large blocks of trades? 50,000 shares or more. And they go, oh, yeah. Oh, we're looking to buy IBM. Oh, OK. Great. I'll let you know.
And then he would go First Bank of Boston, IBM, 50,000 shares, looking to buy. And then they called all day long. And then he would ultimately match game, find somebody who's selling 50,000 shares of IBM, put them together, take a percentage. That's how my stepfather made his living. And I watched that happen.
So I'm raised by a conservative businessman who worked very hard, did very well. Obviously, the internet changed a lot of that business and ultimately killed that business. But preinternet, that was how you got it done. And so I was raised in a very sort of conservative-- I'm a very good girl. I have very good manners.
You know, I'm that person.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah. And you've talked about your mum and she had an ethic or a--
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: A work ethic?
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Well, she was just a professional. My mother was from nothing. My mother was from nothing. Both my parents were from incredibly meagre backgrounds. My mother, for those of you who may or-- you're probably way too young-- my mother was discovered by Norma Shearer. Norma Shearer was a silent film star. My grandfather, Fred Morrison, was the night manager at a ski resort in, like, Big Bear, California.
And on his desk was a picture of his daughter, Jeanette, that he had taken. And Norma shear, who was married to a ski racer, was staying at this motel. And as she was checking out, she said, who's that? And he said, that's my daughter. And she goes, oh, she's lovely. May I have that picture?
And she took that picture to California. She gave it to Lew Wasserman, who was running Universal. They called her to come to Los Angeles, and she ended up screen testing with Van Johnson, who for people who don't know who that was-- many of you-- basically the Tom Cruise of his day. The Ryan Gosling of his day.
That's how big a star he was. And she got the lead in a movie opposite him and became an actress. They changed her name from Jeanette Morrison to Janet Leigh, and she became an actress. So her work ethic was she was the luckiest girl alive.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah. Hand delivered photo.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: And every single day of her life she felt was the lucky-- she was the luckiest. She wrote a book, a wonderful book that she wrote about her life, and it was called, There Really Was a Hollywood. She was head in the clouds not interested in the business issues. She was grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful her whole life.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Wow. Can we shift a little bit to politics? Do you mind?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Now you're flirting, but go for it.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: So we with FT and personally, I've been writing a lot about Disney and Ron DeSantis and all of these things. I know that you are also a parent of a trans child, and we'd just love to hear your perspective on this environment.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: It's a terrible environment, and it's getting worse and worse every day all around the country. It's just a shocking, shocking moment, and I'm not going to say it's unexpected. But there's a book by Richard Rorty called Inventing Our Country that he wrote as part of the Massey lectures, and he talks about-- and I would pull it up, but I can't because I don't have my phone with me-- he talks about this understanding of MAGA.
I don't even need to say somebody's name, but the MAGA movement. And he talks about that all of the progress for Black and Brown Americans, for gay people, for women, that as he-- and I quote him, jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion when the strong man, when this bully is elected, and it came true. And I remember when that election was happening, the Richard Rorty quote was kind of brought up a lot as a sort of a bell that was rung.
I think it was in the '60s. And it's happening, and it's happening everywhere. There's this terrible fear mongering that is taking place, and we are America. We are America. This is a country of freedom. Freedom of expression, freedom to be who we are, and they are criminalising it in a horrible way. And we just have to, all of us-- not if you don't agree with me. You don't have to, although I will come find you and I will convince you to join us-- because we are all born to manifest our destiny, and we have the right to exist.
This is a country. We hold these truths to be self-evident. We are equal, be we gay, trans, Black, Brown. I mean, it is just-- it's insane that we are using these beautiful people as some sort of terrible, terrible fear mongering and danger to society, and it's awful. And Ron DeSantis-- I'm sorry-- is awful, and-- I'm sorry, he's awful. And God bless Disney.
God bless them for starting to really say, watch it, buddy. Because I recently read that article about them pulling back on the building of that $18 billion complex. Money talks, and I don't think he's going to have a shot at trying to be president of the United States. And he is-- this is all he has, and he's sort of going all in with it. And it's not the way the country feels.
I know that for sure. It's not the way this country feels. It is a really mean minority of people who want to criminalise not only trans people, but come on, it's awful. It's awful. It's awful. It's awful.
It's an awful, awful time. It's awful. I mean, drag shows.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Right.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Drag shows. It's an art form. It's so beautiful. It's been around forever. What I'm hoping is, like, are they going to come and arrest me because I'm wearing a suit? Like, if I wear a suit some-- a woman on TikTok-- I pay attention to what's going on the Tik and the Tok-- like, drew on a moustache, and she said, I can be arrested in the state of Florida because I have drawn a moustache on my face. That's where we are right now. Scary times.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: I think-- do we have time for a question from the audience? One or two?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Silence. Look, it's like-- there's somebody in the way back. I'm looking at you. I see your hand up. Yes, wherever you are.
