In just a few days, the all-new version of cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show is going to premiere on Fox, and fans everywhere are wondering just how this new version is going to stack up against the original. After all, so many aspects of the original Rocky Horror are signifiers of the early ’70s time period in which it was made, while other aspects seem decades ahead of their time. Producer Lou Adler helped bring the original play to the big screen back in 1975; and now, his son, the Grammy Award-nominated Cisco Adler, is bringing the show to television some 40 years later. We got the chance to chat with Adler about bringing the classic show to a whole new audience.
I was among the few who saw the first 30 minutes of the new Rocky Horror at San Diego Comic-Con this past summer, in a room full of diehard fans, who all seemed to genuinely love it. And in many ways, a group of Rocky Horror devotees could have been the toughest crowd. I asked Adler if it was at all daunting to have to show such a group the finished product. “We were definitely looking forward to their reaction as we knew there were a lot of real Rocky fans in the house,” Adler said. “And they were shouting call-backs and applauding wildly. I think the moment anybody sees that this is an homage and dedicated to the fans and the culture… They get it. And they love it!”
When remaking a cult classic such as this one, I couldn’t help but wonder about which elements the production team knew they had to carry over from the original, and which they felt more comfortable changing. According to Adler, “It’s similar to doing a cover of a classic song. It’s a delicate balance, and every move and nuance will be magnified by the naysayers and critics, so you just have to make sure you do things for reasons that are pure and rooted in a respect for this timeless piece. We are pointing to the original, but not replacing it by any means.”
Even before anyone had seen a single frame of the new Rocky Horror, one aspect that just about everyone praised was the casting of actress and trans-rights activist Laverne Cox in the role of the “the sexually ambiguous alien mad scientist” Dr. Frank N. Furter. How did this genius bit of casting come about? Adler couldn’t quite recall just how Cox’s name was first tossed into the mix for the part of Frank. “I don’t remember how,” he said. “But [after she was mentioned], there was no other option. Her talent and passion for the role was immediately evident. The fact that she grew up watching this and that her personal story is one of alienation and sexual and social liberation informed her Frank… These are themes we see throughout this rock ‘n’ roll myth. It was serendipity.”
The original Frank N. Furter, of course, is a part of this production as well. Tim Curry is back, now playing the part of the Criminologist/Narrator. Was it important for Adler to get the blessing of the star of the original movie on this new project? “No question,” the producer said, adding, “It was also a trip to get to record him in the studio. His voice is so classic and memorable. Tim is a treasure.”
For those hardcore fans who do fall in love with the new version, here’s an exclusive tidbit: there will be a Blu-ray release in the not too distant future, which will include “a lot of great extras,” Adler said. “We have Laverne’s screen test, which is awe-inspiring. We kept the piano vocal take of ‘I’m Going Home’ because it was so poignant and powerful.”
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again will air Thursday, Oct. 20 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on Fox. Aside from Laverne Cox and Tim Curry, it also stars Ryan McCartan and Victoria Justice as sweethearts Brad and Janet, Adam Lambert as Eddie, Christina Milian as Magenta, Reeve Carney as Riff-Raff, and many more. The soundtrack album, Recorded in Cisco Adler’s Bananabeat Studio and The Village Recorder, will be released on CD and on digital platforms on Friday, October 21st.
Are you excited to do the Time Warp again? Let us know in the comments below.
You can preorder the album here.
Images: 20th Century Fox