English actor and singer Tim Curry has built an extremely impressive portfolio over the course of his remarkable career. He has shown a unique versatility while working in theatre, films as well as television. Born in Cheshire in 1946, Curry studied English and Drama at the University of Birmingham before going on to leave an indelible mark on the performing arts.
“I’ve never modelled myself on anybody, but there are a lot of people whose work I really admire and attitudes I certainly subscribe to,” Curry said. ” I really like the way that Jack Nicholson [acts] in particular works. I like the fact that he takes enormous risks. He’s an enormously disciplined actor who seems to be totally capable of dealing with the business as a business and yet drop it totally when he’s working.”
While talking about his versatile career, the actor explained: “I think it’s a very hard thing to do, in fact, because, I think particularly in America you’re always very much encouraged to specialise. Actors are, even. They’re not in England, but in America, you know you have a hit with a particular kind of a character. And there’s a very strong pressure for you to market that as a kind of personality and American actors are encouraged to be personalities in a way that English actors aren’t.”
On his 75th birthday, we take a look at six definitive films from Tim Curry’s remarkable filmography as a tribute to his invaluable contribution to the world of cinema.
Tim Curry’s six definitive films:
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman – 1975)
A true cult-classic, this brilliant film adaptation of the 1973 stage production is now considered to be one of the greatest musicals of all time. It launched Curry’s film career and still remains his most iconic role, starring as the eccentric Dr Frank-N-Furte — the “sweet transvestite from transsexual Transylvania.”
Curry revealed, “I didn’t actually base the character on them at all. I didn’t base it on anybody, really, except possibly my mother. No, I just used that attitude of those kind of ballsy ladies. The Americans have thought Bette Davis much more than the English, because it’s partly, I think, using a very cold English accept which makes people think Bette Davis.”
Annie (John Huston – 1982)
Based on the acclaimed Broadway production, John Huston’s 1982 musical comedy has failed the test of time, but it still has its memorable moments. It tells the story of an orphan who is invited by America’s richest person to join him for a week as a part of a publicity stunt. Curry features as the con-artist brother of the orphanage’s head who tries to profit off of Annie.
Huston commented, “I think the camera is simply a better observer than the human eye. It sees into the soul somehow. For example, in the film I am now directing, you see the charm well enough in Aileen Quinn, the little girl playing Annie, when she looks at you and smiles. But on the screen it comes across as though incandescent lights have been thrown on.”
Legend (Ridley Scott – 1985)
Ridley Scott’s epic fantasy film stars Curry as the lord of darkness who wants to kill endangered unicorns to create an eternal night. It is up to Jack (played by Tom Cruise) and his friends to end these sinister plans. The film received several accolades for its brilliant cinematography, including the British Society of Cinematographers Award.
Scott said, “I operated all of The Duellists, all of Alien, all of Legend—I wasn’t allowed to on Blade Runner. You’re painting when you’re operating. The proscenium, which is the viewfinder, is where the bells go off. If you’re the actor, I’m actually engaging with you, I’m looking right inside you, and I’m seeing every goddamn blink. They like that. It’s a bit like being a good still photographer. And then they blossom.”
Clue (Jonathan Lynn – 1985)
A black comedy based on the eponymous board game, Clue had an interesting approach to the mystery genre. It had three different endings, with each film theatre receiving only one. In the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, it examines the concept of crime and judgement. Curry starred as a butler who was given different revelations in different endings of the film.
“I was approached by Peter Guber when I met him in London in 1983. He owned the rights to the board game. He had heard of Yes Minister. I didn’t know it then but five previous writers had been hired for the job, including Tom Stoppard who gave up shortly before I was hired,” the filmmaker recalled.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Chris Columbus – 1992)
The immensely popular sequel to the original Home Alone film follows Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) as he gets separated from his family again and ends up in New York. Although Curry was just a minor character, he stole the show as the hotel concierge, who grows increasingly suspicious of Kevin’s activities while he stays there.
“We were shooting Home Alone 2 at the Plaza Hotel in New York, and we needed it as a location, because a significant part of Home Alone 2 took place at the Plaza Hotel. And the only way we were allowed to shoot at the Plaza Hotel was if Donald Trump — who owned the Plaza — could have a cameo in the movie,” Columbus said.
“So I wrestled with that for a long time, and finally I said, ‘Okay, he can have a cameo, because we couldn’t move into another hotel.’”
Muppet Treasure Island (Brian Henson – 1996)
The fifth theatrical film in the beloved Muppets franchise, this 1996 musical adventure romp is an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s popular novel Treasure Island. Curry plays the role of Long John Silver, the primary antagonist who uses his charm to deceive and manipulate.
What’s extraordinary is that after the first day or two, you don’t think of them as Muppets,” Curry said. “You think of them as characters — as fellow actors…It was one of the happiest sets I’ve ever been on,” he recalled. “There’s a conspicuous lack of ego among the Muppets.”