In the comedy You Again, actress Jamie Lee Curtis plays Gail, a woman who has put her family’s life and happiness ahead of her own. As the mother of Marni (Kristen Bell) and Will (James Wolk), she is helping to make sure that everything is perfect in the planning for her son’s wedding to Joanna (Odette Yustman). When Marni returns home to find out that the young woman her brother is marrying happens to also be the same one who made her life hell in high school, Gail also realizes that Joanna’s aunt Ramona (Sigourney Weaver) is someone she shares her own teenage rivalry with, and all of the women have to keep their deeply rooted jealousies from overpowering them.
During a press conference at the film’s press day, Jamie Lee Curtis talked about being a cheerleader in her own high school years, finding honesty and integrity in life’s relationships and being at a point where she now puts family before career. She also shared how being the spokesperson for Activia has surprisingly changed her life. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
Question: Did you have any frenemies in high school?
Did that happen to you?
Jamie: Sure. That’s what happens. You don’t think. You say something to a friend and then, the next thing you know, you’re betrayed. That’s just the natural thing where we, as young people, don’t know what to do with those trusts. It’s too hot to handle, so we have to give it to somebody else. It gives you power. High school is a lot more about that. For me, high school was about learning that people are going to tell your secrets.
What group were you in?
Jamie: I was a cheerleader. I was kind of middle of the road. I went to a girls’ school, called Westlake, and in our year, for the yearbook picture, we were allowed to group in our little groups and a photographer was hired. Each little group signed up for their time, and you could go do what you wanted. So, the theater people were all doing mime with top hats and were very clever. The ballet dancers all stood with their little outfits on. I sat cross-legged with my girlfriends in a semi-circle. We were the good cheerleader girls. It was nothing sophisticated. And then, there were four girls who were the bad girls. The rule at school was that you were not allowed to leave campus, but their picture was taken from the back, of them walking off campus. It was four girls, walking away from the camera, through the gates of the school. I’ll never forget it, as long as I live. And then, a year ago, I was in a doctor’s office, sitting there, and a woman across from me goes, “Hi Jamie, do you remember me?,” and I said, “You were in the picture of the four girls walking off campus!” To me, that was the ultimate. I was a good girl. I still am.
But, you were envious of the bad girls?
Jamie: How could you not be? They were risking it all, walking off campus. I just wanted to fit in. I still do.
Jamie: I was never in a play or anything. In my senior year, I went to three high schools. That tells you everything. My last year, I went to Choate on the east coast. My mother did a play in New York, so I decided to go east. Her play closed, I stayed in the school for my last year of high school, and I was a movie star kid at a prep school. It was horrible. So, I auditioned for the plays at a big art center there. I can’t sing. I can dance a little, but I’m not a great dancer, and I’m not a great actor, so I didn’t get in any of the plays. Then, I auditioned for the big musical, Oklahoma, and I got in a chorus. I was a dancer in the chorus. The director of the play had been a theater director and he said, “You know, in the original Oklahoma, there was a girl in a polka dot dress who was a featured dancer. She would run across the stage, being chased by boys, and lift her skirt, look over her shoulder, giggle and then run off. Then, seconds later, three boys would run past. It would just happen randomly in the play, as if this little chase was going on through the story.” He said, “I want you to be that girl. When the play’s lagging, just go out there.” That’s the extent of my theater experience in high school, and that was my senior year.
So, when did the acting thing happen?
Jamie: It didn’t. It’s a boring story. I came home from college on Christmas break and a tennis teacher that I knew in Beverly Hills happened to be managing actresses. I went over to a friend’s house where he taught, and I knew him, and he said, “I’m managing actresses. They’re looking for Nancy Drew. You’d be a good Nancy Drew.” I said, “Yeah, I would.” He said, “Well, do you want to go up for it?” I said, “Sure,” so he arranged an audition. I went to it and didn’t get the part, but then I got a contract at Universal, quit school and became an actor. I never thought about it.
This film is about integrity and honesty. Why do you think those are important values?
Jamie: We look at that in every relationship we have, whether it’s politics, marriage or friendship. It’s like the old golden rule, where you do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I don’t go into a comedy looking to have a big message. I look to see if it will be funny, and what I can do to make it funnier. If somewhere in it there’s some essential truth, then that’s a lovely by-product of the storytelling, but it’s not what I set out to do. I didn’t set out going, “This is going to be great because it’s going to have this great lesson at the end.” I thought it was just a funny conceit, honestly. I just thought it was silly and fun.
