Jamie Lee Curtis is an actress, producer, author, activist—and a Walker & Dunlop investor since 2010. On this episode of the Walker Webcast, she and Willy talk about everything from living up to her famous parents' legacy, the inside scoop about the leading men she's worked with, what she values most in life, and so much more.
For this episode of the Walker Webcast, Willy welcomes multihyphenate screen icon and friend Jamie Lee Curtis, and they have much to talk about.
The conversation starts off with Jamie talking about her family and their influence on her life and approach to living. Her mother was actress Janet Leigh, whose extensive career included movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. Jamie talks about how her mother came from nothing to become both a glamorous star and an empathetic, people-centered voice for her husband’s business.
A less familiar name to listeners is Robert Brandt. This was Jamie’s stepfather and Leigh’s husband for 43 years. Jamie shares how Bob taught her the value of saving money, a good handshake, and keeping her word.
Over a decades-long career, Jamie has become a star in her own right. In light of her fame, Willy asks about her generosity toward others, something she’s become known for over the years. How did she develop this side of herself?
Jamie credits this aspect of her personality to Bob and Janet. They shaped her to care about people as people. By focusing on meaningful relationships, she says, she’s better able to handle the reality of fame, specifically that fame remains even after what makes a person famous goes away.
Her advice to the next generation? Be careful with social media. It’s poison to young people, she says. Her own approach to social media’s messy relational dynamic is to say her part and get out. No reading the comments!
Because no interview with a film star is complete without talking about movies, the conversation shifts to Jamie’s career, starting with the horror classic Halloween. This was her first big role and only came about because she was fired from another project, she says.
Since then, Jamie’s been in films alongside actors such as John Travolta, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Eddie Murphy, and Dan Aykroyd. (Willy mentions that he recently showed his sons Trading Places.) But the main leading man in her life has been her husband of 38 years Christopher Guest, known for comedies such as This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, and Waiting for Guffman. They couldn’t be more opposite in terms of temperament, Jamie says, but after what she calls a crazy start, their love has endured.
The conversation then turns to James Cameron: Why is he so good at what he does? Jamie walks through an example from True Lies: how the famous director made poor lighting during filming work in the final product. She also talks with Willy about the Emmy-nominated 1989-1992 sitcom Anything But Love and her recent role in Everything Everywhere All at Once. In the 2022 sci-fi action comedy, she plays an IRS agent thwarting Michelle Yeoh’s attempts to save her family’s laundromat and the multiverse.
As she approaches her 64th birthday this year, Jamie says she’s at a personal high point. She says she’s busier, more successful, more relevant, and more in her mind and spirit than ever before—and that this self-knowledge has led to Live Like You’re Dead and Die Alive. It’s not a new self-help book she’s on the webcast to plug, she explains to Willy, but rather a philosophy on living with a great title. And it all goes back to generosity. Generosity makes us feel alive. So why wait until you’re dead to give back to the ones you love? Live with generosity while you’re still here.
00:49 - Willy welcomes Jamie Lee Curtis
03:50 - Business and life lessons from Jamie's parents and her early life
08:39 - Working with her mother, Janet Leigh, and the downsides of fame
10:22 - Jamie's viewpoint on social media
16:39 - Living like you're dead and dying alive
20:01 - Blumhouse, "Halloween," and being a final girl
28:59 - Going after what you want
29:38 - A touching experience with John Travolta
31:01 - Filming kiss scenes and "Everything Everywhere All At Once."
35:23 - Doing sitcoms and working with James Cameron
35:48 - Arnold Schwarzenegger and filming for "True Lies."
51:38 - Jamie Lee Curtis' parting message
Willy Walker: To my friend, Jamie Lee Curtis as she comes up — here's my introduction. My dad gave me this idea for the intro. Jamie's been coming to the Sun Valley for decades, and there was a fundraiser that my parents were holding at their house for the Wilderness Society. Jamie decides she's going to come to this fundraiser at my parents’ house and they didn't know one another, maybe they had met once before. She walks into my parents’ house, and my parents in their living room had these wonderful old National Geographic, some of the first flash photography ever taken of these deer around a lake in a natural setting, and it was very cutting edge, and they were taken in 1898 or 1902, right around the turn of the last century. And Jamie, who is an artist and also loves photography, is sitting there admiring these beautiful photographs. My mom walks in, and Jamie turns around and says, “Hi, I'm Jamie Lee Curtis” My mom says, “Hi, Diana Walker, welcome!” Jamie turned to the photographs and said, “Beautiful photographs. Did you take them?” To which my mother said, “I f*cking hate you” (pardon my language) but that was the beginning of the relationship between Jamie and my mother, which has lasted for decades and has had our two families be extremely close. It is an incredible pleasure for me to have Jamie come on the stage.
I'm trying to stall here because I don't really know where this conversation is going to go. I control the dialog now and in about 30 seconds you're going to see I lose complete control of it. But Jamie, please come join me.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Hi everyone, good morning! This isn't intimidating at all. At all. Wow. You go big, Willy. Yeah, can we just discuss how much, what's your market cap thing? Let's see. It's a big number, right? Yeah. Give it. Throw it out.
