Richard O'Brien

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Richard O'Brien
BornRichard Timothy Smith
(1942-03-25) 25 March 1942 (age 82)
Cheltenham, England
  • Actor
  • writer
  • musician
  • television presenter
  • United Kingdom
  • New Zealand
EducationTauranga Boys' College
Years active1965–present
Notable works
(m. 1971; div. 1979)
Jane Moss
(m. 1983; div. 2006)
Sabrina Graf
(m. 2013)

Richard Timothy Smith (born 25 March 1942),[1][2][3] known professionally as Richard O'Brien, is a British-New Zealand actor, writer, musician, and television presenter. He wrote the musical stage show The Rocky Horror Show in 1973, which has since remained in continuous production. He also co-wrote the screenplay along with director Jim Sharman for the film adaptation, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and appeared on-screen as Riff Raff. The film became an international success and has received a large cult following.[4][5] O'Brien co-wrote the musical Shock Treatment (1981) and appeared in the film as Dr. Cosmo McKinley.

From 1990 to 1993, O'Brien presented the Channel 4 game show The Crystal Maze. He played the voice role of Lawrence Fletcher in the Disney Channel animated series Phineas and Ferb (2007–2015), as well as its two films (2011 and 2020). His other acting credits include Flash Gordon (1980), Robin of Sherwood (1985), Spice World (1997), Ever After (1998), Dungeons & Dragons (2000), and Elvira's Haunted Hills (2001).

After a long and successful career based in the United Kingdom, O'Brien gained dual citizenship with New Zealand in 2011, where he resided in Tauranga.[6] O'Brien identifies himself as third gender and uses he/him pronouns.[7]

Early life[edit]

O'Brien was born Richard Timothy Smith in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. He emigrated with his family to Tauranga, New Zealand, at the age of 10, where his accountant father had purchased a sheep farm. He went to Tauranga Boys' College. It is known also that O'Brien attended Fairfield School in Hamilton, New Zealand in 1952.[8] O'Brien worked as a barber at a barbershop in front of Hamilton's Embassy Theatre. It was at this theatre where O'Brien attended many late-night picture shows and had the idea for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.[9] He returned to England in 1964, after having learned how to ride horses (a skill which provided him with his break into the film industry as a stuntman in Carry On Cowboy)[10] and developing a keen interest in comic books and horror films. He launched his acting career using his mother's maiden name, O'Brien[citation needed] as there was already an actor named Richard Smith.

He says that his upbringing in New Zealand "instilled him with egalitarian ideals that helped him transcend British class restrictions".[11]


To improve his acting skills, O'Brien took method acting classes, and then joined several stage productions as an actor. In 1970, he went into the touring production of Hair for nine months, and spent another nine months in the London production.[12] In the summer of 1972, he met director Jim Sharman who cast him as an Apostle and Leper in the London production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Sharman then cast O'Brien as Willie, the alien in his March 1973 production of Sam Shepard's The Unseen Hand at the Royal Court Theatre Upstairs.[13]

Sharman also helped make O'Brien's draft of a gothic-themed, schlock-horror comic-book fantasy romp into a reality. Sharman suggested changing the working title from They Came from Denton High, and The Rocky Horror Show opened at the Theatre Upstairs in June 1973.[14] Within weeks it had become a box-office hit, moving from the Royal Court to the Classic Cinema, a cinema up for demolition on the King's Road, then to the King's Road Theatre (formerly a cinema known as the Essoldo[15]) and eventually into the West End at the Comedy Theatre.

After seeing the second night's performance of The Rocky Horror Show in the Theatre Upstairs, Jonathan King produced the original cast soundtrack in just over 48 hours during an off-stage weekend, and rushed it out on his UK Records label. He also became a 20% backer with producer Michael White, who put up the remaining 80%.[16]

During this period, O'Brien and his wife Kimi Wong recorded and released pop singles under the name Kimi and Ritz.[17]

Later career[edit]

O'Brien continued writing musicals with arranger Richard Hartley, including: T. Zee (1976), Disaster (1978), The Stripper (1982 – based on the Carter Brown novel and produced in Australia), and Top People (1984). O'Brien and Hartley also provided three songs for the film The Return of Captain Invincible (1983), starring Alan Arkin. O'Brien wrote his one-man revue Disgracefully Yours (1985) singing as Mephistopheles Smith.

