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The Untold Truth Of The Rocky Horror Picture Show

There might be no better definition of "cult classic" than The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Even if you know nothing about the film, you're probably familiar with it as "that movie where people cross-dress and throw things at the screen." If you're a big fan, well, there's probably a good chance you've put on your favorite corset, gone to a midnight showing, and done the Time Warp with dozens of other like-minded fans.

So what's the story behind this midnight movie? Well, it's based on a stage show called The Rocky Horror Show, and both came out in the early 1970s. The stage show featured many of the actors who appear in the film version, including Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff), Patricia Quinn (Magenta), Nell Campbell (Columbia), and of course, Tim Curry (Dr. Frank-N-Furter). And eventually, the movie became a cult phenomenon, but even though it's had the longest-running theatrical release of all time, there's still probably quite a bit about the show you don't know. So, put your hands on your hips and bring your knees real tight — this is the untold truth of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Frank-N-Furter's castle is a luxury hotel

One of the most striking images in The Rocky Horror Picture Show is Dr. Frank-N-Furter's castle, which Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon) are forced to stay the night in when their car breaks down during a storm. It isn't a prop, and the film wasn't shot on a soundstage. Instead, the team used a mansion called Oakley Court as "the Frankenstein place" for the film's interior and exterior shots, and you can actually go visit it.

Oakley Court is in Bray, England, less than half an hour away from Heathrow Airport in London. The site has become quite a tourist destination and has leaned into its notoriety. Many of the rooms are easily identifiable from shots of the film, and Oakley Court caters to Rocky Horror fans who want to make the trek. You can even stay the night there, a vacation that includes meals and a late-night film watch party. The hotel itself has over 100 rooms, but fans of the film should try to nab one of the "Mansion Suites." These rooms cost a bit more, but they're the only guest rooms that are an original part of the mansion.

Barry Bostwick originated a different major Broadway role

There are several unforgettable characters in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and musical theater veteran Barry Bostwick does an excellent job as Brad Majors. The role could be thankless, as he's the square who starts to let his inhibitions go as he delves deeper into the madness surrounding him. However, Bostwick is so charming that you can't help but root for him, even when his character is being irritating. It isn't surprising, considering the Broadway role Bostwick originated — Danny Zuko.

Yes, Bostwick was the original T-Bird, playing the role on stage that John Travolta would later make famous. And even though Bostwick didn't appear in the original stage production of Rocky Horror, he's definitely the man most associated with the role of Brad Majors. So what drew him to the part? Speaking with DAPS MAGIC, Bostwick has said that he loves to sing and perform in musicals, and he also loves shows that push him outside of his comfort zone, so it makes total sense that he'd give up the cozy world of Grease for the transgressive universe of Rocky Horror.

Richard O'Brien was the brains behind The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The story behind the creation of The Rocky Horror Show and its film version is an interesting one. Actor Richard O'Brien said he never wanted to be a writer, and he only started writing the show during off-hours because he was bored. He'd started to grow disillusioned with stage acting because his roles were unfulfilling, and the risks he took — like doing an Elvis impersonation while playing Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar — were discouraged.

So, he put the songs together for Rocky Horror and built the script around them before finally showing the script to a friend, Jim Sharman. Sharman was a director and pulled a few strings to help get the show on stage, and it took off from there. Interestingly, O'Brien originally saw himself in the role of Eddie (who was played by rock singer Meat Loaf in the film version). Sharman convinced him that he was better suited as Riff Raff, and he played the character to great success in the original stage show and the film version.

Whose lips are those in Rocky Horror's opening number?

The bright red lips are one of the most recognizable images surrounding Rocky Horror. They're used on all sorts of marketing and memorabilia for the show, and they're the first image the audience sees in the opening number, the one called "Science Fiction/Double Feature." However, the film takes a rather odd artistic turn with the opening number that isn't seen in the stage show.