Willy Walker: I don't. I don't honestly know what it is.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Yours. Just some big number? Give me a ballpark.
Willy Walker: No, I don't know where it is today, but it's. It's somewhere between $3 to $5 billion.
Jamie Lee Curtis: $3.2 billion and this is what they give you? (Everybody laughs.) Now, let me just say, if you guys come to my house for anything, I'm going to feed you and give you something more than a peppermint. Sorry.
Willy Walker: So now you all see why I was trying to buy time before you came on to the stage. So, Jamie, back up to 2010, and I'm on my IPO roadshow. And you say, “Are you going to Kansas City?” And I say, “I am going to Kansas City.” And you say, “Would you go meet with my money manager and pitch Walker & Dunlop to him? He runs a very successful mutual fund called Buffalo Funds.” I go in. I don't impress him. He decides he doesn't want to invest in Walker & Dunlop. To which you say, “I'm going to invest $1,000,000 in Walker & Dunlop's IPO.” How'd that turn out for you?
Jamie Lee Curtis: Pretty darn well. Pretty darn well. Just so you know, I'm an actress and I'm not a businesswoman. Although I was raised by a businessman, an ex-Marine named Bob Brandt, who brought me and my mother to Sun Valley, Idaho, when I was a kid, I was telling some of your friends about how moving it was for me to walk around here earlier because I was a little early that Sun Valley was invented for family. You didn't need to rent a car. You would come here. And I'm telling you, from the age of seven on, I was alone from 7:30 in the morning until 7:00 at night. We would go by ourselves to Dollar Mountain on a ski bus. We would come back, change our clothes, go to the pool, go to the bowling alley, charge dinner. And then we had to be back in our room by 7:30. This is an idyllic place for you to bring people. I'm sure you guys are getting that feeling. Come back here with your families. It's really special and I spent my life growing up here.
Anyway, I was raised by a businessman, but I'm not a businesswoman. The only thing I've ever learned is to save every penny you've ever made. And I've done so. Other than that, my stepfather, Bob Brant, was an ex-Marine and self-made man. He started a business in the fourth market with a business friend of his, where literally they had two card tables, rotary phones, and telephone books for every major city. They started a company, way pre-Internet, where they would call First Bank of Boston and go, “Hi, this is Robert Brandt of Brandt Zwick and Company. We are dealing in institutional trading, big block trading. Are you looking to buy or sell any big blocks? I think it was 50,000 shares or more. And they go, Yeah, we're looking for IBM. And then you go, okay, great. They go on a board and write First Bank of Boston wants to buy 50,000 shares of IBM. And then as you can guess later, somebody is saying they're selling 50,000 shares of IBM and they would call them make a match, take a percentage. And that's how he made his money. Two card tables, rotary phones, telephone books, made a lot of money.
Willy Walker: But you've told me before that you used to see Bob when he would go to conferences, and he would go through and go…
Jamie Lee Curtis: But no, no, you're right. I'll let you talk. No, no, no. Because you remind me of him.
Willy Walker: Ah, you haven't said that before.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Oh, you remind me of him. Why do you think I like you so much?
Willy Walker: All right but go to your thing about Bob.
Jamie Lee Curtis: So, Bob Brandt was married to Janet Leigh – my mother. My mother was a very famous woman. Gorgeous. I'm sure some of you know. Weirdly enough, many of you younger people probably don't know her. She was the woman who starred in the movie Psycho. She was this gorgeous, gorgeous woman and a beautiful person and she married a businessman, and they would go to these business conferences. This is where Brandt Zwick and Company would go to Boston and have dinner, and my mother and father would travel with flash cards, and they would memorize every member of the family of the person. So, if it was the Walkers and he was going to run into Willy Walker, they would write:
Parents: Mallory Walker, Diana Walker
Children: Charlie, Jack, and Wyatt Walker
And then when Willy Walker would walk into the conference room, Janet Leigh would see his name on his shirt and go, “Willy, how is Diana? Tell me where Wyatt, Jack, and Charlie in school” and all of these businesspeople would be so shocked that Janet Leigh, this famous movie star, knew their wives’ names, their parents’ names, their children's names, what school they went to. I learned that from him. I am that person in my life. I immediately go and meet someone. I met a woman here today, are you here? Someone whose child goes to Ole Miss?
Willy Walker: They left.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Wow. I guess I didn't make much of an impression. But that's who I am. Who you are, where you're from. I met a marine. Where is my Marine? Right in the back. Because he heard me talking about being raised by a marine. That's who I am. Like all of the fluffy parts of me and I have fluffy parts. The thing that you need to know is I was raised by a marine, and he taught me that your handshake is your signature, that you look someone in the eye and that you keep your word.
Willy Walker: But on that, Jamie, I mean, you got 4.5 million Instagram followers. I want to get down to why it is and how it is that you live the life that you live because it's always inbound at you. There are always people who want to come talk to you. They want to meet with you. They want to take a selfie, what have you. And you are one of the most generous people I know as it relates to understanding other people and what’s important in their lives. Obviously, there’s a limit to the ecosystem of friends that you are capable of doing that on. But all of us have limits on the ecosystem, but you have that incredible sense of giving. Did that come from Janet? Did that come from Bob or somewhere else?
