Tim Curry is without doubt one of my favourite actors. He’s one of these performers who regardless of how poor the production he is in, or how small a role he has been given, he always manages to make it memorable.
The man is just sheer entertainment and joy in human form and in this article we are going to be taking a look at his most popular and celebrated roles in cult films and television series.
Unlike other actors in this series we won’t be able to look at every genre role he has played as Curry had been in hundreds of different series and films. He has been compared to the late great Christopher Lee in this respect in that though both men have starred in many genre classics, the fact that they were in so much means that sadly they were in quite a lot of shit too like Congo and in Lee’s case Captain America 2: Death too Soon.
Instead we will be looking at his most popular and iconic roles as well as a few of my own personal favourites in order to give you an overview of the great man’s career.
Doctor Frank N Furter/ Rocky Horror Picture Show
Curry’s breakthrough role. Curry first played this character on stage before going on to play the part in the film adaptation of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in 1975.
The character was according to Curry originally intended to be just a generic pastiche of evil scientists from old horror movies, but gradually over time both he and the director of the original stage show added more flamboyant aspects to his character, such as his cross dressing nature, and his plummy accent which Curry said he based on an old lady he had seen on a bus.
You’d be hard pushed to find a more over the top villain than Frank N Furter. A cross dressing alien who shags the main male and female characters, eats his servants and builds a perfect man to sleep with in his lab. Naturally of course only Tim Curry could bring such a gloriously flamboyant character to life.
The moment that secured Curry’s status as an LGBT icon for all time and managed to confuse more than a few straight men.
Its not hard to see why Curry’s performance was so popular at the time and remains so. Its completely sensational. From the second he first appears he manages to stand out in a film full of already quite colourful characters.
Curry is able to inject a lot of feminine and masculine qualities into the character which I think is more effective than if he had simply played it as a man who wants to be a woman. He truly does give the impression that Frank N Furter is someone to whom gender and sexuality doesn’t matter one bit. On the one hand the way he talks at times can be very masculine. Despite having based the accent on an old lady, Curry makes Frank N Furter’s voice very deep and booming, yet his mannerisms are obviously very feminine too. Frank N Furter manages to be appealing to both the male and female protagonist as a result and confuses just about everyone who ever saw the film!
In terms of his musical performance Curry really excels too. A natural born singer and performer on stage Curry manages to inject Frank N Furter with the charisma and showmanship of Freddie Mercury, mixed in with the androgyny of a Glam rock era David Bowie. Curry mentioned David Bowie as an influence on Frank N Furter. Freddie Mercury may have been an influence as whilst Freddie was largely unknown when the original stage show started in London, he and Curry were very good friends.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show having been a huge success on stage would prove to be an even bigger hit on the big screen, though it was universally slated by critics at the time, it has since gone on to develop a massive cult following almost like no other film. It’s still in a limited release in cinema’s around the world today. This makes it the longest running theatrical release in cinema history.
Despite the films global following, Tim Curry for many years shied away from discussing it. There are a few interviews with Curry you can find on line of him talking about it, but generally speaking he seemed to often not want to mention it in public.
The reason for this is not because Curry hated the Rocky Horror Picture show, but simply because Curry in general is a very private man who actually rarely gives interviews on anything. Virtually nothing is known about his private life. He didn’t discuss the character of Pennywise another one of his most famous roles until 2015!
Added to that as The Rocky Horror Picture Show was such a sensation Curry was scared about being typecast. Its understandable that a young, up and coming actor would want a chance to play many different characters.
On stage Curry did manage to avoid being typecast playing roles as diverse as Amadeus Mozart (which he cites as his favourite role) and King Arthur in Spamelot, but on film and television he would often play the flamboyant villain due to Rocky Horror’s success.
Still I’d say that Curry did manage to break away from the shadow of Frank N Furter only in the sense that whilst he may have made a career out of playing mostly flamboyant and crazy villains, he has become I think just as well known for other characters as much as he has for Frank N Furter.
To some people Curry is Pennywise. A friend of mine who attributes her fear of clowns to watching IT as a child has never seen Rocky Horror and knows nothing about it, but she absolutely loves Tim Curry because of the big role his character had in her childhood. To her he will always be Pennywise. Similarly I myself never saw Rocky Horror until a year or so ago. Growing up I always knew and loved Tim Curry because of the movie Clue, which is still one of my all time favourite films. Whenever I think of Tim Curry, Clue is the first film that springs to mind.
Thus I think in spite of the enduring popularity of Frank N Furter and Rocky Horror, Tim Curry was able to avoid being typecast on stage certainly, and in film and television whilst he did more often than not play the crazed villain he still was able to make just as big an impact with other characters in different ways.
In more recent years Curry has been more willing to talk about his role in the Rocky Horror Picture show. He appeared at its 40th anniversary reunion in 2015 and is scheduled to play the role of the Criminologist Narrator (a role played by Charles Gray in the original) in the upcoming remake starring Laverne Cox as Frank N Furter. This will mark Curry’s first live action role in over 6 years due to his stroke. It somewhat fitting then that its in a remake of the film that made him a household name in the first place.
