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The Untold Truth Of Tim Curry

Tim Curry is truly one of those actors who's been in at least one thing that you've seen, either as a child or as an adult. From his distinctly unique voice to his Cheshire Cat-like grin, the man's presence is nearly unmatched even in the nuttiest of projects.

Born in April 1946, a young Tim was the son of Patricia and James Curry, a school secretary and Royal Navy chaplain. As stated in his online biography, childhood definitely prepared the young man for an actor's hectic life – moving from Cheshire to Hong Kong by the time he was only six months old. Following his college graduation, Curry dove into the world of acting and eventually landed a prominent role in Richard O'Brien's "The Rocky Horror Show." This served as the launching pad for the rest of his career, a filmography stuffed with memorable roles and characters.

From "Legend" to "Clue" to "Muppet Treasure Island," no matter the project, the man has never once phoned in it or rested on his laurels.So grab your fishnet stockings and sharpen your horns, because this is the untold truth of Tim Curry.

Tim Curry started singing in church as a child

Tim Curry's father was a Methodist minister, which meant that his family could be found at church every Sunday. This was where Curry discovered his talent for singing. He joined the church choir when he was around six years old, and he became a soprano. He grew to love singing, and as he got older, he also became interested in acting. While attending Kingswood School in Bath, England, he started acting in school plays. He knew that he wanted to pursue one path or the other, but he just wasn't sure which one was ultimately right for him.

Luckily, Curry found a way to continue fostering his talents. After taking a gap year to travel around Europe with a friend, he decided to continue his education at the University of Birmingham. Why Birmingham? At the time, it was one of the only universities in England that offered a drama program, and Curry chose to enroll to deepen his understanding of his craft.

He wasn't a great student

Curry was passionate about theater, but according to Timcurry.co.uk, he wasn't a particularly good student at the University of Birmingham. There was no doubt that he had raw talent, but he didn't have much interest in studying or sitting in lectures. He would often skip classes. In fact, Curry was such a notoriously poor student that he once showed up to a final exam, only for the professor to tell him to leave because he didn't recognize Curry. The future star had racked up so many absences that the professor had no recollection of Curry being in his class!

However, that doesn't mean Curry wasted all of his time at college. He was usually busy with extracurricular productions, which he prioritized over academics. He preferred being on stage to sitting at a desk. He managed to skate by with minimal academic effort, and all of the time he spent on extracurriculars paid off in the following years when he landed his first major role.

Tim Curry lied to land his first major role

After graduating from college, Tim Curry was ready to break into the world of theater and gain some professional experience on stage. But he was faced with the classic college graduate dilemma — you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. What was an actor to do?

Curry decided to fudge the truth a bit, and as an actor, he proved rather convincing. In 1968, he was being considered for a role in the original London production of Hair. The casting directors were seeking someone with previous professional experience and an Equity card (meaning you're in the Actors' Equity Association). When they asked Curry about his credentials, he simply lied about his resume ... and he landed the role anyway. Eventually, the producers found out that he was fibbing, but according to Timcurry.co.uk, they were already so thoroughly impressed with Curry that they decided to keep him on board. In fact, they even decided to sponsor him for union membership.

A chance meeting led to his role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Curry took a gamble by lying to get his foot in the door and land a part in Hair, but taking a chance paid off in the long run. While appearing in Hair, Curry began mingling with other rising stars in London's theater scene, and he became friendly with playwright Richard O'Brien, who was working on the script and songs for his latest idea — a musical called The Rocky Horror Show.

Curry had heard about the play, but he didn't think to audition for a particular role until he ran into O'Brien one day. At the time, Curry lived down the street from a gym, and O'Brien had just been there to see if he could find a "muscleman who could sing." When Curry bumped into O'Brien and heard what he was up to, he was immediately intrigued. "I said, 'Why do you need him to sing?'" Curry recounted in an interview with journalist Frank Lovece. "And he told me that the musical was going to be done, and I should talk to [director] Jim Sharman. He gave me the script, and I thought, 'Boy, this is going to be a smash.'" And it was that chance encounter that led to Curry's breakout role.

