Timothy James Curry (born 19 April 1946) is an English actor, voice artist, and singer. He is best known for working in a diverse range of theatre, film, and television, most often portraying in villain roles or character parts. Curry rose to prominence with his portrayal of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), reprising the role he had originated in the 1973 London and 1974 Los Angeles stage productions of The Rocky Horror Show.
His other stage work includes various roles in the original West End production of Hair, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in the 1980 Broadway production of Amadeus, the Pirate King in the 1982 West End production of The Pirates of Penzance, Alan Swann in the Broadway production of My Favourite Year, and King Arthur in Broadway and West End productions of Spamalot from 2005 to 2007.
Curry received further acclaim for his film and television roles, including as Rooster Hannigan in the film adaptation of Annie (1982), as Darkness in the fantasy film Legend (1985), as Wadsworth in the mystery comedy film Clue (1985), as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the horror miniseries It (1990) and Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island (1996).
Curry has also gained acclaim as a voice actor. His roles in animation include King Chicken in Duckman, Captain Hook on the Fox series Peter Pan & the Pirates (1990–1991), Hexxus in the fantasy film FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992), Sir Nigel Thornberry on the Nickelodeon series The Wild Thornberrys (1998–2004) and Palpatine on Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2012–2014).
Curry was born in Grappenhall, Cheshire. His father, James Curry, a chaplain in the Royal Navy, died when Curry was 12. Curry's mother, Patricia, a school secretary, died in June 1999 after living with cancer for two years. His older sister, Judith ("Judy"), was a concert pianist who died of a brain tumour in 2001.
Curry spent most of his childhood in Plymouth, Devon. After his father's death from pneumonia in 1958, his family moved to South London. Curry went to boarding school and attended Kingswood School in Bath, Somerset. He developed into a talented boy soprano (treble). Deciding to concentrate on acting, Curry graduated from the University of Birmingham with a combined degree in English and Drama (BA Drama and Theatre Studies, 1968).
Curry's first full-time role was as part of the original London cast of the musical Hair in 1968, where he met Richard O'Brien who went on to write Curry's next full-time role, that of Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show (1975). Curry recalled his first encounter with the project:
I'd heard about the play because I lived on Paddington Street, off Baker Street, and there was an old gym a few doors away. I saw Richard O'Brien in the street, and he said he'd just been to the gym to see if he could find a muscleman who could sing. I said, "Why do you need him to sing?" [laughs] And he told me that his musical was going to be done, and I should talk to Jim Sharman. He gave me the script, and I thought, "Boy, if this works, it's going to be a smash."
Originally, Curry rehearsed the character with a German accent and peroxide blond hair, and later, with an American accent. In March 2005, in an interview with Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air, he explains that he decided to play Dr. Frank-N-Furter with an English accent after listening to an English woman say, "Do you have a house in town or a house in the country", and decided, "Yes, [Dr. Frank-N-Furter] should sound like the Queen".
Curry originally thought the character was merely a laboratory doctor dressed in a white lab coat. However, at the suggestion of director Sharman, the character evolved into the diabolical mad scientist and transvestite with an upper-class Belgravia accent that carried over to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and made Curry a household name and gave him a cult following. He continued to play the character in London, Los Angeles, and New York City until 1975.
In an interview with NPR, Curry called Rocky Horror a "rite of passage", and added that the film is "a guaranteed weekend party to which you can go with or without a date and probably find one if you don't have one, and it's also a chance for people to try on a few roles for size, you know? Figure out, help them maybe figure out their own sexuality".
In 2016, Curry played The Criminologist in the television film remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Shortly after the end of Rocky Horror's run on Broadway, Curry returned to the stage with Tom Stoppard's Travesties, which ran in London and New York from 1975 to 1976. Travesties was a Broadway hit. It won two Tony Awards (Best Performance by an Actor for John Wood and Best Comedy), as well as the New York Drama Critics Circle Award (Best Play), and Curry's performance as the famous dadaist Tristan Tzara received good reviews.
