Mr Rocky Horror
talks about his latest project
Richard O'Brien's name and people remember one of two things
-he wrote The Rocky Horror Show or, for a certain age group,
presented The Crystal Maze.
O'Brien is instantly recognisable with his shiny bald head and
trademark devilish stare.
But the 61-year-old isn't resting on his laurels. He's appearing
as Zebedee in upcoming film The Magic Roundabout Movie, working
on a production of lvor Novello's The Dancing Years, as well
as appearing on a charity album.
And he'll be keeping busy for the foreseeable future -or at
least until his 14-year-old daughter Amelia is older and he
can retire for good.
"I have a four
or five year plan. I want to return to New Zealand, where I
was brought up, and retire and get out of the rat race,"
O'Brien says. "Not put my feet up, but probably do some
painting or make some music out there, and if I'm capable, write
some more songs."
The actor and presenter
also has two sons, Amelia's 20-year-old brother Josh, and Linus,
30, from his first marriage.
"1 love my children,
I think they're wonderful," he smiles, adding living on
the other side of the world wouldn't pose any problems.
"The world is
so small -I've been away from my family and my siblings for
40 years now, and it hasn't made any difference. Once you get
to 20, you build your own life anyway; being in New Zealand
isn't going to make any difference.
"My duty, to
some extent, was to see that they had a good schooling and a
and morals and ethics, and were intelligent, vocal and articulate
people standing on their own two feet, and able to have a conversation
At the moment he's busy with his various projects -a big supporter
of Manchester Children's Hospital, he's currently raising money
for The Chicken Shed Theatre Company.
company - which began life 30 years ago in a chicken shed in
north London - provides theatre workshops for 1,000 young people
every week, and aims to integrate children with special needs
into community theatre and music.
The Chicken Shed Album, out now, features songs from various
shows, by supporters of the charity; including Sir Cliff Richard,
Elaine Page, Gabrielle and Emma Bunton -and O'Brien himself.
Involved on and off
for the past 10 years, O'Brien says Chicken Shed is "a
damn good idea".
"The fact that
the wee ones who do have difficulties are embraced. And dance
and music helps to bring them out of their shells and extend
perhaps beyond what many of us might have assumed was their
"You can see
the good they do, improving the lot of young children."
He chose to perform
the song Looking For Love, because he liked its simplicity:
"I picked a very simple blues song because I'm not a great
"I hold a tune
and hopefully I can perform it, but I'm not a great voice. Tom
Jones is a great singer. And Pavarotti, he can sing. O'Brien
is a minor voice."
He laughs: "And
who would have thought I'd have been on a CD singing with Sir
Playing Zebedee in The Magic Roundabout Movie, alongside Kylie,
Robbie Williams, Jim Broadbent and Joanna Lumley, among others,
was also great fun, he says.
"It was a bit daunting too because Zebedee didn't actually
say anything originally: We heard the voice of Emma Thompson's
dad saying, -Time for bed, said Zebedee', but we never actually
heard the voices.
"But a friend
of mine said, 'You've got a bossy voice Richard', which I thought
was charming and rather revealing," he laughs. "I
hope I got away with it."
He and Tom Baker
have a duel, he says. "I'm Zebedee and he's bad Zebedee
or ZeBadDee. He's my evil twin I think. I shouldn't give away
the plot -we have to have a battle of wits."
The characters and
storyline follow the UK version of the programme, rather than
the French original he says, admitting Dougal was always his
"He was always
snuflling around for sugar and getting into trouble, and he
was always at the root of the problem somewhere or other: A
disaster area really; always very good fun. Dylan the rabbit
was good as well."
One project which
has been put on hold is a sequel to Rocky Horror; which celebrated
its 3Oth anniversary this year.
'"I've got to
regroup this year: I just have a lot of personal pressure on
me at the moment," he says. "It's doing my head in
quite frankly; so I'm just going to put it on the back burner."
While he's still surprised and delighted at how long it has
lasted, he believes changes need to be made.
"It's been going
downhill for the last few years. I want to excite people with
it again, not have it played like it's a cheap kind of, I don't
know, downmarket sex show. Wit is what it needs."
He adds: "My
feeling is it may well have peaked, although that's neither
here nor there."
But he has no intention
of complaining that his career has been overshadowed by his
"I get cheesed
off with people who say that. It's a ticket isn't it. It's a
ticket nobody can ever take away from me. Even if it did all
stop tomorrow, I was the writer of a show that lasted 30 years:
That's not bad, is it?"