He worried about being typecast

Tim Curry was immediately impressed by the script for The Rocky Horror Show. However, he was nervous about taking on the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. It might be surprising that he hesitated to jump at an opportunity that opened up so many doors for him, but he worried that playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter would lead to typecasting in the future. However, he eventually decided that this project was worth the risk. And it was undoubtedly the right career move, as it's not an exaggeration to say that appearing in Rocky Horror changed the course of Curry's life. When the musical was adapted for the screen, it became clear that Curry was born to play this bold, flamboyant character.

To a certain extent, the actor's concerns weren't unfounded. While Curry played a wide variety of roles in the decades following Rocky Horror, it's still one of the parts he's best known for. But for Curry, his career-defining role is a point of pride.

He struggled with alcoholism

The Rocky Horror Picture Show eventually became a hit with American audiences, but before the film found its status as a cult classic, the theater production fell flat. When Curry and the rest of the crew packed up the show and took it over the pond to perform on Broadway, the musical was universally panned by critics. Despite his past string of successes, Curry took this failure personally, and he turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms to numb the pain of criticism.

"I just went home and took out a bottle of vodka for about a month, actually. I sent out for submarine sandwiches and drank and got hugely patched," Curry admitted (via Timcurry.co.uk). But he began to see the experience as a teaching moment, and eventually, he got back on his feet and started working again.

"I think once you've had a really serious failure, nothing can ever be as bad as that again," Curry said when reflecting on this production. "So you might as well just go for it, because they can't make you feel any worse than they did before."

Tim Curry tried to distance himself from Rocky Horror

Although Curry was proud of his performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter on both stage and screen, he eventually grew tired of talking about Rocky Horror. As he tried to move on to other projects, he became irritated when journalists would attempt to steer the conversation back around to Rocky Horror during interviews. 

Even after Curry had stopped performing as Dr. Frank-N-Furter on stage and began recording his own original albums, reporters covering his shows and music releases continuously brought up Rocky Horror. Occasionally, Curry had strong words for them. When David Huff interviewed Curry for Jam Magazine in 1979, he began the interview by asking Curry if he thought that audiences had typecast him because of Rocky Horror. Curry responded, "I think that is one of the most boring journalistic openings I have ever heard." But later in life, Curry embraced Rocky Horror again and returned to narrate the 2016 remake. He simply needed some distance from the role to experiment.

He worked on cartoons to improve his American accent

Eventually, Tim Curry began to look towards new roles and turned to voice acting. When Rocky Horror became a hit in America, he gained a new American audience, and naturally, he became interested in playing American roles. However, he wasn't able to land those parts in live-action films. He needed to figure out a way to break into the American film market, and he found that opportunity through voice acting.

"One of the reasons I started doing cartoons is I really wanted to play American characters, and they let me play American characters in cartoons," Curry told journalist Frank Lovece. "So it's been a way for me to work on my American accents." Some of Curry's earlier voice-acting roles included Dermot D. McDermott on Fantastic Max, Mr. Curry on Paddington Bear, and Captain Hook on Peter Pan and the Pirates. You might also remember him as the voice of the decidedly non-American Nigel Thornberry on the series The Wild Thornberrys.

Tim Curry loved working on Muppet Treasure Island

In 1996, Tim Curry starred as Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island. The movie was loosely based on the classic novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and while it was very different compared to the other films that he'd appeared in, Curry looks back on it as his "happiest" experience on set. Why? Well, as the actor explained (via Timcurry.co.uk), "There's a conspicuous lack of ego among the Muppets."

Curry's presence on set prompted director Brian Henson to change up his creative process. Rather than recording separate musical tracks for the film, Curry decided to sing his songs live on set. Henson then decided that all of the other performers should do the same going forward because the scenes turned out so well. Curry's performance in Muppet Treasure Island proved that the star could truly pull off any role, even a pirate sailing the high seas with the Muppets!