On stage, the song is performed by a character named "the usherette." The usherette is played by the same actress who plays Magenta — in the case of the original play, it was Patricia Quinn. But in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Magenta almost sings the song.

The film opens with the bright red lips on the black background, and those lips belong to Quinn. However, she's only lip-synching the song. Richard O'Brien, who wrote the show and plays Riff Raff, is actually the one singing on the film's soundtrack. This detail may be one of the reasons why the scene feels so odd, and it's perfectly off-putting for the bizarre show that's about to take place.

Peter Hinwood had all his lines dubbed

You would think that Rocky Horror would factor more prominently into the story of The Rocky Horror Show, but he doesn't get to say much throughout. He gets to sing a big song when he's first introduced, called "The Sword of Damocles," but he otherwise remains mostly silent. And buff. In a tiny little speedo. After all, Frank-N-Furter says he's only really there for one thing: "Relieving my ... tension."

In The Rocky Horror Picture Show, actor Peter Hinwood portrayed Rocky Horror, and he got to speak even less than his character actually does. As it turns out, during his big number, "The Sword of Damocles," that's not Hinwood singing at all. Instead, the filmmakers brought in singer Trevor White to record the song, dubbing over Hinwood. White had worked previously on Jesus Christ Superstar with director Jim Sharman, and he'd also performed with several rock bands. It doesn't seem like there are any hard feelings about the choice, but you never know.

Susan Sarandon had a hard time on the Rocky Horror set

Actress Susan Sarandon, who played Janet in the film version of Rocky Horror, was just getting started in her career when she heard that the movie was running a casting call in Los Angeles. She knew Tim Curry a bit due to mutual friends who were in the stage show, and she went to the auditions to say hello. Once there, the team asked her to start reading for the part, and she reluctantly agreed, despite her fear of singing in front of people.

Needless to say, when she got the role, she had to get over that fear pretty quickly. Sarandon's fear of singing was made even worse, however, due to conditions on the set. Oakley Court, which was used as Frank-N-Furter's castle, had no roof and no heat. It stands near London, England, and the film was shot in the middle of winter, so it was extremely cold on set. Speaking with The Guardian, Sarandon explained that she caught pneumonia almost immediately, and she claims the entire cast and crew was wet and cold for the entire shoot. They can all laugh about it now, but it sounds like filming Rocky Horror was miserable.

The story behind the missing song

Like most musicals, Rocky Horror has the standouts that nearly everyone knows, like "Time Warp." Plus, it's got the solid songs that are rarely favorites, as well as a few forgettable numbers. The song "Once in a While" seems to fit into that final category, as even the filmmakers decided not to include it in the final cut of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, despite the fact that they filmed and recorded it.

The song is still generally performed during the stage show. Brad sings it when he learns that his fiancee, Janet, has cheated on him with Rocky. He's sad and upset about it, despite the fact that he also just cheated on her with Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Maybe there would be no hard feelings if they had just coordinated their timing a little better. Many Rocky Horror soundtrack albums contain the song, but honestly, it's just not that catchy. Give us "Sweet Transvestite" any day.

The crazy truth about 'Time Warp'

Chances are, if you ask someone to name a song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, they're going to name "Time Warp." This frenetic number causes entire audiences at midnight showings of the film to get up and dance together, and anyone who's familiar with the show can probably do the Time Warp.

It was also a last minute addition to the show to "pad it out."

The original stage show, according to writer Richard O'Brien (via The Guardian), was only about 40 minutes long. He and director Jim Sharman only planned on performing the show for a few weeks to a tiny audience, so they didn't focus too much on it. However, once rehearsals got going, the script took on a life of its own. They started having more and more fun with it, and they turned it from a short performance into a full-length musical. O'Brien decided that every good musical needs a dance number, so he whipped up "Time Warp" to help introduce the audience to the dramatic change in tone that comes when Brad and Janet enter the castle.

There are literal Easter eggs hidden in The Rocky Horror Picture Show

We often use the term "Easter egg" to describe hidden things or clever winks to audiences that are buried away in movies, video games, and television. However, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is one of the few films out there with literal Easter eggs hidden in it.

