Barry Bostwick is a Broadway veteran who was nominated for a Tony Award for creating the role of Danny Zuko in “Grease” and who won a Tony in 1977 for the musical “The Robber Bridegroom.”
He’s been an enduring and familiar presence on both the big and small screens, playing leading-man roles in miniseries such as “Scruples” and “War and Remembrance,” guest starring in such dramas as “Scandal” and “Law &Order: Special Victims Unit,” and putting his comedic talent to work in such series as “Spin City” and “Cougar Town.”
Yet, for an admittedly narrow but highly devoted segment of fandom, Bostwick forever will be remembered mostly for playing a dorky, just-engaged guy who, on one dark and stormy night, knocks on a castle door and quickly finds himself in way over his head.
That would be Brad Majors, the role Bostwick played in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the midnight movie cult classic that last year celebrated its 40th anniversary.
During the past year or so, Bostwick has celebrated the occasion by visiting comic conventions across the country and meeting fans. He’s scheduled to do the same Friday through March 20, at Wizard World Comic Con Las Vegas. The celebration of sci-fi, fantasy, movies, TV, comics, graphic novels, cosplay, video gaming and collectibles is set for the Las Vegas Convention Center, 3150 Paradise Road.
Among the celebrity guests scheduled to appear are Matt Smith (“Doctor Who”), Jewel Staite (“Firefly” and “Stargate: Atlantis”), Elizabeth Henstridge and Brett Dalton (“Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”) and Michael Rooker (“Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Walking Dead”).
Speaking by phone recently from a convention in Florida, Bostwick says “Rocky Horror” endures, in part, because “it’s so multigenerational.”
“It was, I think, such a culturally significant and important film at the time, and continues to be, with the whole ‘Don’t dream it, be it’ analogy,” Bostwick says. “And it’s a movie that saved lives along the way and has entertained millions and millions of people.”
And, thanks to shadow casts — in which costumed fans act out the film as it plays on-screen — “this movie has created a party atmosphere for over 40 years, and it has just been fun to watch it evolve and be part of it all,” Bostwick says.
“It’s just so important on so many levels as a sort of coming-of-age entertainment. It’s still being seen by kids who come up to me during these conventions. I’ll get 10- and 11-year-old kids who’ve become, now, the millennial group that is like the third or fourth wave of fans.”
“Rocky Horror” has “created lifelong friendships,” he says. “I have talked to people who met their spouses, who sat in the back row of a ‘Rocky Horror’ evening. And I always love it when they come up to me and go, ‘I played Brad in 1978 and I played it for like four or five years.’ So many of these fans were just immersed in the ‘Rocky Horror’ culture and emerged, I think, the better for it.”
Yet, Bostwick says nobody involved with the film had any inkling that they were creating a cult classic.
“I mean, we knew we were doing something special. We knew it was ridiculous and we knew it was going to be entertaining and we knew it was going to be enticing to a whole segment of the audience,” Bostwick says.
“And we knew that the music was really good. So it had so many elements that we thought were certainly entertaining and would gather an audience.
“But this kind of film, it’s a one-off. It had never happened and it will never happen again, where an audience embraces it and makes it their own and creates an alternative movie that goes side by side with us. The party atmosphere, the comments, the props, that had never really been done before, and we had nothing to do with it.”
When “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” came along, Bostwick already had compiled an impressive collection of theater credits, including a 1972 Tony Award nomination for “Grease.” But he had no qualms about leaving the stage temporarily for what was then a relatively low-budget film.
“The stage version had been such a sensation both in London and in L.A.” he says. “Tim (Curry) had played Frank-N-Furter in both places and it had, already, a built-in, very hip following and it was playing smaller venues.”
“Not that I understood it at all,” Bostwick adds with a laugh.
“As it was described to me at the time, it was a fairy tale, and (Brad and Janet) were Hansel and Gretel. It’s a coming of age, loss of innocence (story), and why I think it continues to be successful is because there’s always going to be a new generation that comes of age and is going to see the movie. It’s something that opens their eyes to other possibilities of what they can be.”
Bostwick enjoys meeting what literally is generations of “Rocky Horror” fans at conventions. Often, he says, parents will stop by because of “Rocky Horror” and their kids will notice that he also was, for example, in “Teen Beach Movie,” a 2013 Disney film.
“And that engages the 9-year-old group,” Bostwick says. “They say, ‘Oh, you were Big Poppa in ‘Teen Beach Movie,’ and it’s wonderful to be able to talk to two or three generations in the same family for different shows and have them all be engaged with me.”
Given Bostwick’s extensive and eclectic credits, it’d be difficult to avoid multigenerational awareness of his career.
“A guy walks up to me yesterday … and he says, ‘You know what my favorite movie of yours was? It was ‘Project: Metalbeast.’ It’s a low-budget sort of horror kind of thriller that was made years ago. They pull things out of my history that always surprise me.
“ ‘Megaforce’ is another one. I get a lot of “Megaforce’ fans because it was one of those movies that young boys went to with their fathers, so they have these sort of wonderful, warm memories of it being a father-and-son bonding moment when they saw the flying motorcycle.”
More recently, Bostwick has found himself attracted to, as he puts it, “weird, off-the-wall (projects) that let me be something other than what I’m normally cast in.”
Take, for instance, 2012’s “FDR: American Badass!” which posits that FDR’s polio “was brought on by being infected with werewolves, so he spends his whole presidency fighting werewolves,” Bostwick says, laughing. “And it’s hysterical, even though the humor is rude and crude in many ways.”
“I like to surprise myself and, second, I love to surprise any fans or audiences and others who know who I am,” Bostwick says.
He laughs. “And it’s just nice not to have to play lawyers.”
Fox is planning a remake of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for fall, with Curry playing the criminologist narrator.
“I’m really curious to see how they reimagine and reinvent or repurpose the show,” Bostwick says.
Bostwick says he was approached before casting for the TV adaptation began. “They just wanted to know of my interest,” he says. “I said, ‘Yeah, I’m interested,’ but they never got back to me.”
There’s still time for that to change, but Bostwick figures that if any original cast member should be in the remake, it’s Curry. From the start, he says, “I think it really was Tim’s show, and he was the star on so many levels of it.
“It’s his performance that will live forever. We’re just sitting there treading water around him. If it wasn’t for his dynamic genius for bringing Frank-N-Furter to life, I don’t think it would have had the legs it has had.”
Read more from John Przybys at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.