News that FOX was to remake The Rocky Horror Picture Show was met with mixed reactions, but primarily with concern from fans of the cult classic, who feared that Richard O’Brien’s rock musical might not be treated with the respect it deserved. Subsequent casting announcements also raised a few eyebrows; while the inclusion of Adam Lambert as Eddie was widely viewed as a positive thing, there were those who wished he had been in contention for the leading role of Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the transvestite scientist from another planet who creates the man of his dreams for his own pleasure.
Instead, the main role went to Laverne Cox, best known for her turn as Sophia in Orange is the New Black. Rocky Horror will mark the transgender actress’ professional musical debut – and ahead of the show airing in the Fall, FOX have released the first look image of Cox as Frank-N-Furter.
Still in the traditional fishnets, heels and leather basque, Cox notes that her look is different to that of the actor who played the role in the 1975 Rocky Horror Picture Show movie, Tim Curry, citing the late David Bowie as inspiration for costume designer, Ivey Long, during an interview that she conducted with EW:
“We were on set and a reporter saw me and said I looked like the love child of Grace Jones and David Bowie. I said ‘That’s exactly right.’ I think we mix up the look more than they did in the original. It’s inspired by the original but it’s really our own take. It’s way more elaborate and couture. [Director] Kenny Ortega had this vision that Frank was at this old theater and found these old burlesque costumes and is, like, using them and wearing them now but has altered them a bit.”
Director Kenny Ortega has a strong TV musical pedigree, having directed High School Musical as well as another Disney Channel original movie, Descendants. The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event will also star Victoria Justice as Janet, Ryan McCartan as Brad, Reeve Carney as Riff-Raff, and Christina Millan as Magenta. Curry will also make a cameo as the Narrator. EW debuted the first image of Cox as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, which you can check out below.
Also shown in the picture above is Ben Vereen as Dr. Scott, whose costume also bears a resemblance to the original movie and stage character’s outfit, albeit his wheelchair seems rather more advanced. The inspiration and nod to the original movie is clear, and Cox is right; the costumes are more elaborate, most likely because FOX has a much larger budget for this remake than O’Brien had when the original movie was made in 1975. Then, the entire costume budget was a measly $1600, meaning O’Brien also reused many of the costumes from the original Rocky Horror Picture Show stage production.
Of course, the undeniable difference here is that Cox is a female playing a male role. Her femininity is clear, whereas when Curry played the role, his masculinity coupled with Frank’s gender and sexual fluidity is what defined the character, and what has created such an iconic central role in subsequent stage productions.
“I get tweets from people, ‘Please don’t f— up Rocky Horror Picture Show!’ ” Cox says. Well, that’s to be expected when you take on a cult classic and alter the gender of the actor playing the lead role. There are certainly those out there who will welcome the idea of a woman playing a male role. Indeed, all-female productions of Shakespeare’s plays have been very well received on stage in recent months. But there are also those to whom The Rocky Horror Picture Show means much more than just a fun rock musical. For many, it has helped them define and shape who they are, given them the courage to truly be themselves.
As a result, the show and film is something they hold incredibly dear, and so it is understandable that this reimagining is being met with nervous skepticism. Time will tell if Fox’s Rocky Horror will be hailed as a great re-telling, or if we’ll all be doing the Time Warp back to 1975 to watch the original.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show Event will air on FOX in the Fall.