Plan my career?” Jamie Lee Curtis nearly does a spit-take with the cup of tea she’s been sipping in the Gardens Restaurant at Los Angeles’ Four Seasons hotel. ”Are you kidding? I can’t even plan my f—ing week.”
This month, with the release of the psycho-thriller Mother’s Boys, Curtis’ career swerves in yet another unplanned direction. After years of being stalked by homicidal trick-or-treaters (in the Halloween horror flicks), baring her boobs for the masses (Trading Places), and cutting up with Richard Lewis in prime time (ABC’s Anything but Love), the 35-year-old daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis is stepping into a role unlike any she’s played before — the bad guy.
Part Fatal Attraction, part Oedipus Rex, Mother’s Boys stars Curtis as a whacked-out mom who abandons her husband (Peter Gallagher) and three kids, then returns three years later to weasel her way back into their lives. It’s by far the nastiest part Curtis has ever done — one queasy bathtub scene has her exposing herself to her 13-year-old son — but it has given the actress a welcome stretch from her usual babe-next-door roles. ”The words perky and energetic and approachable are attached to my image,” she says. ”I have a strange sort of sanitary quality. This role wasn’t just another likable-Jamie character.” u The likable Jamie can still be found in My Girl 2, the recent sequel to her 1991 puppy-love hit with Dan Aykroyd. And this summer she’ll be Mrs. Arnold Schwarzenegger in James Cameron’s action opus True Lies. But before Curtis mouths off anymore about these and her other on- and offscreen personas, a brief readers’ advisory may be in order: ”I’m a trash bag of a woman,” she says. ”I’m vulgar. I’m insane. I’m strange. I’m just a weird, twisted creature.”
Jamie the Terrible ”I always assumed that eventually I’d play my dark side,” she says. ”It was just a matter of time.”
You don’t get much darker than her character in Mother’s Boys, a first wife from hell who hatches murderous plots to wreck her ex’s new romance and turn their kids against him. ”There have been a slew of movies with unstable women — what you guys in the press call psycho-bitches — and I didn’t want this to be part of that cycle,” she says. ”It would have been too easy to play Jude as a glossy cliché, some sort of robotic bad girl.”
Instead, Curtis makes her a master manipulator who wields her sexuality the way Freddy Krueger wields his talons-although some of her more outrageous exploits didn’t make the final cut. ”Unfortunately, a lot got taken out,” she says. ”American audiences apparently don’t want to see me (performing oral sex on) Gallagher, which I thought was important to the story. You needed to see the sexual power my character has over him. I think the movie was a fuller, more realistic portrait before it got cut.” (Director Yves Simoneau’s take on her noshing scene: ”The test audience reacted very badly. There are certain things that mothers just should not do.”)
Still, not all the racy parts were cut — the bathtub scene, for instance, remains intact. ”That’s a perfect example of necessary nudity to make a dramatic point,” she says. ”It wouldn’t work if you didn’t know the son was looking at a vagina for the first time in his life — and it happened to be his mother’s.”