Thursday, July 24, 2008

ROCKY HORROR - So it's come to this...?

Variety reports that Lou Adler will produce a new film of The Rocky Horror Picture Show - to be titled, simply, Rocky Horror - for MTV Films, to air on the erstwhile music video channel at Halloween 2009. The tele-pic will use the original screenplay, but include music not in the film - presumably the cut songs "Super Heroes" and "Once In A While."

Update - Author Richard O'Brien tells the BBC he will not be involved, nor does the remake have his blessing. O'Brien controls the stage show, while Fox owns the film rights.

This seems an exercise in perversity - the wrong kind. Rocky Horror is sui generis, a product of its time and a distillation of a unique set of personalities and sensibilities. Its very success was a fluke, a case of the audience making the film their own. If you do a slick, well-made version, then it loses the amateur charm. If you do it intentionally cheesy, then it's a too-knowing spoof of a spoof. I get the heebie-jeebies imagining Rocky Horror as a sort of High School Musical for the Hot Topic set.

Much as I hate the idea of a remake, my theatre brain can't help but stray into thoughts of casting. First and foremost is the impossible task of finding someone to fill Tim Curry's platform heels. Online speculation reports that Marilyn Manson has been approached to star as Frank N. Furter. As Manson can't sing, act, dance or be funny, he's hardly qualified to embody cinema's grandest camp divo. If they MUST make this film, then impish Alan Cumming would make a vivid, lascivious Frank - and he has the box office credibility to be attractive to financiers. British comedian Russell Brand, so funny and sexy in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, would also be a good choice, though I've no idea if he can sing. Though I insist on a British Frank, John Barrowman might be good - a bit wholesome maybe, but he can trade on his musical theatre cred and sexy Torchwood rep. If budget were no object, I think Robert Downey, Jr. would be a revelation in the role.

While we are dream-casting, Justin Timberlake as Brad would not only be perfectly appropriate, but a major coup as well - and how about Reese Witherspoon as Janet? These two blonde cuties have the all-American look, and both sing quite well.

Marilyn Manson, if you insist, might make a great Riff Raff - though the vocals would need to be transposed to baritone. Once upon a time, Axl Rose possessed the perfect tenor yowl for Riff-Raff, and though Sebastian Bach can't act his way out of a paper bag, he sounded amazing on Broadway in the role. Killer tenor pipes and the ability to lurk and smirk are a must. As Magenta, Amy Winehouse would be an intriguing match for Manson's Riff, but Daphne Rubin-Vega, sounding just like Darlene Love, was fabulous in the Broadway show and would be more reliable. Jack Black as Eddie seems a no-brainer (get it?) and he'd even be a good Dr. Scott, in make-up. Or, get Meat Loaf to play the Doctor - he was both Eddie and Dr. Scott in LA and on Broadway. Patrick Stewart and Anthony Stewart-Head, with their gravitas and genre associations, would both make excellent Narrators.

Of course, all this misses part of the charm of the original film - the cast were mostly unknowns at the time, and so audiences saw Frank and Brad instead of "Tim Curry as Frank," "Barry Bostwick as Brad," etc. Celebrity casting in Rocky Horror will just make it seem like karaoke. It's the same problem that plagues many projects that rely on casting to sell themselves. Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was was never able to generate horror and pathos for the creature, because all you saw was "Robert DeNiro as the Creature." Then again, this new Rocky Horror will be a pop-culture Event, not a strange cult item that comes out of nowhere, so celebrity casting might actually work in its favor.

Lou Adler has always said that he didn't like the Hammer Gothic style of the film - he wanted it in black and white, with cardboard sets, in a more self-consciously kitschy style. Perhaps this is his attempt to do what Stephen King, who never liked the Kubrick film, did with his made-for-TV version of The Shining. That turned out great, didn't it?

If they want a new version of Rocky Horror out there, what they should do is have a good director - Sam Mendes maybe, or Julian Crouch - stage it, and release a live DVD. There are excellent videos of stage shows like Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and other Broadway musicals, not to mention many iterations of operas such as Don Giovanni, Aida, etc. A new Rocky Horror in this vein would be much more acceptable.

I grow weary of this world. Why can't Hollywood leave well enough alone?



Amy D. said...


Anonymous said...

I agree that Jack Black could reincarnate Eddie. However, it's nearly impossible for a man to be both sexy and scary in fishnets, so the only person I would trust to pull that off would be Johnny Depp... since he seems able to accomplish anything.

Anonymous said...

jack black would be awesome as eddie!!
as for jonny depp as frank, although i think he would play the role perfectly i think it has to be a british actor. I think Russel Brand would do the part imense justice, but noone will be able to hold a candle to tim curry!

Anonymous said...

Nooooooooo they cannot do this. people ruin everything why cant they just leave masterpieces alone? Redoing this is like painting a mutasche on the mona lisa