Richard O'Brien (born Richard Smith; 25 March 1942) is an English-New Zealand actor, writer, musician, television presenter, voice artist and theatre performer. After a long and successful career based in the United Kingdom, he gained dual citizenship with New Zealand in 2011, where, as a boy, he resided in Tauranga.
O'Brien wrote the musical stage show The Rocky Horror Show, which has remained in almost continuous production. He also co-wrote the screenplay of the film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show, released in 1975, appearing in the film as Riff Raff. O'Brien also appeared in the hugely popular ITV series Robin of Sherwood in 1984-1986, as Gulnar, alongside Jason Connery. He presented the television show The Crystal Maze for Channel 4 from 1990 to 1993 and is the voice of Lawrence Fletcher, the title characters' father in Phineas and Ferb.
25 March 1942
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England
New Zealand (since 2011)
|Education||Tauranga Boys' College|
|Notable works||The Rocky Horror Show (writer and actor) |
Robin of Sherwood (series 3, as Gulnar)
The Crystal Maze (presenter)
Phineas and Ferb (voice of Lawrence Fletcher)
|Spouse||Kimi Wong (m. 1971–19??; divorced)|
Jane Moss (m. 1983–2006; divorced)
Sabrina Graf (m. 2013–present)
O'Brien was born Richard Smith in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. He emigrated with his family to Tauranga, New Zealand, at the age of 10, where his accountant father had purchased a sheep farm. He went to Tauranga Boys' College. He returned to England in 1964, after having learned how to ride horses (a skill which provided him with his break into the film industry as a stuntman in Carry On Cowboy) and developing a keen interest in comic books and horror films. He launched his acting career using his maternal grandmother's name, as there was already an actor named Richard Smith.
He has credited his time in New Zealand with instilling in him a sense of egalitarianism that enabled him to ignore the negative implications of social class in the UK upon returning, and gave him "a great sense of freedom".
To improve his acting skills, O'Brien took method acting classes, and then joined several stage productions as an actor. In 1970, he went into the touring production of Hair for nine months, and spent another nine months in the London production. In the summer of 1972, he met director Jim Sharman who cast him as an Apostle and Leper in the London production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Sharman then cast O'Brien as Willie, the alien in his March 1973 production of Sam Shepard's The Unseen Hand at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs.
Sharman also helped make O'Brien's draft of a gothic-themed, schlock-horror comic-book fantasy romp into a reality. Sharman suggested changing the working title from They Came from Denton High, and The Rocky Horror Show opened at the Theatre Upstairs in June 1973. Within weeks it had become a box-office hit, moving from the Royal Court to the Pheasantry, a nearby venue in the King's Road, then to the Classic Cinema and eventually into the West End at the Comedy Theatre.
After seeing the second night's performance of The Rocky Horror Show in the Theatre Upstairs, Jonathan King produced the original cast soundtrack in just over 48 hours during an off-stage weekend, and rushed it out on his UK Records label. He also became a 20% backer with producer Michael White, who put up the remaining 80%.
O'Brien continued writing musicals with arranger Richard Hartley, including: T. Zee (1976), Disaster (1978), The Stripper (1982 – based on the Carter Brown novel and produced in Australia), and Top People (1984). O'Brien and Hartley also provided three songs for the film The Return of Captain Invincible (1983), starring Alan Arkin. O'Brien wrote his one-man revue Disgracefully Yours (1985) singing as Mephistopheles Smith.
O'Brien became a serial bit-part film actor and has appeared in Jubilee (1977), Flash Gordon (1980), Dark City (1998), Ever After (1998) and Dungeons & Dragons (2000), among others. Additionally he guest starred in five episodes in the third season of the HTV dramatisation of Robin of Sherwood, as the corrupt druid Gulnar. A music CD of the songs from Disgracefully Yours entitled Absolute O'Brien was released in 1998.
