Curtain Call: Tim Curry Discusses His Broadway Career

Curry is one of four recipients of the Actors Fund Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s Tony Awards Viewing Party

Of course everyone knows Tim Curry for his bravura role as Frank ‘n’ Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. But there’s much more to the man than the sweet transvestite from Transylvania. His career on the stage is so diverse and impressive that The Actors Fund is awarding him the Lifetime Achievement Award at Sunday’s Tony Awards Viewing Party. Also receiving the award are three other “Men of Broadway:” Theodore Bikel, Alfred Molina, and Joe Morton.

In July 2012, Curry suffered a stroke. Though his speech is slowed a bit, his humor remains ever-present.

What does it mean for you to be given this award?
It means that it just sort of solidifies the kind of work the American acting community has given me for years now. It’s very gracious of them, I think. I was thrilled when they told me and I am thrilled now.

Let’s talk about your Broadway shows. What was your experience on Spamalot?
Well I’m a big Monty Python fan and I’m a big Eric Idle fan. He wrote me a terrific part.

What role does having fun on stage as King Arthur play in the audience enjoying the show?
A huge part, I think. Hopefully it is infectious for the audience. If you are having fun, you hope they are, too.

What are your memories of My Favorite Year?
I loved the score. I thought the score was really brilliant so it was a pleasure to sing it. It’s always fun to play a drunk. The research makes it fun to play.

You played Mozart in Amadeus.
Yes. It was a brilliant play and a terrific production. And a wonderful part. The big problem is not to make him as loony as he is, but to make him sympathetic as well.

How do you accomplish that?
The same way you tackle anything actually–use your imagination.

Tom Stoppard is a notoriously challenging playwright. What was your experience with Travesties?
I took it over in London before it came to New York. I had three weeks to take it over. I locked myself in a hotel room for those three weeks to learn it. Every sentence has 17 sub-clauses. It’s very difficult dialogue. Probably the most difficult dialogue.

Your first show on Broadway was The Rocky Horror Show. Given the popularity of the film, how do you look at that project now?
With a sort of bemused tolerance. It’s neither a blessing nor a curse. I was lucky to get it.

There’s a story that you found Frank ‘n’ Furter’s voice while speaking to a woman on a bus. Is that true?
I started playing him as German and then I met a woman on a bus who said “do you have a house in town or a house in the country” and I thought, “that’s the voice!”

What was your first opening night (for Rocky Horror) like?
It was very exciting–when done successfully. I had to go on the Today Show the next day and they read the reviews—which were appalling. That brought me down. It was very cruel.

Since your stroke you have made limited public appearances. How are you doing and are you looking forward to the Actors Fund event?
I’m doing well and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve done a few benefits for the Actors Fund and I think it’s a marvelous organization. I hope not to have to use it.

How important is your sense of humor to you?
Vital. Absolutely vital. It’s not tough to maintain. It is just part of my DNA.

The first act of My Favorite Year ends with a song “If Life Were Like the Movies.” If life were like the theater, what would it be for you?
Scary. Well the theater is scary. And the longer the time in between the periods in the theater, the scarier it gets. Life isn’t meant to be scary. It’s to be celebratory. In which case, it would be like the theater. I think of that as a celebration of life.