He's narrated audiobooks

If you've watched one of Curry's films, you know that you'd recognize his iconic voice anywhere you heard it. He has a distinct cadence that's simply unmistakable, and his dialogue always stands out. So it probably won't come as surprise to hear that Curry has lent his voice to narrating several audiobooks. For example, Curry has narrated the audio versions of the popular novels A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. More recently, he's served as the narrator for several classic books, including titles like Dracula by Bram Stoker and Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne.

You may have also heard Curry's voice on a few video games! Most recently, Curry voiced Arl Rendon Howe in the game Dragon Age: Origins. Plus, he's provided voice work for a few games that you might not expect to hear an actor like Curry appearing on. For instance, he's voiced Professor Calamitous in several SpongeBob and Friends games.

He's passionate about gardening

In addition to acting, Tim Curry has another passion — gardening. When Curry was only 12, his father passed away, but before his death, he'd found joy in cultivating a garden at their home. As an adult, Curry picked up his father's hobby. He moved into an old Hollywood mansion that needed a bit of TLC, and in addition to restoring the home, he brought the gardens back to life.

In his garden, Curry designed two patios with benches — one in the perfect spot for watching the sun rise and another with a great view of the sunset. Often, he spends his time relaxing on these benches and envisioning his plans for upcoming projects. But Curry enjoys his downtime in his garden so much that he admitted (via Timcurry.co.uk), "If I didn't have to work, I'd never leave." He also views his garden as part of his legacy. As Curry once explained, "The 20th century has been very much about getting what you want now. Gardens are about making something terrific for those who come after."

Tim Curry suffered a stroke in 2012

In July 2012, Tim Curry suffered a stroke. Thankfully, he survived, but he continued attending physical and speech therapy for years afterwards. His family and friends managed to keep his condition a secret for nearly a year, allowing him to focus on healing in private without the attention of the media, but the news was eventually leaked to The Daily Mail. It's been a difficult road to recovery, but Curry continues to do what he loves. Although he isn't able to take on the kinds of roles that he used to, he's still bringing new characters to life.

The stroke didn't stop Curry from acting. But these days, he generally sticks to voice-acting roles. He did make an exception for The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again, in which he appeared on screen as the Criminologist. It's clear that no matter what comes next for Curry, he will always be an entertainer at heart.

His Pennywise portrayal legitimately scared one his child co-stars

The 1990 television miniseries adaptation of Stephen King's 1000-plus page novel "IT" is definitely a product of its time. From the occasionally hokey line delivery to the often chintzy effects, the two-parter is definitely the best and worst of '90s horror adaptations. However, whatever your thoughts on it are, positive or negative, there's no denying how pitch-perfect Tim Curry is as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. From his sinister yet comedic voice to the simple yet unsettling makeup job, it's one of horror's most memorable performances. To this day if you ask a child of the 90s what scared them the most, there's a good chance they'll mention Curry's take on Pennywise.

His unsettling portrayal of the shapeshifting clown was so disturbing, it even scared one of his young co-stars in the miniseries. As mentioned by Curry himself during a chat with ScreenGeek, Tony Dakota, the young actor who played Georgie, was legitimately freaked out by Curry's performance. Curry was quoted saying, "'Tim, you're scaring me.' I said, 'Gee, I'm so sorry, but that's what I'm supposed to be doing.'" As an added joke, when asked if Dakota needed therapy in the years since the miniseries, Curry responded with, "I sure hope so."

His makeup for Legend was exceptionally uncomfortable

If you comb through behind-the-scenes stories, you'll likely find many terror tales regarding actors and their often laborious makeup. To be clear, we don't mean just a little blush or some smokey eye, we are referring to complicated latex appliances and, very often full body suits. From Jim Carrey in "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" to Justin Long in "Tusk," there are countless makeup and costume-related horror stories.

In the case of Tim Curry, who's no stranger to complicated outfits, his ax to grind came in the form of his makeup for Ridley Scott's "Legend." In the film, Curry plays the Lord of Darkness aka the Devil, the main villain that the hero, Jack (Tom Cruise), must defeat. Curry's makeup was a complicated affair and one that took nearly eight hours to apply. Not only was Curry shellacked in bright red makeup, but he also had a set of three-foot horns affixed to his head. 