He became the presenter of UK Channel 4's game show The Crystal Maze in 1990, specialising in sardonic put-downs, occasional eccentricities and playing his harmonica at random intervals. The show ran from 1990 to 1995, with O'Brien presenting the first four series. It was regularly Channel 4's highest-rated programme, reaching a peak of 7 million viewers for the 1993 Christmas special. O'Brien left The Crystal Maze in 1993 after the fourth series; the show was then taken over by Edward Tudor-Pole. After two series without O'Brien, the show was cancelled.
In other roles O'Brien has conceptualised and played the role of the Child Catcher in the West End theatre production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also occasionally performs cabaret-style music and comedy on stages around the world, singing songs from Rocky Horror among others. In 1995, he performed a select number of shows as the devilish charmer Mephistopheles Smith in a musical/comedy show he wrote entitled Disgracefully Yours, to which he later gave permission to be adapted into a musical, first by Eubank Productions for the Kansas City Fringe Fest in 2006, and more recently by Janus Theatre Company for the Edinburgh Fringe 2007, simply entitled Mephistopheles Smith. In late 2005, he appeared (as the spirit of the mirror) in the pantomime version of Snow White, which played at the Milton Keynes Theatre. In the summer of 2006, he played the Child Catcher in the Queen's 80th birthday celebrations at Buckingham Palace.
O'Brien performed in Thank-You for the Music, a 90-minute ABBA documentary for ITV, directed by Martin Koch, who previously directed the musical Mamma Mia! The documentary included a remake of the mini musical '"The Girl with the Golden Hair" which ABBA performed during their 1977 world tour and featured on ABBA: The Album (also 1977). The musical was performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre and featured Richard O'Brien, Liz McClarnon and the Dynamos. He also hosted the 1993 Brit Awards.
A patron of the Five Stars Scanner Appeal, which benefits the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. From 2001-06 he hosted the annual Transfandango, gala gathering of Dearhearts and Trans 'n' Gentle People to raise money for the hospital. This has now been superseded by Richard O'Brien's Halloween Party.
A script for another rumoured sequel entitled Revenge of the Old Queen of Rocky Horror, has been circulated on the web and reproduced on various fan sites, although it has officially denied as O'Brien's work by his representatives. While he has worked on a screenplay by that title, it was never publicly released. He wrote the lyrics for The Stripper (based on the book by Carter Brown), a musical which had its British premiere at the Queen's Theatre in Hornchurch, Essex on 28 August 2009.
In 2004, members of the Hamilton City Council in New Zealand honoured O'Brien's contribution to the arts with a statue of Riff Raff, the character he played in The Rocky Horror Show, on the site of the former Embassy Cinema.
O'Brien was denied New Zealand citizenship in June, 2010, and so could himself not settle in the country. He commented, "They build a statue of me and celebrate me as a New Zealander, but I have to go on my knees and do all sorts of things, and I'm probably too old." O'Brien did eventually become a New Zealand citizen, in December 2011.
In September 2007, he reprised his role as the Child Catcher for the final two weeks of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang's five-year British run, and then played the role in its Singapore engagement for the month of November, extended to 9 December. Also in December, he visited Hamilton, New Zealand for An Evening With Richard O'Brien, with presenter Mark Sainsbury and director Fiona Jackson."Fiona Jackson". Retrieved 10 March 2016.
In December 2008, O'Brien donated his original script Pig in Boots to the Wireless Theatre Company, who converted it into an audio pantomime. The show was recorded live at the Headliners Comedy Club in front of a studio audience with live FX and music. The production was opened by an original interview with O'Brien. In October 2012, O'Brien judged "Stage Fright" with the Wireless Theatre Company as part of the London Horror Festival and performed an acoustic set of Rocky Horror songs.
In March 2012, he gave a performance of song and autobiographical stories, It's Party Time with Richard O'Brien at the Hamilton Founders Theatre to celebrate his 70th birthday. In June 2012, he returned to Hamilton, New Zealand, to appear on stage as Fagin with the Hamilton Operatic Society's production of Oliver! at the Founders Theatre.