Jamie: The problem with the dance scene was that we shot eight hours of it and it’s 14 seconds in the movie. Honestly, the amount of frickin’ dancing that we all did together, I don’t even think you can put it on the DVD. I had an entire sequence on those silks from Vegas. I was the only one that would go up on them, so I got up, Victor was whipping me around, I was flailing and it was pathetic. There were weeks of rehearsals for that and I was bruised all over. It must’ve been really bad, but I thought it was funny at the time. All of that was fun. It was a big dance off between people. Sigourney and I did that for six minutes a time, 100 times, and it’s just about a minute long in the movie now.
How do you balance all of your work with the acting, writing and charity with the children’s hospital?
Jamie: I’m one of those people who does a lot of things. I’m lucky. I get up and I have a lot of energy. I have a great work ethic. My mom really gave me a great work ethic. At 5 a.m., I’m up doing stuff, every day. You write a book and it comes out two years later, so it’s not as if I’m writing every day. When a book is in its finishing stages, I do that. I’m very involved in my son’s school. I do as much charity work as I can and that my family life will allow. I do believe charity begins at home and the more we focus on our families, the better they will be. I occasionally work. This film popped up and, because it was six weeks in the summer in Los Angeles, I did it. If this had been six weeks in Toronto, I wouldn’t be in the movie.
All your films in the last 10 years have been very family oriented. Has that been intentional?
Jamie: Yeah. There does come a point where you’d like to do movies that your kids can see. I don’t want to do anything particularly dark. I have to navigate already that both my kids are going to see things that I did when I was younger that I wouldn’t like them to see today. Not because I’m ashamed of it, on any level whatsoever, but because they’re my children. I just don’t want them to have to see me like that, whatever it is. It’s not nudity. My kids have seen me in a bathing suit. It’s not like they’re going to see anything that much different. There’s just no need for me, as an actor, to have them go, “Oh, you were good in that, mom. Wow, that was great.” The last thing I’m going to do now is some movie where I’m slamming up against some guy. As much as The Kids are All Right is a fantastic movie, there’s no way I would be able to participate in something like that. I’ve got small children. I’ve got a 14-year-old son. He does not want to see his mommy doing that. So, I have to be really cognizant about what I’m bringing into my family. My husband doesn’t want to see that. I’m lucky that I don’t have to do that. I respect so much the work that so many women do, but that’s just not what I do.
Jamie: I have a job where I advertise yogurt that makes you poop, and people love it and tell me about their bowel movements, every day. I never thought that, when I first was asked by this company Dannon, to be their Activia representative, I wasn’t just like, “Oh, it’s going to be a check. I’m going to do it.” I really thought, “Okay, wait a minute. I’m going to go out and talk about bowel movements and about how people’s digestive tracts work. Some work better than others, and this will help.” I really thought, “Okay, is that going to be weird? You’re an actor and a writer. Will this just be a weird thing?” But, it has turned out to be the most fun thing. To me, it’s all about relatability. The idea that I do something where people come up to me, anywhere I am in the world, and go, “Thank you for Activia, it has changed my life,” I know what they’re telling me. They’re telling me that the product that I endorse has helped them. Now, I’m not a doctor, but I actually feel the way a doctor gets thanked by a patient, and I get it all the time. I just came from vacation. I was in Idaho in the mountains with hiking boots, driving big trucks all over the place. I’ve been in a lot of movies. I’m the daughter of very famous people. I’m married to a very famous guy. I do a lot of things. Nothing else in my life gets people coming up to me saying, “You’ve changed my life. Because of you and that product, my life is different.” If you told me three years ago, when I started doing advertisements for them, that that was going to be the reality of my life, and I would be in airports and people would come up, hold my hand and thank me, I wouldn’t have believed you.
Are your kids interested in Halloween or A Fish Called Wanda at all?
What’s the next book you have coming out?
Jamie: It’s called My Mommy Hung The Moon: A Love Story. It comes out on September 7th, for Harper Collins.
How was it to work with Betty White?
Jamie: What can you say about Betty White except that every single thing you’ve ever heard about her is true.
Have you spoken to Lindsay Lohan recently?
Jamie: I have not spoken to her.
Do you have any well wishes for her?
Jamie: Well, of course.