The New York Times recently published an article on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the movie version of which is 40 years old this year. It’s an okay article, looking back on the musical’s difficult transition from stage show to movie and its blossoming into a “self-updating” cultural phenomenon. Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Susan Sarandon, and Lou Adler [film producer] reminisce on their roles and offer some analysis, while Richard O’Brien, who is apparently angry at Adler, refuses to contribute anything significant. I find most interesting the following excerpt about Curry:
Mr. Curry, who is recovering from a stroke he had in 2012, was happy to reminisce about his screen creation turning 40. But there was a time when he tried to distance himself from his most famous role because he worried it was holding him back. “I finally sorted through that,” he said. “I realized I’d been lucky. I still feel lucky.”
Magenta has words about luck.
Anyway, back off that necessary tangent, I find Curry’s change from rejection to acceptance illuminating. It reminds me of Leonard Nimoy’s distance from [I Am Not Spock] and ultimate embrace [I Am Spock] of his iconic role in Star Trek. I think that both of them started off feeling limited by their famous roles. They felt that people confused them with their characters and that they risked typecasting. Eventually, though, they each seemed to have reinterpreted the audience’s love for those roles/characters as an asset, rather than a liability. Curry, talking about luck, seems to be referring to the rare privilege of a performer who is so successful that they end up embodying some crucial cultural moment and thus becoming objects of endless passionate fascination. Very few performers ever hit that definition of success, and, while it may not be the sort of critical acclaim for one’s talents that perhaps Curry originally sought, he recognizes the significance of personifying the zeitgeist. It’s a pretty damn cool thing to do, and he gets to do it. I think it’s very wise of him to realize that struggling against the momentum is a waste of time and that accepting it, even if that means accepting that his life has gone otherwise to his plans, is easier.