From the archives: Look back at when The Rocky Horror Picture Show cast reunited for EW
In 2015, the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show reunited for Entertainment Weekly's reunions issue to mark the film's 40th anniversary. We're sharing it again following the death of Meat Loaf, who played Eddie in the cult classic.
It's been four decades since the release of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and yet we're somehow still shivering with antici…pation. That's because five of the cult classic's stars — Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn, and Meat Loaf — have reunited for the film's 40th anniversary, a celebration of one of the strangest, sexiest, most addictive movies ever. (Fox Home Entertainment has released a special Blu-ray edition to mark the occasion.) What's even more amazing is that Rocky Horror has been playing continuously for all of those intervening years, screening at midnight showings around the world to serried ranks of fishnet-clad superfans armed with hot dogs, newspapers, and call-and-response interactions for a service at the Church of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. None of these actors could have guessed that their odd, wonderful, no-budget production would have such a long tail, but they're certainly enjoying it. "I'm definitely going to need to get all of your numbers," says Sarandon.
Stage to Screen
Richard O'Brien's madcap exaltation of B-movie camp and sexual fluidity began as a stage phenomenon, mounted first in London, then in L.A. and New York, and featured many of the actors who eventually starred in the film.
TIM CURRY (Dr. Frank-N-Furter): They asked me to audition for it, and I sang "Tutti Frutti," which was appropriate, really. I started playing [Frank-N-Furter] as a German, then I saw the costume. It was quite diva. I heard a woman on the bus one day saying, in this posh voice, "Are you looking at a new house when retiring or your place in the country?" and I thought, That's it! Almost like the Queen. Well, it was a smash from the moment it opened. It was a tiny theater. There was only 60 seats. And then they brought it over to Los Angeles.
PATRICIA QUINN (Magenta): It was really quite a big hit in London. I remember Mick Jagger came to see us, as did a lot of others.
MEAT LOAF (Eddie): When they called for Rocky Horror, I had no idea what it was. All I knew was they wanted me to come to L.A. In the play, I played Eddie as well as Dr. Scott. We went to meet Elvis, who had seen the show, and he said to me, "I hear everyone that has done [Eddie] has only done an impersonation of me and you didn't do that." And I went, "No, there's only one you."
CURRY: The show was a big hit at the Roxy theater [in NYC]. Various film companies started circling, and Fox eventually made a proper offer. It made sense to make a movie.
SUSAN SARANDON (Janet): Barry and I were the only ones that hadn't been involved with the stage show. I had become friends with Tim because I had girlfriends who were in the L.A. stage production. At one point, I just ran in to give him a kiss and say hi and then they went, "Why don't you read for this?" I didn't even know they were casting the movie. So I read and they were like, "Oh my God!" But I said, "Yeah, but I can't sing." I was really embarrassed. So, I thought at some point if I did this that they'd have to give me alcohol, drugs, or something to get me through it, which of course they didn't.
BARRY BOSTWICK (Brad): I think we were the outsiders, you know, the ones that flew across the pond, the characters coming into the castle. The moment we got off the plane, we were either rehearsing or prerecording. So we didn't have a lot of time to get to know them, and they didn't have a lot of time to get to know us. It was a hurry-up, low-budget movie and everybody was trying to do their absolute best with no money and just no time, and I think that we were, in some ways, seen as Brad and Janet.
A Rocky Production
In the wise words of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, "It's not easy having a good time." Filming at Bray Studios and the crumbling Oakley Court in the U.K. was not exactly a rosy experience, with the cast and crew fighting tight schedules, cold conditions, and lowered immune systems.
CURRY: It was the middle of winter, and when we did the swimming pool scene, Susan got pneumonia. We never heard the last of it.
SARANDON: It was cold. It was a difficult shoot, just in terms of the amount of time that there was and the circumstances. Everybody was working under the gun. I mean, in a way, I was the only one that had done a film. Everyone was exhausted and working long hours and then going all the way back an hour to London and then starting all over again. There was no ceiling. It was raining right into the building. I finally had to ask for something, and they got a space heater and put kind of screens around it. And then one day it went up in flames, luckily with nobody in it, and that was the end of that.
BOSTWICK: It just caught fire. You tried not to feel the cold even though the rain was coming through the roof. It was like a comedy of errors. [The stunt guy] who rode the motorcycle [around the lab] got hurt because it sort of fell off the ramp as he was going up. Probably the hardest thing to shoot was getting out of the pool in 5-inch high heels and having to dance the floor show on a slippery, wet stage. That ain't easy.
SARANDON: I had pneumonia for a while and the doctor told me, "You really shouldn't work, but if they can put you in a hot tub in between scenes or something that would be helpful." I was like, "They don't even have hot rooms, let alone a hot tub."
It's hard to think of a more famous pair of lips in cinema history than the ones that open the film singing "Science Fiction/Double Feature."
QUINN: I was the lips, and when I came in to do it there wasn't one penny left. So there I was blacked-out, and they had no special effects to do that, so they just put a piece of cloth over the camera. When I sang, my head moved and my mouth kept going out of frame so they took a light clamp and clamped my head in!
CURRY: The original idea was the film would be in black and white until I appeared in the elevator.
SARANDON: It was a shame that there wasn't the money to do that because it would've been like The Wizard of Oz, and I thought that was such a good idea, but they couldn't afford to do it.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show wasn't a hit when it was released, but shrewd countermarketing combined with ready-made cult sensibilities turned it into a midnight-movie classic at theaters like the Waverly in Greenwich Village.
CURRY: I was hoping it was going to be a very commercial Warhol movie.
SARANDON: I don't think anybody knew what to make of it, and that was the end of it. I never even knew it had opened. It definitely didn't open in New York. And then it slowly started gaining traction as a midnight movie.
CURRY: It was odd because, in fact, I was living in the building behind the Waverly. I did go, and I was thrown out because they thought I was an imposter, not actually me. "Get out of here" is exactly what they said.
QUINN: Every generation introduces their children to it. I've been flying around doing conventions and introducing the movie for years, and I'm still amazed at these huge crowds to whom the movie still means so much.
SARANDON: Molly Ringwald took me to a screening pretty early on. That was the first time I saw it; I believe it was 8th Street, the whole ritual. I've been back to see it. I brought Natalie Portman and Thora Birch and my daughter when we were doing Anywhere but Here in L.A. It's clearly a rite of passage. Lots of times journalists ask me in such a way as though I would be defensive about it, but I'm very proud of being part of it.
BOSTWICK: There's something incredibly simple about Rocky Horror Picture Show in terms of its color and props and scenes, and I think that's what people respond to: that they can be any character in it if they have the balls to stand up and put those costumes on.
A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly's issue from Oct. 16/23, 2015. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.