Tim Curry is delighted to be flexing his theatre muscles on his first-ever visit to Chichester, in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (May 20-June 11).
“It’s my first play for six years, since Spamalot, and before that was another six years,” says Tim, recently on the big screen in Burke And Hare, but still forever linked with his breakthrough role, Dr Frank-N-Furter in the 1975 cult movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show,
“I don’t have a well-developed theatre brain at the moment,” he confesses, “but it is just the way that things have worked out really. I don’t live here. I live in California, and I do mostly camera - or sometimes a play in New York or a play in London.
“But this was just irresistible. I have worked with Tom Stoppard quite a lot. In 1975 I did Three Men And a Boat which he adapted, and we got on really well. I moved straight from doing that to doing Travesties in London for three weeks before it went to New York. I did Travesties in New York for about six months. We have had a long relationship - with gaps!”
What attracts Tim is the brilliance of the writing: “It’s the brilliance of the language. The subtlety and the depth of certainly Travesties was a mind-bender. There were sentences with 13 sub-clauses, but Rosencrantz was his first masterpiece. It was his idea for me to do it, which was rather nice. It was hugely flattering.”
Plus a chance to play Chichester, a place Tim hadn’t even ever visited before.
Tim has lived in the States for the past 22 years this time; before that, there was a three-year spell in New York.
“I have spent more of my adult life in America than England. But actually I could see myself coming home very easily.”
“Civilisation! I think more than anything it is very easy to slip into a Californian coma. If you are not working, it is very easy not to be working. It’s not bad living in a place where the sun shines every day, but there are cultural differences in that really for women past 40 and men past middle 50s, you find yourself on the remainder pile fairly early. I don’t think that’s the case over here (in the UK)
“What is astonishing when I am over here is that you see real people on TV, people whose faces are in their original shape, in their original condition!”
So no, he hasn’t become too Amercianised: “Politically it is a fairly grim country to live in at the moment. The right wing in American politics is getting closer and closer to the Weimar Republic! It’s not a very comfortable place to be.”
As for that role, the one that launched him into public consciousness, Tim really doesn’t mind any more that The Rocky Horror Show has continued to follow him around.
“It’s the oddest thing. It used to get up my nose a bit. Really it didn’t start becoming this big thing until after I had left it far behind. That was a bit confusing. It was extraordinary to have found that it has run for more than 35 years now, with each new generation latching on to it. It’s a pretty smart calling card. I am very proud of it.”