O'Brien has appeared in Jubilee (1977), Flash Gordon (1980), Dark City (1998), Ever After (1998) and Dungeons & Dragons (2000), among others. Additionally he guest starred in five episodes in the third series of the HTV dramatisation of Robin of Sherwood, as the corrupt druid Gulnar. A music CD of the songs from Disgracefully Yours entitled Absolute O'Brien was released in 1998.[18]

He became the presenter of UK Channel 4's game show The Crystal Maze in 1990,[19] specialising in sardonic put-downs, occasional eccentricities and playing his harmonica at random intervals. The show ran from 1990 to 1995, with O'Brien presenting the first four series. It was regularly Channel 4's highest-rated programme, reaching a peak of 7 million viewers for the 1993 Christmas special. O'Brien left The Crystal Maze in 1993 after the fourth series; the show was then taken over by Edward Tudor-Pole. After two series without O'Brien, the show was cancelled.[citation needed]

In other roles, O'Brien has conceptualised and played the role of the Child Catcher in the West End theatre production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.[19] He also occasionally performs cabaret-style music and comedy on stages around the world, singing songs from Rocky Horror among others. In 1995, he performed a select number of shows as the devilish charmer Mephistopheles Smith in a musical/comedy show he wrote entitled Disgracefully Yours, to which he later gave permission to be adapted into a musical, first by Eubank Productions for the Kansas City Fringe Fest in 2006, and more recently by Janus Theatre Company for the Edinburgh Fringe 2007, simply entitled Mephistopheles Smith. In late 2005, he appeared (as the spirit of the mirror) in the pantomime version of Snow White, which played at the Milton Keynes Theatre. In the summer of 2006, he played the Child Catcher in the Queen's 80th birthday celebrations at Buckingham Palace.[citation needed]

O'Brien performed in Thank-You for the Music, a 90-minute ABBA documentary for ITV, directed by Martin Koch, who previously directed the musical Mamma Mia![20] The documentary included a remake of the mini musical '"The Girl with the Golden Hair" which ABBA performed during their 1977 world tour and featured on ABBA: The Album (also 1977). The musical was performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre and featured O'Brien, Liz McClarnon and the Dynamos.[20] He also hosted the 1993 Brit Awards.

A patron of the Five Stars Scanner Appeal,[21] which benefits the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital. From 2001 to 2006 he hosted the annual Transfandango,[22] gala gathering of Dearhearts and Trans 'n' Gentle People to raise money for the hospital. This has since been superseded by Richard O'Brien's Halloween Party.[citation needed]

A script for another rumoured sequel entitled Revenge of the Old Queen of Rocky Horror, has been circulated on the web and reproduced on various fan sites, although it has been officially denied as O'Brien's work by his representatives. While he has worked on a screenplay by that title, it was never publicly released. He wrote the lyrics for The Stripper (based on the book by Carter Brown), a musical which had its British premiere at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch (London) on 28 August 2009.[23]

In 2004, members of the Hamilton City Council in New Zealand honoured O'Brien's contribution to the arts with a statue of Riff Raff, the character he played in The Rocky Horror Show, on the site of the former Embassy Cinema.[24]

O'Brien in 2006

In September 2007, he reprised his role as the Child Catcher for the final two weeks of the five year British run of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He then played the role in its Singapore engagement for the month of November, extended to 9 December. Also in December, he visited Hamilton, New Zealand for An Evening With Richard O'Brien, with presenter Mark Sainsbury and director Fiona Jackson.[25]

