HOLLYWOOD: She is Hollywood royalty, the daughter of two legendary actors. She became a scream queen for the ages in the “Halloween” films and did a sexy striptease for Arnold Schwarzenegger in”True Lies.” Now, Jamie Lee Curtis is an Oscar winner.
The 64-year-old Curtis on Sunday took home her first Academy Award on her first nomination for playing a surly tax auditor investigating laundromat owner Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh) in the mind bending “Everything Every-where All at Once.” After nearly 50 years on the big and small screen, it was certainly a crowning moment, and one that her famous parents — nominees Janet Leigh (“Psycho”) and Tony Curtis (“The Defiant Ones”) — never achieved. “I just won an Oscar!” she said tearfully at the end of her speech, in which she paid tribute to her parents, her husband and children, fans and colleagues.
Curtis is the one notable non Asian star in the film’s ensemble and one of four Academy Award nominees along with Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, who was also in Curtis’ category. Quan was also a winner on Sunday.
As IRS agent Deirdre Beaubeirdre (Curtis) reels off all the mistakes that Evelyn has made on her taxes, the characters are all swept into an epic battle across multiple universes to save humanity from a powerful villain. Curtis, who was known earlier in her career as “The Body” for her slender physique, subverts that image in her “Everything” turn as the paunchy Deirdre, who sports a frumpy bob, a mustard turtleneck and a lemon yellow sweater vest.
“I’ve been sucking my stomach in since I was 11, when you start being conscious of boys and bodies, and the jeans are super tight,” she wrote on Instagram in 2022. “I very specifically decided to relinquish and release every muscle I had that I used to clench to hide the reality. That was my goal.
I have never felt more free creatively and physically.” Throughout the course of the film, the lonely IRS agent has an epic fight scene with Yeoh’s character, sprouts hot dog fingers, and ends up in one universe as Yeoh’s lover. It’s a gonzo, no-holds-barred performance from an actor who has been working since her late teens. “I loved Deirdre because I know how lonely she is and I know how forgotten she is. I understood what a garden exists inside her,” Curtis told The Washington Post.
Curtis bested a field of nominees that included Golden Globe winner Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forver), Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”), Hong Chau (“The Whale”) and her own costar Hsu. Curtis won the Screen Actors Guild award in the run-up to the Oscars.
Curtis was born in the Los Angeles area in November 1958, but her parents divorced just a few years later, and she was raised by her mother and stock broker stepfather. After an itinerant high school life that ended at an elite East Coast boarding school, Curtis managed only one semester at college before dropping out to pursue acting.
Her film debut came as heroine Laurie Strode in the 1978 horror film “Halloween” — a major box office success that would spawn multiple sequels. Producer Debra Hill admitted she hired Curtis because her
mother had starred in Hitch-cock’s “Psycho,” dying at the hands of Norman Bates in the infamous shower scene. But while it was perhaps a bit of stunt casting, it would become one of Curtis’ most iconic roles, one that she reprised most recently in the 2022 film “Halloween Ends.”