Jamie Lee Curtis: That’s a great point. I think it came from both of them. I think it was that interesting combo platter of Janet Leigh, who came from nothing. Nothing – Merced, California. Poor, young people. My mother was discovered by Norma Shearer, the movie star. The silent film star was staying at a, she was married to a skier, a man named Martin Arrouge and they were staying at a motel in Big Bear, California. And my grandfather was the night manager, and he had a picture of my mother on his desk. When Norma Shearer was checking out, she said, “Who's that?” And he said, “My daughter.” And she said, “Oh, she's lovely. May I have that photograph?” And she took it to Hollywood, and they called Janet Leigh. And Janet Leigh was brought to Hollywood and screen tested for who today would be Tom Cruise. It was Van Johnson back in the day, big movie star. And she got the lead in a movie opposite Tom Cruise and changed her name and became Janet Leigh. So, my mother came from nothing. And I think the combination of that, marrying a businessman who is you – he was an athlete, a family man, dedicated to his family, brilliant in business.
Willy Walker: You can keep going. (Everyone laughs.)
Jamie Lee Curtis: My point is, I think the combo platter of them - my mother was charitable. My mother worked very hard for charities. And all I want is for people to relate, Willy. The truth of the matter is, you talk about social media, which is a poison for young people, by the way. It's deadly for young people. For me, I use it to sell things, but ultimately, what else are we doing on the internet? What else is it for? To tell you who I am, my feelings, whatever? No. I want you to relate to me as a person. That's my goal in my life. I don't care if you like a movie I’m in, don't like a movie I'm in. If I have to believe that you see me and what I stand for, you relate to me. And I hope you relate to it in a positive way. And if you relate to it in a negative way, that's okay. This is America. That's the goal of America, you're allowed to have your opinion of me. But I stand for something. And I think social media has to be about standing for something, whether or not people like people. I'll have people call me. I don't know. It doesn't matter. There were some hearings yesterday. They were interesting. People were very forthcoming. There were some amazing photographs. Your great mother…
Willy Walker: Was about to call her my great grandmother, but that’s ok.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Thank you, Willy. I said, your great mother is a great photojournalist and there are great photojournalists working today. And yesterday were some great images. Frank Thorp, and I posted them. I will have friends call me and they'll go, “Oh, hi,” I'll say “Hi.”
“How are you doing?”
“What do you mean? I'm great.”
“You didn't look? Oh, you didn't read the comments?”
And of course, I'm getting trolled by people who disagree with me, which is the American way. You can disagree with me. I don't care. Here's my goal for social media. Don't read the comments, period. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Don't say it mean. And then get the f*ck out. And let them all freak out.
Willy Walker: So. So, you're talking about your mom, and you did one movie together. The Fog.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Oh, Willy.
Willy Walker: Right?
Jamie Lee Curtis: Yes.
Willy Walker: And how was it acting with your mom?
Jamie Lee Curtis: You know, honestly, it was sweet. People loved having her there. It's no different than when people talk to you about your dad and the company he built.
Willy Walker: Right.
Jamie Lee Curtis: That's how it feels to be the daughter of someone. You are the son. There they are. They're watching. Your dad gave you your opening. You know how it feels. You have great pride. You feel daunted by the legacy, and then you need to get stuff done. And in a modern way. That's what you're doing, and that's what I'm doing. And I honor my parents, but I honor them by trying to be the best. You know, that's all we're here for, to try to be the best people we are.
Willy Walker: But there are plenty of people who grew up in obscurity and became famous, and then there are people who were born into stardom and became obscure. You are somebody who was born into stardom and have maintained it throughout your career.
Jamie Lee Curtis: I'm very lucky.
Willy Walker: That's unique.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Yes, very unique. Here's what I will tell you. I was raised by two very, very popular movie stars. By the way, I wasn't raised by my father, but he was a very, very popular movie star. Fame. It's not unlike sports. Who here has seen that championship season? Who here was a great high school or college sports star, and you spend the rest of your life remembering what it was like to be a great high school or college sports star? When you're famous and you become famous in the movies for whatever reason – we have no idea why people become famous. People like something. There's chemistry, a moment in time where something catches and then all of a sudden you're the thing and you're like ooooh! The saddest thing is when you don't get to do it anymore, you know, fame doesn't disappear. Fame stays with you. But what made you famous goes away. And I watched my parents both lose the very thing that made them famous – the art. They didn't get to be in the movies anymore. They didn't get to do that job. You are going to get to do this job your dad retired at some point way late in his life. You're going to have the same thing. You're not going to get kicked out. We hope.
Willy Walker: We hope. (Everyone laughs)
Jamie Lee Curtis: But my point is, in show business, you don't determine it. They just don't call you anymore. And it's heartbreaking. So, I have always been with one foot out of showbiz, what I call show off business. I've had one foot out because I don't want to be asked to leave. If I'm going to leave, I'm going to leave before you ask me. That's who I am. And so, I've dealt with that on both sides. And yet, at the same time, this is my Beatles birthday year. I'm going to be 64 years old this year. And I am busier, more successful, more relevant, more in my own mind and in my own spirit and in my own knowing what in fact I need to do in this world before I die than I have ever been and I am 64 years old, and I started when I was 19 years old. Who knows how that happened? But I mean, it is a miracle, and it is rare. It is very rare. And it was very sad for me to watch, you know, the Paul Simon song, “You Can Call Me Al” and there's that line, I don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard. I don't want to end up a cartoon in a cartoon graveyard. I want to die alive. My new self-help book that I'm writing and announcing here at the Walker & Dunlop conference.
