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Q&A With Barry Bostwick: Celebrating Two Decades of 'Horror'

Q&A With Barry Bostwick: Celebrating Two Decades of 'Horror'
Actor Barry Bostwick at the Crown Media offices in Studio City in August 2015. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

What does the original Brad Majors  think after all the years of cult celebration and worship? Turns out actor Barry Bostwick is still totally enamored with this bespectacled, Type A hero. Go behind the scenes on set at the famous Transylvania convention all those years ago. This interview by staff writer Susan King originally appeared on Oct. 25, 1995. 

"The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is the ultimate cult film. Though it bombed in its initial release in 1975, it has become the longest-running film in movie history, grossing more than $150 million. For almost two decades, devoted fans have flocked to Friday and Saturday midnight showings dressed as their favorite characters to interact and perform along with the film.

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The outrageous musical-comedy stars Tim Curry as a transvestite alien named Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick play the nerdish, clean-cut Janet Weiss and Brad Majors, who seeks refuge in Dr. Frank's castle after they experience car trouble on a rainy night--the very eve the annual convention of visitors from Dr. Frank's planet of Transexual is being held. Richard O'Brien, who wrote the hit 1973 London musical version and the film, also stars as Frank's hunchbacked henchman, Riff Raff.

"Rocky Horror" celebrates its 20th anniversary with a great monster mash bash tonight at the Pantages. "The Master's Affair" includes fashion and karaoke contests and a stage show starring O'Brien. Several of the best "Rocky Horror" performers also will appear. Among the stars attending are Bostwick and Pat Quinn, who played Magenta. The festivities culminate with a midnight screening of "Rocky Horror."

(The film is also available on video, will be coming out later this year on laser and airs on Halloween on VH-1.)

Bostwick, 50, received a Tony Award for the 1977 musical "The Robber Bridegroom" and played Danny Zucko in the original 1972 Broadway production of "'Grease!" He starred as "George Washington" in the CBS miniseries and is currently filming the comedy "Spy Hard," with Leslie Nielsen. Here Bostwick discusses his "Rocky Horror" experience.

Question: So are you surprised after 20 years . . .

Answer: We would still be around like this? No. You think that 20-year anniversaries are for movies like "Gone With the Wind" or things like "The Sound of Music." It was funny when we were making it, I thought we were sort of making a contemporary "Sound of Music."

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Q: At the anniversary party, they'll be screening unseen footage of the movie, including your musical number, "Once in a While." Do you know why it was cut?

A: They felt that it slowed the movie down. I don't know. It could suck. I haven't seen it. It's a song my character sings just having mistakenly made love to a man, thinking he's making love to his wife-to-be. Once I realize my mistake, I sit on the side of the bed, nervously smoke a cigarette and sing this song. I will be curious if it still holds up.

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Q: How did you get involved with "Rocky Horror"?

A: I auditioned for it. Susan and I auditioned for it together in fact. I had seen the play and had a lot of friends in the play [at the Roxy in L.A.]. It had a really sort of hip patina. When it came time for the movie to be done, I was submitted along with everybody else in Hollywood, I suppose.

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Q: The film was shot in England?

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A: Yeah, in Windsor. We shot in these old studios and a country manor-castle where all the Hammer [horror] films had been shot. The place was sort of falling apart. There were holes in the roof. It was raining and the rain was coming through the roof. A lot of those interiors were done right in the castle itself and believe me, it had sort of an eerie, old dusty, dirty, uncomfortable feeling just like the script called for. We were always cold.

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Q: Especially since you were in your undershorts in several scenes.

A: They were always saying between each scene, "Wet them down." Then some ghoul with a spray gun would come by and have this smile on her face as they turned on the power and sprayed us down [with water]. It was 20 degrees out. It was a hard shoot.

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Q: I would imagine it was also hard for you walking and dancing in those high heels.

A: We had to take lessons. Walking in them became a breeze after a while, but dancing in them was another story. Doing high kicks and all of that stuff in 4 1/2-inch heels was a challenge for a heterosexual male like myself. It got worse. There was the swimming pool scene where we all dove into the pool and had this orgy. Then we were supposed to emerge from this pool and do this dance. We were doing it in wet high heels in puddles of water on this soundstage with no heat. If we weren't slipping and falling, our knees were shaking.

There was one little room off the side we kept as the warm room. We would sort of crowd in there until the day it caught on fire because somebody had gotten the heaters too close to the walls. Doesn't show business just sound so exciting?

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Q: Do a lot of the "Rocky Horror" fans dress up like Brad?

I still think that Brad is the most under-appreciated character in the piece. Whenever there is a costume contest, invariably the one that wins the Brad look-alike is a tall woman. She's in a tuxedo with a plaid bow tie and cummerbund like my character. It's just gender-bending. It's great.

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Q: Why weren't you in the 1981 sequel "Shock Treatment"?

A: Nobody ever asked me to do it. The rumor was that they had asked Susan first and Susan couldn't do it for some reason, so they decided to go in another direction and get two [other] people. Well . . . didn't we show them? It didn't make a nickel.

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Q: What do you think Brad would be doing today?

A: He would probably have a radio talk show. He would be ultra-conservative. He would be the Rush Limbaugh of Akron, Ohio.

Let's do the "Time Warp" again: 

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