The legendary actress talks about her role as Aunt Viv
Jamie Lee Curtis has been known for all sorts of roles throughout her career and now she finds herself pampering a little dog in Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on March 3. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment provided us with an interview with Curtis about her latest film, and here's what she had to say.
One of the funniest things for me was the kids who saw the movie laughing...at you (chuckles) when you were talking on the phone.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Well-- When they were talking on the phone. I know.
Yeah. You knew that scene was going to be....
Jamie Lee Curtis: I did. My son laughed and that was a big...to get a laugh out of him. Uh, adults do weird things with pets, um, and children. You know, Auntie Viv, the character in Beverly Hills Chihuahua is really over-the-top about her little dog. She doesn't have children. She's not married. So, everything, all the heart that she has, all of the privilege she has, she pours into this little dog. They needed somebody to start the movie off as a very real beginning, but also as kind of over-the-top dog lover and they found her.
What about you with your dogs? You have dogs.
Jamie Lee Curtis: I'm a disciplinarian. I'm the tough love pet owner. I believe in very well-behaved animals, but I'm not anywhere near Viv's level of excess, let's just say.
Yes, she is a little excessive. These salons that, at the beginning of the movie, you take her too... Do they really have a seaweed wrap for dogs?
Jamie Lee Curtis: I think that they probably have every beauty treatment that you could get for a dog. I'm sure there are treadmills and fat farms for dogs and I'm sure dogs get liposuction and Botox. I joked withthe, the purveyor of the salon by saying "No waxing." Made me laugh. I'm sure they get waxed. I'm sure there's all sorts of beauty treatments for dogs.
In the movie your character also has a full schedule, a calendar. I wonder if people do that with their dogs. Like you say, there's some....
Jamie Lee Curtis: Oh, where you go to here and there. I think yes. No, no, the dog calendar. I do believe it's like a child. You know, uh, we over schedule our children. Viv over schedules her pet. I'm sure they go to the beach once a week, so she can get a little of the salt water. It's very good for the skin. But the, you know, immediately she goes to the groomer to get the salt taken out. I'm sure there's play dates and movie dates and dog dates.
You know, I didn't realize that the dogs in the movie were from rescue shelters.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Not all of them. Papi is a rescue and he's the breakout star of the movie.
That dispels the saying "that you can't teach an old dog new tricks" because you have to. They had to train her. He did a great job as a dog actor.
Jamie Lee Curtis: The dog actors and the relationship they have with their trainers is one of the most beautiful things I've ever watched happen in front of me. I've worked with kids before......and that is very difficult for me. It's tough to work with child actors.
Jamie Lee Curtis: It's an adult world and you're asking a child to perform like an adult. An animal, it's different and I didn't really know what to expect. Then I watched the relationship between Chloe, my little dog in the movie, and Mike Alexander, her trainer. And it was beautiful. It was beautiful. When Chloe was tired, Mike would say, "You know what, everybody, we need to take a break. Chloe's really tired." Or Angel. Her name is Angel.
You know, it was very clear this relationship they have is built on years and hours and hours and hours of work. This is not 'you only get food if you do the right thing'. It's really a beautiful trust relationship and the way that they pattern a dog to learn how to hit a mark. It's beautiful to watch. It's beautiful. And I had great respect for it and the fact that a lot of the dogs in the movie are rescue dogs. About old dogs, new tricks. I'm an old dog and you can teach me a lot of new tricks. So, I'm not so sure about that...I think that's just an old, you know, adage that isn't really appropriate. But it also shows how a dog, a rescue dog, can end up.... Look at the life Papi's having now.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Look at this beautiful life. And often what happens in the dog's world, which I've learned, it's interesting. It's not unlike the movies for human actors. Once a dog stars in a movie, they don't work very much anymore, because people go, "Oh, that's the dog from Beverly Hills Chihuahua." And so, it's kind of heartbreaking because, in a way, you know, Papi should have his own T.V. show and honestly, Papi probably won't work that much anymore...because Papi was in Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
Do you think he's typecast? Is that what it--?
Jamie Lee Curtis: That's it. It's typecasting. You know, she's going to be typecast as the white, pampered Chihuahua and he's going to be typecast as the rough and tumble landscaping Chihuahua.
The heart of this movie is, them, your dog, Chloe, and the convergence of two cultures, which is kind of cute.
Jamie Lee Curtis: Well, that was the whole intent of the movie. The way I like to describe the movie is "Don't judge a book by its cover." Remember that a lot of us are what we're taught. Once we get out into a kind of an open world, we really do learn about ourselves and for me it's a lesson in discovering yourself, discovering your inner resources and then literally, in the movie, finding your voice, in her case, finding her bark. It's about self discovery and you have these two cultures which, there's a lot in the news. There's a lot in politics about immigration, about borders. And here you have...you're dispelling a lot of assumptions with this lovely movie about dogs.
It happens in the human characters, too. Piper's character... It's actually, it's a, it's a correlate-, the dogs and the people. Is that right?
Jamie Lee Curtis: They sort of match the storytelling. And even Auntie Viv...although, she will always remain someone kind of "out there a little bit" It's just a great movie. It has everything a family film should have. It's got romance. It's got a lot of humor. A little action, but nothing so overwhelming that kids are going to be, like, ohh. It's got action. It's got some suspense. But heart. Filled with corazón. You know, little Papi keeps saying, "Mi corazón! Mi corazón!" And, you know, the movie is all about heart.
You like to engage children though, you write. That's your thing.
Jamie Lee Curtis: I write books for children. I have a new book called "Big Words for Little People". It's my eighth book for children. It just came out. That's why I'm hawking it on national television. But I'm proud of it. It's a beautiful book about language. It's a book about words and ideas and words like "consequence" and "appropriate" and "inappropriate" and words that I think four-year-olds and five-year-olds and six year-olds can learn. And I love children. Obviously, I love children. I am a child, really. Hidden away behind my nice black dress, I'm still a little girl and so I think I have a special affinity to children.
You do and, um, children, obviously with you, too. They respond to you on screen. That was probably, I'm assuming, what appealed to you about this movie. You have a choice, you could do an action movie. You could do whatever you want.
Jamie Lee Curtis: I got a call from Raja Gosnell, the director of the movie, explaining the story of the movie and that he needed Auntie Viv. Said, "I need somebody to be Auntie Viv." I need someone who kids can trust and will recognize, but then will see her great enthusiasm and love for this little dog. We have to see somebody pamper and spoil this dog, but it's not a cartoon character, it's a real woman. And we would like you to be her. And I said, "Thank you for the invitation. I would love to come." I mean, it's like that thing where you're sitting at home going "No one's inviting me to a tea party." You know, someone calls you and says, "I'm having a lovely tea party. It's going to have a lot of dogs. We're going to Mexico. Would you like to come over?" "Yes. Thank you for the invitation. I would love to attend."
And you like fun.
Jamie Lee Curtis: I'm all about fun. I'm fun with a capital F.
You can watch Jamie Lee Curtis as Aunt Viv in Beverly Hills Chihuahua when the film hits the shelves on DVD and Blu-ray on March 3.