Willy Walker: I told you, we're going to break news.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Has no words to the book, it just has a great title. (Everyone laughs) You haven't heard the title yet: Live Like You're Dead and Die Alive. I mean, live like you're dead. Meaning be generous like you're going to be when you're dead. We all have our estate planning, all of us. Even if you're just starting out in life, you're already starting to think about estate planning. I've built wealth. I've saved every penny I've ever made. I'm the idiot savant of real estate. You think I'm lying? TV money is that kind of money that you hear people make, I don't make TV money. I make movie money; I work hard for it. TV money is that crazy money? People think we have TV money because of where we live. Anyway, here's the book title – I told you the book title, so we're done. All right.
But my point is, give your money away when you're alive. Don't wait till you're dead. Enjoy that and die alive. Die alive. Do not die dead. Dying dead is that you've lost life before you've lost life. And how many of us know people who've lost that spark of living? And I don't want to die dead. I want to die fully alive, fully in my mind, fully in my body, fully in my need to try to make this world my part in it, manifest my destiny so that I can leave a little bit of goodness in the world before I go. And so all of the rest of it, the showoff business part of it, which is interesting to some people, and I'm happy to answer anything. But the truth of the matter is, that's not why I'm here. And it's not why you're here, Willy. It's not why you decided to take over your dad's business and change it and shape it and lead it into a new time.
Willy Walker: So…
Jamie Lee Curtis: Right?
Willy Walker: Correct. I told you this is going to go the other way. (Laughs)
Jamie Lee Curtis: Let's be alive here today.
Willy Walker: I want to stay on these real issues. But I do also want to touch a little bit on the career because there are certain pieces to it. I know. I know. So, all of your movies, if you had the box office up, is over $2.3 billion of box office sales.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Not too bad. (Laughs)
Willy Walker: Not too bad.
Jamie Lee Curtis: And I only know this number because I went with Jason Blum, who runs Blumhouse Productions, who should be one of your speakers one year, because I sent you his Vassar commencement address. He's a really interesting young entrepreneur who started a company, Blumhouse. They did get out and he's a fantastic guy. But he and I spoke at the 25th anniversary of the Global Milken Conference a month ago and the moderator opened her thing, saying how much money the movies that I've been. (It's not like I walk around with a t-shirt on going like three whatever billion dollars.) That's just not. But I found it interesting, and I knew it was a business conference. You guys are businesspeople. You're in the business. The business. (Everyone laughs.)
Willy Walker: The business. All right. So, when you started out, your mom was in Psycho and then your big first role was in Halloween. Yes. And it was only because you got fired from Operation Petticoat that you were able to actually do Halloween.
Jamie Lee Curtis: So, for anybody here who has ever been fired and thought it was the end of your life, it isn't. I was fired from a show, along with other people. And had I not been fired from a show that then got canceled a month later, I would never have been able to audition for a movie that turned out to change my life. Just so you know, On the film Halloween, I was paid $8,000 at $2,000 a week for four weeks. And the movie was made in 17 days, and it was made for $300,000 total. And it ended up becoming a very successful, independent film. And then over the years, I've now made a bunch of those movies ending with a big finale this October called Halloween Ends, which is the end of this current trilogy of films which are wildly successful. And I am what they call a “final girl''. I was the OG final girl, Laurie Strode. And this last movie is a movie about Laurie Strode finally taking on her nemesis, Michael Myers, in a sort of battle to the death. It's intense and spectacular.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Is there anything fundamentally different between making a horror film and making a non-horror film like Trading Places, True Lies, or other action films that you've been in?
Jamie Lee Curtis: None. Zero. It's stickier, blood is sticky. Fake blood is really sticky. The truth of the matter is, it's just a dark, emotional place they have to live in for a long time. And I'm sort of done, as you can tell, now you've spent 15 minutes with me, I'm not a dark person. I wake up like this.
Willy Walker: All right. Talking about Spinal Tap you were in in 1987.
Jamie Lee Curtis: (buzzer sound by Jamie)
Willy Walker: Tell me how far off from 1987 I am.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Three years?
Willy Walker: 1985
Jamie Lee Curtis: 1984? Seven. By the way, this is a business conference. I got the f*cking math right, so come on. Jesus. Willy? Wow, and I've never seen him blush.
Willy Walker: My old CFO Steve as well as my new CFO Greg, they're both in their room. And says that's exactly right. That seven minus three is perfect.
Jamie Lee Curtis: My husband, my now husband, my first husband, I was in 1984, was in a movie called This Is Spinal Tap, which I’m sure some of you have seen. If not, it’s a classic. Perfect. I played an aerobics instructor.
Willy Walker: With John Travolta?
