Many films can claim the title “cult classic”, but few have ever embodied the term in this way The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The film version was first written as a small stage production by an unemployed actor who wanted to pay homage to the B-movies he loved. When it premiered in 1975, it flopped at the box office. As the midnight performances resumed, the next one grew and grew and grew.
People don’t just watch The Rocky Horror Picture Show, They live it – complete with costumes, props, and very vulgar audience participation. Since its release in 1975, it has remained the epitome of the cult classic. To celebrate more than four decades of absolute fun, here are some facts about the movie.
. The Rocky Horror Picture Show started out as a way to employ an unemployed actor.
What would eventually become The Rocky Horror Show, and later The Rocky Horror Picture Showbegan as a way for Richard O’Brien to “spend winter evenings” when he was not an actor. O’Brien put his love for science fiction and horror films in the initial Rocky horror Songs, and finally he showed the material to director Jim Sharman while they were working on a play together. Sharman liked it and convinced London’s Royal Court Theater to give him a couple of weeks in the venue’s tiny Upstairs Theater to direct a production. It only played for a few dozen people a night but eventually grew into a following. Not bad for what started out as an equivalent “crossword puzzle” for O’Brien.
2. Richard O’brien originally wanted to play the role of Eddie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
As production took shape, O’Brien knew he wanted to star in as a motorcyclist Eddie, a role that ultimately went to Meat Loaf. However, Sharman saw O’Brien in the role of the mysterious handyman Riff Raff, and O’Brien respected and trusted his director enough that he agreed.
3. Columbia and Magenta were originally a figure in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
When the play started casting, Sharman was hoping his girlfriend, pop star Marianne Faithfull, would play Frank N. Furter’s female counterpart, but Little Nell was already cast in the production. So Sharman and O’Brien reworked the role into two parts: Magenta and Columbia. By the time the time came to cast Magenta, Faithfull was already on a tour of India, so Patricia Quinn was cast. Quinn took on the role even though it had almost no lines just so she could sing the lead song “Science Fiction / Double Feature” which she called “the best song I’ve ever heard”.
4. Little Nell was poured into it The Rocky Horror Picture Show for their tap dance skills alone.
“Little Nell” Campbell had a pretty interesting audition for the role of Columbia. At the time stage production began, she was working as a soda idiot in London. Jim Sharman heard that she was performing tap dances while serving ice cream and took some staff to see her. She danced for them and won the role.
5. The Rocky Horror Picture ShowDr. Frank N. Furter originally had a German accent.
Tim Curry was based on the name of the character and started stage production of The Rocky Horror Show by playing Frank N. Furter as a German. Then one day he heard a woman on a bus speak with a particularly posh accent and decided, “Yes, he should sound like the queen.”
6. Science Fiction / Double Feature had a different singer for the film.
As mentioned, Patricia Quinn took on the magenta role only to sing “Science Fiction / Double Feature” on stage but when it came time to film The Rocky Horror Picture ShowIt was decided that O’Brien should sing the song instead. Quinn wasn’t happy, but she got a little consolation: The iconic lips that sing the song in the opening credits are hers.
7th The Rocky Horror Picture ShowThe director agreed to a smaller budget to keep the original cast.
According to Sharman, 20th Century Fox offered him “a reasonable budget” if he would cast “currently fashionable rock stars” for the lead roles The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Instead, Sharman campaigned to keep the original stage cast (with a few exceptions such as the addition of Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon) and instead was given a “modest budget” and very tight schedule. Sharman now calls the decision “decisive” for the film’s cult success.
8. Plenty of The Rocky Horror Picture ShowThe look was inspired by a really rotting mansion.
While preparing for filming, set designer Brian Thomson kept hearing about “the old house” near Bray Studios outside of London. When he finally saw the house, a 19th century mansion called Oakley Court, he realized that it was exactly what they needed for the film, partly because its owners had essentially left it to rot (they wanted to tear it down but it has been designated a Historic Site).
“The moment we saw it, we realized that this gave us the basis for the whole look of the movie,” said Thomson.
Due to its proximity to Bray Studios, the house has also appeared in a number of other films, including some from the legendary Hammer Studios horror film series. It has since been restored and is now a hotel.
9. A large part of The Rocky Horror Picture Showshould be in black and white.
While envisioning the bigger picture of the film, Sharman, Thomson, and Company originally decided that the opening act for the film should be shot entirely in black and white and that the first color in the film should be Frank N. Furter’s red lips when he appeared Elevator. The idea was that Brad and Janet lived in a bland world and when they met Furter they were shown something much more colorful. Ultimately, the studio rejected the idea.
10. The reveal of Eddie’s body really shocked the cast of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
For the legendary dinner party scene, in which Furter reveals that his guests had dinner on Eddie, Sharman decided to just tell Tim Curry – who had to pull the tablecloth off to reveal Eddie’s body – what the surprise of the scene was. He wanted the rest of the cast to be really shocked.
11. A cardboard model was used to fly in the house The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
For the climate scene where Riff bring Raff and Magenta Ford’s house back to Transylvania, Thomson originally began building an elaborate model of the house. In the end, however, there wasn’t enough time or money to make a full-size model, so a cardboard cutout of the house was used. As Thomson later pointed out, you can still see the real house in the background of the shot.
12. The Rocky Horror Picture ShowThe famous audience participation was inspired in part by boredom.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was a flop when it was originally released in 1975, but as the midnight shows resumed it developed a rabid cult that had a penchant for screaming at the screen during the movie. Brian Thomson witnessed this phenomenon at New York’s Waverly Theater in 1977. When he asked what was going on, this was the answer:
“We found it pretty boring and we thought when we screamed back [it would be more fun]. ”
13. Tim Curry was once thrown out of a showing by The Rocky Horror Picture Show for being a “cheat”.
As the film’s cult following grew, Tim Curry lived in New York, next to the Waverly Theater, and often saw fans in costume going to midnight performances. Fascinated, he called the theater, told them who he was and asked if he could attend. At first the theater didn’t believe him until he actually showed up one night. “Eventually I showed up and they kind of believed me and picked me up,” Curry later told NPR.
While fans were delighted with Curry’s presence, theater staff still wasn’t convinced, and an usher grabbed him, called him a “cheater” and threw him out. Curry then took out his passport to prove it was the real deal but declined to return to the theater after the staff apologized.
14. Princess Diana was major The Rocky Horror Picture Show Fan.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has many famous fans (Meat Loaf and Tim Curry actually met Elvis Presley at a performance of the stage production in Los Angeles) but perhaps none more impressive than Diana, Princess of Wales. Once, during a theater performance in Austria, Curry was informed that the princess wanted to meet him. When they met, she told him that the film “pretty much finished my education” and apparently had a “wicked smile” on it.
The Rocky Horror Double Feature Video Show
This story has been updated for 2020.