The rumor is that the cast and crew had an Easter egg hunt on the set one day, but a few of the eggs were hidden a little too well. They weren't located, and when shooting resumed, the eggs were still out there. Regardless of whether or not that particular tale is true, eagle-eyed viewers have spotted a few eggs in various scenes of the film.

There are three known Easter eggs hidden in Rocky Horror. The most obvious one is sitting underneath Dr. Frank-N-Furter's throne. The easiest time to spot it is when Riff Raff is sitting there with his legs crossed. Look between the chair's legs, and you'll see it sitting right in the middle. Another is in place of one of the lights in the main room of the castle, and the third can be seen when the group hops on the elevator to go to Frank-N-Furter's lab.

The skeleton in the clock is (allegedly) a real skeleton

"It's astounding — time is fleeting."

Those are the opening lines of "Time Warp," sung by Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show as he swings open the door of a coffin-shaped clock and reveals a skeleton inside. Brad and Janet are shocked to see such a horrific sight, but it's nothing compared to what's on the way for the engaged couple. But interestingly, that clock may be one of the most valuable set decorations in the entire film.

As it turns out, it sold at auction in 2002 at Sotheby's London for £35,000. Doing a little math for all the non-royal subjects, that would be about £57,000 in 2020, which would be over $70,000 US. That is not a cheap clock!

Obviously, the clock's place in Rocky Horror is a big reason for its hefty value, but there's another reason — the skeleton inside. Allegedly, that isn't some model skeleton you'd see in a high school classroom. As the story goes, it's real. Supposedly, a wealthy woman's lover died, and she had the clock made to house his skeleton so they'd never be apart. Creepy and ... strangely endearing, don't you think?

Richard O'Brien wrote a Rock Horror Picture Show sequel

With a film as well-known and successful as The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you'd think it'd be ripe for sequels. There actually have been a few attempts to continue the franchise along, but none of them have really produced the same spark of the original. If you need to get a new Rocky Horror fix, however, there are a few places you can look.

In 1981, a pseudo-sequel called Shock Treatment was actually released. It follows the characters of Brad and Janet, this time played by Cliff De Young and Jessica Harper, but it doesn't have much to do with Rocky Horror. Instead, it focuses on the couple in a town called Dentonville, and they're forced to participate in a game show with dire consequences. If you want a musical from the same team and featuring many of the same actors (albeit in different roles), check it out.

Another sequel, called Revenge of the Old Queen, has actually been entirely scripted but never filmed. It focuses on Frank-N-Furter's mother, who seeks revenge on Riff Raff for betraying her child. Warner Bros. owns the rights to the script, but it seems unlikely it'll ever make its way to a theater screen.

The surprising connections to David Bowie

It goes without saying that "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is an iconic piece of alternative culture and glam rock history. What is worth explaining, however, is that it also has a few major ties to another alternative, glam icon — the Thin White Duke himself, David Bowie. Not only are the film and musician linked by their distinctive styles and influence but seemingly in a myriad of ways.

The first and most direct connection is that make-up for the film, an integral part of its glam aesthetic, was done by Pierre La Roche, who had previously done make-up for Bowie. Not just any make-up, either – La Roche co-created with Bowie the singer's legendary Ziggy Stardust persona, lightning bolt and all. What's more, according to Sharman, Bowie himself might have even starred in the movie if the producer had agreed to studio demands that he cast "current rock stars" in exchange for a larger budget.

Yet another Bowie connection is the origin of the movie's signature audience participation, which is steeped in myth. One such myth, this one from Curry himself, involves Bowie and then-wife Angela attending a showing early in the show's run. According to Curry, Angela yelled at the screen during the moment in which it seemed as if Dr. Frank-N-Furter would die, making her one of, if not the first to talk back to the screen.