Curry with the rest of the cast at the 40th anniversary reunion.
One of Curry’s most famous villainous roles and arguably the most famous depiction of the devil in cinema history. Darkness is the main antagonist of the 1985 film Legend. He plans to murder two unicorns so that he can use their horns to destroy all light on the earth and bring eternal pain, misery and chaos to the world. At the same time however he also falls in love with Princess Lily and attempts to marry her.
Curry won the role of Darkness based purely on his performance as Frank N Furter. Ridley Scott was a fan of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and felt that Curry who had acted superbly in high heels as Frank N Furter would be perfect to play the cloven hoofed Satanic villain in this film.
Darkness is a truly memorable creation. A fantastic combination of excellent make up and Tim Curry’s incredible stage presence. Whilst the make up obviously gives the character a memorable look, at the same time such heavy make up can be limiting for an actor, as it can prevent them from using their facial expressions. Curry however manages to rise above this and ironically makes Darkness despite his monstrous appearance a somewhat alluring villain.
Normally I don’t like in love villains. I often find them to be a bit dull and boring and even at times pathetic as really to me a bad guy should be more than just the heroes love rival or jealous ex.
Here however I feel that it works as they are able to turn the classic Beauty and the Beast story on its head. We all know the story of the big scary monster that falls in love and we see its tender, sweet side through its love for the human woman etc. With Darkness however his love for Lily is presented in a frightening way as we see him try and corrupt her and drag her down to his level. He is also shown to be abusive, snarling and hissing at her and even striking her when she defies his will.
Whilst Darkness does genuinely love Lily its in the most perverse and twisted way possible which is befitting to a creature that knows only evil.
This scene demonstrates why you shouldn’t always rely on CGI. This scene is brilliant because you can really appreciate the time and effort that’s been spent into creating the make up for the beast and Curry’s performance.
Legend much like many of Curry’s other films such as Clue was a bit of a slow burner. It received some acclaim upon release but was basically a box office flop. Nowadays it is regarded as a cult classic and indeed Curry’s performance as Darkness is by far and away the thing people remember the most about the film, certainly more than its leading man Tom Cruise.
Wadsworth/Mr Boddy/ Clue
By far and away my favourite performance of Curry’s. Growing up this was one of my favourite films and it still is. I must have rewatched it about 100 times. Whenever someone mentions Tim Curry I get an image of him as Wadsworth from this movie. Again I think that’s the great thing about Curry is that he is not just known for one big iconic role like say Sean Connery. Obviously Connery has had a brilliant career, but whenever you mention Connery I think to most people James Bond would pop up in their heads before any others.
With Curry though like I said it isn’t like that. Yes to lots of people the Rocky Horror Picture Show will spring to mind but to others like my friend, Pennywise will be what they think of and for others it might even be Nigel Thornberry! For me and many others however we will always think of Clue first when we think of Tim Curry.
Clue was released in 1985. It was based on the famous board game (known as Cluedo in the UK) It sees 7 guests invited up to a mysterious mansion in the middle of nowhere. All 7 of them are victims of blackmail and all are given assumed names to protect their real identities.
The butler of the Mansion Wadsworth (played by Tim Curry) reveals that one of the guests Mr Boddy is the one blackmailing the others. Wadsworth tells them that he has phoned the police and that all the guests should reveal to them what Mr Boddy has done in order to put him behind bars. Many of the guests however are unhappy about this as they too will be exposed.
Mr Boddy offers them all a way out. He gives them all weapons and the chance to kill Wadsworth who has the key to the front door so that they can all escape before the police can arrive and identify them.
Mr Boddy turns out the lights and allows them to kill Wadsworth, but his plan backfires and he himself is killed by one of the guests in the dark. Wadsworth feeling guilty over his death then explains the truth. He too was a victim of Mr Boddy. His wife had friends who were socialists (the movie is set during the McCarthy era in the 1950’s) and with this knowledge Mr Boddy blackmailed the both of them into working for him as slaves. Wadswroth’s wife then killed herself and Wadsworth became determined to bring Mr Boddy to justice and invited all of his other blackmail victims here to try and expose him and force a confession out of him. Even he however never dreamed Mr Boddy would go this far and try to murder him.
One by one 5 more people are murdered as Wadsworth and the other guests try to figure out who is the murderer. The cook is stabbed to death, a motorist who shows up after his car breaks down is hit over the head with a wrench, a Cop who arrives at the house is beaten to death with a lead pipe, Yvette the chamber maid is throttled to death and finally a singing telegram girl is shot dead.
After the singing telegram girl is killed Wadsworth works out who the murderer is and goes to the effort of re enacting the entire evening to the guests in order to explain how the murderer did it.
From here there are 3 different endings. This is meant to reflect the nature of the board game itself where anyone can be the killer. One night you play it, it could be Colonial Mustard, another it could be Miss Scarlet etc.