AUDIENCE: I saw two of your best films in Omaha a couple of weeks ago at the Berkshire Museum.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: [LAUGHS] Yes, you did.
AUDIENCE: Why do you have a crush on Charlie Munger?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: [LAUGHS] What a great question. So for all y'all that don't understand, Charlie Munger and I are a bit of an item. My husband understands. He really does. I met them years and years ago, and there's just been a sort of ongoing thing that Charlie Munger thinks I'm cute. And I did a movie many years ago for their Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting, the annual meeting.
And about four or five months ago, I got a call from Warren Buffett, and he said that they were going to do a movie for this year and would I come. Could I come and shoot it with him? And I said, absolutely. What are we doing? He said, well the whole idea is that because of Halloween and Knives Out that I have a knife company and I want you to be the face of it.
And I'm going to try to convince you to be the spokesperson. And I said, OK, great. And can I just talk about Charlie the whole time? And he said, yeah. So I flew to Omaha. And I'm in my little slutty negligee-- you know, negligee, and-- oh, come on.
It was a negligee. But you know what I mean. And there's a knock-- and it's supposed to be my house, and then there's a knock on the door. I opened the door, and it's Warren holding a briefcase. Suit. Goes, hi, Jamie. I'm like, oh, right. Warren, right? Buffett. What's the name of your company?
Berkshire Hathaway. It's a terrible name. Warren, that's a terrible name for a company, Berkshire Hathaway. But call it The Munger Company. And so it became a whole thing where he wants me to do this, and all I kept saying to him is, well, will Charlie Munger be at the shoot when we're shooting the commercial? And he goes, well, yeah, but so will I.
I'm like, yeah, no. I understand-- anyway, I sort of disparaged Warren and flirted with Charlie. And then it ends with a phone ringing, and it's Charlie. And he's talking to him, and I grab the phone and go inside and flirt with Charlie Munger, and Warren stands outside by himself. And it was my great pleasure. I think he's a wonderful man. I love who he is, how he is, what he stands for.
He has a wonderful foundation that Susie and he run, and they support lots of women's causes, and they're just wonderful people. And so thank you for being there and noticing that I was in their movie. And it was a big thrill for me to do it.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: I love that you're on Warren Buffett's speed dial. It's just-- [CLICKS]
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: What can I say?
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah. Any others? Have we got any others?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: It's very-- oh, front.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: In the front.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Look it. You can probably just say it out loud.
AUDIENCE: I think they require this.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Oh, OK. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: This has been wonderful. Perfect ending to a great day. You made me think, the FT has this section where they ask a correspondent or a writer to do an imaginary lunch, or an imaginary dinner guest, I think actually is. And I was thinking, wow, you'd be a fantastic guest.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Thank you. What a nice compliment. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Mine is not going to be a great question like the gentleman at the back. You mentioned children's books, the graphic novel. Have you ever thought of turning that-- here's a project idea, maybe. Have you ever thought of turning that into an animated film?
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Yeah. Maybe. Maybe. I mean, the graphic novel could ultimately be an amazing animated film. It's called Mother Nature. It's about-- it's bad. It's about what we've done to the world. I thought you were going to ask me who was my dream table mates, and I was going, like, Greta Thunberg. Like, all of a sudden I was, like, Warren Buffett. Like, can I say one thing about the FT?
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Yeah.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: I have one FT story for you quickly. I promise it'll be brief. I hate that we wrap Christmas presents. I hate it. We all have our pet peeve. I hate it. I hate that we buy all this paper, and then we wrap these things, and then people rip it all apart and don't even look at it, and then throw it away.
I hate it. And so for years and years and years and years, I won't allow wrapping paper in my house, and I use newspapers. And Martha Stewart asked me on to her talk show to do an episode with Martha Stewart. And I said-- it was around Christmas time, I said, great. The only way I want to do it, though, is I want to show people at home how you can wrap things in newspaper and not use wrapping paper.
And I showed up on the day for this appearance with Martha Stewart, and she's Martha Stewart. And she's got all this stuff, this [INAUDIBLE] of stuff out. But all of the papers were the Financial Times. And she said because it's pink, it will make a much better wrapping. So that is my answer for you.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Great.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: That is my answer for you. Thank you.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Jamie Lee Curtis.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: You're lovely.
CHRISTOPHER GRIMES: Thank you so much. It was wonderful.
JAMIE LEE CURTIS: Oh, we have to go that way. Thanks a lot, you guys.