In fact, when shooting would wrap for the day, an exhausted Curry needed to soak in a tub for over an hour just to remove the makeup. Needless to say, it was a less than comfortable experience for Curry, but it did result in one of the most visually memorable villains of '80s cinema.

He was the original choice for the Joker in Batman: The Animated Series

Few actors are as synonymous with a role quite like Mark Hamill and, the Clown Prince of Crime, the Joker. Even the most hardcore of Batman fans will tell you that when they read a Joker-centered comic book, they'll hear Hamill's rendition in their heads. From "Batman the Animated Series" all the way to his allegedly final performance in "Batman: Arkham Knight," Hamill's maniacal portrayal has been nothing short of incredible.

However, many might be surprised to know that those behind "Batman the Animated Series" had originally tasked someone else with the role, Tim Curry. This has been confirmed via the release of previously unreleased footage featuring Curry's performance before he was replaced by Mark Hamill. While Hamill's portrayal will always be king, one wonders how Curry's rendition would've fared if he'd gone forward with the role. His dismissal, per Curry's own recounting, seemed to stem from Warner Brothers simply not enjoying his take on the character. 

In an interesting easter egg, the episode "Be A Clown" features a mechanical clown that emits Curry's unmistakable laugh. In a day and age where DC Comics seem to be leaning heavily into the idea of a multiverse, perhaps Curry's Joker could resurface, even if for a brief cameo.

He auditioned for Who Framed Roger Rabbit

"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" truly was lightning in a bottle at the time of its release and, in the years since, has never truly been matched. Many films, like "Cool World" or "Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers" have attempted to replicate the film's style but none quite compare. There was just something magical about the film, especially given its simulator use of both Warner Brothers and Disney Characters. However, one of the film's best elements is by far its villain, the insidious Judge Doom, played to perfection by Christopher Lloyd.

It's a bit hard to imagine the iconically sinister villain without Lloyd's unique profile and intimidating stare, especially in the film's climax. However, while the role was still being cast, none other than Tim Curry auditioned for the part of Judge Doom. This is referenced in the bonus content of the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" Blu-ray and is certainly an intriguing alternative. Tim Curry, when needed, can turn on the intimidation factor in an instant, so the thought of him with pulsing red cartoon eyes is more than a little unnerving. Lloyd will always remain synonymous with the role, and for good reason, but it is interesting to consider the toothy grinned road not traveled.

His character in Home Alone 2 isn't named in the credits

Regardless of the film project, Tim Curry always gives it his all. Case in point, Curry's minor role as Mr. Hector in "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" is far funnier and more memorable than it has any right being. What could've been a disposable side character is elevated to the moon and beyond by Curry's incomparable delivery.

Everything from his snooty attitude to his quirky pronunciations of certain words just adds to the flavor of this goofball performance. A particularly memorable visual is when the film fades from the animated Grinch smiling to Curry making his famous grin, pure cinematic perfection. There's also a priceless scene where Kevin tricks Mr. Hector into thinking he's just walked in on a naked man in the shower, leading to a classic over-the-top Curry reaction.

Considering how funny the character is, you might find it odd that he isn't even referred to by his name in the film's end credits. Instead of being billed as Mr. Hector, Curry is instead listed as just The Concierge, which isn't inaccurate but still strange nevertheless.

His Clue character isn't from the original board game

The 1985 adaptation of "Clue" might not have been a success back during its theatrical run but it still developed an impressive cult following. A film based on a board game might sound trite, but the film's genuinely funny script and top-notch performances really elevate the material.

The film really goes out of its way to be as faithful to the board game's lore as possible, even giving the characters their proper names – Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), and Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren). All the actors lean into the film's tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, leading to some hysterical interactions between the main ensemble.

However, in a weird bit of trivia, Tim Curry's role as the butler, Wadsworth, isn't from the original board game's character lineup. In the game's original release in the UK, known then as "Cluedo," the original lineup was just Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum, Miss Scarlet, and Colonel Mustard. This is quite funny as Wadsworth, due majorly to Curry's impeccable delivery, is one of the film's standout characters.