In Ending A Miss Scarlett and Yvette are revealed to be the killers. She and Yvette worked together to gain access to the government secrets from the other guests (all of the guests at the house work for the government in some capacity) and killed Mr Boddy and his accomplices together (the motorist, the cop, the cook and the singing telegram girl were all Mr Boddy’s informants) before Miss Scarlett turned on Yvette herself in order to have sole possession of the government information which she intends to sell to the highest bidder. She also plans to continue blackmailing the others in order to gain access to further government information.
Before she can kill Wadsworth who as a mere butler has no access to government information Wadsworth manages to disarm her and the police arrive. It is revealed that Wadsworth was in fact working for the FBI to bring down Boddy and Scarlett all along.
In Ending B it is revealed that Mrs Peacock killed Mr Boddy and all of his informants. The cook used to be her cook something which Wadsworth worked out when she reveals that she had been eating her favourite recipe at dinner. “And Monkey’s brains though popular in Cantonese cuisine are not often to be found in Washington DC” Despite this however Wadsworth allows Mrs Peacock (who still has the gun) to leave. Outside however she is ambushed by FBI agents with it being revealed that Wadsworth once again is an undercover agent.
In the final ending Wadsworth reveals that virtually all of the guests carried out the murders. Professor Plum shot at Mr Boddy in the dark, pretended he was dead and then later killed him by bashing his head in with a candle stick. Mrs Peacock just as in the second ending killed her former cook. Colonial Mustard killed the motorist who had been his driver in the war and had informed on him, Miss Scarlett killed the cop who she had been bribing, and Miss White strangled Yvette who had been having an affair with her husband.
To everyone’s surprise Wadsworth then reveals that he killed the Singing telegram girl and that he is in fact Mr Boddy. The person they thought was Mr Boddy was in fact another victim of blackmail who the real Boddy had forced to pose as him to ensure his safety. However the blackmail victim soon turned on him and tried to get the other guests to kill him (it can be assumed that Boddy had forged evidence “proving” that that the blackmail victim was Mr Boddy instead) Ultimately this ended up playing right into the real Boddy (Wadsworth’s) hands.
Boddy tells them that he got them here to deal with his network of spies and informers and that now that they are all dead there is no evidence against him, so he can continue to blackmail the guests. Just then however Mr Green the only guest who didn’t kill someone lifts out a revolver and shoots Boddy dead. He reveals that he is a plant from the FBI and once again the FBI arrive, only this time they take everyone away as they all did it.
Clue truly is a classic film. Everything about it works, it has a fantastic story, its multiple endings gives it a completely surreal aspect that helps it stand out from other whodunnit mysteries. I love the way in two alternate universes Tim Curry is this cheesy, even somewhat romantic hero, whilst in another he is this evil Machiavellian mastermind who is shot dead by Mr Green.
Above all else however Clue is brilliantly cast. Its really an all star cast made up of comic/cult movie royalty. You have Christopher Lloyd best known for playing Doc Brown in the Back to the Future series and General Kruge the main villain in Star Trek 3 who famously orders Captain Kirk’s son’s death. Michael McKean best known for starring in This is Spinal Tap as one of the main characters David St Hubbins and Madeline Kahn who is best known for her collaborations with Mel Brooks, such as in Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles which won her an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.
All of them are at the top of their game in this film and each get their moments to shine, but I think the best thing about the movie is how they all play off of each other. The chemistry between all of the main characters is just so enjoyable. Apparently in real life all of the actors involved had an excellent time making the movie and I think that really helps with the finished product as they all feel so natural in each others presence as a result.
In spite of all this however I’d still say that Tim Curry completely and utterly steals the show. Its no easy task to dominate a film from with such an impressive cast, many of whom give among their best performances. Madeline Kahn in particular has a truly shining moment of comedy gold when she describes her hatred of Yvette in the most deranged way possible.
Its even better when you find out this bit was improvised and the other actors reactions to it are real!
Still undeniably this is Curry’s film. It kind of reminds me of what people said about the late great Rik Mayall’s performance in Blackadder as Lord Flasheart. Even in a room full of comedy greats like Rowan Atkinson, and Stephen Fry, Mayall was still able to completely hog the limelight and upstage all of them and with Curry in Clue its the same.
My favourite moment in the film is at the end when Curry explains how the murderer carried out the killings and acts out the entire film in about 5 minutes. Curry’s energy in this scene is just incredible the way he darts from room to room, tosses Michael McKean, Madeline Kahn and Miss Peacock around in his recreations of what happened. I could watch Tim Curry explain things all day. Apparently the rest of the cast found it difficult to keep straight faces during these final moments with Curry.
I’d say that Wadsworth is Curry’s best performance. Its not as sensational as Frank N Furter, and obviously Pennywise is the scariest of his many villain roles, but Wadsworth I think is his best role as it gives him more to do.
With Wadsworth not counting the last ending, he is given a chance for once to play the charismatic and likable hero. There are also so many different layers to Wadsworth.
He has a fairly tragic backstory that’s enough to make the viewer sympathise with him, yet at the same time there is an air of mystery about Wadsworth throughout the film which coupled with the fact that at times he can seem like a bit of a bumbling oaf, yet in other moments he is clearly cleverer than all of the other main characters combined makes it believable in all endings when he is revealed to be more than a mere butler.