In December 2008, O'Brien donated his original script Pig in Boots to the Wireless Theatre Company,[26] who converted it into an audio pantomime. The show was recorded live at the Headliners Comedy Club in front of a studio audience with live FX and music. The production was opened by an original interview with O'Brien. In October 2012, O'Brien judged "Stage Fright" with the Wireless Theatre Company as part of the London Horror Festival and performed an acoustic set of Rocky Horror songs.[27]

In March 2012, he gave a performance of song and autobiographical stories, It's Party Time with Richard O'Brien at the Hamilton Founders Theatre to celebrate his 70th birthday. In June 2012, he returned to Hamilton, New Zealand, to appear on stage as Fagin with the Hamilton Operatic Society's production of Oliver! at the Founders Theatre.[28]

O'Brien appeared in 2015 in The Rocky Horror Show in the West End in a limited 11-performance run.[29]

In September 2016 O'Brien opened the second stage Embassy Park in Hamilton together with Mayor Julie Hardaker.[30] In October 2016, he appeared as the Crystal Maze Computer in a one-off Celebrity Crystal Maze episode for the charity 'Stand Up To Cancer' on Channel 4.[31]

Personal life[edit]

In a 2009 interview, O'Brien spoke about an ongoing struggle to reconcile cultural gender roles and described himself as transgender or "of a third gender".[10] O'Brien stated, "There is a continuum between male and female. Some are hard-wired one way or another, I'm in between."[32] He expounded on this in a 2013 interview where he talked about using oestrogen for the previous decade, and that he views himself as 70% male and 30% female.[33] In 2017, O'Brien caused controversy when he said that he supported the statements of Germaine Greer and Barry Humphries that transgender women are not real women. He offered his sympathy to the trans community.[34] In a 2020 interview with The Guardian, O'Brien was reported as stating: "I think anybody who decides to take the huge step with a sex change deserves encouragement and a thumbs-up. As long as they're happy and fulfilled, I applaud them to my very last day. But you can't ever become a natural woman".[10]

In June 2010, the media reported that O'Brien had been denied New Zealand citizenship owing to his being too old under the country's immigration criteria. He commented, "They build a statue of me and celebrate me as a New Zealander, but I have to go on my knees and do all sorts of things, and I'm probably too old."[35] O'Brien's application appeared to garner public support and the decision was later overturned on appeal.[35] In August 2010, New Zealand's Dominion Post reported that O'Brien would be allowed residency and possibly citizenship as an "exceptional" case.[36] According to the Waikato Times, he was officially registered as a New Zealand citizen on 14 December 2011.[6]

On 16 August 2010, he appeared on an episode of Celebrity Cash in the Attic, where he donated the takings from his sale of memorabilia to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, Manchester.

O'Brien has been married three times and has three children. He and actress Kimi Wong were married on 4 December 1971 and had a son Linus in May 1972. He has a son and daughter from his second marriage to designer Jane Moss.

On 7 July 2012, aged 70, he proposed to Sabrina Graf, aged 35, a native of Germany, whom he had been dating for three years.[37] They married on 6 April 2013 at their home in Katikati, Bay of Plenty.[38][39]



Year Title Role Notes
1965 Carry On Cowboy Stunt Performer
1966 The Fighting Prince of Donegal
1967 Casino Royale
1971 Zee and Co. Party guest
1972 Four Dimensions of Greta Degenerate
1975 The Rocky Horror Picture Show Riff Raff Also co-writer and composer
1977 Jubilee John Dee
The Contraption The Man Short film
1978 The Odd Job Batch
1980 Flash Gordon Fico
1981 Shock Treatment Dr. Cosmo McKinley Also co-writer and composer
The Rocky Horror Treatment Himself Documentary
1983 Digital Dreams Partige the Surrey Servant Also writer
1985 Revolution Lord Hampton
1989 The Wolves of Willoughby Chase James
1997 Spice World Damien
1998 Ever After Pierre Le Pieu
Dark City Mr. Hand
2000 Dungeons & Dragons Xilus
The Mumbo Jumbo Archie
2001 Elvira's Haunted Hills Lord Vladimere Hellsubus
2009 Night Train Mrs Froy
Tales of the Fourth Dimension Time Master
2010 Jackboots on Whitehall Heinrich Himmler (voice)
2011 Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension Lawrence Fletcher (voice)
The British Guide to Showing Off Himself Documentary
2013 Justin and the Knights of Valour Innkeeper / Baker (voice)
The Last Impresario Himself
2016 Manor Hunt Ball Uncle Felix
2017 The Stolen Mr. Russell
2020 Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Candace Against the Universe Lawrence Fletcher (voice)


