Christmas with the Kranks: An Interview with Jamie Lee Curtis
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By Wilson Morales
Do you ever think about skipping Christmas like your character does in Christmas with the Kranks?
Jamie Lee Curtis: Every year I think there's not a year where we haven't said, 'OK this is ridiculous' an hour into the present opening where you look at the pile and it's still big. It is the indictment of over doing it and attaching to the wrong part of it which is the commercialism. I think there's a lens over (Christmas in the film) saying, 'why do we have to do snowmen? Why does everything have to be bigger?' It's like super sizing everything in America. You have to have it bigger and louder and brighter and more. Certainly it has made me pull back my Christmas already this year. I've made the final break. I am not buying Christmas presents for adults. Christmas morning is for kids, period. All of this obsessing about buying gifts for people our age, 'like you need something else from me?' No, so my moratorium this year is no adults.
How would you describe your Christmas decorations?
JLC: I'm not a big decorator. I'm kind of a more minimal type of person. I am wearing a red poinsettia in honor (of this film), otherwise I would just be wearing a black suit. But for Christmas last year I actually bought these wooden nutcrackers at Rite Aid (the drug store) on sale and they were nice. I have a stairway with a little recess part on the outside of where the banister is and they fit perfectly. I bought one for every landing and I now have a set of nutcrackers. That's about it decorating wise, and a Rijo candle, and that's my Christmas.
How did that compare to your childhood Christmas?
JCL: My mom (Janet Leigh) was from Merced, California and she was as Mid-western as you could get. She subscribed to traditional wreaths. She gave those Della Robia wreaths for years and years as the holiday gift for people. You can't beat a beautiful hand-made wreath that has the scent.
How different was your ambition to become a movie star from your mother's ambition?
A: As much as my mother loved being a mother she loved being in movies. My mother loved Christmas with The Kranks. It was the last script that she read. This was a fantasy life for her. She was from Merced, California from two very young and poor parents and for her to become this movie star was an extraordinary life. She really lived that fantasy life. She was green as you can be. I'm about as black as you can be. I'm jaded and time tested and all the things that my mother wasn't. I've always had the foot out the door because it just never felt completely comfortable for me. I don't think she appreciated that I wasn't going to work as much. I don't think she agreed with me. She had a much stronger work ethic. I think you know her. If you don't know her after sixty years in show business, then it's sort of sad. She was candid. She was a wonderful person.
What was different about your own path into show business?
JLC: Obviously the apple has not fallen far from the tree with me. I have literally followed her footsteps without planning to by the way. I kept thinking I was on my own path. I had a machete cutting down trees and foraging through groves, and it turns out that in fact I stepped in every foot print literally that she lay without me having a clue that I was doing it. Now the path has stopped, and now I may trudge my own (path) a little bit because I may be off of this show business track and that would be a track that she didn't budge.
What are those other tracks that you're foraging into?
JLC: We passed the bill (Proposition 61) for funding for the children's hospital and my friend the Governor (Arnold Schwarzenegger) came out against it! I understood his point of view and I understood mine and we won. I have decided to focus my attention on children's related causes with my celebrity. The celebrity klieg light that attaches to any celebrity (even if mine is fading), I still get it, so the whole idea is to take the light and reflect it back on something other than me. Believe me I don't want any more attention. In doing so I found that children's related causes are something that I naturally feel compelled to work with. I have whittled it down to just that because I believe it's something that can't get enough attention. As long as there is one sick child, all the attention should be on helping that one sick child. I've been asked to frontier a campaign to help raise money to rebuild the children's hospitals in the state of California, so it was a no-brainer for me. I already work with Children's Hospital of Los Angeles and they will be one of the beneficiaries along with public and private hospitals up and down the state. Clearly they're going to be able to rebuild these hospitals.
Back to Christmas with The Kranks. Are you as obsessed with the trimmings of Christmas as your character?
JLC: There's a girlfriend of mine and she loves Christmas. She loves being a mom and she loves the holidays and her kids. Every day around this time of year she's got the earrings or the vest or the turtle neck with the Santas, some accouterments that says 'holiday.' I followed her. This is in honor of her.
In one scene you are wearing a bikini that is way too small when you are at the tanning salon getting ready for your Caribbean vacation. How embarrassing was that for you?
JLC: Oh please it was pathetic and humiliating. It is as written in the script, 'Nora puts on the yellow string bikini. It is a horrible fit, tight in all the wrong places. Bulges everywhere you don't want them.' So of course I'm going to go correctly into it. I had to mention to the cameraman, 'let's not go for some pretty lighting. Let's go for some pretty nasty lighting. Let's be pretty brave here and turn up the lights.' And he did, so it's just humiliating.
You seem very proud of your body despite its imperfections.
JLC: (laughs) It's how I look guys. I didn't pack it (the pounds) on. I didn't do a Bridget Jones (referring to Renee Zellweger's weight gain) to do it. That's how I look. I don't wear a bathing suit and I guarantee you if I was wearing a black one-piece bathing suit that you wouldn't think I looked like that (unflattering). I wouldn't wear a bikini. I haven't worn a bikini in fifteen years. And I wouldn't wear something low-cut like that in a bathing suit and I would wear it up higher. I wouldn't look like that if the paparazzi got a picture of me on vacation somewhere. It's not gonna be pretty.
What was it like working with Tim Allen?
JLC: It's no surprise to me that he became successful as being the real guy. I never saw his show (Home Improvement) but I'm aware that it was a real guy with a tool belt and farting and making man noises. That was how he came about. It's interesting that he represents the real, regular guy because he's incredibly intelligent and very well read with really weird off-shoot interests. He would discuss with (screenwriter) Chris Columbus about the Gnostic Gospels and The Passion of The Christ. You just ask Tim and you'll see the kind of depth of knowledge that this man has.
Was it difficult for you to keep a straight face at the dinner table scene when he is eating after his face has been paralyzed with Botox?
JLC: I had to be on the other end of that and it was impossible. I ruined more takes for this poor man. I actually tried to do a take where I'm just looking at the table and I couldn't do it. You'd see my shoulders starting to shake (with laughter). I'm pathetic when I'm opposite somebody who is really funny. You put a camera on Tim with Botox in his face drinking water and forget it; he is a brilliant comic actor.
What is your stand on actresses being injected with Botox?
JLC: It's insane. It's like being freeze-dried. People just
look terrible. One of these days somebody is going to write a magazine
cover article of Newsweek like 'what are we doing to ourselves!' And name
people and say so and so (got Botox). I can't do it because if I do it,
it will say in a magazine, so and so said in response to Jamie Lee Curtis'
remark at a press conference, 'I think she should've come to me in person
and not say it in a public setting.' The point is nobody is doing it in
a public setting because nobody wants to get into that tiff. That would
become a public feud instead of the thing that's more important which
is, 'what have you done to your face!' I don't want to name them. You
all know who I'm talking about. You look at the magazines and
you think, 'not her, no!' She was the most beautiful woman I've ever seen
in my life. What did she do to her forehead?! People look worse and worse.
Everybody is talking about it and nobody is talking to them. One of these
days somebody is gonna have the bravery to call everybody to the table
and say, 'what is Hollywood doing to their stars?' Where is the message
that you can't look OK? I'm not saying you can't do little subtle things.
But people are disfigured now and it's just crazy to me. It's gotten insane.
I feel horrible for these people. They're public figures and now they
have these different faces and everybody must know it. It's like the elephant
in the room that nobody's talking about.
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