Even in the third ending though Curry is once again the villain its a more restrained, cold calculating character instead of his usual theatrical over the top type of villainous roles.
I remember actually hating the third ending as a child as I loved Wadsworth so much I didn’t want him to be the bad guy. He was one of my favourite heroes in anything and I’d often switch it off before the last ending! Obviously now that I’m older I can see that the multiple endings are really part of what makes the film so special and I think they benefit Curry’s performance as they allow you to look at certain moments with his character in different ways when you watch it back.
For instance near the beginning of the film there is a scene where Wadsworth gathers all of the guests together, and Mr Boddy attempts to leave before Wadsworth can explain what’s going on. Though all the doors are locked Boddy attempts to throw a brick through a window and escape only for a pit bull to appear. Realising there is no escape, Boddy gives up and Wadsworth gives him a smug look.
Now if you take either of the first two endings as the real endings then this is a moment where Wadsworth the hero has finally after years of abuse; turned the tables on the evil villain who drove his beloved wife to suicide. You root for Wadsworth when Mr Boddy is unable to escape.
However if you take the final ending as the real ending then it actually becomes a very dark scene. Here the person we think is Mr Boddy is actually another black mail victim who is being forced to go along with something where he knows he most likely will die. This is his last chance to escape but unfortunately the evil mastermind Wadsworth (in reality Mr Boddy) has everything prepared and that final little smile Wadsworth gives him is a horrible little taunt that he will never be free.
When it was first released Clue was a massive flop both critically and commercially. Much like Rocky Horror and Legend however, Clue would gain acclaim many years later as a cult classic.
It’s cult following nowadays is almost on a par with the Rocky Horror Picture Show itself. Schools have even begun to perform versions of it!
Much like the Rocky Horror Picture Show there have been midnight screenings of Clue all across the world ever since and many other performances of the film on stage too.
In 2015 the 100th episode of the American series Psych cast three of the actors from Clue, Christopher Lloyd, Martin Mull, and Lesley Anne Warren in an episode that was a tribute to the film set in a mansion with a murder mystery.
Finally it was also announced in 2011 that there was a remake of the film planned, which makes it one of three of Curry’s most famous projects that is scheduled for a remake.
Personally I don’t think they will ever be able to find a cast that gels as well as those in the original and I really doubt they will ever be able to find anyone as good as Tim Curry to play Wadsworth.
Pennywise the Dancing Clown/ IT
Arguably Curry’s most terrifying villain, Pennywise is an evil monster that originated from another universe. It emerges every 27 years to prey on the children of Derry, Maine.
It has no true form, but it will often appear as a clown named Pennywise. It has no real goals other than to devour children, though it enjoys eating kids more when they are terrified and thus throughout the two part telemovie it often tries to bring them to the very limit of their terror first before killing them. It will use anything it can, memories of abusive parents, school bullies, even horror movies to terrify its victims before eating them alive. At one point he disturbingly remarks that the children all taste so much better when they are scared.
With Pennywise Curry is given a chance to create a truly nightmarish character. Unlike Darkness who at least had some charisma and was alluring in a dark way, or Frank N Furter who had an incredible sex appeal, Pennywise is a blood curdling monster through and through. By far and away his most terrifying moment is when he lures poor little Georgie down into the sewers and tears him apart with his bare teeth.
Hard to believe that’s Wadsworth!
The Georgie scene demonstrates why you don’t need lots and lots of gore to make something truly bone chilling. There’s not a drop of blood here. Instead its entirely down to the atmosphere, the writing, the music and of course Curry’s performance that its such a memorable scene.
Its so disturbing watching Pennywise lure Georgie in. You can tell that Georgie is naturally scared of this clown, but Pennywise manages to tempt Georgie in with his little paper boat that he lost. Pennywise’s eyes just light up when Georgie reaches down for it and he knows he’s got George. Curry is absolutely savage when he moves in for the kill, screaming at his victim that he’ll “float too!” We also don’t get to see what it is that Pennywise does to Georgie as he pulls him in. Its just left up to imagination which is even more terrifying. I also like the way we see the full effect of Georgie’s death on his family too. It helps make the terror seem more real.
Whilst Pennywise is a monster, Curry is still incredibly enough able to bring a lot of humour into the villain too. I find that younger viewers often miss out on the comedic elements of Pennywise’s character as they are often too scared of the darker aspects. I know that when I was younger I was completely terrified of Pennywise to the point where I could barely watch him, but when I watched it again as an adult it was even better as I could see that Curry whilst scary as Pennywise was also really funny too.
In many ways Curry’s performance as Pennywise serves as quite a good mirror of the other main villain of IT, the evil school bully Henry Bowers.
Curry plays Pennywise like a demented child. He loves just playing sick, twisted pathetic little games on the most vulnerable people. He is what Henry would be if he had the same kind of power. At the same time however I also like the way Pennywise drives Henry insane.
