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Though moviegoers across several generations associated him with his memorable debut role as the campy transvestite Doctor Frank-N-Furter in the cult classic "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975), actor Tim Curry struggled throughout his career to live down the role that made him famous. Curry managed to chip away at the narrow perception of him with a wide range of performances, playing the title role in the stage production of "Amadeus" (1980) and the cartoonishly evil Rooster in the film version of "Annie" (1982). He later played the butler Wadsworth in the board game-turned-movie "Clue" (1985), then delivered a deliciously scary turn as the murderous circus clown Pennywise in "Stephen King's It" (ABC, 1990). In the 1990s, Curry put his pliant voice to good use in a number of animated projects, which became something of a second career for the actor. On the screen, he largely played the villain in "The Three Musketeers" (1993), "Charlie's Angels" (2000) and to some extent "Kinsey" (2004). But any vestiges of Frank-N-Furter that may have remained where wiped away when he starred as King Arthur in the Broadway production, "Spamalot" (2004), a musical adaptation of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975). Comfortable with his association with "Rocky Horror" later in his career, Curry stood far above his British compatriots as being one of that country's most intriguing and talented exports.
Born on April 19, 1946 in Grappenhall, Warrington, England, Curry was raised by his father, James, a Methodist chaplain in the Royal Navy, and his mother, Patricia, a school secretary. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Hong Kong, only to return to England, where the young Curry began performing as a boy soprano in a church choir when he was around six years old. He attended Lymm High School until his father suddenly died when he was 12. With the family relocated to Bath near the west coast of England, Curry attended Kingswood School, where he first met director Jonathan Lynn with whom he would work decades later. Meanwhile, Curry moved on to Birmingham University to study both literature and performing arts. Having transitioned from singing to acting, Curry made his professional debut as Woof in a West End production of "Hair" (1968), soon after which he appeared in a Scottish opera company tour of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." But it was on "Hair" that Curry met writer Richard O'Brien, who wrote the one part that both propelled the actor's career to a new level but became a career albatross for the rest of his life.
Originally written as a stage musical in 1973, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" was long considered by Curry to be his ticket to fame, for better or worse. He was cast as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a flamboyant transsexual scientist who gives refuge to a stranded All-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) in a bizarre castle that is populated by a host of strangely-clad partygoers. As things grow weirder by the minute, thanks to encounters with Riff Raff (Richard O'Brien), Magenta (Patricia Quinn) and a biker named Eddie (Meatloaf), the couple soon realizes that they may become the next experiment for the demented Frank-N-Furter. Because of the stage musical's popular success, Curry reprised his role for the 1975 film adaptation. A box office disappointment at first, the film hit its stride when a low-level 20th Century Fox executive convinced his boss to test it as a midnight cult movie, resulting in a sudden cultural phenomenon, complete with rabid fans lining up each week dressed as their favorite characters, singing and dancing along with the songs, and shouting made-up lines at the screen while throwing various objects at the screen like rice and toast during the wedding scene. Most importantly, the film became the longest-running movie in cinematic history, with grosses exceeding $150,000,000 since its release.
Though his film career may not have existed had he not played the sexually outrageous Frank-N-Furter, Curry nonetheless struggled to shake off the shackles of the confining role for decades to come. He stayed close to the character for his next Broadway performance, playing a fictional version of avant-garde poet and performance artist Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard's comedy "Transvestites" (1976). Turning to British television, Curry starred as The Bard in the six-part historical drama, "Will Shakespeare" (ITV, 1978), which detailed Shakespeare's life while also delving into more widely rumored aspects, like his alleged apprenticeship with Christopher Marlowe (Ian McShane) and homosexual relationship with the Earl of Southampton (Nicolas Clay). Back on film, he starred as a punk-era disc jockey sympathetic to two teenage runaways (Robin Johnson and Trini Alvarado) in Allan Moyle's "Times Square" (1980). Also that year, Curry returned to the stage to play Mozart opposite Ian McKellen's Salieri in the highly-fictionalized account of their alleged rivalry, "Amadeus" (1980). In the original film adaptation of "Annie" (1982), Curry portrayed the scheming Rooster Hannigan, who, along with his booze-swilling sister (Carol Burnett) and his bimbo girlfriend (Bernadette Peters), tries to swindle billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks out of a fortune by claiming to be the real parents a plucky red-haired orphan (Aileen Quinn). The film's nail-biting finale on an upraised train track bridge as Rooster pursues the film's young heroine with the sole intent of killing her scared a generation of kids who were ill prepared for the darkness Curry brought to the musical.