Jamie Lee Curtis: With John Travolta in August, this was in June. I said, no, I have to get back to look good in a leotard. I have to do a lot of them (workouts). And I took him to the airport, and I dropped him at the curb, kissed him at the curb, said goodbye. He left. I went and picked up Melanie Griffith and her then husband, Steven Bauer, in West Hollywood. We went to a restaurant called Hugo's, right down the street from where we both used to. I lived in West Hollywood, and I sat down and two tables facing me as far away as you are (pointing) was Chris sitting at a table. He looked at me and he went like this. And I sitting there looking at him and went like this. And then I did this. “Oh, my God, there's this guy. I called him and I left my number and I said, Oh my, I'm so embarrassed. Oh, my God. And he got up to leave. 5 minutes later, he stood at the table, and he went like this. Didn’t come over and I sat at the table, and I went (shrugged), and he left. But he called me the next day, that was June 28th. We went out on July 2nd on a date. We went to Chianti Restaurant in Hollywood, and I had a Caesar salad because that's all I was eating, because I had to be in a leotard for three months. And he was leaving to go do Saturday Night Live for a year. August 8th is when he was leaving. This was July 2nd. We fell in love. He left to go to New York. We've been back and forth every weekend. I think September 13th or something we got engaged with this very ring. He came back. He gave me a ring. I was like, what's that? He couldn't speak. He was sweet. He’s not that guy. And he finally said, “Well, I was hoping maybe we could get married.” I was like, “Okay.” Anyway, we got married. We got engaged September 13th and we got married December 18th, that year, 38 years ago this year. So, I'm telling you, go after what you want people. Life is short. And if you see something that you want, say it. Say what you mean, say it. If I hadn't said that my life would never be the life I have today. We've raised two kids up here in Sun Valley, Idaho, partly. We live in Los Angeles. It's a beautiful life. It's a hard thing. Marriage is hard. But you know what? We're doing it. So, is that what you want me to mention?
Willy Walker: That's exactly what I wanted you to say. It's a great story. So other than Chris, who is the leading man in your life, you've also had lots of other leading men in roles, in films you've done. Look at John Travolta, Mel Gibson…
Jamie Lee Curtis: John Travolta, who, by the way, if you saw the Oscars this last year, I was there as a presenter. I presented the Beautiful Betty White tribute. But I brought out a little rescue dog. I don't know if anybody's watching, you guys are businesspeople – why would you watch the Oscars? But I brought it out because Betty White was a rescue advocate and I brought out a little rescue puppy that I brought out to say this little rescue puppy needs a home to the world to billions of people watching. I was like, I hope someone will rescue this old dog in honor of Betty White. John Travolta backstage, who I hadn't seen in 25 years, we reconnected. John Travolta adopted that dog with his son, Ben. You know, they lost Kelly Preston, his wife, two years ago yesterday. And he himself flew the jet home to Florida with that little rescue puppy. It was so sweet to run into him again. Such a beautiful man.
Willy Walker: So, John Travolta, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Keep them coming.
Willy Walker: John Cleese.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Keep them coming.
Willy Walker: Eddie Murphy.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Yeah, baby.
Willy Walker: Dan Aykroyd.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Oh yeah, Dan Aykroyd.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Dan Aykroyd. Dan Aykroyd. Dan Aykroyd.
I got to tell you something. You know, in the movies, you have to kiss people. It's a horrible job when you have to kiss people who you don't want to kiss. It's a really good job when you kiss people who you have absolutely all the thrill in the world to kiss them because it's legal. You know, in recovery we call that a free lapse. In marriage I think it's called a hall pass.
So, I got a lot of hall passes with Dan Aykroyd. Talk about just a sweet and a great businessman. Great businessman. He picked me up when we were shooting Trading Places in New York. He picked me up and we drove down and he and John Belushi owned something called The Blues Bar. They had a bar that they bought because they couldn't go to bars. How could they go to a bar? Because they would just get inundated by people. So, they started buying real estate. When he was driving me down, he kept going, “I own that, I own that, I own that. John and I bought that, that whole corner we bought.” I mean, he was a businessman. I loved it.
Willy Walker: And then from there, it was to John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda (1988). He wrote that film thinking you are going to be in it. Did he not?
Jamie Lee Curtis: He wrote that film for me to be in it, which was weird because I, of course, thought that John Cleese and Michael Palin wanted Chris Guest. When I got a call that John Cleese wanted to talk to me, I was assuming that I'll introduce him to Chris because This is Spinal Tap came out. Anyway, Yeah, I don't know. He liked me. He wrote me the part. It was a great experience. My daughter Annie was six months old, went to London.
Willy Walker: So, then you did a TV show called Anything but Love. But you loved doing that?
Jamie Lee Curtis: I love doing a sitcom. That is the job I am looking for right now. I have a big hit movie out that Mallory Walker and Diana Walker said was the worst movie they have ever seen. Some artists here just clapped from behind the camera. I got to this. There is a movie out right now. You can stream it. It's called Everything Everywhere All at Once. It's a multiverse comedy. Interesting, crazy, beautiful movie about love, starring Michelle Yeoh, the action star. I have a supporting part of an IRS auditor named Deirdre Beaubeirdra, who starts out as her nemesis and becomes her lover. It's super interesting, fun and is a massive hit around the world, much to the chagrin and dismay of Mallory Walker and my attorney who hated that movie.
