Interviews: Barry Bostwick, Patricia Quinn of ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’
CHICAGO – Let’s do the time warp again. Never have those words been truer than at the “Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show,” where two of the prominent cast members of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” – Barry Bostwick (Brad) and Patricia Quinn (Magenta) – reunited 36 years after the film was made.
Both Bostwick and Quinn went on to have careers outside the midnight show cult classic, but that unforgettable film lives on still in theaters around the country. Bostwick, Susan Sarandon (Janet) and Meatloaf (Eddie) were the only Americans in the cast, director Jim Sharman took a smaller budget so he could use the players from the original London stage production, which included Tim Curry (Frank-N-Furter), Richard O’Brien (Riff-Raff), Quinn and Nell Campbell (Columbia).
HollywoodChicago.com got the opportunity to interview Barry Bostwick and Patricia Quinn, with Joe Arce providing his unique Exclusive Portraits.
The “Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show” is being retooled as “The Hollywood Show,” coming to Chicago in March of 2012. This biannual event is where attendees can meet TV and movie stars, plus get pictures and collect autographs. Click here for details about the show.
Barry Bostwick, of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Spin City”
Barry Bostwick is a character actor supreme, having brought himself up through the ranks of 1970s TV, film and the Broadway stage (he was the original Danny Zuko in “Grease”). Besides making a splash as Brad in RHPS, he did a distinctive turn as George Washington in two miniseries in the 1980s. In 1996, he became Mayor Randall M. Winston Jr. in the Michael J. Fox sitcom, “Spin City,” even surviving a transition on that show to Charlie Sheen. Recently he made a guest appearance on “The Rocky Horror Glee Show” and plays Roger Frank on TV’s “Cougar Town.”
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com
HollywoodChicago.com: You were a California boy, having been born in San Mateo. What were your parent’s reaction when you first began to make a living as an actor? Did they encourage your pursuit?
Barry Bostwick: They were the first ones that paid me. I was a singer as a teenager, and we’d play our guitars and sing Kingston Trio and stuff like that. So my parents asked us to play at a neighbor’s house, and I told them yes, if they paid us. [laughs] We were only 13 or 14-years-old, and I think it was my parents who actually ponied up the cash.
HollywoodChicago.com: What do you miss most about the stage when you are away from it for a period of time and what was the longest you’ve stayed from it?
Bostwick: I don’t miss much about the stage, to me it’s a real hard job. It’s all-encompassing, 24-hour-a-day, anxious-making profession. The last real run that I did, which was ‘Nick & Nora’ in the 1990s, I said to myself that the minute I left the stage door after each performance was the happiest moment of the day. It was a problematic production, and I wish it were different. It could change, if someone came up with a project that excited me.
HollywoodChicago.com: You became known in your mid career for the exceptional interpretation of George Washington in a couple of miniseries. What element of putting together the character made you most understand him as a man?
Bostwick: There was one historical moment that was written in somebody’s diary. The diarist was attending a public function with Washington, and he observed that someone had come up and put a hand on Washington’s shoulder. And apparently he turned and gave the greeter a cold stare, and the person slowly removed their hand. They realized they had trespassed the man’s personal space and privacy. That was very telling for me, for at that point he was instinctively trying to make the role of the presidency something special, different and something to be looked up to. Yet he was a very private person. It was about his image. If he let people get too close to him, it would diminish his role.
HollywoodChicago.com: I think one of the most successful renderings of the great George Kaufman and Lorenz Hart play “You Can’t Take it With You” was the TV version done in the late 1970s. What do you remember about that set and how that incredible cast put together that classic?
Bostwick: I remember Art Carney [Grandpa] had this theatrical cough, that he was famous for, he would cough like his guts were coming up. He would do that occasionally, and everyone would fall on the floor. [laughs] Blythe Danner played opposite me, we were so young and I was a fan of hers, it was a real pleasure to work with her and see her daughter Gwyneth [Paltrow] grow up as lovely as she is. I’ve always felt close to Gwyneth because of my relationship with her mother that came from the play.
HollywoodChicago.com: What was the most difficult thing about the transition between Michael J. Fox and Charlie Sheen in the TV show ‘Spin City’? Was it hard holding onto the show once the transition was made?
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Bostwick: The hardest thing for us was to let go of Mike. Mike had a hard time letting go of us as well, he would come back and do an episode here or there. In a way, it took Charlie a lot longer to get his feet under him, because he wasn’t handed the show on one day, there was that long, drawn-out transition. It was necessary in the public’s eye to do it that way, instead of just Mike-to-Charlie, boom that’s it. Charlie was a real team player, and enthusiastic about learning the genre. He was very focused and understood the opportunity he had in front of him.
HollywoodChicago.com: What can you tell us about Richard Kind that the rest of the world doesn’t know?
Bostwick: Richard Kind, he’s a one off, an unique human being. [laughs] He knows everybody in Hollywood. On his cellphone, he probably has everyone. There is not one night where Richard Kind can’t find a party, or a dinner date with somebody famous. And he takes advantage of it, and is a helluva guy. He hangs with the right people, I’ve got to tell you.
Patricia Quinn, Magenta in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”
Patricia Quinn is a brassy, beautiful “lady” of the British realm – her late husband Robert Stephens was knighted. As a close friend of Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien, Quinn originated the role of Magenta in the original London stage production. She made the stage-to-screen transition flawlessly, and is also significant in that history, because it was her “LIPS!” in the film that are seen in the opening credits (story below). She also went on to a notable acting career, appearing in the legendary BBC/PBS production of “I, Claudius’ (1976), creating a character in the “Doctor Who” series and was recently in director Stephen Frears comedy, “Tamara Drewe.’
