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The Untold Truth Of Tim Curry

If you've ever been to a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, you know that it's a cinematic experience like no other. At the center of the entire production is Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a "sweet transvestite from Transylvania" who's experimenting to create the perfect male specimen. Dr. Frank-N-Furter is played by Tim Curry, a British actor who saw his career take off after landing this iconic role.

In recent years, Curry has faded from the limelight, but dedicated Rocky Horror fans still come out to see the film year after year. Curry has had a long and varied career, and from acting on stage to getting in front of the camera, he's given many great performances. But who's the man behind this iconic character? What inspired him to become an actor, and how did he end up joining the casts of so many famous films? Let's dive into a few interesting facts about Tim Curry's life that even his most devout fans might not know.

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.