Tim Curry Still Felt 'Sick' When Watching The Original Rocky Horror Picture Show

In the 1975 musical comedy horror "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," a recently engaged couple, Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) and Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick), seeks help at a nearby castle after their car breaks down on a dark, rainy night. The castle belongs to Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a mad scientist and flamboyant "transvestite" (his words) who's in the middle of throwing a lively celebration called the Annual Transylvanian Convention. Dr. Frank-N-Furter invites the couple to spend the night and shows them his "favorite obsession," his creation of Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood), an artificially made muscle-bound man with blonde hair and gold undies. Trapped in the castle, the naïve couple's relationship is tested by Dr. Frank-N-Furter's antics. The movie is a parodic homage to the sci-fi and campy horror films that came before it. 

In his breakout movie role, Tim Curry plays Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Almost a half-century later, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" remains one of Curry's most memorable performances and a midnight movie staple that still plays in many local theaters. But the one person who wasn't in the crowd singing and dancing along to the cult classic is Curry — and not because he once got thrown out of an after dark showing of the movie. "I can't really relate to the film very well," he told Interview Magazine in 1976. "I still feel sick when I see it."

Tim Curry is iffy on the glam makeup

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is based on the stage musical penned by Richard O'Brien, who also co-wrote the screenplay. Tim Curry first portrayed Dr. Frank-N-Furter during 1973 through 1974 productions of the play in London and Los Angeles before reprising the role in the feature film adaptation. For the movie, the producers hired Pierre Laroche, the makeup artist who worked for David Bowie and Mick Jagger and helped pioneer the androgynous glam rock look, to transform Curry into the future horror/musical icon.

"He kind of adapted the makeup that was already in my case and did a very kind of high fashion version of it," Tim Curry told Interview Magazine. Even today, he was not sold on the glam version of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. "He got a little more high fashion," the actor elaborated. "I don't know whether I like that or not."

Of course, the funny thing is that Curry was in the minority here. Once any piece of art is released to the public, its creators lose ownership of it. The actor behind Frank-N-Furter may have his doubts about how the character made his transition to the big screen, but legions of fans who attend regular midnight screenings, design audacious cosplay, and cover their walls with "Rocky Horror Picture Show" posters have guaranteed that the character will live on forever. Curry couldn't relate to it at the time, but he made something that millions of people have made a cornerstone of their lives. And that says something. Death of author? In this case, it's death of the actor. 

One silver lining

The '70s is way before my time, so I didn't see the first stage productions of the play, but you can find some black-and-white photos online and compare the two, if you choose to fall down a Google hole. It's hard for me to distinguish any real differences between the two depictions of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Perhaps, I need to step my cosmetology game up. 

Curry did, however, manage to find a silver lining. Actor Bruce Campbell worked with him on the 1995 sci-fi adventure action movie "Congo." In a 2022 tweet, he shared what Curry told him what he liked about "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." He said:

"[Curry] said one of the coolest things was that [The Rocky Horror Picture Show] saved a number of small indie theaters from going under, because they knew that two nights a week Rocky was going to do big business."

It's remarkable the movie is still helping small theaters stay afloat after all these years. Even today, many theaters host regular "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screenings, which continue the decades-old tradition of fans re-enacting the movie in front of the screen, with the entire audience engaging in a ribald dialogue with the film as it plays. The phrase "cult film" is used and abused these days, but this is the kind of film that actually deserves the label. And Tim Curry — the man, the myth, the legend — is the cult leader. He may not have understood the appeal at the time, but that's okay. The fans understood it for him.