It kind of highlights how there’s always a bigger bully out there, also the fact that Henry is so terrified of Pennywise his hair turns white when the monster attacks him shows how much weaker he is than the people he targets. In spite of Pennywise’s tricks which played on their deepest fears, they remained strong, whilst just the sight of the monster was enough to make Henry go completely and hopelessly insane for the rest of his life.
Whilst Curry may not be given as much screen time as in other projects like Clue he is able to make every bit as big an impression on the viewer in a different way.
Fortunately for Curry he didn’t have to wait for IT to be appreciated like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue or Legend. It was an instant ratings and critical success and Pennywise has since gone on to be seen as one of the scariest horror movie villains of all time.
He regularly makes the top ten horror movie villains lists.
Much like with the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Tim Curry never mentioned Pennywise in interviews for over 20 years until 2015 where he said that it was a wonderful part.
It was announced in 2009 that a remake of IT would be made and in 2016, Bill Skasgard was confirmed to be playing the role.
This makes Pennywise one of three classic Curry characters along with Frank N Furter and Wadsworth to be reinterpreted by a new actor sometime soon.
Mr Hector/ Home Alone 2 Lost in New York
I think its funny when you compare this character to Curry’s other famous villains like Frank N Furter, Darkness or Pennywise, all of whom are such powerful, strong villains. Mr Hector in comparison is just a petty little jobs worth.
I think it just goes to show what a good actor Curry is though that he can play less charismatic and theatrical characters if he needs too. I think this is also a case of Curry making what was a fairly minor, dull character quite memorable. Everything about him just the way he looks, his mannerisms, his voice all give the character a wonderfully prissy, uptight persona that just makes it all the better when Kevin outwits him.
Kevin is lucky that it was Mr Hector and not Pennywise.
Hexxus/ Ferngully: The Last Rainforest
One of Tim’s most acclaimed animated roles. Hexxus is an ancient Demonic entity that thousands of years ago very nearly destroyed all life on earth before being imprisoned within a tree by fairies.
He is later re-awoken when the tree is cut down, after which he plans to make the fairies suffer for imprisoning him before resuming his quest to destroy all life on the planet.
This character scared me when I was a child, though a large part of that was the design.
Curry isn’t given that much screen time as the villain, but he makes the most of the role. He plays the character a maniacal, charismatic villain who relishes in the pain and destruction he is causing. By far his greatest moment is when he performs the song Toxic Love.
Even as a demonic black ooze Tim Curry still manages to have some sex appeal. Check out the comments.
Ferngully was a reasonable success when it was first released and has since developed a cult following like many of Tim’s films, though it can be argued due to his status just about any film he’s in will develop a cult following just because he’s in it!
Professor Oldman/ Scary Movie 2
Now this is not one of Tim’s best movies. He’s hardly in it and its a pretty poor film all around (Though surprisingly this was a big hit when it was first released unlike Clue!)
Still Curry’s performance as Professor Oldman, the pervy old professor who spends all of his screen time ogling the young female characters of the movie is hilarious and yet another example of how Curry is able to take what is a small role in a poor production and elevate it. Though he only has a very little screen time he is really the thing people remember the most about the film.
Curry’s performance reminds me somewhat of Rik Mayall as Richard Richard in Bottom. The pervy little laugh he does when he’s told how he can spy on all the young women in the house whilst they are taking a shower, or the look on his face when he’s eating an apply as Cindy tries to seduce him are just complete Richie moments.
My favourite scene however is his death when he is lured away by a sexy female Ghost who kills him. I love the way the ghost woman is as sinister as can be. Creeping about in the shadows, speaking in a spooky echoing voice, but Oldman doesn’t care as he thinks she is hot and he blindly follows her to his death. Again the little pervy laugh he gives when he first sees her never fails to make me laugh. The only bad thing about his death scene is that it comes to early in the film.
All of Curry’s scenes in Scary Movie 2, which are not surprisingly the only scenes worth watching!
Nigel Thornberry/ The Wild Thornberrys
Probably the most harmless and least villainous role Curry has ever played. Nigel Thornberry is also probably Curry’s 5th big character. His big 4 are definitely Frank N Furter, Darkness, Wadsworth and Pennywise, but I’d say that this character is definitely the one that pops up in connection to his name the most after them. Its certainly his most acclaimed animated role.
Curry voiced this character for all five seasons of The Wild Thornberry’s. Though he was only a supporting character Nigel quickly became the most popular member of the cast among fans due to his bumbling, oafish, yet sweet natured personality and his ridiculously posh, high voice.
Over 1 million views is not bad going for a Saturday morning children’s cartoon that hasn’t been on in almost 15 years, and that isn’t part of a big franchise like Batman or Superman.
Thornberry is not the most nuanced role, but it was still great to see Tim play what is essentially the complete opposite from most of his other roles and its a very funny character overall.
To a whole generation of people Curry is Nigel, which I suppose must seem quite jarring when they go back and look at his other roles like Frank N Furter and Pennywise. It just goes to show what a versatile actor Curry is overall.
Long John Silver/ Muppets Treasure Island
This is one of Curry’s best comedic roles. He himself has cited it as one his favourite parts, having been a huge fan of the Muppets for years, Curry joked that it had been ambition of his for many decades to work alongside Miss Piggy.
