Jamie Lee Curtis marches into the chic Manhattan penthouse suite waving a bottle of anti-bacterial lotion. "I have germ gel if you need it," she practically hollers. "My poor husband is sick and has been cooped up in the hotel room for four days now. Whenever he comes near me, I'm like this" - she mimes keeping him at arm's length - "Hi honey."
Slinking her tall, curvaceous frame into a leather armchair, the 46-year-old former pin-up chatters away in her appealingly open, straight-from-the-heart style.
"I can't get sick, I'm on a press tour," she rattles on. "I've even squirted essential oils onto a napkin and rubbed down every door handle in the hotel. You can sniff your way to my room on the eighth floor!"
"So, can I quote that you are refusing to touch your husband?" I semi-joke.
Curtis smiles and quips "Yeah, I can see the headline: 'American actress doesn't touch husband after 20 years of marriage!' " Her husband is the film-maker Christopher Guest (otherwise known as Lord Haden-Guest, the fifth Baron of Saling in Essex), creator of several cult comic movies, including This Is Spinal Tap. The couple have two adopted children, Annie, 18, and Thomas, 8.
Curtis looks fine and fit in a figure-hugging, black V-neck sweater, black trousers and heeled leather boots. Her silver-grey, boyish crop accentuates her soft, pool-blue eyes, inherited, she remarks, from her father.
Despite her continuous self-criticism - she often calls herself "stupid" - she is a New York Times bestselling author, having penned five children's books. But pay her a compliment - whether it's for her high cheekbones or her comic timing, and she'll acidly retort: "Oh pleeeaze... stop flattering me, I know the truth, I'm no Meryl Streep." She bows down as if in prayer every time she mentions the name "Streep" and is so comically self-deprecating that you can't help but laugh along with her. Maybe she needs to take a page out of one of her own books: I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem?
"I was lucky enough to be born into the acting world, but I was never overly driven. I don't think I'm a talent so earth-shattering that the world will suffer if I bail out," she says wryly.
"I've been an actor for almost all of my life and it has always been very easy for me to act, in the sense of just being a kid. It was always a breeze for me to approximate other people. If I was playing a secretary, I could sit here and blow your mind with my secretarial skills. I have always chosen to build the character with subtleties such as the costuming and the hair. These are all very conscious specific choices, which I make quietly. And then, of course, I watch great actors at work. You know, Meryl Streep... and a lot is made of their craft.
"I'm not saying on any level I need to be compared to Meryl Streep. All I'm saying is that I do very intricate work. If you look at A Fish Called Wanda, my character dresses differently for every one of those men she is with. I've carved that and that's how I build a character."
The daughter of veteran movie stars Tony Curtis, 79, and the late Janet Leigh (who died in October, at 77), Curtis was blessed with an impeccable pedigree and jackpot genetics. Her own noteworthy performances have, ironically, been in horror and comedy, the two genres which catapulted her parents to fame: Leigh in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Curtis in Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot.
She made her name as "The Scream Queen" in horror movies such as the Halloween franchise, before going on to wow John Travolta with her killer bod (as an aerobics instructor) in Perfect (1985), flirting with John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda (1988) and stripping for secret agent Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies (1994). Last year she won over a younger demographic when she switched bodies with her on-screen teenage daughter inFreaky Friday.
Today, however, she announces the time has arrived for her to draw the curtains on her 26-year career. "Christmas with the Kranks will be my last movie" she says, as casually as if she was asking "One lump or two?"
"I need to spend more time raising my kids and just being a mum. I feel like the only person in the world who wants me right now is my son. I don't really see I have a choice. My family needs me.
"Even this movie caused them a lot of stress, because for 14 weeks I was not home every day. I was not picking my son up from school. I didn't make dinner, and I didn't help him do his homework. I'm showing up right before he goes to bed, just in time to read him a story."
She shrugs. "I'm around a lot and then I disappear, so it's very weird for them. I'm a very big presence and I'm a micro manager. I would check the temperature of the coffee if you were coming to my house, and I do that with my children in every area of their lives. So when I go to work, even though I've hired people and I have a wonderful support team, it's still not me.
"I worked a lot when my daughter was younger. I'd be there and then I'd be gone and I think that was mind-fucking for a young child; she suffered when I wasn't around."
Curtis admits to feeling a working mother's guilt: "When I die I am going to look back on my life and the only regret I will have is regarding my children. I will not regret saying no to a job and I will not have a monetary regret."
But family issues aside, there's another reason why Curtis is calling it a day; that old Hollywood favourite - age.
"It also has to do with the fact that I'm getting older, and I'm not looking so good. I'm not saying I'm ageing horribly. But I may not want to look at my face grow older." She winces at the thought.
"Some people age better than others. There's a point when it's just a natural evolution, and I think there comes a point when I don't want to be photographed any more. I don't mind looking at my face in the mirror, with some nice lighting, at home, but I'm not sure I want to look at it on a 150ft screen at 58 years old!"
In 2002, Curtis posed in her underwear for the American magazine More, looking on the heavy side, with a little roll of fat showing under her bra strap and over the top of her knickers. The actress had instructed the editor to reveal "Jamie Lee Curtis Uncut"; hence, no retouching, no make-up artists, no hairdressers. Spilling the beans on the Hollywood façade, Curtis said at the time: "I've had a little lipo, I've had a little Botox and do you know what? None of it works."
With trademark candour, she wants people to know that nobody looks that good without professional help. "I think the whole plastic surgery notion is becoming epidemic. There's this idea that you can fix the outside of yourself. I've learned you can't fix anything on the outside."
She almost snorts: "They should stop fretting. Go out and have a bite to eat. Stop drinking. Go home and love your family!"
Curtis grew up with her sister, Kelly, 48, also an actress, as Tinseltown royalty, but her parents went through a bitter divorce when she was three.
Understandably, memories of her mother are still very raw: "She was an amazing woman. She loved this business. She would want me to work all the time. I'd be: 'I can't, I've got to take care of my kids.' And she'd be: 'They will be fine. Do your work.' That was who she was. She certainly wouldn't want me to be at home, mourning her."
Curtis has known turbulent times, at one stage developing a cocaine habit which she kicked in 1983. In 1994 her half-brother Nicholas, then 23, died of a drug overdose. During her hazy, bingeing years, she dated the singer Adam Ant and was briefly engaged to the production designer Michael Riva. In 1999 she gave up booze for good.
A major change for the better came in 1984, when she met Guest, but she never wanted to work with him.
"Every word in Chris's movies is made up on the spot. That is not what I do. You will never see me on stage at the Improv taking cues from the audience... what is it? A piece of fruit - a lemon, and a country? Budapest, okay. Then coming up with some sort of Budapest-lemon connection. That's not my gig," she deadpans.
Clearly her forte is slapstick, which she performs with ease in Christmas with the Kranks. Based on the John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas it's about a couple who decide to skip the festivities now that their daughter has flown the nest.
Curtis is half Jewish, and celebrates what she nicknames "Chronikah" which, she points out, equals pure pressure. "It's a woman's burden and a man and kids' holiday," she says, sighing.
"The morning after, all of that work is lying on the floor in the form of ripped-up paper. And nobody's happier. You're just sitting there looking at each other, going 'now what?' Gift-giving doesn't bring you closer. It's a terribly disappointing holiday, but you know what? We seem to repeat it each year!"
'Christmas with the Kranks' opens todayReuse content