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Getting Mouthy With Warner Bros. Changed Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Life

Samantha Franco
Photo Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment / NBC / MovieStillsDB
Photo Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment / NBC / MovieStillsDB

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Julia Louis-Dreyfus talked about the so-called “Seinfeld curse,” a term used to describe what some have perceived as a lack of success for the main cast members of the iconic NBC sitcom after it ended. She has also discussed her relationship with her father, revealing his surprising reaction to her first acting gig, and described how she fended off big studio bullies early on in her career.

A curse?

When Rolling Stone brought up the alleged curse, Louis-Dreyfus wholeheartedly dismissed it. “It was invented by the media. They thought it was clever,” she said. “You don’t need me to prove it wrong, it was ridiculous! It made no sense. I was amazed that it had legs, because it was so moronic. I don’t know how else to say it!”

A season 3 promo shot of the cast
A season 3 promotional shot of the Seinfeld cast (Photo Credit: NBC / Castle Rock Entertainment / MovieStillsDB)

The notion of a “curse” came about after the failures of post-Seinfeld sitcoms featuring the show’s main cast. Michael Richards’ The Michael Richards Show lasted only eight episodes on NBC, while Jason Alexander’s ABC sitcom Bob Patterson and CBS sitcom Listen Up! each lasted for just one season. Louis-Dreyfus’ NBC comedy Watching Ellie had a slightly better run of two seasons before it was canceled due to low ratings.

Massive success

However, Louis-Dreyfus found massive success with her CBS show The New Adventures of Old Christine, which ran for five seasons and earned her an Emmy in 2006. During her acceptance speech, she defiantly proclaimed, “I’m not somebody who really believes in curses, but curse this, baby!” After that, Louis-Dreyfus went on to win six more Emmys for her role in HBO’s beloved political satire Veep.

Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus proudly displays her Emmy
Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus winner of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series poses in the press room at the 58th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium on August 27, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Louis-Dreyfus had previously spoken about her experience working on the classic NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live, where she got her start on TV. She looked to her father for encouragement on her new endeavor, but received quite the opposite.

Louis-Dreyfus was scouted by SNL

Born in New York City, Louis-Dreyfus found her breakout into the comedy world while working as a performer at The Practical Theatre Company in Chicago Illinois. While there, she was scouted by Saturday Night Live! reps who invited her to join the show. She later admitted that she had “no understanding about performing in this new medium” when they approached her.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and other actors on a comedy skit for SNL
Julia’s first television appearance was on the comedy sketch show, Saturday Night Live! (Photo Credit: Lynn Goldsmith / Corbis / VCG / Getty Images)

Nevertheless, they extended the invitation and after dropping out of Northwestern University, Louis-Dreyfus made her debut on the comedy sketch show in 1982. She continued to perform with the NBC program for another three seasons before parting ways in 1985.

Her father was not impressed by her acting on the sketch show

Back in the early days of her performances on Saturday Night Live!, Louis-Dreyfus looked to her father for support and encouragement. She approached him to ask what he thought of her appearance on the show, but the response she received was not at all what she was looking for.

“I remember him saying something really negative to me. He didn’t handle it properly, and he wasn’t gentle. His complaint was that I was too big, too broad. I was devastated by that,” Louis-Dreyfus said during an interview with Variety. Even back then, she did not agree with the criticism. “He was such a narcissist, I didn’t even consider [his opinion],” she said. “And I say that with love in my heart.”

She refrained from identifying the SNL sketch in question.

Gérard Louis-Dreyfus was both logistical and creative

Julia’s father, Gérard Louis-Dreyfus, was a very successful man – both by inheritance and by his own work. He was the great-grandson of Léopold Louis-Dreyfus, who founded the Louis-Dreyfus Group, one of the largest agricultural commodity trading companies in the world.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus holding hands with her father, Gérard, while both dressed up
Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and her father Gérard Louis-Dreyfus arrive at a state dinner hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama. (Photo Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty Images)

Gérard Louis-Dreyfus studied at Duke University’s School of Law and became a lawyer, working at a New York City Law firm. He then ventured into the business world, acting as chairman of Louis Dreyfus Energy Services, a company involved in agriculture, food processing, international shipping, and finance. In 2006, his net worth was estimated at a whopping $3.4 billion.

Although his career path may paint him as a very logistical person, Gérard was also a creative in his own right. He sat as the chairman of the Poetry Society of America for 10 years and accumulated a remarkable art collection that featured over 170 artists. When he died in 2016, a large portion of Gérard’s collection was donated to The Harlem Children’s Zone, which is a non-profit that supports low-income and underprivileged young people.

He still supported his daughter

Despite his early disapproval of her appearances on Saturday Night Live!, Gérard supported his daughter throughout her entire acting career and in life. “She was always very interested in acting,” he said of Julia in 2014. “If the children are happy and successful, it’s a great thing for parents. She’s a wonderful actress and an even better daughter and mother.”

Headshot of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her father, Gérard.
Actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and father William Louis-Dreyfus in New York City. (Photo Credit: Mike Pont / FilmMagic / Getty Images)

Following his death, Julia spoke of him during her Emmy acceptance speech, saying “I’m so glad he liked ‘Veep,’ because his opinion was the one that really mattered.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus had to deal with bullies in the business

On an episode of Podcrushed, Julia Louis-Dreyfus explained that early on in her career, she had to deal with bullying in the industry. Before Seinfeld, her career was still in its infancy, and she worked on the 1988 sitcom Day by Day. At that time, she signed a development deal with Warner Bros. that had “a creative out based on the material that was being developed.” The deal didn’t work, and she admitted that she chose to “bow out.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus in 1988
Julia Louis-Dreyfus circa 1988. (Photo Credit: Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

Shortly afterward, Larry David sent her the script for Seinfeld, which seemed to bother the studio. They then threatened to sue her because they thought that was the reason she pulled out of their deal. “I was really scared, because it was Warner Bros. and I was just this girl who was an actress,” she explained. “I felt very small. Because I was.”

“I had representatives who were saying to me, ‘You better just give them their money back. Give them their money back.’ You know? And I said, ‘But if I give them the development money back, won’t that imply that I did something dishonest? That I broke the contract?’ And they were like, ‘Just do it, just to get rid of the problem.'” She wasn’t going to falsely admit she had done something wrong, so she reached out to some peers for advice.

“I called [Gary Goldberg, creator of Day by Day], because it didn’t sit well with me,” she said. “He was a huge force at NBC and in television specifically, and I called him and told him this story, and he said, ‘You know what? I don’t respond well to bullying so just tell them to [expletive] off and don’t give them their money back.'”

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Louis-Dreyfus really took that advice to heart and said she was thankful to have received it. “It really emboldened me to stand up for myself, and so, that’s what I did,” she explained. “And they just went away, that was the end of it… That was a seminal moment for me when he said that. Because it was bullying by the way.”

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!