Silver is a classic hammy badguy role for Curry. He even gets another great badguy song too.
I don’t think any actor has performed as many badguy songs as Tim Curry!
At the same time however I feel that this role also gave Curry a chance to portray a slightly more nuanced villain. Unlike say Frank N Furter there is some good in Silver as he is shown to genuinely to care about Jim with whom he develops a fatherly relationship with. He shares some of his deepest secrets with Jim, risks his life to save him and even offers him a chance to join him. He also demonstrates some self awareness telling Jim that he respects him because he is brave, honourable and kind all things that Silver wishes he could be.
Thus whilst the character was yet another villain role for Curry I feel that it gave him a chance to play a character with some gravitas and the final moment between Silver and Jim is actually rather touching.
Captain Hook/ Peter Pan and The Pirates
Another villainous Pirate role, this is one of Curry’s most popular and enduring animated roles. Sadly I myself have not had a chance to view the series yet, though its on my to do list. Still I felt this was worth mentioning as Curry won a Daytime Emmy award for his role as the villain in this series.
This sadly marks won of only 4 awards the actor has won throughout his career, including his lifetime achievement award. The rest are all to do with his stage work as well.
Skull Master/Mighty Max
The Skull Master was the main antagonist of the short lived but very memorable animated series called Mighty Max.
Mighty Max evolved around a young boy named Max (obviously) who was chosen to protect the earth by the last Lemurian (an intelligent bird like creature) and his immortal sidekick Norman. Together the three of them battle The Skull Master an ancient, all powerful Demon who was responsible for the exterminating the entire Lemurian race as well as all of Atlantis too. The trio’s battle with the Skull Master takes them all across the globe and even at certain points through time and across different dimensions.
The role is a pretty straight forward dark lord character, but he is still lots of fun and Tim Curry really gives him more personality than he would have otherwise had.
Pretorius/ The Mask Animated Series
The main villain in The Mask Animated Series, Pretorius is a camp, psychopathic scientist who has managed to transplant his head onto a robots body, though he also has other spare robot bodies too. He seeks to gain control of the Mask so that he can use its power to become a god. Though he is the Mask’s archenemy he has a great admiration for him, even at one point telling the Mask that if he were a girl then he would marry him!
Pretorius was brilliant fun. The Mask is such a flamboyant and over the top character that he needs a villain who is every bit as OTT as he is or else he won’t seem like a match for him at all. Fortunately as Pretorius Curry manages to if anything be even more crazier at times than the Mask himself.
Curry was one of the 4 main voices of 90’s villainy. Just about every cartoon from that decade had either Mark Hamill, Clancy Brown, David Warner or Tim Curry as a villain.
Hamill will always be the crazy villain like the Joker, Warner, the dignified, cultured British villain, Brown either the barbarian or the criminal mastermind and finally Curry fittingly would be the most flamboyant, gloriously over the top villain. Thus who else but Curry could have voiced Pretorius.
Its just a shame that there has never been an animated series that featured all 4 of them together.
Farley Claymore/ The Shadow
Similar to his role in Home Alone 2 this character is more a weasly, unlikable little creep than a dark charismatic figure of evil. He’s not the main villain of the piece, more just a treacherous self server.
When it was first released The Shadow was not a big hit but over time like many of Curry’s other films it has developed a strong following.
Pa Bracket, Ma Bracket, Winona Bracket/ Tales From The Crypt
In this classic episode of the famous Anthology series Tim Curry plays an entire family of demented salesmen killing psychopaths.
Under heavy make up Curry creates a uniquely horrific personality for all three characters, though the worst is the daughter, who the main character of the episode Judd Campbell played by Ed Begley Junior is forced to marry in order to avoid being hacked to pieces. Winona is kind of like Frank N Furter, a sex crazed perverted monster, but unlike Frank she has 0 sex appeal
Though the episode is quite gruesome in places there are also some really funny moments too. Curry is absolutely sensational as all three characters. The first time I saw it I wasn’t even aware that it was one guy playing all of the villains.
The episode earned Curry an Emmy Nomination and it remains one of his most popular television roles.
Curry has played many high profile villainous roles in many animated series including MAL in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Professor Finbar Calamitious in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, Slagar the Cruel in Redwall, and Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars the Clone Wars. He has also lent his voice to various video games too such as the Dragon Age series where he played the evil Rendon Howe and the Gabriel Knight series where he played the title character.
Curry has also had many other prominent live action roles on both film and television.
He appeared in the 2000 remake of Charlie’s Angels as the sleazy businessman Roger Corwin. I always felt this role was comparable to Professor Oldman as he was a similar leering pervert. Most of his screen time is basically just him perving over Lucy Liu’s character. He did get a few good moments in the film such as his fight with Bill Murray where he beats him in a Sumo match and I always laughed at this moment.
“Those hack journalists said I only went into racing to overcompensate for my diminishing libido. I had them all fired”
(everyone bursts out laughing)
“What’s everyone laughing at? I did!”
