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Tim Curry's Best On-Screen Performances

He carved out a career playing villainous types, but Tim Curry has a reputation as one of Hollywood's nice guys. The English actor suffered a debilitating stroke in 2012 and has been wheelchair-bound since, though he still insists on making time for his fans. One longtime admirer wrote a moving account of meeting Curry at a convention in 2017, revealing that he went for more than five hours without a break so he could greet as many people as possible. While he's always been beloved among genre fans, there's a number of Tim Curry characters that pretty much every film fan knows and for good reason.

Curry has proven that he's got some major acting chops on numerous occasions since he made his debut in the West End production of Hair back in 1968, bouncing from medium to medium. As well as hundreds of roles on the stage and screen, he's worked on video games, narrated audiobooks, and voiced more animated characters than Kevin McCallister has had cheese pizzas. Not all of his work will be remembered fondly (even he couldn't save Scary Movie 2, and the less said about '90s action spoof Loaded Weapon, the better), but Curry has played some truly iconic roles over the years, and today we're going to celebrate them. From famous bards and malicious criminals to evil clowns and cross-dressing aliens, these are Tim Curry's best on-screen performances.

Tim Curry was a professional pirate in Muppet Treasure Island

Most actors would find the prospect of performing in a feature film alongside a cast of practical creatures more than a little daunting, but Curry took the challenge in his stride after signing on for 1996's Muppet Treasure Island. In fact, working with the Muppets turned into a thoroughly enjoyable experience for him. "What's extraordinary is that after the first day or two, you don't think of them as Muppets," he said. "You think of them as characters — as fellow actors." Curry portrays infamous pirate Long John Silver in the classic kids film, bringing his signature brand of scenery-chewing extravagance to the role. 

The critics were impressed by Curry, who had "more or less perfected the over-the-top put-on" by that stage in his career. "Curry's strategy is to out-act and out-bluster [the Muppets], and mostly he succeeds," veteran film buff Roger Ebert said in his review. The part also gave Curry the chance to flex his considerable singing muscles. He released three albums in the '70s and '80s, and director Brian Henson (son of Muppet creator Jim Henson) was blown away when he performed the songs "Sailing for Adventure" and "Professional Pirate" live on set, something Henson made mandatory in his films going forward. According to Curry, a great time was had by all. "It was one of the happiest sets I've ever been on," he recalled. "There's a conspicuous lack of ego among the Muppets."

He got to show off his musical skills and mean side with Annie

It's become one of Curry's best known early roles, but the part of con artist Daniel "Rooster" Hannigan in the 1982 adaptation of Broadway hit Annie fell into his lap completely "out of the blue," the actor once revealed. He'd arrived in the States to rehearse for the stage show Amadeus, and before he knew it, he was on director John Huston's radar. "A friend of mine at Columbia Pictures threw my name into the po,t and I was asked to call Huston,” Curry told The New York Times. ”I called, and he said, 'Gosh, Tim Curry? Oh. Oh, yes, yes. Rooster. ... Do you want to come aboard?'" Just like that, Curry was hired, and it proved to be an inspired piece of casting.

While his big musical number, "Easy Street," ended up being scaled back significantly (an actual street was constructed for the scene at the cost of $1 million, but producers were unhappy with the final outcome and decided to reshoot the whole thing), Curry's turn as "failed gangster" Rooster elevated the film. Rooster reveals himself as the true villain of the piece when his co-conspirator sister (Carol Burnett's Miss Hannigan) has a change of heart that he doesn't agree with. "He has a truly mean streak which finally develops in the end when he tries to kill Annie," Curry once said (via Dangerous Minds). "He does want to kill her, I think." Luckily, villainy comes naturally to him. "I find that quite easy."

Tim Curry put his own spin on this Oliver Twist villain

When it was revealed that a new adaptation of Oliver Twist was being plotted in the early 1980s, nobody expected Tim Curry to be involved, especially in the role of Bill Sikes. The murderous criminal was famously played by Oliver Reed in the 1968 big screen musical, still widely seen as the most iconic portrayal of the character. The diminutive Curry couldn't have been more different than Reed, something he was very much aware of going into this TV movie. "My name would not have leaped out of the casting handbook," he told The New York Times. "Sikes is usually played as a sort of Incredible Hulk."

According to Curry, director Clive Donner wanted to move away from the idea of Sikes as a pure brute. ”[He] tried to turn some of those stereotypes on their heads," Curry said of Donner. "Sikes is a psychopath, but he's also a roaring alcoholic. I figured that his brain had kind of rotted, that there was maybe ten minutes a day when he was lucid, but I wanted to give a tiny glimpse of the man that might have been, you know?” That doesn't mean his iteration was tame, however. "Curry is a particularly unpleasant Sikes, not only irascible and violent, but sleazy and leering," The Victorian Stage said in an article analyzing the various deaths of Sikes' tragic girlfriend, Nancy. Curry's unforgettable version finishes her off with a flaming cudgel during a haunting finale.

