Jamie Lee Curtis' relationship with the concept of "nepo baby" has evolved over the months. She now willingly assumes her status, a posture that could well, who knows, lead her to the Oscar.
The term "nepo baby" has had its moment of glory in recent months. Why? Let's just say that social networks, and especially their younger users, have come to realize that many of their idols are "daughters of" and "sons of". People whose parents are themselves famous, which undoubtedly facilitates entry into certain circles deemed difficult to access. As a result, many young stars whose parents are famous are challenged, because of the advantages that this ancestry could give them. While some of these nepo babies have tried to keep a low profile by downplaying the importance of their illustrious parentage, Jamie Lee Curtis has decided to wear it as a standard. The actress made a point of reminding everyone of her Hollywood pedigree, happily referring to her parents' notoriety throughout the campaign leading up to Hollywood's awards season. Her role in Everything Everywhere All at Once has just earned her a SAG Award, and she is also up for the Oscars, which will be held on March 13.
"I know, I know, when you see me, you think, 'This one is a nepo baby, we know how she got here,' and I completely understand that," the Halloween star said Sunday night during her acceptance speech at the SAG Awards. "But the truth is, I'm 64 years old, and it's just awesome."
"My parents came from nothing but became huge stars"
Jamie Lee Curtis was born in 1958, the daughter of two Hollywood legends – Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. Tony Curtis, born Bernard Schwartz, was the son of Hungarian-Jewish immigrants who became famous for roles in such classics as Blackmail and Some Like It Hot, as well as the series Friendly. Janet Leigh's maternal grandparents were from Denmark, and she too made her way to the top of the Hollywood pyramid, starring in such hits as Bye Bye Birdie, A Crime in the Mind, and especially Alfred Hitchcock's unforgettable Psycho. The couple divorced in 1962.
On Sunday night, Jamie Lee Curtis continued his speech on stage with these words:
"I wear the wedding ring that my father gave to my mother. At the end of their story, they hated each other's guts, but my sister Kelly [Curtis] and I are children of love. My father was from Hungary, my mother from Denmark, they came from nothing, but became huge stars."
When the stigma of nepotism reached its peak last December, following a New York magazine cover story titled "Year of the Nepo Baby," Jamie Lee Curtis seemed upset by the phrase, which she said was meant to "demean, denigrate and hurt." At the time, the actress posted a photo of her older sister and herself as children alongside their parents. "I've been a professional actress since I was 19, that makes me an OG Nepo Baby," the photo read below.
"I never really understood, and never will, the qualities that got me hired, but from that day I got my first two lines in the Quincy series as a Universal Studios contractor, to this last spectacularly creative year some 44 years later, there hasn't been a day in my professional life that I haven't been reminded that I'm a "daughter of." What is currently being said about nepo babies is only meant to demean, denigrate and hurt."
In the weeks since that initial rant, Jamie Lee Curtis has seemingly embraced her "nepo baby" status, picking up the phrase whenever the opportunity presents itself. In a recent conversation with Vanity Fair's David Canfield for the Little Gold Men podcast, she seemed quite emotional as she drew parallels between her mother's role in Psycho and her own in the Halloween franchise.
"I followed in my parents' footsteps – nepo baby! As far as my mom goes, I literally followed in her footsteps," she told Canfield. "Yet their fame and success was always… their fame at the time was so monstrous, that even though I had fantastic success, I never thought I would ever reach their level. It wasn't even…well really not."
"How thrilled my parents would be with what's happening to their daughter…"
In the podcast, she also emphasized that her parents "came from nothing. My father was raised on the streets of New York by a tailor from Hungary, and my mother grew up in Stockton, California, the granddaughter of Danish immigrants," she continued. Both rose to the top, and both were nominated for Oscars. And all of a sudden, they became my parents, they took me in." She went on to explain that her lineage was "the very first thing [she] thought about" upon hearing the first Oscar nomination of her career. "How thrilled my grandparents would be, how thrilled my parents would be with what's happening to their daughter…"
Jamie Lee Curtis mentioned her Hollywood pedigree again when she was honored at the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this month, alongside Cate Blanchett and Angela Bassett. "Believe me, I know all the 'nepo baby' jokes by heart. I've heard them all. I don't care. I don't care," she explained to festival-goers during a masterclass. While she said those jibes no longer got to her, she returned to the less palpable benefits of nepotism, such as the lessons she learned after watching her parents struggle to escape labels throughout their careers. "I was able to watch my parents trying to avoid being pigeonholed into a certain type of role, and I know that if I had continued to accept horror films, I would never have done anything else. So after Halloween 2, I decided to say stop." (She did, however, return to the Halloween franchise two decades later).
With her surprise SAG win, Jamie Lee Curtis got a head start on her Oscar supporting actress competitors Stephanie Hsu, Hong Chau, Kerry Condon, and frontrunner Angela Bassett. It's hard to know exactly what won her the SAG award, but her shift from a defensive posture to asserting her nepo baby identity may end up winning over Oscar voters.