In youth-obsessed Hollywood, where the dearth of good roles for women over 28 is a constant lament, it’s a ballsy move to admit your age at all—let alone revel in it. But Curtis is seeking something bigger than her next acting job. She wants to feel at peace with her flaws, her genes. “Demystifying has been a real goal for me,” she says. “For myself, as well as on a public level.”
To be sure, her acting career has slowed down. Last year, she got good reviews for her role in The Tailor of Panama, with Pierce Brosnan; she also appears in Billy Bob Thornton’s Daddy and Them, set for release next year. Since then, however, she’s been absent from the big screen, save for a cameo in this summer’s Halloween: Resurrection, the series’ eighth installment. In this film, her character is finally killed off—a plot point that seems to fill Curtis with relief. “Laurie Strode is dead,” she says happily. “And I never have to be in another sequel again.”
The timing couldn’t be better. As the Scream Queen exits, the Self-Esteem Queen is poised for her entrance. And Curtis has chosen this magazine as the place to reveal herself. Literally.
“I’m trying really hard to take the veil off the fraud, to be real, to start with me,” she tells me over lunch the day before she will pose in her skivvies. We are in the dining room of the sunny, comfortable four-bedroom Spanish-style home that the actress shares with her husband, satirist and film director Christopher Guest, and their two children. It is, Curtis points out, a house that she and Guest bought with their own money. Contrary to what many people assume, she’s never received financial support from her famous family.
“In the recovery program I’m in [for addiction problems], they talk about peeling an onion, exposing more layers,” she says. The myth of the perfect Jamie is, she confides, something she “actively participated in—and, by the way, profited from. Now, I’m sitting here high on my hill, debunking the very foundation that I sit on. Don’t think I’m not afraid of it. I’m not financially independent enough that I don’t rely on outside income still.”
“But it’s just money. It isn’t love,” she continues, observing that not one of the many close girlfriends who make up her “Estrogen Posse” works in the movie industry. “That’s what I have to remember,” she explains. “I don’t have any dear friends from the movie business. It’s my job. I do it well, I worked hard, I made some money, I saved some money. You know, I didn’t let it go to my head. I knew that it was going to have an end point.”
This is not the first time that Curtis’ work has led her to make changes in her life. In 1999, after writing her third book, Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, it occurred to her that, even as she was urging kids to pay attention to their feelings, she had difficulty expressing her own. The result: She quit drinking and ended a lengthy addiction to painkillers that she said began when she was recovering from plastic surgery. Yes, that’s right: Curtis is a veteran of the nip-and-tuck.
“I’ve done it all,” she says, breaking yet another unwritten Hollywood rule: Never fess up. “I’ve had a little plastic surgery. I’ve had a little lipo. I’ve had a little Botox. And you know what? None of it works. None of it.”
Curtis leans forward in her chair. “Ten years ago, before anybody did that, I had fat taken from underneath my eyes because I was on a movie and I was puffy,” she says. “And I remember the cameraman saying, ‘I can’t shoot her now.’ I remember being mortified. And yet, you know what? Nobody tells you if you take fat from your body in one place, it comes back in another place. All of these ‘bettering’ experiences are not without risk. And there is this illusion that once you do it, then you’ll be fine. And that’s just horseshit. I looked worse. Worse. Am I right?”