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Wednesday, May 20, 1998 Published at 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK


Richard O'Brien on living with Rocky

O'Brien: I am offered the roles I get because I look cadaverous and thin and gothic

It is now 25 years since Richard O'Brien wrote the cult rock 'n' roll musical, The Rocky Horror Show. How has it lasted so long, and why does it keep being recycled? We caught up with Richard O'Brien to find out his views.

Richard O'Brien talks about Rocky (8'20")
Why do you think the Rocky Horror Show is still so popular?

I think it goes on and on because it is a fairytale and consequently it works on two levels. On the surface it is a camp trashy rock and roll enjoyable ephemeral piece but also it satisfies on a deeper level. It pleases the id as well as the ego. Like all good fairytales. . . we don't really delve into the darker corners of them, but if you did deconstruct them you would find that they are full of menace and evil.

"If it was just a trashy entertainment I don't think it would have had this longevity.

Was the famous audience participation something you wanted to happen?

[ image: Jason Donovan is playing the lead role in the latest show touring Britain]
Jason Donovan is playing the lead role in the latest show touring Britain
I'm so glad that it did because of course in many ways it is a kind of tribute or a salute to the double feature picture shows that I used to go to as a spotty adolescent. We always used to sit in the dark, there weren't very many of us there in a small town in New Zealand. All the ne'er do wells, the gauche whey faced youths, and we used to shout lines at the screen - appallingly adolescent and sometimes crude. You know snigger, snigger kind of stuff. I'm sure that was happening in B-movie houses all over the world.

When it happens now it is almost as if it has gone full circle, and it has become almost an art form. . . it's rather wonderful, I like it very much.

Has it ever been difficult to be mainly associated with just this one piece of work?

Not at all. I find that when people start to wear their work around their necks like a heavy weight. . . and deny the very things that have given then the springboard into more work and a larger career, I just think it is perverse. I am very grateful for all that Rocky has brought me, not least some financial security - but that is not really what it about either. Truthfully, I can phone people and I get five minutes of their time. . . it's a great calling card.

How involved are you with the current Rocky show that is touring the country?

I see myself as a kind of yardstick for rock'n'roll excellence. I'm not talking about nit-picking - but if it doesn't sound good I'm allowed to have my two pennies-worth. I like to know that the production values are high.

You used to be the sinister host in the TV programme The Crystal Maze, are you planning any more TV work?

Every now and again I get people push things my way asking if I would like to be involved but very few of the things appeal to me. I wouldn't want to just go on television for the sake of being on television. . . I wouldn't want the job of fronting the National Lottery or anything like that - I don't see any point in it.

The Crystal Maze was a road I walked down, I never imagined I'd go down that particular byway. I liked it but even at the time I thought - I never saw myself doing this kind of work. So I did it for four years and thought I better get out while I am ahead, while I am remembered fondly.

I've just done three films this year. I was in the Spice Girls movie, as everybody else was. The whole world was in the Spice Girls movie - I played a paparazzo. Then I did a film called Dark City released at the end of May and I've just finished a film with Drew Barrymore in France where I play a baddie. And I've got an album coming out later this year of jazz music.

Do you enjoy being playing the villain?

I think because of my build and my thinness I am cast in that role. I am obviously not going to get the romantic lead am I?

Looks are terribly important even though people pretend they are not. If Danny De Vito looked like Sean Connery did 40 years ago, then he'd be playing James Bond. But he doesn't. Danny De Vito plays his roles because he looks like Danny De Vito. I am offered the roles I get because I look cadaverous and thin and gothic looking. The nice thing about that is that the older I get the more tragic I am going to look and perhaps the more employable I might become.

What are you going to do to celebrate the 25th anniversary of your show?

I am going to come on at the end of the show and sing the last verse of Super Heroes, the narrators verse at the end of the show. I am going to try and get the entire audience to sing Happy Birthday to Rocky , I think we might be able it manage that, don't you? And then we're going to have a little drinky-poo afterwards.

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