In September 2016 O'Brien opened the second stage Embassy Park in Hamilton together with Mayor Julie Hardaker. In October 2016, he appeared as the Crystal Maze Computer in a one-off Celebrity Crystal Maze episode for the charity 'Stand Up To Cancer' on Channel 4.
In a 2009 interview O'Brien spoke about an ongoing struggle to reconcile cultural gender roles and described himself as being transgender or possible third sex (genderqueer). O'Brien stated, "There is a continuum between male and female. Some are hard-wired one way or another, I’m in between." He expounded on this in a 2013 interview where he talked about using estrogen for the previous decade, and that he views himself as 70% male and 30% female. In 2017, O'Brien came under controversy when he said that transgender women were not real women.
In June 2010, the media reported that O'Brien had been denied New Zealand citizenship owing to his being too old under the country's immigration criteria. O'Brien's application appeared to garner public support and the decision was later overturned on appeal. In August 2010, New Zealand's Dominion Post reported that O'Brien would be allowed residency and possibly citizenship as an "exceptional" case. According to the Waikato Times, he was officially registered as a New Zealand citizen on 14 December 2011.
O'Brien has married three times and has three children. He and actress Kimi Wong were married on 4 December 1971 and had a son Linus in May 1972. He has a son and daughter from his second marriage to designer Jane Moss.
On 7 July 2012, aged 70, he proposed to Sabrina Graf, aged 35, a native of Germany, whom he had been dating for three years. They married on 6 April 2013 at their home in Katikati, Bay of Plenty.
"Dammit Janet" is a song/musical number in the original 1973 British musical stage production, The Rocky Horror Show as well as its 1975 film counterpart The Rocky Horror Picture Show, book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien, musical arrangements by Richard Hartley.
The number provides well known audience participation moments and has entered the pop culture lexicon through the often quoted phrase, "Dammit, Janet!"Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul
"Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul" is the seventh song in The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack and is sung by Eddie, an ex-delivery boy. It expresses Eddie's love for 'Saturday night' rock and roll and a past love that was (presumably Columbia) his girlfriend. A chorus of Transylvanians sing background vocals; Phantoms have this responsibility in the stage play.
Eddie rides out of the freezer on his frozen motorcycle to Columbia's surprise and glee while Dr. Frankenfurter stands protectively near his creation Rocky's side. It does not end well for Eddie yet he is determined to finish his ode to rock and roll.
The song also appears on Meat Loaf's Live Around the World album.I'm Going Home (Rocky Horror song)
"I'm Going Home" is the 18th song in The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. Immediately after Riff Raff and Magenta interrupt the Floor Show, Frank attempts to explain his actions. He tells them that he will return to Earth one day and stay forever. It's questionable whether Frank is being theatrical for pity, or is genuine.Lucius Richard O'Brien
Lucius Richard O'Brien (15 August 1832 – 13 December 1899) was an influential 19th-century Canadian oil and watercolour landscape artist.Michael Underwood
Michael Paul Underwood (born 26 October 1975) is an English television presenter, best known as a children's TV presenter on CBBC and CITV. He can be seen as a fifteen year old in an episode of The Crystal Maze, then presented by Richard O'Brien. He presented the primetime ITV series Let Me Entertain You in 2014 and was a reporter for Real Stories with Ranvir Singh. He now co- presents the Channel Five show Do the Right Thing with Eamonn and Ruth.Over at the Frankenstein Place
"Over at the Frankenstein Place" is the third song in the cult musical The Rocky Horror Show, sung outside Dr. Frank N. Furter's castle in the rain in the 1975 cult film. The song is in the key of E major.Rocky Horror Show Live
Rocky Horror Show Live is a 2015 British musical performance event simulcast live to cinemas across the United Kingdom and Europe from London's Playhouse Theatre on 17 September 2015. The Gala performance, in aid of Amnesty International, was the highlight of a two-week run of The Rocky Horror Show at the Playhouse from 11–26 September, all starring the show's creator Richard O'Brien.The Gala performance was broadcast to over 600 cinemas across the UK and Europe; taking more than £600,000 at the UK box office alone. It also beat Legend and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials to take the top spot at the UK box office.An edited version was later broadcast on BBC America in the United States, on Sky Arts in the United Kingdom, SBS in Australia, Canal+ Extra in Spain, and on YLE Teema in Finland.Rose Tint My World
"Rose Tint My World" is a piece in the musical The Rocky Horror Show and its film counterpart, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Written by Richard O'Brien, "Rose Tint My World" is a three-part suite consisting of the songs "Floor Show", "Fanfare/Don't Dream It" and "Wild and Untamed Thing".Science Fiction/Double Feature
"Science Fiction/Double Feature" is the opening song to the original 1973 musical stage production, The Rocky Horror Show as well as its 1975 film counterpart The Rocky Horror Picture Show, book, music and lyrics by Richard O'Brien, musical arrangements by Richard Hartley. The song is reprised at the end of the show, with lyrics that reflect on the final events of the story.
