Interview with Barry Bostwick

Barry Bostwick is known best for his role of Brad Majors in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”.  The film has become timeless over the years and it is been ranked as one of the biggest cult classics.  Besides “Rocky Horror”, Barry is also known for his role of the mayor Randall Winston in the TV series “Spin City”. He is currently appearing in the TV series “Cougar Town”.  Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Barry about “Rocky Horror”, his TV work and also his busy plans for 2012.

Mike Gencarelli: How does it feel – because of “Rocky Horror” – to be known as an “asshole” for the past 37 years?
Barry Bostwick: It’s an honor to be an asshole! In fact my father, when he was alive, used to say “I am the father of Asshole!” He was very proud of the fact that I was asshole. He was a Rotary member because he was in business. He used to get fined a lot. Apparently the Rotary Club does funny things and they would fine the members if they thought something funny. Every time “Rocky Horror” was on television at Halloween my father lost money. (laughs) He was o.k. with it.

MG: Which cut of “Rocky Horror” do you prefer: the UK version that includes the song “Super Heroes” or the US version that cuts it?
BB: I like it complete. I like it with “Once in a While.” (NOTE: “Once in a While” was a song sung by Mr. Bostwick’s character, Brad Majors, in the original theater musical. For fans of the film, it would occur immediately after Brad has been seduced by Frank-n-Furter. The song was recorded for the film but was cut before it was released. In 1995, for the film’s 20th anniversary, the footage was finally shown. “Super Heroes” is a song that appears at the end of the film in the British theatrical version. The song comes immediately after the house lifts off. The footage was cut from the American version but the song itself was included on the American soundtrack album). It was one of those bizarre, explanatory kind of scenes…I’m not quite sure why they cut it in the first place. I understood why they cut it after my “thing” with Frank-n-Furter because it just slowed the movie down. It was the wrong time for somebody to sit down, smoke a cigarette and sing a ballad.

MG: Movie remakes have become quite prevalent within the past decade or so. If “Rocky Horror” were to be remade, do you think it would resonate with audiences as much as the original 1975 version did?
BB: Well, it’s a fantasy film. It’s a comedy. It’s like the movie “42nd Street.” Highlighting old musicals. And it’s also an old musical from its time. And the spoofiness of it makes it timeless. There’s really nothing you could update. I don’t think anyone should try to re-film it. It would be like doing the black version of “The Rocky Horror” show…like “The Wiz” from “The Wizard of Oz.” I don’t know how you’d do it. You basically have to do the show and it’s already been done. I don’t even like it when it’s done on stage now because the audience feels they can talk back to the actors on stage. To me that crosses the line of entertainment. I can understand that in a movie theatre because it’s “their” thing. But if you pay a hundred bucks for a seat at the theater you don’t want to be interrupted by some kids trying to out-shout the people on stage. I also don’t think the show works very well on stage. There’s a real dead part about two-thirds of the way through. I’ve seen it a couple of times on stage and it doesn’t really work. It’s a one-off. It’s a bright, colorful, kitschy…it’s a great movie of it’s time. I actually thinks it’s a really good movie. Not just a sensation…not something that was found and brought out of the gutter. It was actually a very well made movie that didn’t happen to click because of the subject matter when it came out. It was certainly ahead of it’s time. But if you ever go watch it without the audience participation I think you’ll see what a tight film it is.

MG: Your career has included a wide variety of television work. Is there any particular project that stands out for you and is there any one behind-the-scenes story that you never grow tired of telling?
BB: I don’t have a lot of “behind the scenes” stories.  I don’t have a great memory for them.  I sort of just do the projects and forget them.  But there is one – – I did a mini series called “George Washington” in the early 1980s and people still come up to me and say they found it very influential.  Somebody stopped me yesterday while I was getting my car repaired.  He said, “you know, you were responsible for me teaching history at the high school level.”  And he explained that he had been a kid in a high school class where the teacher played all of the mini-series.  She made it so come alive for him – the movie and the discussions afterwards – that he decided to become a history teacher.  What an honor it is to be a part of that mans life.  It happens all the time to me.  People from a certain generation will come up to me and say how much they appreciated the ingenuity and the influence of that film.

MG: “2010: Moby Dick” was a fun film.  Talk about playing Captain Ahab.
BB: (laughs) That was one of those ten day jobs where I did it just to see if I could do it.  I knew there would be elements of the film that would be deathly under-produced and that the special effects weren’t gong to be that great, but the character was so interesting to me.  He was so off the charts.  He was so larger then life.  It was challenging to run the line between this very classical, archaic character and an actual modern day person who could run a submarine – someone who could have actually gotten the job.  It was a tightrope act for me.  In one hand, he’s so over the top and so nuts.  In the other hand, not having someone just shoot me in the head and say “he’s in the wrong place”…..(laughs).  One story about that movie.  You know the harpoon gun at the end?  Two days earlier they handed it to me and said, “here’s your harpoon gun.”  It was some bullshit little spear gun that they’d gotten at some yard sale.  And I said, “what are you talking about…this guys has to go fight a god damned WHALE!”  So I went home and in two days I made that gun.  I didn’t want to be embarrassed by the fact that they only had a dollar and a quarter, you know, to make that movie.  I still have that gun mounted in my workshop.  I felt the gun had to be something reflective of the character…much larger then life.   

MG: You’ll be playing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the forthcoming “FDR: American Badass!”. Given the title alone, we’re curious about this one. Care to share?
BB:  That movie was fun!  I haven’t seen the whole thing but the movie is very subversive.  Somebody compared it to the old “Batman” television series.  Every character says “fuck” at least three times in every scene.  If you look at the teasers on YouTube, one begins “another fucking moment from another fucking blah.”  I’ve got a sixteen year old son and a fifteen year old daughter and I’ve been trying to teach them not to say the word “fuck” and they tell me “well everybody says it.”  It doesn’t really have any meaning anymore.  I fought with them for years on it.  Then I do this movie where every other word is “fuck.”  They haven’t seen the film yet but I’m not sure what my argument is going to be from this day forward.

MG: Any plans to return as Roger Frank on “Cougar Town” this year?
BB:  I did one two weeks ago and I’m supposed to do one this week.  I think it’s the last episode of the season. They had their order cut to 17 or 18 shows this season.  I’m just waiting to get a phone call to find out when I go back to work.  I’ve got one more episode.  My character is running for mayor…maybe they’ll wrap that story line up before the season is over.

MG: What else do you have planned for 2012?
BB:  I have three or four films that are about to be released…they’re playing the circuit.  One is called “Finding Joy,” which is a sweet movie.  I play a bizarre, very agoraphobic guy who kills people!  I think it’s one of the best films I’ve ever made.  It’s just being distributed now and playing festivals.  If you have a chance to find it somewhere please see it. It’s a dark, “Coen-esque” comedy.  Then I have another one called “Home Run Showdown,” which is a kids movie about Little League baseball.  I enjoy working with the younger talent coming up.  And I enjoy encouraging their work if I like it.  If I can get a small film into festivals by attaching my name to it, than I’m happy to do it.  I’ve also got a pilot coming out on TNT tentatively titled “BFF,” which would star Julie Haggerty and myself.  We play the parents of a couple of kids in their mid 30s who still live at home, while his best friend from high school moves back to the small town to raise his family in the small town environment.  Trying to recapture the youth he had.  Once again, I’m playing odd and bizarre.  Very odd and bizarre this year!

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