Friday, 11 October 2013

It's just a jump to the left... An interview with Little Nell

It was raining hard, the drive from Ohio was a long one and I knew I was lost, what the hell was I going to do now?... Suddenly I saw it,  a castle looming in front of me. I could hear music and hysterical laughter coming from inside... I had to see what was going on...oh,  and to ask directions.

tentatively approached the door, the music was booming and the castle looked intimidating. I knocked on the door... Knock... Knock... Knock...

After a few seconds the music and laughter stopped and the door slowly creaked open.  crrrrrreeeeeaaaakkkkkk.....

Then standing there before me was a red headed vision in a gold spangled top hat and matching jacket, tapping and squealing with raucous laughter she ushered me in... A whole host of odd characters stood before me, a balding man hunched over in a mourning suit, a wild haired maid, an elderly gentleman in a wheel chair, a biker, a buff godlike man in nothing but skimpy golden briefs, a couple who looked as lost as I was and strangely attractive man in a basque and suspenders.... I took a breath and stepped back... I knew where I was, I was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I was loving every minute of it. 

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a 1975 British musical comedy horror film and adaptation of Richard O'Brien's stage play 'The Rocky Horror Show'. Directed by Jim Sharman and O'Brien, the production is a humerous tribute to the horror B movies and science fiction movies of the late '40s through to the early '70s. It introduces Tim Curry and Susan Sarandon along with cast members from the origional Kings Road, including Nell and has become a cult legend and is still as popular today as it ever was.... If you haven't seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show... Shame on you...

The red head, Columbia by character, Nell Campbell by name, Little Nell to her friends grabbed me and dragged me off... I started to ask her some questions... 

How did you land the role, is it true you were spotted when you busked as a tap dancer? Do you know of anyone else who was up for the part?
"Jim Sharman the director had met me briefly in Australia.  He, R. O;B and Richard Hartley, musical director, came to the cafe where I was a soda jerk and  used tap dance and sing along to 1930's and 40's music to as I worked and delivered the sodas etc."

Had you heard of the script before you auditioned? Did you know what you were letting yourself in for?
"No to both.  No one knew the show would gather a cult following."
So you didn't have an inkling?
"No one ever does.  eg Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind."  

Ahhh... so how was the part described to you? In fact how was the who thing described to you?? 
"I probably said yes to the part when offered before I knew a thing as I would have said yes to any role.  I was v young and desperate to be an actress.  They played me a couple of songs from the show in the cafe I seem to remember and they sounded great."

I heard that when you first came to the Uk from Australia you had a market stall in Kensington Market, next to Freddie Mercury, is this true? If so what was he like?
"Freddie a sweetie pie.  He told me he was in a band and I thought, yeah, well, you're working in a market so the band obviously not doing that well. We would have a laugh as he sold his groovy platform boots.   I warned him that if he ate so much as a donut his trousers would split.  Good lord they were tight." 

I'm sure Richard O'Brien must have had a preconceived idea of who Columbia was? Did he give you much encouragement and direction or did he let you create her?
"Our characters followed the script but we each made of them what we wanted encouraged by Jim Sharman." 

And did the character change  in anyway after you were cast?
"Richard O'Brien put the tap dance in Time Warp to accommodate my gifts in that area, the rest I made up myself. "

You had such an iconic look for Columbia, did you have your hair styled to create her, or was that your actual cut and colour?
"That was how I wore my hair then and same colour."

And what was it like acting alongside the creator of Rocky Horror? During the production of the film was Richard O'Brien content to just be an actor and let Jim Sharman get on with it?
"Richard was great fun and it was 90 min musical performed in a tiny 60 seat theatre and we all got on well so it was a fun ride.  No one had a clue what it was the beginning of.   I think R O"B trusted Jim to do it his way."  

And what was it like switching from stage to screen? 
"If you mean in the role no different other than my make up a lot tamer in the film than the stage show."
So what do you prefer?
"Love both.  The key is that it is a 90 min all lean no fat well written show with great songs.  It holds up as well today as it did opening night.  It is a classic because it is so good."

You worked with such a great cast, how did you react when you found out that your love interest in the film would be the one and only Meat Loaf?   
"None of us had heard of Meatloaf then. 
And what was he like to work alongside?
He had a personality to match his size and voice and we all adored him.  It was a very happy cast."

Tim Curry was and still is such a dominating figure, was he really as manic as he seemed?
"Good lord no.  Tim is a calm, v intelligent, witty charmer." 

There are so many happening every year, but do you attend many of the sing a long or fan functions?
"When invited I appear at conventions"

When was the last time you quoted the film in daily life? (There's no way in hell I could ever say the word 'Handy Man' without effecting a Curry-
esque drawl!)  or sang one of the songs? Or even do the TimeWarp at a party?
"I don't quote it so much as others bring it up.  I never mind."

Talking of Rocky Horror functions, you must have seen some fabulous and some shocking 'Nells' in your time... What was the most memorable?
"They come in all ages, sexes and sizes and I love 'em all.  A fan recently told me that she was only dressed as Magenta because she couldn't afford to make my costume.  The fans all make their own and I am so impressed at the time, effort and now money they put into it.  I am always thrilled at how much pleasure the film has given people."    

Why do you think the film has stood the test of time?
"Because the script and songs are so good, it is funny and clever and because it was written as a 50's pastiche it has never aged."

And lastly 18, would you like to do the TimeWarp again?
"But of course." 

And with a jump to the left, she was gone and I was in my car on the highway... And the rain had stopped....................................................................................

And if you fancy singing along, check out