In 1981, Curry formed part of the original cast in the Broadway show Amadeus, playing the title character, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was nominated for his first Tony Award (Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play) for this role but lost out to his co-star Ian McKellen, who played Antonio Salieri. In 1982, Curry took the part of the Pirate King in the Drury Lane production of Joe Papp's version of The Pirates of Penzance opposite George Cole, earning enthusiastic reviews.
In the mid-1980s, Curry performed in The Rivals and in several plays with the Royal National Theatre of Great Britain, including The Threepenny Opera, Dalliance and Love For Love. In 1988, Curry did the national tour of Me and My Girl as the lead role of Bill Snibson, a role originated on Broadway by Robert Lindsay and followed by Jim Dale. In 1989-90, Tim Curry returned once again to the New York stage in The Art of Success. In 1993, Curry played Alan Swann in the Broadway musical version of My Favourite Year, earning him his second Tony Award nomination, this time for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical.
In 2001, Curry appeared as Scrooge in the musical version of A Christmas Carol that played at Madison Square Garden. In 2004, Curry began his role of King Arthur in Spamalot in Chicago. The show successfully moved to Broadway in February 2005. The show sold more than $1 million worth of tickets in its first 24 hours.
It brought him a third Tony nomination, again for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Curry reprised this role in London's West End at the Palace Theatre, where Spamalot opened on 16 October 2006. His final performance came on 6 January 2007. He was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award as the Best Actor in a Musical for the role, and also won the Theatregoers' Choice Award (getting 39% of the votes cast by over 12,000 theatregoers) as Best Actor in a Musical.
From May to August 2011, Curry was scheduled to portray the Player in a Trevor Nunn stage production of Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Chichester Festival Theatre and then in London. He withdrew from the production on 27 May, citing ill health. From 26 to 29 April 2012, Tim Curry appeared in Eric Idle's play What About Dick? at the Orpheum Theatre in Los Angeles. He had originally appeared in the play back in 2007 when it was still a work in progress.
Curry's career in theatre was honoured on 7 June 2015 at the Actors Fund's 19th annual Tony Awards Viewing Party, where he was awarded an Artistic Achievement Award.
After The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Curry began to appear in many films, acting in supporting roles, such as Robert Graves in the British horror film The Shout, as Johnny LaGuardia in Times Square, as Daniel Francis "Rooster" Hannigan in Annie, a film based on the broadway musical of the same name and as Jeremy Hancock in the political film The Ploughman's Lunch.
In 1985, Curry starred in the fantasy film Legend as Darkness. Director Ridley Scott cast Curry in the film after watching him in Rocky Horror, thinking he was ideal to play the role of Darkness. It took five and a half hours to apply the makeup needed for Darkness onto Curry and at the end of the day, he would spend an hour in a bath in order to liquefy the soluble spirit gum. At one point, Curry got too impatient and claustrophobic and pulled the makeup off too quickly, tearing off his own skin in the process. Scott had to shoot around the actor for a week as a result.
The same year, he appeared in the comedy mystery film Clue as Wadsworth the butler. After this, Curry began to be cast in more comedy roles throughout the late 1980s and '90s such as Rev. Ray Porter in Pass the Ammo, Dr. Thornton Poole in Oscar, the villainous Plaza Hotel Manager Mr. Hector in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Jigsaw in Loaded Weapon 1 and as Long John Silver in Muppet Treasure Island. Although he featured in mostly comedies throughout the '90s, he did appear in some action films, such as the thriller The Hunt for Red October as Dr. Yevgeniy Petrov, the 1993 adaptation of The Three Musketeers as Cardinal Richelieu, in the superhero film The Shadow as Farley Claymore and as Herkermer Homolka in the 1995 action adventure Congo. He also starred in the 1998 direct-to-video film Addams Family Reunion playing the role of Gomez Addams.
In 1999 he played the first role in the film Pirates of the Plain.
In the early 2000s, Curry was cast in the film adaptation of Charlie's Angels in the role of Roger Corwin, and in the parody film Scary Movie 2 playing Professor Oldman. Curry went on to play Thurman Rice, a supporting role in the biographical film Kinsey.
