In between partying
with Kiefer and donning the black leathers for his role as Mr.
Hand, lead bad ass in Dark City, Richard OBrien the creator
of The Rocky Horror Picture Show amongst other acts of mayhem
sat back in his hotel room and spoke to Michael Helms.
MH: What the
hell is Dark City?
RICHARD: Well, Dark
City is a dark fairy tale, basically. Its something that
writer/director Alex Proyas wanted to do for some years. Its
his project, his narrative, his storyline.
MH: What sort
of look, what time period is it set in?
set in its own space and time. Its a kind of cross between
German expressionism and film noir as far as I can describe
it. It has a slight 40s feel to it and yet there is a
strange kind of expressionistic feel to it as well. Its
lit very dark. It is called Dark City! Do you remember The Crow?
That was quite dark as well. Theres something about shadows
because you make your own mind up about whats lurking
MH: How did
you land the role in Dark City anyway?
RICHARD: Alex tells
me he wanted me for the role but I didnt realise that.
He came to London and asked to see me. I just thought I was
one in a long line. I got the script about a week before I met
him and liked the part immensely. Personally, I think its
the best part. The others have far more lines but, with far
more lines comes far more responsibility, doesnt it? And
far more work (laughs). So, I just have to turn up and play
MH: I was going
to ask you what your role is, and what exactly is a Stranger.
RICHARD: A Stranger
..I darent reveal too much but Strangers
are a group of sinister beings and quite what their plan is,
is revealed through the narrative of the film. Were not
really human - okay, Ill go as far as that.
MH: Your name
is Mr. Hand. How does that reflect your character? Or does it?
RICHARD: Well I do
have rather long fingers but I think thats just for a
look. No, the names are kind of immaterial in the
same way names are really immaterial in, say, Reservoir Dogs
or something of that nature. Its an interesting piece
and great fun to play - for all the actors as far as I can see;
for William Hurt and Kiefer and Rufus and Jennifer. We all seem
to give each other little smiles every now and then because
were all enjoying what were doing.
MH: Is the
character a straighter role than anything youve done before?
RICHARD: No. This
is right up my boulevard actually. I absolutely adore working
in the realms of fantasy. Ive never wanted to play bank
managers and real people particularly. Im very happy to
sit in the genre of make believe and fantasy. Its where
Im happiest. It appeals to the eternal adolescent in me.
MB: Does this
signal a bigger role in films for you?
never really thought about it in those terms. If I had been
really interested in pursuing a career, as opposed
to living my life, then I made a few silly moves
by doing small pieces for friends. Im not driven by money
and Im not driven by career. The only thing that really
drives me is to try and sort myself out and find some kind of
psychological and spiritual growth within me. I know that sounds
hippie but thats all Im interested in. I do like
to be creative and Im very lucky that Ive been given
different areas in which Im able to do that - whether
it be film or television or theatre or whatever. Im also
still into music and recording.
MH: Does your
Rocky Horror reputation still precede you?
RICHARD: Yeah, well
its a nice calling card, isnt it? Im not ashamed
of it. I think something happened. We pressed a button then
that touched a nerve and its got this longevity that one
never expected. It still holds up. I see it every now and again
and its still a good evenings entertainment; especially
when the audience become involved - its fabulous. And
the Australian connection with it is nice too. I think, to some
extent, Australians and New Zealanders probably would understand
RH more than anyone else.
MH: How so?
RICHARD: We had a
relationship with the rest of the world which was slightly different.
We were a Western civilisation, an English speaking civilisation,
both NZ and Australia, and we had all these influences coming
from both Great Britain and America to us; sending us their
culture in the shape and form of movies and television. And
we were able to be dispassionate about it to some extent; looking
at it from one side in a slightly different way. Whereas in
America its straight at the people and they are perhaps
manipulated to some extent by the media. And that was rather
useful for Rocky Horror because most Americans thought originally
that I was indeed American because "How did you know so
much about America?" "Well, youve been sending
us your fucking movies for 50-60 years!"
MH: Did you
have anything to do with putting together the recent video special
edition of RH that was out for the 21st anniversary?
RICHARD: No, I had
nothing to do with that. I didnt actually get a very good
deal with the movie spin-offs. My fraction of a fraction is
so tiny that its risible. However, theres three
reasons for doing things in this particular world. One is love,
one is prestige and the others money. If you get all three
together, thats fine. Writers never get a very good deal
in Hollywood. The suits sit around the table and say "OK.
Are you hard, Bob?" "Yes, Im hard, Dick."
"How about you?" "Im a wreck, Bob."
"Jack?" "Yes, I m up." "OK, lets
fuck the writer." (laughs). Thats the way it goes
and I think perhaps always will. The only way you can get over
that as a writer is to become some kind of executive producer,
take some producing role as well. Otherwise you very rarely
MH: Could tell
me any anecdotes that happened during Dark City?
have to say that if you want to get into a club in Sydney and
youve got Kiefer with you, youve got the key, youve
got the gold card. Once hes with you and you walk to the
door, these doors open. I love going out with him. Hes
fab. Very naughty, very nice, very cheeky - and highly intelligent
and wise beyond his years. We party hard but most people are
so busy getting on with things.
MH: In your
role as a villain, do you do any hands-on killing?
RICHARD: I have this
nasty kind of flick dagger which I produce from time to time
and yes, I do
..Im not terribly nice. But I hope
Im likeable even though Im a nasty and I hope Ive
got a certain amount of vulnerability which allows accessibility
from the viewer. It would be awful just to be a cold hearted
killer. I wouldnt like that. Actually I find a lot of
that stuff, all the real kind of blood and gore, spiritually
diminishing. I dont like Tarantinos movies at all.
Im not much for Scorsese either. I find all that brutalising.
I just find all that unbelievable. Have you seen Casino?
MH: I have
RICHARD: A mans
head in a vice! I mean what is that about? What I find really
offensive about it - because I do believe it brutalises; I do
believe it diminishes the human spirit - is the pretence that
theyre showing the way it really is. Theyre showing
us the bad things so that we understand the cruelty of war.
I think thats having your cake and eating it, quite frankly.
I think its a lie and they get off on it and I find that
slightly queasy. As I say, I love fantasy and make-believe and
I love films that make people feel a little better when they
leave. When Im doing my rock & roll show and Im
singing, I just want people to go home and have sex, actually.
Have a nice night, get a little drunk, maybe a smoke (I wouldnt
proselytise that) and they go home and have a great night together.
Thats a real standing ovation, isnt it?
MH: But, Richard,
what do you think people are going to do after Dark City?
RICHARD: It is an
uplifting tale. It reminds me, tangentially, of The Prisoner
- you remember the Patrick McGoohan series? It is one man fighting,
not only for his own existence, but to save his fellow species
from the clutches of The Strangers and lead them
to a better world. Even though we know freedom as an idea were
not really as free as we think we are.
article above appeared in the Australian Magazine Filmink, and
many thanks to Ruth for sending the text along to me.