If the team behind Fox’s remake of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was worried about the reception when it premieres this fall, Thursday night’s Comic-Con screening may have quelled their worries.
“Our biggest fear went away,” said executive producer Lou Adler, who was behind the 1975 cult hit, following a preview of a rough cut of the first 25 minutes. “But, the idea that we did go in [with] was to never lose the fact that the fans have carried this film for 40 years and to pay tribute to them in every way that we could.”
“All I wanted to do was to continue to celebrate and to have Tim Curry come back and be a part of this,” added director Kenny Ortega, who credited the cast -- led by Laverne Cox, Victoria Justice, Ryan McCartan, Adam Lambert and Christina Milian -- for bringing the beloved characters to life.
But, as Ortega said, it was crucial for the new cast to “fill their own shoes” and not step into other people’s when it came to taking on the film’s iconic roles. Though he didn’t name names, it was clear Ortega was referring to the original stars, which included Curry, Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick.
The panelists singled out Cox for her standout performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, which audience members got to see in action. “We didn’t have a B plan,” Ortega said of Cox, adding that the Orange is the New Black star has “wanted to do this project ever since she was a young person.”
Curry was absent from the panel, but his presence was certainly felt. Adler revealed that the iconic actor saw the film for the first time four days ago. “He liked everything about it. He was really happy that we did it,” he shared.
As for the racy and subversive content that is featured prominently in Rocky Horror, Justice -- who began her career as a Nickelodeon and Disney Channel star -- joked about her more innocent days as an actress.
“The Nickelodeon chapter of my life has closed,” Justice said with a laugh. “I remember when I screen-tested, I was singing with a bunch of Brads and Rockys. I had to crawl over a lot of oiled-up men and sing ‘Touch Me’!”
McCartan, who began his career in a similar fashion, admitted that his auditions “looked like me molesting myself on the couch in front of Kenny Ortega and Lou Adler!”
Adler spoke of why now was the right time to bring Rocky Horror back to life, with the hope of introducing it to a brand new audience. (It’s also ambitious; the two-hour event will feature 53 minutes of music.)
“The reason I thought about television is because I thought there’s a lot of Brads and Janets that don’t go to midnight theater,” Adler explained, noting that doing it as a live TV production was never an option. “I just thought if we could bring it to them … not HBO, just television, we could show them what they should know.”
When an audience member asked what they hope the new iteration of Rocky Horror would do for the LGBT community today, Ortega was optimistic it would bring awareness and be transformative.
“As a gay man, it’s really, really important to me that I always have my eye on my community and I’m doing my part to strengthen [that community],” he said. “This is about liberation and acceptance about yourself and transition and so many other things.”
If the first 25 minutes are any indication, Rocky Horror fans are in for a real treat.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show premieres Oct. 20 on Fox.