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An ever-evolving career: Jamie Lee Curtis talks addiction, writing & Hollywood realities

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Since bursting onto the film scene in the late '70s with the inaugural Halloween movie, Jamie Lee Curtis has managed to balance a rather unlikely set of social circles.

Cinema buffs know her as Hollywood royalty thanks to parents Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis. Kids age 4 to 8 know her as an author of nearly 10 children's books. British aristocracy knows her as Lady Haden-Guest, wife of filmmaker and baron Christopher Guest. The U.S. Patent Office knows her as an inventor of an innovative baby diaper. The Huffington Post knows her as one of its most popular bloggers.

But in the past few years, Curtis has hit the lecture circuit to share her struggles with drug and alcohol addiction. Sober since 1999, the actress-writer-inventor-baroness has called her recovery the "single greatest accomplishment" of her life.

In light of a recent appearance for the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, Curtis spoke with CultureMap about the past, present and future of an ever-evolving career.

"First off, I have to say that the last thing I'd ever thought I'd be is a published author," she laughed via cell phone from Los Angeles. "Actress, maybe . . . But I barely made my way out of high school."

The shift from acting to writing has been a surprisingly natural progression for Curtis, an extension of a free-flowing approach she's used to craft her memorable film roles — from title character in the cult classic A Fish Called Wanda to her Golden Globe-winning performance in True Lies.

Curtis says at the heart of both her children's books and blog posts lies a unifying lesson she's learned from decades in the entertainment industry, as well as through her own sobriety issues.

"Look, we're all vulnerable creatures. We're all trying to make it through life and none of us know how to do it. Luckily, we're all together in the same boat."

New directions

If the transition from acting to writing has been smooth, public speaking has been even easier.

"I'll admit I'm a ham, so I love a good audience laugh. In reality, I'm actually a very private and solitary person. I've lived my whole life in Los Angeles, where you're in a car all day. It's great to have this live audience to share ideas that are important to me and start a dialog."

While she remains proud of her acting work — and plans to continue her now seven-year relationship with Activia — Curtis says her main focus is on books, blogs and talks.

" I've always known there'd be a point when acting would finally catch up to me."

"Being the daughter of people who did this ahead of me, I've always known there'd be a point when acting would finally catch up to me. I feel like I've probably been running from it my whole life. Film and television is just not as available to me. Part of that's my age. Part of that's my gender. Part of that's just the way of the world. You know, though . . . It's ok. I've had a really good time and managed to make good decisions."

Curtis jokingly stresses that she's not a "self-help guru," but feels that by making her sometimes painful life experiences public, she is reaching out to a new and receptive audience. 

"At 54 now, I'm my own woman. I know my flaws and my foibles and I'm more than happy to pour them out on the table for you," said Curtis. "'To thine own self be true' is not just a catch phrase. It should be the way we live our lives. How do you find out who you are when the media is telling you to be someone else?"

"I'm here to be a sort of myth-buster about Hollywood, fashion and beauty. Sharing these thoughts with people is and will continue to be a wonderful aspect to my life."

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