In recent years, Curry has mostly performed in animated films, his most recent feature film onscreen role has been in the British black comedy Burke & Hare as Prof Alexander Monro.
Curry started off his career with small roles in television series, such as Eugene in Napoleon and Love, and guest roles in Armchair Theatre and Play for Today including as 'Glen' in Dennis Potter's "Schmoedipus".
Curry also appeared in the "Dead Dog Records" storyline of the television series crime drama Wiseguy, as Winston Newquay. He also had recurring roles on the short-lived science fiction television series Earth 2 and the sitcom Rude Awakening.
He has also guest starred on other series such as Roseanne, Tales from the Crypt (which earned him an Emmy award nomination), The Tracey Ullman Show, Lexx, The Naked Truth, Monk, Will & Grace, Psych, Agatha Christie's Poirot and Criminal Minds.
Curry also performed in a large number of television films and miniseries, including Three Men in a Boat, the titular role in Will Shakespeare, playing the role of Bill Sikes in a television adaptation of Oliver Twist, a wizard in the Halloween television film adaptation of The Worst Witch, Titanic, Terry Pratchett's The Colour of Magic, Alice, Return to Cranford and many more.
Although Curry has appeared in numerous television series throughout his career he has only had main roles in two: Over the Top, a sitcom that he also produced, and the revival series of Family Affair. Both were cancelled after one season. One of Curry's best-known television roles (and best-known roles overall) is as Pennywise the Clown in the 1990 horror miniseries Stephen King's It.
Aside from one Fangoria interview in 1990, Curry never publicly acknowledged his involvement in It until an interview with Moviefone in 2015, where he called the role of Pennywise "a wonderful part", giving his blessing to successor Will Poulter; Poulter was set to play the character in the reboot, although ultimately dropped out. Bill Skarsgård replaced him and while being interviewed at Fan Expo Canada Curry gave his approval, saying that "I like [Bill] Skarsgård. I think he's very clever. It'll be interesting to see what sort of clown face he puts on. because it's not an obvious clown face at all.[..] So I'm fascinated to see it."
Curry voiced Taurus Bullba in Darkwing Duck for 3 episodes. He has also appeared in a large number of animated television series and films, starting with the performance of the Serpent in The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible. Curry also portrayed Captain Hook in the Fox animated series Peter Pan and the Pirates. Curry won a Daytime Emmy Award for his performance. Another animated television role was in The Wild Thornberrys, where he played Nigel Thornberry. He had small roles in The Little Mermaid and the 2014 Cartoon Network mini-series Over the Garden Wall, as Auntie Whispers. In 1988 Curry recorded the lead voice as the castaway mouse Abelard Hassan DiChirico Flint in Michael Sporn's Emmy Nominated adaptation of William Steig's novel for children, "Abel's Island" for Italtoons, now distributed by Random House. Curry was mainly known for antagonist roles in animated series such as MAL in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Skullmaster in Mighty Max, Dr Anton Sevarius in Gargoyles, George Herbert Walker 'King' Chicken in Duckman, Lord Dragaunus in The Mighty Ducks, as Henri Poupon and Charlene's coat in Jim Henson's Dinosaurs, Scarlet Fever and Nick O'Teen in Ozzy & Drix, Professor Finbar Calamitous in The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Slagar the Cruel in Redwall, Doctor Morocco in Transformers: Rescue Bots, and G. Gordon Godfrey in Young Justice. He also became the voice of Palpatine in Star Wars: The Clone Wars upon the death of Ian Abercrombie.
During the 1990s, Curry played the voice-only role of cyber-villain Kilokahn in DIC's live-action series Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad.
Curry also appeared in a number of animated films such as FernGully: The Last Rainforest, The Pebble and the Penguin, all three Rugrats films as side characters (excluding Rugrats Go Wild where he reprises his role as Nigel Thornberry), Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas, He played Voley in US Version on The First Snow of Winter, Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost, The Wild Thornberrys Movie, The Cat Returns, Valiant, Garfield: Tail of Two Kitties, Fly Me to the Moon, and many more.