He's regarded as the saving grace of Addams Family Reunion

Often an actor can do the seemingly impossible and improve a bad movie with their presence. Even if it doesn't outright fix the entire movie, it still gives the audience a nugget of joy amidst the lack of quality. Case in point is Tim Curry's portrayal of Gomez Addams in "Addams Family Reunion," the straight-to-video addition to the "Addams Family" franchise. The production's biggest issue was the passing of the great Raul Julia, meaning that Gomez needed to be recast. This resulted in Curry getting the part and slipping into the pin-striped suit of Gomez, embracing the role with his standard gusto. 

Sadly, the film was not well received, with the likes of the AV Club tearing the film to shreds for its bad acting and lame special effects. However, one aspect of the film that many seem to enjoy is Tim Curry, who appears to be the one bright spot for those who've seen it. In spite of the film's quality, Curry once again goes all-out with his performance, leaving a positive stamp on a less-than-desirable project.

He's lent his voice to many video games

Curry has lent his unmistakable voice to the world of not only animation but video games as well. Many might already know of his incomparable performance as Nigel Thornberry in Nickelodeon's "The Wild Thornberrys," but there's much more to discuss.

In video games, Curry has been associated with many titles both popular and underrated. In the early-90s, Curry was a part of the cast for the point-and-click adventure game, "Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers." He also lent his voice to the 2009 release, "Dragon Age: Origins" as the character of Arl Rendon Howe, a rogue assassin. Curry definitely has a knack for characters set in strange worlds centered on science fiction and old-school fantasy elements.

One of his more exciting roles arrived in the form of Emperor Doviculus, the main villain of 2009's "Brutal Legend." The game focuses on Eddie Riggs (Jack Black), a roadie who after a concert gone wrong, finds himself transported to the world of heavy metal. This lands him in the crosshairs of the diabolical Emperor Doviculus, a brutal tyrant with a very industrial metal-inspired look. Subtlety isn't really a word that Black or Curry really understand, so needless to say, their interactions are beyond enthralling and hilarious.

He was thrown out of a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening

This is by far one of the more hilarious facts regarding Tim Curry, a time when his own fame was a detriment. Back in the early-80s, Curry was doing various press appearances for the television adaptation of "Oliver Twist" directed by Clive Donner.

During an interview, reporter Leta Powell Drake talked to Curry about the widespread success of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," even asking him if he'd attended a theatrical midnight screening himself. Curry looked at Powell point blank and, without any hesitation, simply said, "Yes, I have. In fact, I was thrown out." He noted that this incident in question took place early on in the film's midnight run at the Waverly Theatre in New York.

It seems Curry, the man behind the memorably mad Frank-N-Furter, was mistaken for an imposter and ousted from the Waverly screening. As Curry noted, "I thought it was enormous fun. I was having a ball — I got thrown out." It's even funnier to note that, per Curry, he wasn't even dressed as Frank-N-Furter at the time of the screening. We can only wonder if any of Curry's fellow audience members even noticed that the real Frank-N-Furter was sitting in the same theater as they were.

He saw Annie as the end of an era

Very few musicals have had longevity quite like "Annie," which first debuted on Broadway back in the late '70s. The story of Annie, a plucky red-headed orphan who finds herself adopted by billionaire Oliver Warbuck for a week, has won the hearts and minds of many. The play was such a success that it meant a film adaptation was only natural, coming to fruition in 1982 under the helm of director John Huston.

The film stars Aileen Quinn as the adorable Annie, the legendary Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, and Albert Finney as a pitch-perfect "Daddy" Warbucks. The cast is also rounded out by some other great talents such as Bernadette Peters as Lily St. Regis and Tim Curry as Rooster, her con artist boyfriend. Through interviews released in the years since the film, it's very clear how much the project still means to the cast.

In fact, when Curry and Burnett sat down with Forbes back in 2020, the former had an interesting observation regarding the movie musical classic. He said, "I remember turning to Bernadette and saying, 'This may well be the last big movie musical.' That was a distinct possibility, and, pretty much, it was. Hollywood rarely makes a musical of this kind, and on this scale these days, and that's a shame."