Tim Curry Wasn't Going To Let Susan Sarandon Skip The Auditions For The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I would like, if I may, to take you on a strange journey. How strange was it? So strange, they made a movie out of it. 

Jim Sharman's 1975 musical "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is still playing every Saturday at midnight somewhere on the planet. If you're lucky enough, you live near one of those theaters that still hosts a live cast, reenacting the movie on a stage in front of the screen. Some people have been attending the film either as a cast member or as a mere enthusiast on a weekly basis for years or even decades. Someone might want to tell the Florida man who watched "Spider-Man: No Way Home" 292 times that he is not even close to breaking any records. 

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show," based on the stage musical by Richard O'Brien, is a sexed-up sendup of James Whale's classic 1930s movie "The Old Dark House." It stars Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon as Brad and Janet, a milquetoast middle-American couple who get a flat tire in the middle of the rainy woods at night. Seeking help at a nearby castle (!), they discover a convention of extraterrestrial horndogs led by the explosive and amazing Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry). Brad and Janet are invited up to Frank's laboratory — some people would give their right arm for the privilege — to witness the animation of a Frankenstein-like monster, a chiseled, dim-bulb stud named Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood). 

By the end of the movie, Brad and Janet will have been "activated," and both sleep with Frank. Janet also sleeps with Rocky. It's an orgy of a good time.

Can you sing Happy Birthday?

Prior to "Rocky Horror," Sarandon appeared in the 1969 film "Joe" with her then-husband Chris Sarandon, as well as a few notable gigs on long-running soap operas. She also appeared in Sidney Lumet's "Lovin' Molly" with Anthony Perkins and "The Front Page" with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Sarandon was definitely a star on the rise. "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" wasn't going to rocket her to stardom — the film was hardly a runaway blockbuster — but she continued to rise regardless. 

As she revealed in a recent video interview with Vanity Fair, Sarandon was actually asked to audition for the role of Janet by Tim Curry himself. Curry was the first actor to play Dr. Frank-N-Furter when "The Rocky Horror Show" debuted on the London stage. Sarandon had seen the stage performance, and knew that auditions were being held. Sarandon apparently already had introduced herself to Curry, so when he saw her, she was roped in. Curry was quite enthused, by her telling, and insisted that she can sing, something Sarandon did not agree with. Sarandon said: 

"One of the reasons I got involved [in "Rocky Horror"] was because of Tim Curry. When Tim came out in that opening the first time ... His entrance still remains one of the most electric performances and moments on stage history that I've ever seen. And then they came back in to cast the movie, and I went by just to say hi. And he said, 'Oh my God, would you read for Janet?' And I said, 'Oh my God, I can't sing, and I'm really phobic about it.' And they said, 'Well, come on, you can sing. Come on. Try hitting this note. Can you sing Happy Birthday?'"

She could.

You got any drugs?

Given the wildness of "Rocky Horror," one might assume production was a constant party, full of drugs and booze. Multiple reports from the set, including from Sarandon herself, have told a different story. It was freezing, for one, and Sarandon was in her underwear a lot, so she did catch a mild case of pneumonia. The budget was very low, and many of the crew worked for peanuts. 

But, given the wild, fun, gender-bending material, Sarandon may be forgiven for assuming that the "Rocky Horror" audition process would involve her getting liquored up. It turns out, Sarandon was not offered any controlled substances. Which, of course, ultimately helped. Her ability to essentially satirize her own career as a "young leading lady" was quite enough for the casting agents. Said Sarandon: 

"And I thought, 'You know what? When I get there, they'll give me alcohol or drugs or something, and that'll help get me through.' Of course they didn't, and up until that point, all the Janets that they'd had who were singers weren't particularly funny. I felt that Janet was the personification of every ingenue that I'd played up to that point: sweet on the outside but a b**** underneath. So they loved it."

Sarandon is very positive on her place in "Rocky Horror," even if she wasn't so keen on the audition and filming process. The film, meanwhile, has become the most famous midnight movie in cinema history. "Rocky Horror" is not as subversive as it once was, but it's still a nice, raunchy time at the movies. The cast may have been cold, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves. In Sarandon's words: "It looked like we had fun, right?"