10 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’
Few cult films have been able to define the term as clearly as 1975’s Halloween classic ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ Decades after its release, toilet-paper toting fans still show up week after week at midnight screenings across the globe dressed in fishnet stockings and full makeup. They not only watch the same movie they’ve seen hundreds of times, they also act it out and throw props at the screen. The only way it could be more of a cult is if some kind of live goat sacrifice was involved.
Of course, the only thing stranger than its fans, the stage musical and the film itself (which is pretty damn strange for a movie about a singing alien transvestite) is its storied history. Here are some things you might not know about ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’
1. Some big celebrities wanted to be in the movie
Try not to imagine what it would look like if these two switched heads…
The ‘Rocky’ phenomenon got its start on the London stage scene in 1973 as ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ and quickly became one of the hot tickets in town. It ran in several theaters through the rest of the 1970s and eventually moved stateside where it found an audience at Los Angeles’ famed Roxy Theatre.
Naturally, such success prompted talk of bringing the musical to the big screen and some very big names wanted to inhabit the quirky roles. Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger expressed an interest in playing the part of cross-dressing alien Dr. Frank N. Furter but the producers passed so they could stick with Tim Curry, the actor who defined the role in both the British and American theatrical productions. Steve Martin also auditioned to play the role of Brad, a part that eventually went to actor Barry Boswick. The actor the crew really wanted to appear in the film was horror movie legend Vincent Price who actually saw the play on its opening night, according to ‘Rocky Horror’ creator Richard O’Brien. Unfortunately, scheduling conflicts prevented him from accepting and the role of the narrator went to actor Charles Gray.
2. Meatloaf walked out of the American stage production when he first saw Tim Curry in his stage costume
One of the bigger names on the bill (we mean by celebrity AND weight) was Meatloaf, who played Eddie and Dr. Scott in the American stage version. He took the part based on his singing ability without really reading the script or knowing what he was getting into. One he saw what the costume department had in store for the cast, he started to get cold feet.
According to an interview he gave to VH1 to celebrate one of the film’s many anniversaries, the cast only rehearsed the songs before they even saw the script. He didn’t realize what he was getting into until Tim Curry showed up to a rehearsal in his full costume while singing the song ‘Sweet Transvestite.’ Meatloaf said he was so shocked that he walked out of the theater in the middle of the production and even tried running away from the theater, only to get a ticket for jaywalking. Eventually, actor Graham Jarvis, who played the Narrator in the stage version, talked him into staying. Unfortunately, Meatloaf also got cold feet when he realized he had to perform in a full pair of thigh high fishnets. He realized it was worth sticking around when he saw the huge laughs he was getting during Dr. Scott’s “revealing” scene.
3. Russell Crowe once appeared in an Australian stage version
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The success of the theatrical version of ‘Rocky’ went global after its run in London and Los Angeles. Screenings and fan clubs not only popped up in major metropolitan areas but local productions started appearing as well. Recently, some rare footage revealed a young Russell Crowe, the Oscar winning star of ‘Gladiator’ and other macho fare, performing in ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ in Australia in the dual roles of Eddie and Dr. Scott. Speaking of which…
4. Meatloaf wanted to play Dr. Scott and Eddie in the movie
The stage version featured one actor playing two roles, Dr. Scott and Eddie, as a bit of dramatic irony for the audience. So when the film version was announced and Meatloaf was brought on board, he got excited because he thought he would play both parts. Instead, the role of the wheelchair bound Dr. Scott went to Jonathan Adams. Meatloaf said in a recent interview, “I said you’re making a huge mistake and I still think they did, even though the actor was fine. The way it was in the play was that Eddie and Dr. Scott really looked alike, so you knew it was his nephew and I was a really good Dr. Scott.”
