Hollywood star Jamie Lee Curtis enjoyed huge success in the 1990s with the likes of Anything But Love, True Lies and The Heidi Chronicles. But she also spent much of the decade battling a secret addiction. Here’s a look at the dark period the actress admits she was lucky to survive.
Born in Santa Monica, California, in 1958, Jamie Lee Curtis had two bona fide Hollywood legends for parents in Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. After briefly studying at the University of the Pacific she decided to follow in their acting footsteps. She made her screen debut in a 1977 episode of Quincy, M.E.
A year later Curtis landed the career-defining role of Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s pioneering slasher, Halloween. Her status as a Hollywood scream queen was cemented when she starred in the director’s 1980 follow-up, The Fog. That same year she also appeared in the horrors Prom Night and Terror Train.
Curtis returned to her signature role in 1981’s Halloween II. But her BAFTA Award-winning turn in the 1983 festive comedy Trading Places proved there was more to her talents. She further showcased her comic timing in 1988’s A Fish Called Wanda and in four seasons of the sitcom Anything But Love.
In the 1990s, Curtis added a Golden Globe to her awards tally for her performance in True Lies. She then received further critical acclaim for her leading role in TV movies The Heidi Chronicles and Nicholas’ Gift. She also reprised the role of Laurie Strode once again in Halloween H20: 20 Years Later.
In the ’00s, Curtis starred opposite Lindsay Lohan in a remake of Freaky Friday, landing another Golden Globe nod for her efforts. She also appeared in the likes of The Tailor of Panama, Drowning Mona and Christmas with the Kranks. Curtis then took a break from acting to focus on raising her family.
Curtis’ family includes husband Christopher Guest, the This Is Spinal Tap star whom she married in 1984. The couple later adopted a girl, Annie, and a boy, Thomas, who were born in 1986 and 1996 respectively. Curtis is also godmother to Hollywood star Jake Gyllenhaal.
The actress got back to her day job in 2007’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua and went on to land big screen parts in You Again, Veronica Mars and Spare Parts. She also bagged the recurring roles of Dr. Samantha Ryan in NCIS and Joan Day in New Girl. And in 2015 she was cast as Dean Cathy Munsch in Ryan Murphy’s comedy horror Scream Queens.
In 2018 Curtis returned to her slasher roots by starring in the 11th chapter of the Halloween franchise. The film took more than $76 million at the US box office in its opening week, the highest ever figure for a movie boasting a leading lady over the age of 55. It has since taken more than $230 million across the globe.
In the same month that Halloween premiered, Curtis sat down for a chat with People magazine. And the actress made headlines for one particular revelation during the interview. It turns out she spent the whole of the 1990s addicted to opiates.
Curtis first started taking opiates in 1989 when she was prescribed some following minor surgery to her “hereditary puffy eyes.” She told the magazine, “I was ahead of the curve of the opiate epidemic. I had a ten-year run, stealing, conniving. No one knew. No one.”
Indeed, throughout the next decade Curtis became obsessed with getting her hands on painkillers. She often took pills from those closest to her to feed her habit. This included from her older sister Kelly, who was the first to discover her problem in 1998.
Curtis managed to keep her opiate addiction a secret from her husband until 1999, a full ten years after her problem began. She confessed all on the same day that she decided to seek help and attend a recovery program. The actress has remained sober ever since.
Of course, addiction sadly runs in the Curtis family. Her actor father Tony battled alcoholism and spent a fortune on heroin and cocaine during his glittering career. The latter drug also took the life of her half-sibling Nicholas when he fatally overdosed in 1994. And Curtis was painfully aware of the damage that illicit substances had wrought on her clan.
“I’m breaking the cycle that has basically destroyed the lives of generations in my family,” Curtis told People. “Getting sober remains my single greatest accomplishment… bigger than my husband, bigger than both of my children and bigger than any work, success, failure. Anything.”
Although Curtis has been sober for two decades, she still attends recovery meetings. The star joked to People, “Anyone who brings up opiates, the entire room will turn and look at me, because I’ll be like, ‘Oh here, talk to me. I’m the opiate girl.’”
Curtis had previously spoken about her problems with addiction in a 2001 interview with CNN. She said, “I don’t know if any of us can really explain what addiction is exactly, because I think it changes with each individual. I think what we can talk about, is really that there’s hope to recover from it.”
Curtis also discussed why she felt she became so dependent on opiates. “Once you’ve had a taste of that feeling, that great relief and feeling that that drug gives you, it just made me want to have that feeling again and again,” she said, before explaining why she decided to come clean about her problem.
Curtis hopes her sobriety will inspire others to take the same path. “The only reason a person of celebrity, a public figure, should talk about substance abuse and their recovery is the hopefulness,” she said, “the possibility to improve and change your life. And get out of the secrets and the closet of despair that everybody talks about.”
Following her People interview, Curtis starred in political thriller An Acceptable Loss. She also joined Daniel Craig and Chris Evans in the cast of crime mystery Knives Out. Moreover, due to the massive success of Halloween, she’s expected to reprise the role of Laurie Strode once again.