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The Ups And Downs Of Jamie Lee Curtis's Relationship With Her Mother, Janet Leigh

Updated October 15, 2019 29.3k views11 items

Jamie Lee Curtis and her legendary mom, the late Janet Leigh, both made their names in Hollywood with roles as Scream Queens, in 1978's Halloween and 1960's Psycho, respectively. Some might assume their common interests in acting, similar career paths, and shared genes would result in a picture-perfect relationship between mother and daughter. Although their relationship wasn't quite as fraught as the one between Curtis and her father, Tony Curtis, it certainly had its less-than-stellar moments. 

Through years of turmoil, happiness, and calm, Curtis and her mother shared moments together that shaped both of their lives forever, leaving lasting marks on the people they became personally and professionally.

  • Curtis Re-Created Leigh’s Infamous ‘Psycho’ Shower Scene For ‘Scream Queens’ In 2015

    In 2015, Curtis took a role in Scream Queens, a television series from Ryan Murphy that follows sorority sisters as someone stalks them and their friends. Curtis plays Cathy Munsch, the dean of the college where the events occur. In one episode, the Red Devil antagonist enters Munsch's apartment and surprises her in the shower. In an homage to Curtis's mother Leigh, the scene is a re-creation of the classic Psycho shower moment.

    Curtis insisted on the re-creation being as close as possible to her mother's performance, keeping postcards bearing her mother's screaming face on hand during filming and using screenshots to perfect angles.

    When speaking with the hosts of Today in 2015, Curtis shared why she decided to re-create the iconic scene for Scream Queens:

    I said for this show, at this moment, my mom has been gone long enough now. I'm rooted on my own feet; I think we can now do it.

  • Curtis Followed Her Mother Back East After Leigh And Tony Curtis Divorced

    While still younger than 4, Curtis saw her parents split up and divorce. While her father moved on to a 17-year-old girl, Curtis and her sister stayed with their mother. Curtis attended schools in and around Los Angeles, but for her final year, she attended and graduated from Choate Rosemary Hall, a boarding school in Connecticut, when her mother worked on Broadway.

    Spending her teen years as the child of famous parents was difficult, Curtis told Rolling Stone:

    Whenever I met anyone new, I was introduced as Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh’s daughter... It screwed with my head... You’re a child trying to develop an identity and a sense of self-worth, and all this Hollywood stuff plagues you and makes you kind of wonder who you are. Then you’re 12 through 18, and you’re developing [physically] and emotionally. And it’s hard.

    Her mother urged her not to go into the family business until after she turned 18, which is when Curtis auditioned for the role of Nancy Drew on a TV series. While she did not land that part, she eventually found one on Operation Petticoat before breaking through in Halloween.

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Curtis Was Closer To Her Stepfather Robert Brandt Than To Tony Curtis

    After her parents divorced when she was 3, Curtis lived with her mother and sister while her father, battling with pills and alcohol, moved from new wife to new girlfriend. As a result, Curtis found herself closer to her mother and stepfather, Robert Brandt. In an interview with People in 1978, Curtis spoke about her relationships to her father figures: "Who raised me? People may think I don’t love Tony, but I just don’t know him that well."

    To Rolling Stone in 1985, she clarified:

    My father was sort of a stranger, then a real stranger, then an enemy. Now he’s a friend. My stepfather, who raised me since I was a little girl, is Daddy, the one I go to with dad problems. He has always been around and supportive - a complete papa.

  • Curtis Learned From Leigh How To Use Her Fame To Give Back To Others 

    Curtis credits her mother's generous spirit for her own giving nature and willingness to fund or help out causes. While speaking to Closer Weekly in 2019, Curtis revealed that her mother belonged to an organization called SHARE, "a group of Hollywood moms who dedicate months of their time to put on a [benefit] show every year.”

    Curtis told Closer Weekly about her mother's stance on charity: "The amount of attention, money and adulation public figures get is obscene. Something better has to come from it."

    Curtis gives her time to Project Angel Food, the Children Affected by AIDS Foundation, and other causes. She also speaks to others about her struggle with substance dependence after becoming hooked on opioid medication following eye surgery.