DRUK: You're working on a Rocky Horror sequel?
RO'B: I am at the moment, yes. I'm up to the first song in the second
act. I've written all the songs in the first act, as far as
I know, and now I'm going to write all the songs in the second
act. It seems a strange way to do it, but it seemed to me that
I had to enjoy doing the work. Writing the sequel was so daunting,
the whole concept of going down the same boulevard and not doing
anything more than a soap opera carry-on, it had to have some
kind of merit of its own including the same characters, and
it was rather intimidating. I had the beginning of it from the
original Shock Treatment screenplay that I'd written, which
was very different from the Shock Treatment that ended up on
the screen. Basically it's Janet having a baby and it's obviously
Frank N Furter's baby. There'll be other people making claims
to it, but it's not really about that. It's more a study of
whether Frank's the right kind of person to become a parent.
It's interesting getting the narrative sorted out; I've done
a flow chart and it seems to work on a flow chart basis.
DRUK: How did you get Frank back from the dead?
RO'B: Oh, he's resurrected. Dr Scott is a scientist after all!
DRUK: What do you think the Rocky Horror hardcore will make of it?
RO'B: I don't know. I think that if it works it's not a problem. I
think Rocky fans will judge it on its entertainment merit. If
it's funny and the songs are good and it rocks along again,
and it's not just a sop to people's expectations... And so far
I feel it has. I'm asking the same questions the fans are asking,
and if it gets to a point where I'm dissatisfied then it goes
in the bin.
DRUK: Do you find yourself writing lines and anticipating audience
RO'B: I've no idea, I wouldn't try and second-guess that. The thing
that makes Rocky work in its own phenomenal way is that all
that's been organic. I never tried to elicit that sort of response;
it all happened naturally. It's interesting because when I used
to go and watch B-movies and late-night schlock-horror as a
teenager, we used to shout ruderies at the screen, but it was
very yobbish, gauche, corny kind of stuff, and those were the
very films that spawned Rocky. And then Rocky started to get
this almost orchestrated response, and I thought that was a
kind of growth in itself. Rather marvellous, really.
DRUK: Are you working to any kind of time scale?
RO'B: No, I'm under no pressure whatsoever. It doesn't really matter;
even if I only write a line a day, there are 365 days in a year,
that's 365 lines. That's all right!
DRUK: You've recently been
in the Dungeons and Dragons movie...
There's a movie called Dungeons and Dragons, which should be
released this year. I only had a small part in it. It seems
to me that its subject matter is perhaps a few years too late.
I'm not sure - I don't want to say anything that might upset
the producers or the other players - maybe there's a market
for it. I don't understand the film industry at all; I've been
in several films lately where I don't understand where the money
came from, or how, or why, when I've read some first-class screenplays
that never get made, and I've read some stuff - I'm not saying
Dungeons and Dragons falls into this category - but I've read
stuff and thought, I don't understand who's backing this or
why. I don't know what their target audience is. That always
amazes me, that a lot of films get made and no-one's sat around
a table and asked what their target audience is.
DRUK: It's all decided by committee, isn't it?
RO'B: I'm not quite sure how it works, actually. I really don't know.
DRUK: The Hollywood machine seems to spot a trend and you get a load
movies in the same vein...
RO'B: I don't think anyone in the studios ever makes a decision; they
don't dare. You make a decision and it's a wrong one and heads
roll. They say that a flop's born an orphan and a hit has a
thousand fathers, and it's kind of true. So if you were employed
and you're on a three-year contract, you're not going to shake
the bars of the cage too much.
DRUK: Maybe the system's building a net of people to blame further
RO'B: I don't understand why the money's got so big, I don't understand
stars getting $18 million, this is an area I don't understand
at all. I don't understand this obsession with blockbuster.
It's nice to see Gladiator, it's a marvellously shot movie and
it's wonderfully directed, and that's $80 million. But one person
getting $10 million or $18 million, I don't understand why you
spend that amount of your budget, when a decent film could be
made for $3 million by relying on imagination. I'm looking at
a digital Handycam here (it's true; we recorded this interview
on our little office Handycam), and I've got one as well, and
it's broadcast quality, and I think this may well be the salvation
of the film industry. I think people will be making lots of
small movies on this very format.
DRUK: The Blair Witch Project, of course.
RO'B: Well, Blair Witch Project is a one-off; I didn't go to see it,
and it would have bored the arse off me from the bits I saw
about it. I understand the obsession about it. I was in the
States when it was released, and the big discussion about it
was that it was made for half a crown and a Mars bar. The merits
of the film itself were never discussed, but the fact that it
became a blockbuster and that it was made for something like
$300 thousand, that made the dollar signs light up...
DRUK: They also did a good job of marketing it on the cheap, and building
up the 'is it real, is it fake' hype.
RO'B: It was nice to see that it could be done. The next Eraserhead
could come off a digital camera. You can make music videos on
these things for next to nothing.
DRUK: Speaking of music,
any plans for another album? (Richard brought out an album,
Absolute O'Brien, early last year. He calls it 'apartment jazz',
it's fine late-night listening, perhaps accompanied by your
favourite artificial relaxant.)
RO'B: No, but I went to see a show last night called The Rat Pack.
It was three guys pretending to be Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis
Jnr and Dean Martin, and while none of them were actually anything
like any of these three people there was a certain something,
and some of the songs were so damn good that I left thinking,
I'd like to do another album. I'd like to actually go on the
road, truthfully. I'd love to travel with the band and just
sing songs, natter to the audience. I'd like that a lot. I doubt
that I ever will; I'm too bloody lazy. I'm not at all ambitious,
you see. I just don't have the drive to compete in this marketplace.
DRUK: Ever thought of getting Absolute O'Brien out on a bigger label?
RO'B: No; I'm nearly 60, I'm not at the cutting edge for these young
Turks. We're going to do a Rocky Horror 25th Anniversary in
Las Vegas this year, and I'll use that opportunity to push the
album again, but that's all I can do really. It got good reviews,
it's liked by most people; it's just getting it across to Joe
Public so they know it's out there, and getting the record shops
to stock it. It's difficult.
DRUK: What was the last CD you bought?
RO'B: I don't think I've bought a CD for a while. I suppose it was
Stan Getz; one of the most magical sax players ever, an absolute
angel on the saxophone. I believe he was a difficult man...
DRUK: A lot of the best are..
RO'B: I don't know whether that's true. Other musicians didn't like
him as a human being but loved him as a musician.
DRUK: Any more films on the horizon?
RO'B: No, there's not. And I really don't need anything to drag me
away from the typewriter at the moment; I need to keep working
on the sequel. I don't know what it's going to be called yet.
The Second Coming has been mooted; it's quite funny but there
are religious connotations to be drawn from that as well as
rudery. I quite like the spiritual, religious kind of connection
because that would be part of that journey as well. The child
born to one of Frank's species and a human has been spoken of
but has never happened, and this is a first.
DRUK: So, do you have any plans for when you've finished the sequel?
RO'B: I think I might go and spend some time in New Zealand. I've
got two and a half acres out there, and I'll probably go out
and put some trees on it.