Having managed somewhat to separate himself from "Rocky Horror," Curry began appearing in bigger Hollywood films, though some of his choices remained suspect at best. He played Wadsworth the Butler in the 1950's-era spoof "Clue" (1985), a mystery comedy based on the popular Parker Brothers board game starring Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Eileen Brennan and Martin Mull. He next played the Lord of Darkness himself in Ridley Scott's action fantasy, "Legend" (1985), which starred Tom Cruise as a young man escorting a beautiful princess (Mia Sara) through an enchanted, but perilous forest ruled by Satan. Curry went on to play a corrupt televangelist in the forgettable satiric comedy "Pass the Ammo" (1988) before making a brief but memorable impact in a recurring role as a vicious recording executive on Stephen J. Cannell's superior cop drama, "Wiseguy" (CBS, 1989). Curry continued his quest to seemingly scare the children of the world with yet another frightening, memory-searing performance as Pennywise, the murderous circus clown with razor-teeth who lures his victims into the sewer in the two-part television movie adaptation of "Stephen King's It" (ABC, 1990), before putting his Slavic looks to use as a medical officer aboard a defecting Russian submarine in "The Hunt for Red October" (1990).
After receiving a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series for his Captain Hook in "Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates" (1990), Curry offered a few amusing moments as a prissy elocution coach in the otherwise underachieving Sylvester Stallone mob comedy "Oscar" (1991). Meanwhile, he began a long stint as a voiceover performer with a villainous turn in the animated "Captain Planet and the Planeteers" (TBS, 1990-96). He also used his malleable voice for a variety of animated creatures on shows like "Tom and Jerry Kids Show" (Fox, 1990-94), "The Legend of Prince Valiant" (ABC, 1991-95), "Dinosaurs" (ABC, 1990-94) and "Duckman" (USA, 1993-97). Of course, Curry continued in live action roles, winning critical acclaim for playing the evil Cardinal Richelieu in the otherwise Disney-fied adaptation of "The Three Musketeers" (1993). Once again playing the villain, albeit a comical one, Curry tried to enliven the unoriginal cop parody, "Loaded Weapon 1" (1993), before embarking on a string of movies that offered little commercial or artistic merit, like as "Wing Commander III: The Heart of the Tiger" (1995), "Lover's Knot" (1995), "Congo" (1995) and "McHale's Navy" (1997).
Back to voiceover work, Curry had several more recurring roles, playing Gustav Goose on the short-lived syndicated series, "Quack Pack" (Toon Disney, 1996-98) and Dragaunus on the equally short-lived "Mighty Ducks" (ABC, 1996-98). For "The Net" (USA, 1998-99), he provided the voice of The Sorcerer in the otherwise live-action drama that survived its first season, but failed to return for another. After starring as Gomez Addams in the straight-to-video release "Addams Family Reunion" (1998), he went on the run as the kidnapper of a software genius (Sam Rockwell) in "Charlie's Angels" (2000), starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Berrymore and Lucy Liu as the famed trio of bouncy crime fighters. In "Scary Movie 2" (2001), a sequel to the surprising 2000 hit from the Brothers Wayan, Curry played an evil professor who invites the survivors of the first movie - as well as some new faces - to spend a weekend in a haunted house. Meanwhile, Curry added two more voiceover roles to his résumé - "Rugrats in Paris: The Movie" (2000) and "The Wild Thornberry's Movie" (2002), before playing a jealous rival academic in the biopic on a famed sexual behaviorist (Liam Neeson) in "Kinsey" (2004).
In 2004, Curry led an outstanding cast in the much-lauded Broadway production, "Monty Python's Spamalot," a musical directed by Mike Nichols and based on the British comedy troupe's 1975 movie, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Curry played King Arthur, whose quest for the famed Holy Grail leads him to do battle with a dogged, limbless knight, a taunting Frenchman who bombards his knights with dead animals, and a killer rabbit who can pierce armor with his teeth. The New York Times hailed Curry's performance as the "best of the cast," which included David Hyde Pierce as Sir Robin, Christopher Sieber as Sir Galahad and Hank Azaria as Sir Lancelot. In 2006, Curry briefly reprised the role for a revival in London's West End. Curry was nominated for both a Tony Award and a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance. He continued doing voiceover work in animated features like "Valiant" (2005) and "Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" (2006) while logging episodes as a guest star on shows like "Will & Grace" (NBC, 1998-2006), "Psych" (USA Network, 2006-14) and "Criminal Minds" (CBS, 2005- ). Curry once again played the villain in the cable miniseries "Alice" (Syfy, 2009), a reimagining of Lewis Carroll's classic fantasy tale.
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