Pennywise beats up Doctor Venkman.
Sadly however much like in Scary Movie 2 his character is killed off way too early in the film by the real villain of the piece, The Thin Man played by Crispin Glover.
Curry also played the villainous Cardinal Richelieu in the 1993 film adaptation of The Three Muskeeters and Rooster Hannigan in the 182 adaptation of Annie, which remains one of his most popular roles. He also starred as The Grand High Wizard in the popular 1986 telemovie The Worst Witch.
Another notable villainous performance was as Gaal in the short lived sci fi series Earth 2. Curry has also guest starred in other series such as Will and Grace, Lexx and Agatha Christie’s Poirot.
His career on the stage has been just as remarkable and arguably more varied. His stage career began in the 1960’s when he was part of the cast of Hair. He then went onto to star in the Rocky Horror Picture Show which launched his career on both film and stage. From then on other prominent stage roles included Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Amadeus, The Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance, Scrooge in a Christmas Carol, and King Arthur in Spamelot.
In 2015 Curry was given an artistic achievement award at the Tony’s to celebrate his work in theatre.
What Could Have Been
As we have seen Curry throughout his long and varied career has played many iconic characters and definitely secured a place as one of the UK’s most beloved character actors.
Sadly however he also missed out on playing two of the most famous fictional characters of all time. Batman’s archenemy the Joker and The Doctor from Doctor Who.
Curry almost played the Joker twice. In 1989 he was Tim Burton’s second choice for the villain whilst in 1994 he was cast as the villain in the now considered classic Batman the Animated series.
He recorded dialogue for 7 episodes as the character. Christmas with the Joker, The Last Laugh, Jokers Favour, Be a Clown, Joker’s Wild, and The Laughing Fish.
Ultimately however Curry was replaced by Mark Hamill in the role. The recordings Curry made as the character have never been released. Hamill re recorded all of the lines for the 7 episodes Curry did. Traces of Curry’s Joker however did appear in two episodes.
In Be A Clown Tim Curry’s Joker laugh is used for a Robot Clown in the Joker’s base. Also in the episode Dreams of Darkness when Batman is attacked by a hallucination of the Joker caused by Scarecrows fear gas Curry’s laugh is once again used for the hallucinatory Joker.
As to why Tim Curry was replaced three different reasons have been given.
According to head writer Paul Dini in the companion book to the series whilst the producers were impressed with Curry they felt his interpretation was too dark and too frightening. Dini said that they wanted a Joker who would scare the kids, but not too much. He would still be funny enough that they would like him. Thus with regret he said they decided to replace Curry.
Bruce Timm the producer of the series however refutes this claim. He says that they were perfectly happy for Curry to continue to play the Joker, but that the role put too much stress on his vocal chords. He could not sustain the Joker laugh for long enough periods as it would make him cough and gag violently due to his smoking habit. Thus Curry himself had to pull out for health and practical reasons.
Mark Hamill (himself a massive fan of Tim Curry) said that his performance was excellent, but that the real reason he was replaced was simply because at that point Curry was on so many Fox animated series that the studio was worried he would be seen as the voice of the studio much like how Mel Blanc was seen as the voice of Warner Bros. Not wanting any actor to have that kind of sway they demanded that he be taken off the Batman project (arguably their biggest property)
Curry would later go on to play another villain for the sequel series Batman Beyond called Mutro Botha.
Its sad that Curry has never got a chance to play the Joker properly. I have no idea if the tapes he recorded still exist. I hope that if they do Bruce Timm releases them as a special feature on release of Batman the Animated Series. I’d love a special feature where you can watch the seven episodes he did either with Curry as the Joker or Hamill as the Joker.
I don’t know if Curry could still voice the Joker since his stroke as his speech has slowed down. Hopefully though if his recovery continues he might be able to one day.. I’d love to see him play the character in an animated movie or series. It really is a role he should play as he would just be so perfect for it.
I will say though I am glad that Hamill got the role in Batman the Animated series. Hamill is my fave Joker also I think the role of the Joker helped to establish Hamill as a prolific villain actor himself.
At that point Hamill was terribly typecast thanks to the success of Star Wars. He had tried to branch out and do different things but it wasn’t really until the Joker that he finally managed to escape the young Jedi’s shadow and really the role helped to completely revitalise his career. Thus if Curry had played the Joker it would have just been another of many villainous roles he played, but in Hamill’s case it led to a very long and successful career playing villains for another actor, so yes all things considered I think it worked out for the best.
Also as much as I love Curry I do think Hamill was probably the best choice for the Joker. Being such a life long fan of the character I think it meant more to Hamill. That’s not say Curry wouldn’t have treated it with respect of course, but Hamill really threw himself into the role unlike any other actor and for me his performance remains the definitive take on the clown prince of crime.
Still I would love to hear the tapes Curry made as the Joker if they still exist and see him play the role in another DC animated movie or series at some point.
In the early 90’s the creator of the Daleks Terry Nation and the co-creator of the Cybermen Gerry Davies attempted to revive Doctor Who and Nation mentioned in an interview that his first choice for the role of the Doctor was Tim Curry. Sadly however Nation and Davies’s pitch for the series was rejected by the BBC who wanted to sell the series to America at that point.
