Why Tim Curry Got Thrown Out Of An After Dark Showing Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show

After beginning his career in stage plays around London's West End and earning short-lived roles on random television shows, Tim Curry sashayed into stardom when he portrayed Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the 1975 cult classic film "Rocky Horror Picture Show." Originally debuting as a stage play in London, "The Rocky Horror Picture show" is a unique blend of old-school horror, campy sci-fi, and dramatic musical that no one expected to remain popular for nearly 50 years.

Since 1976, theaters across America and England regularly host midnight showings of the film, where the audience tosses rice, confetti, and insults at the screen. While this is more than enough to get viewers tossed out of any other showing, this behavior is encouraged during "Rocky Horror" screenings, and has become part of the viewing experience.

Along with catchy songs and fun dances, a majority of the film's long-lasting success rests on the glittered high heels of Tim Curry. While a slew of actors have taken on the role over the years, Curry's portrayal of the pansexual, extraterrestrial, mad scientist is undoubtedly the most popular and successful. As a result of Curry's excellent characterization, Frank-N-Furter might have become more recognizable than the actor. In the late '70s, Curry was accused of being a fraud and was thrown out of a midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Typecasting Fears

After Dr. Frank-N-Furter became the breakout star of the movie, Curry shied away from discussing the role. While other actors flock to morning and late-night talk shows to discuss their popular characters, Curry chose to keep a low profile.

One of the rare interviews he participated in after the release of the movie was with The Student Television of Imperial College (STOIC), where he was asked if he had any hesitation about playing such an unforgettable character. In his answer, Curry may have revealed one possible reason he stepped away from a very bright spotlight when he said, "I was hesitant in that, if it worked, it might be a difficult image to shake off."

It's a fair point. Typecasting is a frequent concern of actors, and a "sweet transvestite from Transylvania" is a tough act to follow, but Curry was willing to take the risk. Although the risk was a successful one, it seems that Curry tried to avoid over-saturating himself with the achievement of "Rocky Horror" by avoiding countless interviews and television appearances at the time of the film's release. As he explained to NPR:

"That first performance that introduced me to everybody was so out there and so outrageous that I was a very quiet boy for a while, just to make sure that people got it that that wasn't necessarily who I was."

After Frank-N-Furter, Curry had a moderately successful career in Hollywood, most famously as Pennywise in the 1990 miniseries "It," but his decision to separate himself from his most iconic role may have backfired. Curry has a strong and devoted fanbase, but the transexual mad doctor has hordes of fanatical loyalists all his own, who kicked Curry out of a midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" for being a fraud.

An imposter

As reported by the Hollywood Reporter, when Leta Powell interviewed Curry for Oliver Twist in 1982, she spent much of the interview talking about the Rocky Horror Picture Show. As a result, the actor might have wondered if he could ever separate himself from Dr. Frank-N-Furter, but an incident at Waverly Theater may have given him some comfort.

As he explained to Powell, when he attended a midnight showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," fans of the mad scientist weren't impressed by Tim Curry:

"I went rather early on at The Waverley [Theater] in New York, where it started, and they thought that I was an imposter, and they threw me out."

Odds are, if the actor had come with the attitude and fishnets of Frank-N-Furter, he would have received a hero's welcome, but the interview-ducking English actor got the boot. He must not have been too torn up about it though because, throughout his career, Curry has avoided interviews about "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," as well as the midnight showings and fan conventions. It appears that Curry doesn't mind if the character has taken on a life of his own, even if it includes die-hard fans who toss him out of a theater.

After many decades of avoidance, Curry finally returned to the cult classic in the 2016 TV movie, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again." This time around, he played The Narrator, also known as The Criminologist. The Fox remake bombed with fans and critics, but it's great to see Curry feeling confident and secure enough in himself to return. Hopefully, Curry has made peace with the fact that his legacy is forever tied up in the corset of a beloved, extraterrestrial, pansexual, mad scientist. 

The real legacy

Curry distanced himself from "Rocky Horror" because he didn't want Hollywood to disregard his ability to play terrifying characters like Pennywise in "It," the suspicious butler in "Clue," and the devilish Darkness in "Legend." While he loved the wackiness of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, he didn't want to be typecast into the weird roles for the rest of his life, but the legacy of "Rocky Horror" goes a lot deeper than a tight corset, funny dances, and campy characters.

Perhaps, Tim Curry's powerful and confident portrayal of Dr. Frank-N-Furter is so memorable and beloved because it inspires people to accept themselves for who they are and to celebrate all the things that make them a little unusual. That's an important and powerful lesson for the world, and one Curry should be proud of.