The song is a tribute to and sendup of various B movies and serials parodied in the show itself.Shock Treatment
Shock Treatment is a 1981 American dark comedy musical film directed by Jim Sharman, and co-written by Sharman and Richard O'Brien. It is a follow-up to the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
While not an outright sequel, the film does feature several characters from the previous film, most portrayed by different actors, as well as several Rocky Horror actors in new roles. The film stars Jessica Harper as Janet and Cliff De Young in a dual role as Brad and the film's main antagonist Farley Flavors, with O'Brien and Patricia Quinn playing sibling character actors.
Given a limited release on the midnight movie circuit beginning on October 30, 1981, Shock Treatment was a critical and commercial failure, not earning the same level of cult film status its predecessor received. Since its release, the film has grown a more minor cult following than its predecessor. In 2015, the film was adapted as a stage production in London.Sweet Transvestite
"Sweet Transvestite" is a song from the 1973 British musical stage production The Rocky Horror Show and its 1975 film counterpart The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The book, music and lyrics are by Richard O'Brien and the musical arrangements by Richard Hartley. It is in the key of E major.
It was originally the fourth song in the musical but it was later switched with its following number, "Time Warp", so that the latter came before Tim Curry's entrance.The Crystal Maze
The Crystal Maze is a British game show devised by Jacques Antoine, in which a team of contestants take on a range of challenges set within a labyrinth of the same name consisting of four time zones, winning a "time crystal" (golf ball-sized Swarovski glass crystals) for each one they successfully complete. Reaching the centrepiece of the Maze, "The Crystal Dome", the team work together collecting a certain amount of gold tokens to win a prize, with the allotted time inside the Dome being determined by the number of crystals they obtained in the previous zones.
Broadcast on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, The Crystal Maze was originally aired over six series and five Christmas specials between 15 February 1990 and 10 August 1995; the first four series and three specials were hosted by Richard O'Brien, with the remaining two series and specials hosted by Edward Tudor-Pole. In October 2016, Stephen Merchant hosted a one-off celebrity edition of the show for Stand Up to Cancer, before Channel 4 announced the return of the show a month later, to be hosted by Richard Ayoade and featuring a revamped format. The broadcaster originally commissioned twenty episodes for the first series, which consisted of fifteen civilian episodes and five celebrity specials. On 22 January 2018, a second series was commissioned with twelve episodes, which consisted of six civilian episodes and six celebrity specials. On 7 March 2018, the revival began airing in Australia on SBS Viceland.In March 2016, The Crystal Maze Live Experience opened, allowing the public to buy tickets and compete in a replica of the game show's zones and challenges.The Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 musical comedy film by 20th Century Fox produced by Lou Adler and Michael White and directed by Jim Sharman. The screenplay was written by Sharman and actor Richard O'Brien, who is also a member of the cast. The film is based on the 1973 musical stage production The Rocky Horror Show, with music, book, and lyrics by O'Brien. The production is a parody tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the 1930s through to the early 1960s. Along with O'Brien, the film stars Tim Curry, Susan Sarandon, and Barry Bostwick and is narrated by Charles Gray with cast members from the original Royal Court Theatre, Roxy Theatre, and Belasco Theatre productions including Nell Campbell and Patricia Quinn.