The picture show caused Rocky to quit acting

Most of the cast of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" can count the film as just one credit in a long career in showbiz, especially lead stars, Sarandon, Bostwick, and Curry, who have each led impressive careers in their own right. Some cast members, however, were not so thrilled with acting and all the limelight it entails — none of them more so than the actor who portrayed Rocky, Hinwood. For Hinwood, the taste of fame he got with "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was a sour one, and he quit acting immediately after.

Unlike the all-brawn-no-brains Adonis that Hinwood plays in the film, the former actor himself possesses an artistic soul and keen eye for composition, traits that have allowed him to build a lifelong career in interior design. His career, with which Hinwood seems to be genuinely in love, only came about because of (or in spite of) his role as Rocky, which has left him with mixed feelings about the experience. On the one hand, he told People that "I can't act ... I cringe with embarrassment every time I see myself on film," but on the other hand, he has also told Cabana Magazine that the role was his "greatest challenge" and the moment that defined his career.

The crew turned a wheelchair into a motorcycle for Meat Loaf

During the main sequence that features Meat Loaf as Eddie, the scenes that are centered around the "Hot Patootie (Bless My Soul)" number, the character takes to his motorcycle and rides around the lab, seeking revenge on Dr. Frank-N-Furter for removing half of his brain. Frank steams with anger, Rocky dances, Columbia swoons, and a dozen or so extras are terrorized — it's a true fiasco. The motorcycle ride, however short it may be in both distance and time, is clearly a production hurdle for such a small space and with so many actors to keep safe, so the crew developed an ingenious solution to address those issues.

According to Meat Loaf, every shot of Eddie on the motorcycle from a distance is really his stunt double. When the camera pulls in on Eddie's face, that is Meat Loaf — but it's not him on a motorcycle. Yes, he looks through a windshield, steers with handlebars, and even moves in tandem with the vehicle-mounted camera, but as the actor revealed, all of that was accomplished by filming him in a modified wheelchair. And yet, despite replacing the motorcycle completely for his safety, Meat Loaf still ended up injured while filming the scene due to the wheelchair flipping over.

Tim Curry was kicked out of a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening

As impossible as it sounds, it's true: Dr. Frank-N-Furter actor Tim Curry was once kicked out of a showing of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." The actor recalled the incident while doing press rounds for "Oliver Twist" way back in 1982 (via The Hollywood Reporter): "I went [to see the film] rather early on at the Waverly in New York where it started ... I thought it was enormous fun. I was having a ball — and then I got thrown out."

To the credit of the theater employees who ejected the star, Curry was not yet a household name when the film was still new (most likely in 1975-1976), at that point almost exclusively known in the world of British theater. Also, as the actor noted, he didn't come in a Frank-N-Furter costume. Instead, he said, "I came as myself" and added of the theater staff that, "they thought I was an imposter." Despite Curry claiming to be "very upset" when the incident occurred, he laughed while retelling it to the press, clearly having gotten over the initial offense and seemingly long since chalked it up to just another good story.

Princess Diana was a fan

In 2005, Curry did the usual rounds of press interviews in order to promote his turn as King Arthur in "Spamalot" on Broadway. One of his stops was at NPR, where David Bianculli interviewed the actor and unsurprisingly the conversation eventually found its way to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." More surprising than the topic, however, was one specific bit of trivia that Curry revealed: the late Princess Diana was a huge "Rocky Horror" fan.

As Curry revealed, although the Queen never saw him in the movie, Princesses Margaret and Diana did. In fact, as Curry recalls, "Princess Diana actually requested to meet me because she was such a 'Rocky Horror' fan." The pair did meet, along with Prince Charles, who Curry is able to parody perfectly. Notably, the meeting included Diana gushing over Curry, saying "You were in the 'Rocky Horror Show' ... oh yes, it quite completed my education." Curry then notes the wicked smile on Diana's face when she revealed the secret to him, implying a mischievousness in the People's Princess, and perhaps a stronger acquaintance with the film's more subversive elements than perhaps people would assume.