5. The skeleton in the coffin clock was real
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High-priced buyers of movie memorabilia often strive for authenticity, but one prop from the set of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ has an extra bit of realism. The “coffin clock” featured during the song ‘Time Warp’ went up for sale at a Sotheby’s auction in 2002 where a buyer purchased it for 35,000 pounds. The auction house said the skeleton in the morbid antique clock was also a real human skeleton. Rumor has it that it was the bones of the secretary for the Countess of Rosslyn. The two were also lovers and legend has it that she always wanted him close by so she had his remains preserved in the special casket timepiece.
6. You can stay in Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s castle
The old-timey castle that was used for most of the principal shooting has a long history in horror films. Oakley Court in England was used for several of the Hammer horror films as a large, foreboding castle to complete its dark, gothic settings. According to the documentary ‘The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show,’ the film’s producers knew Oakley would make the perfect setting for the film the instant they saw it. The interior also made for a perfect place to film since the previous owners had removed some of the lead from the roof causing the interior to deteriorate. It was actually scheduled for demolition at some point but a preservation order kept the wrecking ball at bay. These days, it’s a world class hotel.
7. The actor who played Rocky does not speak or sing his own lines
This image should make you even more grateful that Meatloaf only got one part in the movie…
The filmmakers hired model Peter Hinwood to play Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s “creation” clearly for his looks because he could not sing a single note on key. According to the book “Rocky Horror: From Concept to Cult,” his entire musical performance had to be dubbed over by singer Trevor White while Hinwood mouthed the words to the songs on set. Director Jim Sharman also wasn’t very pleased with Hinwood’s speaking voice either so they had White dub his dialogue as well. Not many people knew his entire performance had been dubbed until it was confirmed in the book ‘Concept to Cult’ in 2002.
8. Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s creation doesn’t have a belly button
Less eagle-eyed or curious viewer may not have noticed this tiny but important detail: the makeup department created a plug that fit over Peter Hinwood’s belly button to hide it from view during filming. It’s an important distinction for the story — since Rocky was created by Dr. Frank-N-Furter completely from scratch, that means he didn’t have an umbilical cord and therefore shouldn’t have a belly button. That kind of technical detail really stands out in a movie where people break into song and dance for absolutely no reason.
9. The motorcycle scene saw some serious accidents
One of the film’s more memorable scenes features Eddie, played by Meatloaf, crashing into the Doctor’s laboratory through a block of ice on a military grade motorcycle. The scene required a stuntman and some clever grip work to make it seem like Meatloaf was on the bike. According to an interview with the singer, preparations for the scene saw several accidents on the set.
Meatloaf’s stuntman drove the motorcycle through the scene including up and down several steep ramps. The bike fell off the top tier and landed upside down pinning the stuntman underneath it. Meatloaf said he ran over and somehow mustered enough strength to lift the heavy bike just enough to move it off of him. The stuntman did not move for sometime but eventually opened his eyes and told everyone he was OK. He later told Meatloaf that it was an old stuntman trick to make sure he wasn’t suffering any pain or serious injuries before moving.
They also needed to get shots of Meatloaf riding the bike up and down the ramps, so the crew rigged a wheelchair that would hold a set of handlebars and a motorcycle windshield in front of a camera as the crew pulled it up and down the steps. Unfortunately, as they were in the middle of shooting, the wheelchair hit a ridge at the bottom of the steps sending Meatloaf flying towards the floor and shattering both the camera and the windshield. Meatloaf’s stuntman tried to catch him in the process but the ramp caught the stuntman’s leg and caused a serious fracture. Meatloaf also suffered a deep cut on his head.
10. It holds the record for the longest theatrical film release
‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ may have been an infamous bomb when it hit theaters in 1975, but it more than made up for its initial losses by becoming a midnight movie standard. Lou Adler, the film’s executive producer, noticed that several small but dedicated groups of fans had been attending some late night shows on a regular basis. So he organized a screening in New York City with virtually no advertising. The word of mouth turned the screenings into sold out shows and it wasn’t long before the film became a cult classic. Audiences have danced along to ‘The Time Warp’ in theaters across the country for the last 37 years with no signs of stopping. As for the film’s surprise success, the cast and crew would probably quote Magenta’s “We’re all lucky” speech.