Willy Walker: Go back to Anything but Love and why you loved doing it.
Jamie Lee Curtis: So, I'm going to tell you I have a hit movie there. Halloween is going to be a monster.
Willy Walker: And you won a Golden Globe for Anything but Love.
Jamie Lee Curtis: My point is, with all of the jobs that I did, the best job I ever had was a sitcom. I loved it. Like, you can tell, I loved it. You have an audience, you get to do funny stuff, you get to work on it and hone it and then do it each week. I loved it and I've never done another sitcom. I did it once, it was successful. I loved it. And so, the only job I've told my agents that I want to do is a sitcom in Los Angeles where I don't have to leave my husband, where I don't have to leave my children and my pets. And, you know, that's all I do. I travel all over the world. I just came from Savannah, Georgia, where we shot the last Halloween movie and I'm done. I don't want to travel anymore. I want to do a sitcom. Willy, make it happen. Come on, Willy.
Willy Walker: You then went to True Lies that James Cameron also wrote that movie for you. Was it always that Arnold was going to co-star in it with you?
Jamie Lee Curtis: Oh Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I got a call from James Cameron because who gets a call from James Cameron? Because I'm not that person. I don't get a call from James Cameron. The phone rang. Hello? Hi, Jamie, it's James Cameron. (Blows raspberries.) “Oh, hi, James. What's up?” Hey, I've written a movie for you and Arnold Schwarzenegger. I would like you to read it, but I can't send you the script because it's embargoed, you know, it's precious. So, I'm going to have somebody come to your house. They'll sit in the driveway while you read it, and then you'll give them back the script, which I did. We ended up making True Lies. It was fantastic. It was a great, great, great, great experience for me. It's when I met your mom.
Willy Walker: Why is James Cameron so good at what he does? I mean, he is a unique talent. And you just said, when James Cameron calls and says, hey, it's Jim Cameron, and you're like, yeah, right. Why is he so good?
Jamie Lee Curtis: You know, that's a good question. That's the alchemy of things. By the way, James Cameron can do every single job on a movie except acting, which is why actors love working for James Cameron and crew people don't because Jim can do every job that a crew person can do. Jim is an artist. He can do art direction. He invents cameras. He invented the handheld device that allows you to see what a movie camera sees, but you can walk around with it on your iPhone. Jim invented that. Jim is a technical wizard. He can do every single job in the movies except acting, which is why he loves actors. So, for an actor to work with Jim, it's like saying it's the one thing he can't do, and he gives you full freedom. I don't know if you've seen True Lies lately. It is fabulous. And it was an incredible opportunity for me because I just was as loose as a goose. I just had the most fun because Jim just let me go.
Willy Walker: And you'd known Arnold quite well prior to that. No, you hadn’t?
Jamie Lee Curtis: I know Arnold from here - here's what was hard. You see, Arnold didn't want me and now we're friends. And, you know Arnold didn't want me because Arnold Schwarzenegger only knew me from up here. Maria Shriver, the Kennedys – these were all people I grew up with. Arnold and Maria lived up here, we lived up here. He would see me in restaurants. He knew me as Tony and Janet's daughter. Because what you don't know is that Arnold Schwarzenegger directed a movie one time. Who starred in Arnold Schwarzenegger's movie? His idol, Tony Curtis.
So, the one movie that Arnold Schwarzenegger directed was a TV movie called Christmas in Connecticut (1992) or something. And Tony Curtis and Dyan Cannon starred in it. So, I knew Arnold that way, I never knew him as a colleague. And I'm younger and I'm sure he just thought I was just Tony and Janet's snappy little loudmouth daughter and didn't look at me as a leading lady. And Jim Cameron was the one who said, “No, no, no, no, she's the one who's going to be in this movie with you.” And it turned out to be the best pairing that Arnold Schwarzenegger ever had and the best pairing that I've ever had. It's a fantastic movie. It's a domestic epic if you haven't seen it recently. It's maybe a good thing to watch on the plane home. It's a great movie, and I danced around in my underwear and it's really cute.
I will tell you this, I will tell you this. I was up here in Sun Valley, Idaho, in August when I got the call that I was going to for sure do the movie. The first call I made was to the production manager, the person like your team who put the whole thing together. And I said to him, “Hi, it’s Jamie Curtis. Apparently I'm going to play Helen Tasker. When is the hotel seen in the schedule?” Because it was like a four- or five-months schedule. And he said the second week of September. And this was like August 10th. So, I called him, and I called the production designer. Remember how I walked in here and said I would get no light here? Yeah, right. Well, I'm a woman. We need light. We need light. Luckily, I'm getting a nice little bounce from the sun bouncing on the edge of the tent, which will make the video not something that I have to burn. But I called the production designer and I said, “you know, there's a scene where she gets interrogated, and it's written that it's like a jail cell with a light above her head and it's 8 to 10 pages of dialog. And I said, that's never going to fly. I need some light on my face. So, I need you to build some light in the room somewhere.” So, when you watch True Lies again and Helen is in the interrogation room, you will notice that there is a big square light around the glass window that Arnold and Tom Arnold are sitting behind. And the reason that a big, light box is there is because I called the production designer and said I needed light on my face if it's going to shoot it. But anyway, it was I'm telling you, they said it was the second week of the schedule. Can you imagine? So, I didn't eat for like. It was like this many people and you dancing around.
