Question: I know you've written about on-set fighting in the past, so I'll ask you about another rumor. Was it true that Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Lewis fought a lot while they were on Anything But Love?
Answer: Depends on whom you choose to believe, Anne the tabloid reporters who reported on the supposed turmoil, or the stars themselves. According to the two of them, nothing beyond the usual professional give-and-take took place on the ABC comedy, which ran from March 1989 to June 1992.
"I've never been involved in a show without a few problems," Lewis told TV Guide in 1989. "That's why this so-called controversy with Jamie and me is so laughable. She has a point of view, yes. There is some tension involved, even on the best of shows. We like to joke with each other, and some people misunderstand that. Hey, this isn't Othello. We have a good time. She's not the most positive person I know, and, god knows I'm not either. It's a good match."
Curtis wasn't all sunshine and smiles when it came to discussing her show and the industry overall, certainly. But it's not like she was wildly off the mark in her assessments, and interviews with her were full of a candor that's rare in entertainment reporting. After the show's first season an abbreviated, six-episode run fighting broke out between its original creator-producers and the stars, network and studio over the quality of the scripts. As a result, the original production team was shown the door, which made Curtis fear that everything would be blamed on her.
"I wasn't pleased with the writing. I won't lie," Curtis said after the dust settled. "The scripts weren't always funny enough, and I felt from the beginning that we had no idea what we were doing with my character and Richard's.... But I'm the one who gets the rap, because it's easy to pin the woman as the prima-donna bitch. All over this town people talk this way about women and things they do."
As for her relationship with Lewis and reports of his being tired of her moodiness, the actress saw it as par for the course in the business. But it didn't mean she had to like it. "I guess I'm hypersensitive about some things," she said. "We obviously need a minimum of friction, and obviously, with the situation with [the original producers] last year, there was a lot of friction. But now you get a couple of articles saying Richard and I hate each other. He jokes, calls me Spartacus because my father [Tony Curtis] was in the movie; some people probably take it the wrong way. I'm probably hyperinsecure about it, especially around reporters because they carry a lot of pressure. But that's this town, too. As long as you go back, it's been going on."
Curtis' mother, Janet Leigh, costarred in such legendary films as Psycho and The Manchurian Candidate, but came up in a studio system where an actress questioned authority at her professional peril. "My mom and, I guess, me, too I inherited it came from the '50s psychology, when the actresses were owned by the studios," she explained. "She was a diplomat because she had to be. And so diplomacy is what I practiced early in my career. I spent a long time being afraid. Then I started speaking up for myself. You steel yourself that way. That's the positive. The negative is you get labeled, and labels have a way of sticking in this town."
Curtis started making her views known early in the show's lifespan, and was willing to dig in her heels when the situation called for it. For example, when ABC and Fox, which produced the series, tried to shoot it on videotape after promising it would be filmed, Curtis threatened to walk. The powers-that-be gave in, but not until they made her promise to pay $5000 per episode to cover the cost of film crews. "I got the money back when we were renewed," she said. "I wasn't going to allow myself to be bullied."
With that kind of will power came the kind of judgment Curtis feared. But it was a respectful judgment just the same. "She is admired and appreciated most of the time," an anonymous source working on the show said. "But, like any strong person, she can get on the nerves sometimes of some people who'd just as soon do things any way and get them done. Being a woman probably doesn't make it any easier for her. She's demanding, but that's her strength, too."