Tim Curry. That’s all we really need to say about this film, isn’t it? Never mind the rest of the hoopla—Tim Curry sang, danced, tugged at our heartstrings and maybe even frightened us just a little. The little film that could carries on in theaters to this day (from 1975); the musical from which it was born has been revived many times over. And it wasn’t the director, the cinematography, the wizardry or the sets—while Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick were serviceable—it wasn’t them we came to see. Tim Curry, people…Tim Curry.
1. Actor/Writer/Composer Richard O’Brien (Riff Raff) wrote The Rocky Horror Picture Show (as well as the 1973 musical and book on which the film was based). It was originally called “They Came from Denton High,” after that, “The Rock Hor-Roar Show,” then finally The Rocky Horror Show. O’Brien—a self-described transgender and possible third sex (neither man nor woman)—and Director Jim Sharman (Shock Treatment) modeled the film in the style of so-called “Hammer Horror” films (Dracula, The Curse of Frankenstein, The Mummy).
2. The film was shot at Oakley Court in Windsor, England (as well as a studio), at which several Hammer Horror productions (The Plague of the Zombies, The Brides of Dracula) and Murder By Death were also filmed. Doctor Frank-N-Furter’s former castle now serves as a luxury hotel.
3. The floating lips that open the film belong to Patrica Quinn (Magenta), but the song (Science Fiction/Double Feature) is actually sung by Richard O’Brien. When Quinn found out the song had been taken away from her (she had performed it in the stage production), the actress turned down the film saying, “Well you can take your movie and shove it where the sun don’t shine. Not interested.” Quinn was taken to meet with Producer John Goldstone, who showed her the sets and costumes and she changed her mind. The lips were a late addition; done on the last day of filming.
4. David Bowie’s personal makeup artist, Pierre La Roche (Ziggy Stardust tour, cover look for Aladdin Sane) created the film’s makeup looks.
5. The church was merely a facade. Richard O’Brien’s wife at the time appears in the crowd, as does Koo Stark—famous for dating Prince Andrew before he married Sarah, Dutchess of York (Ferguson). For the interior church scenes, O’Brien said they could only shoot one side of a real church room as they couldn’t afford the whole thing.
6. O’Brien and Quinn had never heard of American actors Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon before working with them; in the original show, Janet and Brad were played by Julie Covington (“The South Bank Show, Rock Follies”) and Christopher Malcolm (Highlander, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Reds, Labyrinth, “Absolutely Fabulous”). According to Quinn and O’Brien, Sarandon and Bostwick fit right in—they were like family.
7. Costume Designer Sue Blane (Absolute Beginners, Lady Jane) is credited by Quinn as having invented punk style. Her designs have been used in stage productions over twenty five years.
8. The tape playing in Brad’s car is Nixon’s 1974 resignation speech. O’Brien said he didn’t like that because “…it locks the film into a time.”
9. The motorcyclists were the same people that play Transylvanians at the castle. O’Brien didn’t understand why, noting that they the motorcyclists could have been anyone. Instead, the people had to change costumes back and forth.
10. During the film production, Susan Sarandon became very ill with flu and a seemingly irritated Quinn said, “That’s all she ever discusses.” After the “million dollar shot of Tim in the pool,” the director took no break; the actors came up out of the water and went right into the dance sequence. O’Brien remarked that Sarandon was “Very,very sick, thrown into water on cold winter’s evening, in a cold studio and had to sing and dance. She was a trouper.”
11. O’Brien noted that the skeleton in the clock was real and belonged to the woman who had commissioned the clock. In March 2002, Sothebys autioned off the coffin-clock; it went for £35,000.
12. Quinn’s hair was sprayed red every day, not dyed.
13. O’Brien said Jonathan Kramer (Midnight Cowboy) was originally to have played Dr. Frank-N-Furter (rumor has it that Mick Jagger wanted the role), “But Tim Curry came in to audition and poor Jonathan never had a chance.” Quinn related that she had known Tim from stage productions and that he “was in awe of her.” She also noted that he didn’t shave under his arms, “Him and Julia Roberts.” O’Brien confessed that at the time, he didn’t like Curry; O’Brien was resentful and envious because Curry was attractive and got all the good lines.
14. Columbia was played by Nell Campbell, aka “Little Nell” who was known around the set for saying “Nell’s the name, tappin’s the game.” Campbell started out as an Australian journalist and O’Brien told of how she had been in a horrible car accident—walking around for two or three weeks with terrible headaches. Finally Campbell went to the hospital and it turned out she had a broken neck. Little Nell also had a short recording career and owned a few New York City nightclubs, including one that was quite popular during the 80s: “Nells.”
15. When Quinn remarked on the “symbiotic relationship” between Magenta and Columbia, O’Brien explained they were never supposed to be separate characters. Jim Sharman came to O’Brien asking him to write a part for singer Marianne Faithfull, who wanted to be in the film—O’Brien at first said no, but ended up splitting one character into two. In the end, Faithfull didn’t end up in the film, she went off to India instead.
16. The lift went down into “a hole” (pink room) which is actually next to the covered over swimming pool. All the pink room scenes were shot, then the set torn down so they could do the swimming pool scenes. After all the pink tile was smashed and the set destroyed, part of a wall had to be recreated for one of Tim Curry’s scenes.
17. Peter Hinwood (Rocky Horror) was a model and had never acted before The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Quinn and O’Brien were both impressed by his “emotional” performance. Hinwood’s vocals were dubbed by singer Trevor White.
18. None of the actors knew what was under the dining room table—their horror and reactions were real.
19. Grant Wood’s American Gothic is parodied throughout the film and reflected in items such as the pitchfork ray gun.
20. The Rocky Horror Picture Show holds the record for the longest theatrical release in film history. Though it didn’t initially do well in theaters, the film gained popularity after a midnight showing at New York’s Waverly Theater, after which people began the tradition of dressing up and creating their own interactive experience. A poorly received follow-up film, Shock Treatment continued Brad and Janet’s (played by different actors) storyline, but no one cared. O’Brien has written a direct sequel script, however there are no plans to produce it.
Though Cindy Davis loves Tim Curry, please let us never speak of him in that clown make-up, ever. *shudder*