Photo credit: Joe Arce of Starstruck Foto for HollywoodChicago.com
HollywoodChicago.com: Is it true you were a Playboy Bunny in London when it first opened in the 1960s? What do you remember about about that particular era?
Patricia Quinn: It is true, and I actually was there when it opened, one of the first Bunnies. I did a documentary about it in London, and it was wonderful, but I was only there for three months, a kind of filler. When I met up with the other Bunnies in that documentary, it was like a school reunion. We all ended up at a pub on the Thames owned by Barbara Bunny, and we became rather a raucous lot. It was brilliant, I loved being a Bunny.
HollywoodChicago.com: I see you’re wearing the famous lips from Rocky Horror, which are actually your filmed lips. What is the story behind your lips being some of most famous in cinema history? Was it accidental?
Quinn: No accidents in that film. In the original stage show, an usherette sings the song ‘Science Fiction’ [the ‘Lips’ song] and that was my part and my song, and the usherette also plays Magenta. When it came to the film they couldn’t have an usherette, but I asked if I could do my song. They said ‘No, Pat,’ and my reaction was to tell them to take the film and shove it. [laughs] I actually didn’t want to do the film because I wasn’t singing ‘Science Fiction.’ I didn’t care about Magenta.
But they took me to look at the sets, the Translyvanians, and all the design. And when I saw it all, I was in again. So on the last day of the shoot, director Jim Sharman came to me and asked if I had ever seen ‘Ballet Méncanique’ by Man Ray, a close-up of woman’s lips projected over Paris. I’d told him I hadn’t, and he told me that he had this idea that I could be like that mouth, and ‘Science Fiction’ would be sung by Richard O’Brien, because he recorded it. I was furious, saying ‘my mouth and his voice?!? Okay, how much?’ [laughs] They had to pay for that one.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
I ended up at Elstree Studios [UK] on the lot, just me. And they had no special effects planned for the mouth, they just blacked out my face, I sat in the sun with this blacked-out face. And then they filmed it with a cloth over the camera with a little hole cut out. My head kept moving during the filming and the lips went out of focus, so they got one of the arc lamps, took the light out and screwed my head into the lamp to keep it from moving, and I sang. I never thought it was special until later, that it was an added bonus it was my lips, and of course he wanted my lips for a certain reason, I think. I do have a Cupid’s Bow. [laughs]
HollywoodChicago.com: Did you and the other cast members of ‘I,Claudius’ have a feeling that the atmosphere was creating something very special, or were you all shocked when it opened to overwhelming success in the UK and America?
Quinn: I wasn’t thinking about America, but we knew we were wonderful, because it was fantastic to do it. I really believed I was in Rome, even though we were in the studios at the BBC. Those costumes were so magnificent, right down to how they dyed them. They ended up in a museum. When one was traipsing around in those costumes, and lying around in vomitoriums and eating grapes, it was hilarious. I think why it was so successful, it was like a soap opera in Rome. It was a sensation in London, the streets were empty when Claudius was on. From the dustman, to the milkman, to the lord and lady, everyone was watching Claudius.
I was in New York City for a Rocky Horror convention, and this guy selling newspapers on the street shouted at me, ‘Hey you!’ And I said, ‘Yeah?’ He answered ‘You’re a terrible woman, a terrible woman.’ I said, ‘Sorry?’ He replied ‘You killed your husband, you killed your daughter, you killed them all! You are a dreadful woman in I, Claudius.’ Isn’t that wonderful? [laughs]
HollywoodChicago.com: You recently had a role in Stephen Frears’s ‘Tamara Drewe.’ What did you like about the ensemble feel of that film, and working with Frears?
Quinn: Actually, Frears goes way back with me, and we begin at the beginning, unfortunately he never damn well employed me. But he was casting a play for the Royal Shakespeare Company back then, and I went to see him about a part. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was starting a film version of Rocky Horror in two weeks. He looked at me and said, ‘well, you won’t be doing this play then.’ I never heard from that geezer again until the damn ‘Tamara Drewe’ came up! And they said, would Pat be in it, but there were no lines for me. I counted two lines. And they told me that Stephen would understand if I didn’t want to do it, but he’d very much like me to do it. So I did.
HollywoodChicago.com: What is the weirdest or oddest request that has been made by a fan in association with your connection to Rocky Horror?
Quinn: They are very funny people. I opened the Belfast Film Festival this year, and it was such an honor because I’m from Belfast and I was overwhelmed. Fame at last in my hometown! Bob Geldolf once said that the Irish are resentful if you go away and become successful. And I said to the guy interviewing me that the Irish can become quite mean about any kind of success. He told me, ‘well Pat, we like to cut down tall tulips.” I told him, ‘I’m glad you said that and not me.’ [laughs]
I opened the festival with Rocky Horror, and this guy came dressed as the Usherette, a big Belfast fellow with his beehive hairdo. There was a journalist who was trying to interview him and he told me, ‘Pat, I don’t want to be interviewed because I’m a lecturer and also I’m running for an elective seat in politics.’ Of course, the next day he was in the newspaper with his name and everything. [laughs] They gave me four stars, just for the interview.
HollywoodChicago.com: Finally, what can you tell us about Rocky Horror creator Richard O’Brien that the rest of the world doesn’t know?
Quinn: That I adore him. I went to his last birthday, and I bought him a wonderful present. I found this basket with a wonderful handle, planted with these flowers. I asked the girl in the shop if it was a basket of Narcissus Flowers? She said yes, and I bought it for Richard. I took this massive basket of flowers and went to his table and said [in a sexy voice], ‘Happy Birthday Richard.’ He simply replied, ‘Perfect, Pat.’