Curry was later cast as the 8th incarnation of the Doctor in the mid 90’s when the BBC were planning to revive Doctor Who as a British/American co-production. Curry was the producers number 1 choice for the time lord and he happily accepted the part. He said in an interview that he was looking forward to playing the Doctor as he hoped it would help him escape his typecasting problem of always being the villain.
Sadly the project went into development hell for many years and by the time it was ready to go ahead Curry was busy with other commitments and regretfully had to drop out leading to Paul McGann being cast instead.
According to some online sources Curry did suggest Paul McGann to the producers.
In addition to this during the 1980’s John Nathan Turner approached him about appearing as Sharez Jek the main villain in what is now considered by many critics to be the greatest Doctor Who story ever made The Caves of Androzani . Though Curry expressed an interest in appearing, other commitments once again prevented him from appearing in the show.
I think its even more annoying that Curry missed out on a chance to play the Doctor than the Joker. Whilst he would have been great as the Joker, I honestly think if he had been the Doctor he would have been as good as Tom Baker himself.
No disrespect to Paul McGann who was also a great Doctor. I am not saying I would rather he didn’t play the Doctor. I would have preferred it if the Beeb didn’t torpedo the show in 1989 and allowed it to run throughout the 90’s and Curry could have been either the 8th or the 9th Doctor and McGann similarly could have been either the 9th or the 8th Doctors too. We can still keep the new Doctors of course, they will just be later incarnations as a result.
I think Curry would have been the perfect Doctor for many reasons. To start with I think that the Doctor should always be played by a character actor who’s not your average leading man. The Likes of Tom Baker, Patrick Troughton, Colin Baker, William Hartnell, Sylvester McCoy, Matt Smith were certainly not your standard leading men, they were all quirky character actors and that’s why they all I think really threw themselves into the character as it was really the only time they got a chance to be the the hero to millions of people, and the star of their own show.
Even the current Doctor Peter Capaldi falls into this category. Prior to the role of the Doctor though he had had a long and successful career, he had also not ever really been a leading man. He had played the lead role of Malcolm Tucker, but even then Tucker wasn’t exactly what you would call a hero to millions of people or a role model to children was he?
I think if he had been cast Tim Curry would have similarly embraced the role like no other in his career as it would have been his only time playing a lead role in a major television series and it would have given him a chance to be a hero to small children (instead of playing a child murderer or someone who eats people! I’ve noticed he seems to eat people quite a lot, Frank N Furter, Pennywise and Hexx)
The role of the Doctor is also a personality part above all else. You need someone who is naturally eccentric, who naturally has quite a big persona, someone who in many ways can just play an exaggerated version of themselves. Again its not hard to see how Curry would be perfect for this type of character. He definitely has a very large and theatrical stage persona to say the least.
I can see Curry’s version of the Doctor being comparable to Wadsworth. Wadsworth is kind of like the Doctor in that he is a posh, eccentric, at times somewhat bumbling hero who is still nevertheless two steps ahead of everyone.
Tim Curry and Michael McKean’s interactions with each other in Clue remind me of Tom Baker’s Doctor and his first male companion Harry Sullivan. In both cases you have one character who is a bit of a clumsy oaf (Harry and McKean) and another more flamboyant, OTT, at times equally oafish, yet devilishly clever at other points character (Wadsworth and the Doctor) Both are a perfect match as both take it in turns to be the straight man. Sometimes McKean and Harry are too slow in figuring things out compared to Wadsworth and The Doctor and their clumsy nature can make them seem silly, yet at other times Wadsworth and the Doctor are just so mental, they frustrate McKean and Harry.
Take a look at this clip of Wadsworth and McKean below and then compare it to another clip of Tom Baker with Harry and you can see how Curry’s Doctor might have fitted in with Tom’s.
You can definitely see how Wadsworth is very Docotrish and if Curry had played it that way then I think it would have been excellent.
Sadly due to his recent stroke it seems very unlikely that Currry will get a chance in the TARDIS, but still he could play the role in an audio unbound story.
For those of you unfamiliar with them the Doctor Who Unbound stories are audios set in alternate universes which thus allow other actors a chance to play the Doctor. Pesronaly I’d love to see Tim play an unbound Doctor. Big Finish if you are reading this get him on the phone.
As it is of course Tim Curry and Doctor Who managed to be legends (no pun intended) without each other, but still I think its a real shame that he never got a chance to play the Doctor as he would have easily been one of the best.
Curry sadly suffered a stroke in 2012. He now uses a wheelchair and though he can thankfully still speak, his voice is much slower and deliberate than before.
Its sad seeing him like this but the good news is that he is still able to act and has done some voice work since the stroke. He is all set to appear in the remake of the Rocky Horror Picture show as the Narrator.
Lets all hope the great man continues to recover. He definitely has a great body of work behind him already and will always be remembered for his most iconic characters, Frank N Furter, Wadsworth and Pennywise.
Thanks for reading.