Study Guide

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Screenwriter

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Richard O'Brien and Jim Sharman

Somewhere out there—not in another galaxy, but in this one—there is a person who actually likes the corny horror movies skewered by Crow and Tom Servo on Mystery Science Theater 3000. And that person is Richard O'Brien.

O'Brien wrote The Rocky Horror Show, the original stage production, as an homage to the '50s sci-fi/horror movies he loved. It's a spoof of all the movies he name-drops in the opening song "Science Fiction/Double Feature," full of aliens, metallic underwear, and mayhem. He wrote the book, music and lyrics, and his play was more successful than O'Brien anticipated. It was awarded "Best Musical of 1973" by the London Evening Standard. (Source)

Not bad for a play featuring a character named Frank-N-Furter.

After being discovered by Lou Adler, O'Brien adapted his play into an American film with Jim Sharman, who also directed. (You can check out more about him on our "Director" page.) O'Brien himself played the role of Riff Raff. He later lamented that he had seen very few royalties from the film, which continues to be successful to this day. (Source)

To make ends meet, O'Brien took a variety of roles, including the host of a British game show called The Crystal Maze and the co-starring role in Elvira's Haunted Hills. Working with Elvira allowed O'Brien to play a classic horror character in the vein of Christopher Lee. (Source)

Did we say dream come true? As Elvira might say, this was an unpleasant dream come true…but O'Brien's a man who's never shied away from the unpleasant.

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