The story centres on a young married couple whose car breaks down in the rain near a castle where they seek a telephone to call for help. The castle or country home is occupied by strangers in elaborate costumes celebrating an annual convention. They discover the head of the house is Dr. Frank N. Furter, an apparent mad scientist who actually is an alien transvestite who creates a living muscle man in his laboratory. The couple are seduced separately by the mad scientist and eventually released by the servants who take control.
The film was shot in the United Kingdom at Bray Studios and on location at an old country estate named Oakley Court, best known for its earlier use by Hammer Film Productions. A number of props and set pieces were reused from the Hammer horror films. Although the film is both a parody of and tribute to many of kitsch science fiction and horror films, costume designer Sue Blane conducted no research for her designs. Blane stated that costumes from the film have directly affected the development of punk rock fashion trends such as ripped fishnets and dyed hair.Although largely critically panned on initial release, it soon became known as a midnight movie when audiences began participating with the film at the Waverly Theater in New York City in 1976. Audience members returned to the cinemas frequently and talked back to the screen and began dressing as the characters, spawning similar performance groups across the United States. At almost the same time, fans in costume at the King's Court Theater in Pittsburgh began performing alongside the film. This "shadow cast" mimed the actions on screen above and behind them, while lip-synching their character's lines. Still in limited release four decades after its premiere, it is the longest-running theatrical release in film history. It is often shown close to Halloween. Today, the film has a large international cult following. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2005.The Rocky Horror Show
The Rocky Horror Show is a musical with music, lyrics and book by Richard O'Brien. A humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late 1940s through to the early 1970s, the musical tells the story of a newly engaged couple getting caught in a storm and coming to the home of a mad transvestite scientist, Dr Frank-N-Furter, unveiling his new creation, a sort of Frankenstein-style monster in the form of an artificially made, fully grown, physically perfect muscle man named Rocky Horror, complete "with blond hair and a tan".
The show was produced and directed by Jim Sharman. The original London production of the musical premiered at the Royal Court Theatre (Upstairs) on 19 June 1973 (after two previews on 16 and 18 June 1973). It later moved to several other locations in London and closed on 13 September 1980. The show ran for a total of 2,960 performances and won the 1973 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical. Its 1974 debut in the US in Los Angeles had a successful nine-month run, but its 1975 Broadway debut at the Belasco Theatre lasted only three previews and forty-five showings, despite earning one Tony nomination and three Drama Desk nominations. Various international productions have since spanned across six continents as well as West End and Broadway revivals and eight UK tours. Actor Tim Curry, who originated the role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the original London production, became particularly associated with the musical.
The musical was adapted into the 1975 film The Rocky Horror Picture Show, starring O'Brien as Riff Raff, with Curry also reprising his role; the film has the longest-running release in film history. In 2016, it was adapted into the television film The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let's Do the Time Warp Again. The musical was ranked eighth in a BBC Radio 2 listener poll of the "Nation's Number One Essential Musicals".The Rocky Horror Show (franchise)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 British parody musical comedy that satirizes science fiction and horror B-movies. It was one of the first successful midnight movies and has gained a cult following. Because of the cult following, it has spawned an indirect sequel Shock Treatment, as well as merchandise such as video games, toys, comic books and trading cards. Richard O'Brien has also attempted to write scripts for movies and plays to further the story without any success.Time Warp (song)
"The Time Warp" is a song featured in the 1973 rock musical The Rocky Horror Show and in its 1975 film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and a 2016 TV production, as well as a dance performed during the chorus of the song. The song is both an example and a parody of the dance song genre in which much of the content of the song is given over to dance step instructions. The dance is one of the major audience-participation activities during screenings of the film and performances of the show. It has become a popular song beyond the reaches of the film and show, and is often played at dances and weddings.The song is in the key of A major.Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me
"Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me" is the 11th song in The Rocky Horror Show score. It is sung by Janet in both the play and film versions. Originally sung in London by Julie Covington.