“Contrary to popular belief, I don’t just play dreadful old villains.” — Tim Curry
Whether you dig comedies or musicals or horror, if you’re of a certain age and love cinema, then you feel a personal connection to Tim Curry. With more than 240 credits on screens large and small, Curry performances are as endearing as they are indelible. Few actors can boast of characters as beloved today as they were in, say, 1975. But Curry is among those chosen few. And he’s not limited to one. In fact, one could make the argument that any of the five performances that made this week’s cut were worthy of the top spot.
5 — LONG JOHN SILVER / MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND (1996)
Richard Pryor, Carol Burnett, Steve Martin, Rita Moreno, Charles Grodin — Tim muthafuckin’ Curry. It takes a special performer to stand out in cast full of Muppets. And be scary while doing it. At no point are you like “yeah, this is a movie for kids” with Curry’s take. He was a snarling, ferocious boat captain who just happens to be interacting with Muppets like they were merely cats on his crew. Of course, no pirate picture is complete without a hearty, hair-on-the-back-of-you-neck-standing-up laugh. And you know as well as I that no one — and I mean no one — has ever possessed a more sinister laugh.
4 — WADSWORTH / CLUE (1985)
So begins something of a theme, kids: what happens when you sprinkle some Curry into one of the finest ensemble casts ever assembled? Delciousness. Our boy was charming, dastardly, and laugh-out-loud funny. Though it hasn’t aged well (and I despise the laugh’s target), Curry’s wide-eyed-turn-the-page reaction to that thing Michael McKean said? Chef’s kiss. “BUT LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO THE COOK!” But seriously, I say “did none of you deduce?” to this day. Also, have we ever bore witness to more talent on a single screen than when Curry and Madeline Kahn shared a scene together?
3 — DARKNESS / LEGEND (1985)
What happens when Ridley Scott decides to direct a fantasy picture with Rob Bottin’s particular brand of makeup effects magic and you drop a dash of Curry for flavor? The muthafuckin’ Darkness, that’s what. When you put the smarm and charm of Curry under those horns — with the hooves and the eyes…I mean, damn. You get a LOOK. And to channel Kevin Peter Hall, you get a can’-t-take-my-eyes-off-of-him performance along with it. Speaking of look, why Mia Sara didn’t take one glance at endless snacks and a killer closet whilst co-habitating with a sexy beast and simply declare “home, sweet home” will remain a mystery forever.
2 — PENNYWISE / IT (1990)
That brief moment in time when ABC would parade a Stephen King miniseries over the airwaves every few years was beyond glorious, but only one of them knocked us on our collective ass — IT. Our man described the balloon-toting bastard Pennywise as “irredeemable,” which was true on paper, but Curry found a way to fill the screen with equal parts fascination and fright. Think of it this way: Curry’s performance gave an entire generation coulrophobia, and we still adore that character like no other before or since — sorry, Bill Skarsgard.
1 — FRANK-N-FURTER — A SCIENTIEST / THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975)
There are two things I’ll never forget about the first time I saw Rocky Horror:
First, watching Curry throw his head back with absolute abandon during “I Can Make You a Man” and then STR-UT-TING toward the camera with what can only be called confidence personified. Curry was locked in and ALL-in. And second, about the time Frank was kissing hands and dropping echante with a quick, knowing glance toward at the camera, was the precise moment I finally understood why everyone on the planet wanted to fuck Tim Curry. Myself included.
Oh, and I aspire to the level of petty that serves Meat Loaf at the dinner party.
A standout performance despite a for-all-time ensemble cast. One of the finest fantasy villains to grace the silver screen. Taking what may be Stephen King’s most terrifying creation and making it more terrifying. And owning every single moment of the most marvelous musical.
Tim Curry once said “I’m not a conventional leading man at all and have no wish to be.”
I feel confident speaking for everyone when I say thank fuck for that!
PREVIOUSLY ON QQ:
WHY THE FIRM IS HORROR’S BEST ENSEMBLE EVER