Tony Curtis does more painting (the hang-on-the-wall kind) than acting these days. Still, the 81-year old star was game to talk about how he and Jack Lemmon got in touch with their feminine side for Some Like It Hot, now out in a new Collector’s Edition. (Read EW’s review here.)
How long did it take for you and Jack to become Josephine and Daphne?
About 30 minutes for makeup. Then we’d put on our hair and the costumes. We’d be ready in about an hour and 15 minutes.
That’s pretty fast.
Yeah, we wanted to get that behind us. Neither Jack nor I liked sitting in a makeup chair too long. So we’d lie back in those chairs and reach across and hold each other’s hand. We’d just hang on to each other.
One of my female colleagues wants to know how you two dealt with your ”masculine areas”?
The dresses had to flow nicely from the waist down so they took a very stiff, thick fabric, and then on top of that they sewed a softer material. And in my underwear I’d use Kleenex which would get rid of the, uh, I can’t believe I’m telling you this, get rid of the bumbles.
Did you practice running in high heels?
We just did it. And they were two to three inches high. But they were important because they straightened out the calf muscles. If you wear flats, you look like a Polish washerwoman. We needed a little lift so we’d look more French.
Is it true you once played a girl in a play about King Arthur when you were a kid?
I did! I can’t believe it. So I’d already had some experience.
Director Billy Wilder originally envisioned you with Frank Sinatra and Mitzi Gaynor. How would that have worked out?
Not at all. Billy knew Frank would be a little too obstreperous. It wasn’t that he wasn’t trained as an actor because he was excellent, but he didn’t have the patience.
You weren’t happpy with the dresses they intitially gave you.
Oh, horrible! They put Debbie Reynolds’ clothes on me from a costume company. Her waist was up around my armpits! And they tried some Loretta Young outfits. But all her clothes wanted to do was spin around. So Billy said let Orry-Kelly make them for you. Boy, did get we excited! We had custom garter belts and brassieres, shoes that fit us properly, and nice cloche hats and those high collars that Olivia de Havilland used to wear in those early movies. Oh, did I love them!
You look like Eve Arden.
And a little bit of Grace Kelly and my mother.
There’s a funny moment when you’re racing to see Marilyn in the captain’s clothes and you’re still wearing earrings.
That was my bit. I came out of the bathroom in the captain?s costume, and Billy said, ”When do you want to take off the earrings?” I said, ”Can’t we wait?” Billy knew that on the bike ride down that it was just a matter of pulling them off. I waited until the very last second then off they came.
Did Cary Grant ever say anything about your impersonation?
Billy ran the movie for him and asked what he thought and Cary said [imitating Grant]: ”I don’t talk like that!”
What are your favorite Tony Curtis movies?
Some Like it Hot, The Boston Strangler, The Great Race with Jack Lemmon, Operation Petticoat with Cary Grant, Kings Go Forth with Frank Sinatra, Spartacus, and The Sweet Smell of Success.
Great stuff. How about 1989?s Lobster Man from Mars?
That was made for child-support payments.
Should they remake Some Like It Hot?
You wouldn’t get the same quality.