He gave new depths to the bard in The Life & Times of William Shakespeare

Two years after making his debut in the 1968 London production of Hair, Curry joined the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company. Little did he know that he would end up portraying the revered bard on the screen in the near future. Curry played Shakespeare himself in six-part CBS miniseries The Life & Times of William Shakespeare (also known simply as Will Shakespeare), delivering one of the most nuanced and underrated performances of his career. The series earned rave reviews, as did the leading man. "As Shakespeare, Tim Curry pulls off the almost impossible task of breathing life into an icon and turning him into a human being whose faults and foibles are just as crucial to his work as his astonishing gifts," the British Film Institute said.

Each episode revolves around the creation of a particular Shakespeare play. We get to see the titular writer meet and interact with the people who would influence some of his most famous works, though creator John Mortimer did take some artistic liberties. Because we know relatively little about the actual life and times of William Shakespeare, Mortimer took the little information that's out there and embellished it, perhaps the biggest example being the playwright's rumored romantic relationship with the Earl of Southampton (played by the late Nicholas Clay). Curry got the opportunity to really show his range here, playing Shakespeare from a young man to old age.

Tim Curry was a fantastic Gomez in Addams Family Reunion

If you've never seen 1998's Addams Family Reunion, you're most definitely in the majority. This direct-to-video movie was the brain child of Power Rangers creator Haim Saban, who went about Hollywood buying up the TV rights to numerous well known properties in anticipation of the home video boom. According to Addams Family Reunion director Dave Payne (who told Yahoo! that Saban constantly shot down his original ideas and told him to "just rip off the [first two] movies"), the producer's plan was to develop a new TV show based on the low-budget film. That idea was ultimately aborted, but the third Addams Family movie is still worth a watch for Tim Curry's performance alone.

Curry took over the role of patriarch Gomez Addams, while Daryl Hannah slipped into the silky black dress of his deathly pale wife, Morticia. As it was designed to appeal solely to children, the black humor that people loved in The Addams Family and Addams Family Values was sorely missing, which only makes Curry's spirited turn as Gomez more impressive. "Tim and I both thought Gomez should be kind of weird and not the lothario that Raul Julia created," Payne said, and the actor pulled this off with aplomb. "Curry's Gomez is still charming and dangerous, don't worry about that," Bloody Disgusting said after revisiting the forgotten film in 2019, "he just hasn't stepped right out of a production of The Scarlet Pimpernel."

Tim Curry was the saving grace of The Three Musketeers

Disney's live-action version of The Three Musketeers failed to impress upon release in 1993, widely panned as a bland retelling of well-trodden tale. A pre-Robin Chris O'Donnell plays D'Artagnan, who dreams of becoming a musketeer. He travels to Paris to join the ranks of the king's elite guard, but when he arrives in the capital, he discovers that would-be usurper Cardinal Richelieu (Curry) has disbanded the musketeers, clearing his path to the throne. D'Artagnan tags along with Athos (Kiefer Sutherland), Porthos (Oliver Platt), and Aramis (Charlie Sheen), the only three musketeers who refused to relinquish their duties and their weapons. Together, the three musketeers and their new recruit set out stop Richelieu, but the truth is that this movie would be nothing without him.

"Curry steals the film as the evil Richelieu, bringing lip-smacking glee to his naughty deeds and pronouncements and making the intended bon mots in David Loughery's workmanlike script sound much better than they actually are," Variety said in its review, adding that The Three Musketeers "comes alive whenever Curry's on screen." How did the Brit manage to deliver one of the most commanding performances of his career against all the odds? The humble star gave the credit to the wardrobe department during a promo video. "Costumes are always very important to me, particularly what you wear on your feet," Curry said. "I always start from the feet up because it completely dictates the way that you move."

He absolutely stole the show in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Curry didn't have much screen time in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, but he stole every scene that he was in. The Cheshire native played Mr. Hector, the pompous and overly suspicious concierge at the Plaza Hotel (he was credited simply as the Concierge, but enhanced images of his hotel badge reveal his character's actual name). He's got his eye on Macaulay Culkin's Kevin McCallister from the moment the accidental runaway checks in using his father's credit card, but he's routinely humiliated in his efforts to expose Kevin as a fraud. According to co-star Rob Schneider (who played tip-hungry busboy Cedric), Curry was in great form during the shoot, delivering take after take of pure gold.

"When I did my scenes, I would find one way to do it and do it the same way every take to try to get it perfect," Schneider told AOL on the movie's 25th anniversary. "But then I see Tim Curry do his lines, and he would do it seven completely different ways each time. And each one was great! He would walk away knowing they were all good, and he knew the director would ultimately decide, so he wanted to give him the most choices possible. I went, 'Holy s***! This guy is amazing!'" He may be the secondary villain of this festive classic, but Curry gives Joe Pesci (Harry) and Daniel Stern (Marv) a run for their sticky money.

