Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. When I heard that Tim Curry had a stroke I did what most geeks do when an icon they admire falls ill or passes away… I panicked and felt sad and then felt guilty, like I had been taking him being around for granted.
I write a lot of the obituaries for AICN, not because I revel in morbidity or in the act of passing along bad news, but because I feel a sort of obligation to pay tribute when someone I admire passes. As unruly and harsh as our talkbackers can be, it always warms my heart to see the outpouring of love and respect that comes with those articles. That makes me proud of the site and proud of its readers, but it also has a bittersweet aftertaste. It’s great that we celebrate the life and career of an actor, director, writer or producer when they pass away, but so many of these guys don’t know how much they’re appreciated when they’re alive.
So, with that thought we here at AICN decided it’d be really cool to set up a regular column dedicated solely to appreciating the geek Gods and Goddesses that have fired our imaginations, inspired many a night of movie nerd debate and enriched popular culture on the whole just by being the awesome people they are while they are still among us.
Since it was Mr. Curry who inspired this idea, who better to start with?
Not only is Tim Curry the star of the biggest and best cult film of all time he has proven to be a master at both the dramatic and the comedic ever since he blasted on the film scene in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
You can’t talk Tim Curry without bringing up his outstanding Frank-N-Furter. Curry doesn’t seem to like commenting on the role and didn’t rejoin Richard O’Brien for the trying-too-hard Rocky Horror follow up, Shock Treatment, but you can’t deny that film put him on the pop culture map.
I legitimately love Rocky Horror as a film. The experience, with all the cat-calling and props and stuff, means a lot to a lot of people and I respect that, but it’s not my scene. I’ve tried twice but both experiences rubbed me the wrong way, the whole setup seeming to make fun of a weird movie instead of celebrating it like I thought it would.
There’s nothing like Rocky Horror and a huge part of the reason why that film works is because of Tim Curry as the lead. Objectively the pacing is all sorts of funky and the whole scenario is a giant spoonful of bizarre, but Curry’s charisma and devotion to the material guides us through it all. It’s a key component missing from O’Brien’s quasi-sequel and the scores of wanna be cult classics that followed in Rocky Horror’s wake.
My first experience with Curry’s work was probably either his despicable turn as Rooster Hannigan in 1983’s Annie or his legendary cameo in the pre-Harry Potter kids-at-magic-school Canadian TV movie The Worst Witch.
Holy shit is Curry on another level in The Worst Witch. He is either on all the drugs ever invented or got paid a whole bunch for one day’s worth of work and is so happy about it he goes for broke with his (at the time) state of the art musical number, which is still on in regular rotation every Halloween ‘round these parts. Behold the Grand Wizard!
I love that so much! As amazing and trippy as that is, Curry’s tour de force on film has to be his portrayal of the Lord of Darkness in Ridley Scott’s LEGEND. Rob Bottin’s makeup design is one of the best ever put before a camera, but it is a testament to Curry’s talents as an actor and a personality that he doesn’t disappear beneath the prosthetics and wardrobe. In fact all the makeup seems to do is highlight the actor. Darkness is 100% Tim Curry.
That movie really got under my skin as a kid. The whole nightmare vibe of it, punctuated beautifully by the Tangerine Dream score, works so well on the child brain and then sitting in the center is this nightmare devil who is both hugely intimidating and darkly charming, just as the devil should be.
If we’re talking creepy Tim Curry we can’t leave out Pennywise the Dancing Clown.
As a massive fan of Stephen King’s original novel, I find a lot of fault with the TV adaptation, feel a whole lot of crucial moments were left out and scratch my head at a lot of the casting (mostly in the adult section, the kids are all right on the nose), but one thing you can’t deny is that they nailed the casting of the big bad guy, that awful child-killing entity wrapped up in clown makeup.
Here’s the thing… Curry isn’t afraid to go big and he’s not afraid to do that because he’s so goddamn good at it. There’s no hesitation with these roles, be it Pennywise, Darkness or Frank-N-Furter, no concern about going larger than life because that razor-thin line between hammy and iconic is where Curry excels.
If you need any further example of how good Curry is at striking that balance, look at his out-of-breath ADHD portrayal of Wadsworth in Clue, a movie that absolutely should not have worked but has become a favorite ‘80s movie for all of us that were there when it hit (and a few of the youngins with good taste that came after us).
Jonathan Lynn cast the movie impeccably, trusting in people like Eileen Brennan, Martin Mull, Michael McKean, Madeline Kahn, Lesley Ann Warren and Christopher Lloyd to execute a completely silly screenplay based around the completely silly idea of making a movie out of a board game in a way that works as comedy and as a motion picture. Even in a cast of amazingly talented comedians Curry still manages to stand out, which is as much a testament to his comic timing as anything else I could possibly say about him.
Going into the ’90s Curry stepped back a bit from film work. Whether by choice or not I have no idea, but he did a ton of TV (including a memorable Tales From the Crypt episode) and was always working on the stage. He still managed to chew scenery in movies like Oscar, The Hunt For Red October, The Three Musketeers, Home Alone 2 and Loaded Weapon 1.
Curry is one of those guys who always brings it no matter which project, whether that means supporting a great film or being the best thing about a bad movie (coughcoughCongocoughcough).
The millennium proved a boost to his profile, landing the (Communism is just a) red herring bad guy role in McG’s Charlie’s Angels and great roles in Scary Movie 2 (the only installment of that franchise I dig, thanks mostly to Curry and David Cross) and Bill Condon’s Kinsey before leading the Broadway sensation SPAMALOT.
I was lucky enough to find myself in New York during his run as King Arthur in the stage version of Monty Python and The Holy Grail and seeing Curry work his magic live is an experience I’ll always treasure. The man can belt out a musical number, let me tell you!
Since then, Curry has spent the majority of his time using his considerable voice in animated movies, TV shows and video games. He made an appearance in John Landis’ sadly awful Burke and Hare, but has spent most of his time out of the public eye.
A rather fascinating bit of trivia relevant to us comic fans is that Curry has courted the role of the Joker a couple of times. He was Tim Burton’s second choice if Jack Nicholson had turned down the role and he went so far as recording the first few episodes of Batman: The Animated Series before his Joker was deemed too disturbing and Mark Hamill was brought in. I wouldn’t trade Hamill’s second career as the voice of The Joker for anything, but can you imagine how differently Burton’s Batman would have turned out should Curry have gotten the job?
The man has worked hard in all aspects of his career, be it the silver screen, the boob tube, the stage or putting out records and I hope he knows that there’s a large fanbase out there that appreciates it.
Now, the news of Curry’s stroke just hit, but apparently it actually happened last year and he had a little spill at his place in LA last week, which brought the stroke to light. I know he’s been doing some voicework recently, so any concern that it has hurt his ability to speak is apparently out the window. I just hope Curry is feeling well, is happy and in good health. If he gives us any more great characters that’s just icing on the cake of an already incredible career.
So, Tim Curry rules and hopefully he’ll be around for a long while yet, so let him know how you feel in the talkbacks below. I doubt he’s an ardent AICN reader, but you never know. Good vibes have a habit of getting to the right people.
I hope you guys have enjoyed this non-sad celebration. I can tell you it’s much more fun to write than an obituary. If you guys dig it we’ll make this a regular thing.
Now I’ll leave you with some grand Tim Curry moments throughout the last four decades. One great piece is a full, nearly half hour long interview with the man all about Rocky Horror from around the time of its release in 1975. Embedding has been disabled (why do people do that?), but you can watch it clicking here.