Willy Walker: Does that impact you?
Jamie Lee Curtis: (Blows raspberries) Yes, Willy. It was intense. It was fun.
Willy Walker: I mean, when you go on set, and you have to do a scene like that.
Jamie Lee Curtis: I will tell you, there was no rehearsal. There's no choreographer. Jim said, “What music do you want?” I said, I like John Hiatt. He said, okay, there's a song Alone in The Dark. He said, Great. I like that song. And then he said, so what are you going to do? I said, “Well, I don't know. I don't really know, but I'll get into it a little bit” And then the only thing I knew I needed to do was get to the bedpost and go backwards so that the microphone would fall out. So, then she had to get the microphone and put it back. That was the only thing that they knew, and it was just dollies and cameras. The first shot with a big wide shot, this many people in the audience, probably on the crew there that day. I think there were a lot of guys who had jobs that weren't really supposed to be there, but they were walking around with a screwdriver in their hand going like. And then, I literally closed my eyes there and here it's Oh, no, I'll tell you this, because we have to wrap this up. Yeah, we really do.
Willy Walker: No, we don’t. It’s all good.
Jamie Lee Curtis: We really do, Willy.
Willy Walker: I’m looking at the faces in front of me and we don't have to wrap this.
Jamie Lee Curtis: But I have a therapy call and like half an hour.
Willy Walker: This isn't as good as the therapy call? I love this.
Jamie Lee Curtis: No, no, sorry. All right. I like all you lovely people. Here's what happened. So, we did that big, wide shot with me doing my thing. And I remember we finished it, which went over the edge, the thing then, you know, and then there was like that moment and then it was like “Cut!” and then it was sort of dead silent. And I could see a lot of guys wouldn't look me in the eyes. You know, a lot of people were looking down and Jim came in, was like, Oh, my goodness me. Because they had never seen if I could dance. They didn't know anything. Jim didn't know what I was going to look like in my underwear. He didn't know I could dance. He didn't know anything. He just knew I was supposed to dance. So, we did it again. We did it again. We did it again. We did it now with Arnold sitting in the chair with the camera over Arnold to me, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we keep doing it over and over. Finally, Jim Cameron walked up to me very privately in front of all the people he walked up. He said, “If I ask you to let go of the bedpost, are you okay to hit a crash pad on the ground?” I was like, “Yeah.” So, they brought in a crash pad under the camera level. And I don't know if you remember the movie, but there's a moment where Helen's dancing and she's on the bedpost and then she lets go and falls, and Arnold Schwarzenegger has this amazing reaction to it. I'm going to tell you all that in all of the movies I have made, it is the single greatest laugh I will ever get anywhere in any movie. It was such an uproarious laugh in that moment. Here's what I learned. Jim Cameron understood that it was too sexy, that it was getting uncomfortably sexy because you have to remember, that was his wife. That he was making his wife do that. Arnold, that was his wife doing it. And he understood that it was almost a little icky because I could dance, and he didn't know I could dance. And so, he understood that you needed to laugh again. And that's why if you see it, we did it one, maybe two takes. When you see that movie again, it is a humongous laugh that Helen lets go of the bedpost and it goes down. It really, really made me understand how much Jim understood what was going on and I don't think another director would have just let it be really sexy and then deal with the fact that it was a little icky later. And by adding that laugh in there, oh my goodness me, I was in a packed movie theater for the premiere of that movie. Oh, my God. These people lost their minds. They laughed so hard.
Willy Walker: So, talking about you scantily clad in an icky scene – when my boys were 13, 11 and 9, I dialed up Trading Places and I'm sitting there watching with my boys. And as many of you may recall, Dan Aykroyd is in off the street to Ophelia, who is a prostitute in the movie. And Ophelia comes home, gives him the bed, gives him shelter, gives him warmth then as she's getting undressed, she takes off her bra.
Jamie Lee Curtis: No, it was a dress. She didn’t wear a bra. I don’t think prostitutes wear bras.
Willy Walker: Louis sits there, sees her in the mirror naked, and it's where she puts her hand on her breasts and says, “No, Louis, you're not getting any of that”. So here are my 13-, 9- and 11-year-old boys who, if it was anybody else on the face of the planet, would have been riveted to the television screen. And all of a sudden they see Jamie's breasts in front of them and all three of them without missing, go: “Oh, Dad. Oh, Jesus, please. No, turn that off. It's Jamie. Oh, that's just awful.” (Everyone laughs) And it was so good.
Jamie Lee Curtis: How long ago was that?
Willy Walker: It was six years ago.
Jamie Lee Curtis: They're fine with it today?
Willy Walker: They're fine with it today. They're like, “Dial it up, Dad.”
