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Friday, 23 August, 2002, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Jamie Lee Curtis: The Body beautiful?

Facing the reality that you've outgrown the figure that once earned the salute, The Body, might have been daunting. But Jamie Lee Curtis's mind, at least, is in excellent shape.
The pictures of an unglamorous Jamie Lee Curtis - replete with love handles and thighs no longer svelte - are not exactly shocking.

In a Western world where many people are piling on the pounds, broadcaster Esther Rantzen surely speaks for millions when she says that the day someone invents surgery that makes her look like Jamie, "even with the faults she sees in herself", she'll be "first in the queue".

But Jamie is intent on making a statement to "the unsuspecting women of the world", to tell them the Hollywood myth of perfection is a fraud.

Jamie Lee Curtis winning a Golden Globe in 1995
Jamie Lee Curtis wins a Golden Globe in 1995
They will probably have gathered that for themselves, but they might draw a little comfort from Jamie's admission, nay declaration, that she has "a soft, fatty little tummy" and "back fat".

She's not keen on her legs, either. At the age of 42, she had no hesitation in doing a topless scene last year for her movie, The Tailor of Panama.

She told director John Boorman that the breasts that made such an impact in the comedy Trading Places were "still great". But she added: "Just keep my thighs out."

And while British women are apparently spending more than £160m a year on cosmetic surgery, a figure dwarfed by the American experience, Jamie Lee Curtis believes they're wasting their money. "I've done it all", she says. "None of it works... I looked worse".

Janet Leigh in Psycho
Screamer: Janet Leigh in Psycho
Now, Jamie looks and sounds, well... normal. Which is an achievement, considering her Hollywood upbringing as the daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

"What I really wanted was to look and be like other people," she says. "I never felt comfortable with the way I looked. For a long time I never smiled because I was self-conscious about my teeth. That's why I developed my smirk."

Jamie Lee Curtis was still a toddler when her parents divorced and her mother married a stockbroker, Robert Brandt.

Her stepfather represented her only real paternal figure, although she did eventually establish a closer relationship with Tony Curtis in her twenties in their mutual battle against drug addiction.

Although she later widened her range to play in A Fish Called Wanda, True Lies and My Girl, Jamie made her first impact as the Scream Queen.

John Cleese and Jamie Lee Curtis
With Fierce Creatures co-star John Cleese
Perhaps nothing can match her mother's bloodcurdling shower scene in Psycho, but as the terrified babysitter in Halloween, stalked by a knife-wielding killer, Ms Leigh's daughter makes a fair stab at it.

But off screen, Jamie's life was also precarious. "My self-esteem was very low," she says. She turned to drugs, but they only heightened her insecurities. "So I quit."

Addiction

Later, she battled with alcoholism, another addiction which tested her father and killed her brother, Nicholas. Her drunken tantrums were making her a bad mother, she said.

Jamie Lee Curtis says motherhood is her most important role.

She and her husband, Christopher Guest, the British writer and actor best known for Spinal Tap, adopted a daughter, Annie, 15 years ago, three years after they married, and later adopted a son, Tom, now aged six.

In 1996, Jamie became a Lady, when her husband inherited the title of Lord Haden-Guest after his father's death.

Jamie Lee Curtis in the House of Lords
Taking her seat in the House of Lords
The family live in California, where Jamie says she is "just plain Mom", her cooking subject to the same complaints from her children as other mothers.

She is also famous as an author of best-selling children's books, with appealing titles such as Tell Me About the Night That I Was Born, and Where Do Balloons Go?

Her teenage daughter might find other entertainment more attractive now, but Mom maintains a strict regime.

Horror films, whether or not they star Mum on the run from a slasher, are out, if only because Jamie finds them scary. And if Annie wants to surf the web, she has to do it downstairs, in view of her parents.

Having struggled with drink, drugs, a broken home and accepted the onset of early middle age, Jamie Lee Curtis is, according to her daughter, "the coolest mum in Hollywood". But she still won't be seen in a swimsuit.


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