Tim Curry became a star when he originated the role of the “Sweet Transvestite” Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the stage and film versions of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It was a breakthrough moment that brought both fame and bittersweetness.
For many years after the premiere of the film in 1975, the British actor declined to discuss the cult classic and didn’t participate in activities promoting the musical, which found new life as an audience participation event at weekend midnight shows. He feared being typecast and wanted to be remembered for more than his fantastic beginning.
But in recent years, Curry — who went on to many memorable roles in film, television and theater from “Clue” to “It” to “Spamalot”— has been more open to embracing his “Rocky” past. He reunited last year with co-stars Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick for the film’s 40th anniversary. And he’s front and center in a new version of the musical that will air Oct. 20 on Fox.
When asked during the Fox portion of the Television Critics Assn. press tour Monday if he gave the new version his unconditional endorsement, Curry proclaimed, “I do, indeed.” (He addressed reporters from a wheelchair he has used since suffering a stroke in 2012.)
He recalled that “Rocky Horror” was his first movie and that it was a lot of fun to do and that he enjoyed playing the narrator in the new version. When asked how he felt about Frank-N-Furter being his enduring legacy, he replied in his famously plummy baritone, “There’s not a lot I can do about it really.”
The Fox update is headlined by transgender actress Laverne Cox (“Orange Is the New Black”) as Frank-N-Furter. Other cast members include Tony winner and “Masters of Sex” star Annaleigh Ashford as Columbia, Adam Lambert as Eddie, Victoria Justice (“Victorious”) as Janet and Broadway veteran Ben Vereen as Dr. Scott.
“Having Tim Curry greenlight this meant so much to myself and I’m sure for all of us,” said Vereen. “To have this man with us was it. For me, couldn’t wait to get there just to be able to work with Tim Curry. “
Grammy-winning music mogul Lou Adler, who was executive producer of the original film, is taking on the same role for the new version, joining with Kenny Ortega (the “High School Musical” franchise), who will direct and choreograph it.
Adler said he wasn’t surprised that the movie had maintained its popularity over the decades and that fans were open to a new version.
“Nothing surprises me when it comes to ‘Rocky’,” Adler said. “It’s always had a mind of its own. We just wanted the fans to tell us what we should do next.”
Fox’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” will retain much of the audience participation aspect, said Adler. “Our objective was be true to the original, but make it contemporary.”