Curry has also lent his voice to numerous video games, such as Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and Gabriel Knight 3: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned, where he voiced the title character, Gabriel Knight, Toonstruck, Sacrifice, Brütal Legend and Dragon Age: Origins. He also played Premier Anatoly Cherdenko in Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3. Curry also voices Dr. Frankenstein in Frankenstein: Through the Eyes of the Monster.
His audiobook work includes Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Bram Stoker's Dracula and the Abhorsen trilogy by Garth Nix.
Aside from his performances on various soundtrack records, Curry has had some success as a solo musical artist. Curry received classical vocal training as a boy. He has mentioned that his musical influences included jazz vocalists such as Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong and idolised the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as a teenager. In 1978, A&M Records released Curry's debut solo album Read My Lips. The album featured an eclectic range of songs (mostly covers) performed in diverse genres. Highlights of the album are a reggae version of the Beatles' song "I Will", a rendition of "Wake Nicodemus" featuring the Pipes and Drums of the 48th Highlanders of Canada, and a bar-room ballad, "Alan", composed by Canadian singer-songwriter Tony Kosinec.
The following year, Curry released his second and most successful album Fearless. The LP was more rock-oriented than Read My Lips and mostly featured original songs rather than cover versions. The record included Curry's only US charting songs: "I Do the Rock" and "Paradise Garage".
Curry's third and final album, Simplicity, was released in 1981, again by A&M Records. This record, which did not sell as well as the previous offerings, combined both original songs and cover versions. The writing, production and musician roster for Curry's solo albums included an impressive list of collaborators, including Bob Ezrin and David Sanborn.
In 1989, A&M released The Best of Tim Curry on CD and cassette, featuring songs from his albums (including a live version of "Alan") and a previously unreleased song, a live cover version of Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate".
Curry toured America with his band through the late 1970s and the first half of the 1980s.
In 1990 Curry performed as the Prosecutor in Roger Waters' production of The Wall in Berlin.
Although Curry's first album was released in 1978, he had previously recorded a nine-track album for Lou Adler's Ode Records in 1976. However, the album remained unreleased in its entirety until February 2010, when it was made available as a legal download entitled ...From the Vaults (though four tracks from these sessions had been released on a 1990 Rocky Horror box set). The album, produced by Adler, included Curry's rendition of The Supremes' hit "Baby Love".
Since 1988 Curry resides in Los Angeles, California.
In July 2012, Curry suffered a major stroke. As a result of the stroke, he uses a wheelchair. His condition has continued to improve in the years following the stroke but he remains full dependent upon a motorized wheelchair in order to have any amount of mobility.
He has never married, nor had any children.
Awards and nominations
|1975||The Rocky Horror Show||Drama Desk Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Nominated|
|1981||Amadeus||Best Actor in a Play||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Actor in a Play||Nominated|
|1982||The Pirates of Penzance||Royal Variety Club Award||Stage Actor of the Year||Won|
|Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Nominated|
|1991||Peter Pan and the Pirates||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series||Won|
|1993||My Favorite Year||Tony Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Nominated|
|Passed Away||American Comedy Award||Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|1994||Tales from the Crypt||Primetime Emmy Award||Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series||Nominated|
|1995||CableACE Award||Best Actor in a Dramatic Series||Nominated|
|Mighty Max||Daytime Emmy Award||Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program||Nominated|
|1996||Congo||Razzie Award||Worst Supporting Actor||Nominated|
|1998||Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas||Annie Award||Voice Acting in a Feature Production||Nominated|
|2002||The Bad Beginning||Grammy Award||Best Spoken Word Album for Children||Nominated|
|2005||Spamalot||Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Nominated|
|Tony Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Nominated|
|2007||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Nominated|
|Whatsonstage.com Award||Best Actor in a Musical||Won|
|2010||Brütal Legend||NAVGTR Award||Supporting Performance in a Comedy||Nominated|
|Dragon Age: Origins||Supporting Performance in a Drama||Nominated|
|2015||N/A||Actors Fund of America Artistic Achievement Award||N/A||Awarded|