He gave a devilishly good performance in Legend

We're used to hearing but not seeing Tim Curry (the actor voiced Nigel Thornberry in hit Nickelodeon cartoon The Wild Thornberrys and has dozens of other voice credits on his resume), and that was the case in 1985's Legend — kind of. Curry plays the Lord of Darkness in Ridley Scott's much-maligned dark fantasy, though he's completely unrecognizable under all that devilish makeup. When he appeared at Fan Expo Canada in 2017, the actor revealed that it took "over ten and half hours" to apply the prosthetics the first time around, and it didn't get much easier after that. He battled through it, however, much to the relief of Scott. The director was very much aware that if he didn't have the right person under all that makeup, his big villain would fall flat.

"Darkness was a very difficult guy to cast because of his physical requirements and his grand dramatic, melodramatic, requirements," Scott said, revealing that he chose Curry for his "operatic capability" and the fact that he had been "really brave" with role choices in the past. The general consensus at the time was that Curry was the one good thing about this movie, and that opinion has never really changed. When the actor appeared on The View years later, host Meredith Viera praised his "seductive" performance in this forgotten fantasy film. "If you were the devil, I would pay to go to hell," she told a laughing Curry. "I really would."

Tim Curry's favorite performance comes in Clue

When Curry was asked what his favorite role was during an appearance at Fan Expo Canada, he took a while to respond. After thinking about it, he decided that it was Wadsworth, the fast-talking, dry-witted butler from 1985's Clue. Based on the whodunnit board game of the same name, Clue was a box office flop when it was released, but it went on to earn cult status in the years that followed, thanks in no small part to Curry. His frantic performance is the anchor of Jonathan Lynn's film and is quite rightly seen as one of his finest, but it was also one of the most taxing.

"I was exhausted at the end of the movie," Curry told BuzzFeed"I actually had a sort of incident of high blood pressure towards the end, when all of the conclusions were happening, because I was running around like a mad person. They took me to the doctor, and I had to take pills for a week, my blood pressure was so high." According to his co-star Michael McKean (Mr. Green), Curry was constantly in the zone on set. "Tim is a very disciplined guy," McKean said. "Every time when Marty [Mull] and I would be goofing around — we thought quietly — between takes, Tim would give us a look like, 'I'm trying to remember the f****** phone book here!' And he can give a good look." Curry's defense? "I did have an awful lot to remember."

He terrified an entire generation as Pennywise

There's no denying that the It miniseries has aged somewhat since it first aired back in 1990, but one thing that never gets old is Tim Curry's performance. To call his turn as Pennywise the Dancing Clown iconic would be an understatement. The character became ingrained in pop culture and continues to influence the way people feel about clowns to this day. Bill Skarsgård scored rave reviews for his portrayal of Pennywise in the rebooted movie franchise, but for many, Curry's version will always be the definitive one. While Skarsgård is scary in the role, Curry somehow manages to be innocuous and menacing all at the same time, making for one of Stephen King's scariest bad guys.

"In the novel, King used Pennywise as the last in a line of classic horror story creatures, and in Curry's performance, that came to life: he's terrifying in a way that feels absolutely original and absolutely earned," The Guardian said in defense of the miniseries. When he sat down for an interview with the same outlet a few years earlier, Curry revealed that filming It's most famous scene was tricky because the child actor involved was so scared of him. The boy that played Georgie (who loses his arm after unwisely reaching into the sewer in search of his paper boat) kept recoiling when Curry got too close to him. "[He] yanked his hand away and said, 'You're scaring me!'" Curry recalled. "I said, 'I'm sorry, I'm supposed to.'"

Tim Curry burst onto the scene with The Rocky Horror Picture Show

It's the role that started it all and still his most iconic. Curry became an idol in genre circles when he took Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the "sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania," to the big screen. B-movie homage The Rocky Horror Picture Show crashed and burned when it hit cineplexes in 1975, but when Fox decided to start showing it as a midnight movie the following year, it slowly became a cultural phenomenon. Fans began to show up in full costume, and they kept on coming (it's still the longest-running picture in movie history). The part of Frank-N-Furter is "practically a pension" for Curry, though he had no idea just how big it would become when he auditioned.

"When I read it, I thought it was very witty and funny and the most kind of economical script I had read for a very long time," Curry said of the stage musical, which debuted in London in 1973. "I was hesitant in that, if it worked, it might be a difficult image to shake off. But I've always thought it wasn't worth doing unless you took a risk." That risk ultimately paid off. Curry jetted off to L.A. where he reprised the role on stage before filming the movie, which still has a dedicated cult following — sometimes a little too dedicated, in fact. "I was actually stalked by a 250-pound transvestite who was on parole for the murder of his lover," Curry revealed.