Jamie Lee Curtis: I have two last things to say before I leave, because I really do need to go. I want to tell you one thing, that you're blushing again. Wow, you're really blushing. Willy Walker. You may have exposed your children to seeing breasts for the first time and they were mine. Isn't that an amazing idea? (Everyone laughs) What an amazing idea. (laughter)
So, I will tell you that I do remember a friend of mine, the father died, and I was friends with his wife and their teenagers. And I tried to be supportive and friend, kind of show up for baseball games and stuff. And I went to this kid's baseball game with a big baseball player, and it was like some big game, and I think they won, and I showed up and blah, blah, blah. As we were leaving the game, I was talking to two Robert and two guys walked by and went, “Hey, freeze frame.” And I was like, “Huh, what?” And Rob was like, “Oh, I'm sorry.” And then another guy walked by and was like, “Freeze frame.” And I was like, “What? What's happening, Robert?” And apparently this was before phones and digital and all the rest of it that boys used to put the movie on and then freeze frame that moment in the movie when Ophelia's naked and basically then have a party with me on their screen, which, you know.
So, here's what I want to leave, y'all with. And we joke about this, and it's going to bring it back to Willy Walker and his great work and Mallory Walker and his great work. So, I'm me. You guys, now know me. You know me, right? I'm going to leave here. You can be like, I know her. No pretense, you know me. You may hate me. That's okay, America, but you know me. So, I used to do a lot of public speaking. I also sold yogurt that makes you shit for seven years, but that's a whole nother conversation. (Everyone laughs hysterically.)
But while I was trying to raise my children and not be going off to Budapest for four months on a movie, I did commercials with O.J. Simpson and Arnold Palmer for Hertz Rent a Car. I was the girl that they hired when the women started becoming businesswomen. when you wonderful few businesswomen here uhm… sorry. When that movie with Diane Keaton where she was an executive and had a baby? Baby Boom! When that movie came out, they realized that women were in the marketplace now as businesswomen. And they needed to hire a woman to run through airports and jump over suitcases. Who did they hire? Me. I did commercials with O.J. Simpson and Arnold Palmer. You can find them on Google, where Arnold and O.J. were, the sort of real boob guys who were like, not very smart. And I was the business executive who was very smart and knew everything. And I did two years of commercials. So, I've done a lot of commercials. People have hired me to sell things for a long time. I'm a good saleswoman. No, I am. What I like to refer to as a weapon of mass promotion. On Instagram, I'm just I'm a you need something sold. I will sell it. Anyway, I also used to do public speaking where I would go and sort of do my world, according to Jamie. And it's good to get deep. It's good and funny and good, anyway. And I was invited to the Ernst and Young Entrepreneurs of the Year Award keynote Sunday morning speaker. I didn't know sh*t about Ernst and Young or what they did. I knew nothing. They paid me a certain amount of money to come and do my 60 minutes of spiel, and I'm in a car driving to Palm Springs and apparently our friend here (Willy) won that award, what year?
Willy Walker: In 2011.
Jamie Lee Curtis: 2011. I think this was before then. I remember going there and I remember going backstage during the morning presentation. I was sitting behind a lot of lights, all this business, and the guy before me was some businessman talking about business. And I'm sitting in the back going like, “What am I doing here?” Oh my God. All the guys looked like you, young man, in the front, in the pink. All of them. I don't think there was a woman in the room. And I was the speaker before they play golf. So, you know, everybody's thinking about the frickin golf and they're all in their golf clothes and they have to sit here through this keynote. And the minute it finishes, they all get to go play golf. So, I'm sitting there at this thing, and I go out and they introduce me, and I walk out to a big room of people, mostly men in golf clothes. And I didn't know what I was supposed to do. And I said, “You know, everybody, 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 was like, “Oh, thanks. Okay, so that's not good.” They all looked at me stunned, like, what were they going to have to listen to?
Here's what I will tell you – by the end of it, they were crying. And what I said to them,” Nobody gives a f*ck how much money you have. Nobody cares about how you've invested and how big your company got. All they care about when you're dead is who you were, what kind of father you were, what kind of husband you were, what kind of ex-husband you were, what kind of son or daughter, what kind of human being you were. The thing I know about you, Willy, and I know your parents and I know who they are. And I know the struggles of their lives, and I know the struggles of your lives and you know the struggles of mine, and I know the struggles of all of yours because nobody gets out alive. Nobody gets through this life without struggle. But I will promise you that the most important thing is who we are as human beings, with other human beings, your employees. It's what you talked about, your speaker talking about. It's not about him. It's about his team. It's about the people that put on this conference. It's about all the people that are back in your offices who are working on your behalf. That's what we're here for. The more we support them that make the world better for them, that's what's going to be remembered. They're going to remember who you are by what you do, by your esteemable actions and beauty. And with all the money in the world that is available and the strategizing about what's going to happen with the markets. I understand it's a scary time for all of us. The thing to remember and the only thing I hope I leave here is that I'm a human being talking to another human being who I respect, who was raised by human beings I respect, and that we're all just trying to do something together here at the Walker & Dunlop conference here in this moment, in this time in our lives. I'm grateful to have been asked to come here today. I had no idea what I would say, but ultimately that's what I said to those people at the EY Entrepreneurs of the Year Award. And you know what? They didn't just jump up and run out and play golf - they stuck around. We talked. It was beautiful. So, God bless you all. Thank you for having me at the Walker & Dunlop conference.
Willy Walker: I really appreciate it. Thank you.