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Comfortable at 44, Curtis has fun being teen, too, in 'Friday'

SHUT UPPPPP!!!"

Jamie Lee Curtis is not really telling you to shut up. She's just demonstrating the way a typical teen-age girl, like her character's daughter in Disney's Freaky Friday, would express her displeasure with ... oh, with everything.

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The 44-year-old actress is doing more than channeling her inner teen - she's reciting her dialogue. Her character, ultra-responsible therapist Tess, widowed and about to remarry, wakes up the morning before her wedding to discover that she has switched bodies with her rock-singing, rebellious daughter Anna (Lindsay Lohan).

Freaky Friday, a remake of the 1976 film with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, gave Curtis not only the chance to play a role-within-a-role, but also the chance to examine the very real issues of parenting, self-awareness and aging.

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She says making the movie, which opens Wednesday, was a blast.

"I'm thrilled we made such a great movie, because you never know, and you always hope," she says. "The process was incredibly fun and positive, and the fact that the movie is as good as it is is gratifying. Sometimes the process is great and the movie comes out, and it's not a great movie. I've been in those, too."

Curtis has been in a whole lot of movies and has had almost as many screen and public personas. She's the daughter of Hollywood stars Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis and has been everything from scream queen (Halloween, Prom Night) to hot bod (A Fish Called Wanda, Perfect, Trading Places) to hot mom (True Lies, My Girl).

In real life, Curtis is the wife of a fellow star (Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show actor and director Christopher Guest), the mother of 16-year-old Annie and 7-year-old Thomas, and the author of many children's books, including Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born and 2002's I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting off a Little Self-Esteem.

As Curtis' work off-screen continues to focus on her family and on the health and welfare of children in general, she's working to make her public and screen personas more real. While promoting I'm Gonna Like Me last year, she made headlines with a More magazine spread in which she appeared without makeup or fancy clothing.

And she says she chose Freaky Friday in part because it attempts to show a real relationship between a mother and daughter whose misunderstandings are more than skin - or body - deep.

"The original was a farce. It was never supposed to be real for a second," Curtis says. "This version is a fable, a magical, unreal situation that is grounded with some very important life lessons. It still makes you laugh. ... We want people to giggle and squeal and groan, and at the end of the movie take a second and say, 'Ooh, I get it. That's special.'"

Tess doesn't get that pierced, guitar-strumming Anna isn't just trying to be difficult and sullen but is still grieving for her late father and craves more attention from her mother. Anna, on the other hand, doesn't fully understand how much Tess still misses her late husband but needs to move on.

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"I appreciate the fact that Disney decided to make a movie that doesn't sugarcoat. It didn't shy away from the reality of teen angst, of the struggle to raise a teen-age girl," Curtis says. "The tricky thing with mommies and daughters is that the mommies want the daughters to be just like them. And the daughters, perhaps, don't have to try so hard to be as far away from who their mommy is to be authentic."

Curtis' methods for playing a 15-year-old were, she says, "a combo platter, a little surf and turf. I have a 16 1/2 -year-old daughter. I remember the freedom of my youth, and I am daily reminded by so many things with my daughter. At the same time, I'm a very uber-responsible mommy."

She laughs. "Then again, sometimes I'm more of the free-spirited teen-ager. ... I have a very natural immaturity, and my daughter has a very natural maturity."

The movie isn't all serious. The scene in which Tess and Anna first discover they've switched bodies got big laughs from the mostly preteen audience at a recent screening. The crowd howled particularly loudly when Curtis, as the disembodied Anna, looks at her mother's face - now hers - and shrieks, "I'm OLD! I'm like the Crypt Keeper!"

Most women would be horrified to think that someone would freak out waking up with her face. Curtis, however, says it was hysterical.

"I'm the first person who will pull the covers [off] what I look like. I'm very open about what I look like and how old I am. It's funny! It's a really good laugh," she says. "All of us in our 40s would love to jump back and be 16 again. But I like who I am. I don't want to change my life. There are things I need to improve, but I'm lucky."

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For film events, see Page 43.


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