Year Title Role Notes
1975 Caribe General Desmond 1 episode
1977 Playhouse Dave Head
Premiere Reporter Also writer for 1 episode
1979 The Dick Francis Thriller: The Racing Game Cowboy 1 episode
1980 The Kids Who Knew Too Much Commissioner Avery Television film
1985 Robin of Sherwood Gulnar Recurring role
1986 Roland Rat: The Series Himself Special guest, episode 8
1989 Rushton's Illustrated 5 episodes
1990-93, 2016 The Crystal Maze Presenter
1991 Mystery Train
1993 Full Stretch Himself 2 episodes
1994 The Ink Thief The Ink Thief 1 series
1995 The Detectives Dr. Phibes / Police Mortician 2 episodes
The Car's the Star Silver Cloud Owner 1 episode
1998 Murder Call Season 2, episodes 10-11: “Deadline (parts 1 & 2)”
2006 The Ten Commandments Anander 2 episodes
2007 Urban Gothic Thin Man 1 episode
The Dame Edna Treatment Himself
2007–present Phineas and Ferb Lawrence Fletcher (voice)
2008 Richard O'Brien's Dead Strange Presenter Documentary series
2010 Celebrity Cash in the Attic Himself For charity
2011 Mongrels Zombie Dog (voice) Series 2, episode 2
2015 DNA Detectives Presenter 1 series
2017 The Barefoot Bandits Varney (voice)
2018 Enchantimals Lawrence (voice) Series 3, episode 1
2020 Midnight Movie Macabre Himself 1 episode

Video games[edit]

Year Title Role
1999 Rocky Interactive Horror Show The Game Devil
2006 Carry On Quizzing Presenter
2007 Robin Hood's Quest Sheriff of Nottingham


Year Title Role Notes
1969 Gulliver's Travels Various Mermaid Theatre
1970 Hair Woof Daschund UK tour
1972 Jesus Christ Superstar Apostle / Leper West End[40]
1973 The Unseen Hand Willie The Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
The Rocky Horror Show Riff Raff Also writer and composer

The Royal Court Theatre Upstairs

1975 Broadway, Belasco Theatre, New York
And They Used to Star In Movies Mickey Mouse Soho Theatre
The Tooth of Crime Crow The Royal Court Theatre
1976 T. Zee and the Lost Race Various Also writer and composer

The Royal Court Theatre Upstairs

1986 Little Shop of Horrors Mushnick London University Theatre
The News Killer Windmill Theatre
1996 Disgracefully Yours Mephistopheles Smith Also writer

Comedy Theatre London

The Bottom Line, New York City

2004–2005, 2007 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Child Catcher West End[40]
2006 Snow White Mirror Milton Keynes Theatre
The Rocky Horror Tribute Show Himself The Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
Dirty Dancing Bobbie West End
2009 The Stripper Mr. Arkwright Also writer and composer

Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch

2012 Oliver! Fagin Hamilton Founders Theatre
It's Party Time with Richard O'Brien Himself
2015 Rocky Horror Show Live Narrator West End
Shock Treatment Writer, producer and composer

King's Head Theatre in Islington, London



  • "Merry Christmas Baby" (Kimi and Ritz) (1973)
  • "Eddie" (Richard O'Brien) (1973)
  • "Merry Christmas Baby (DJ version)" (Kimi and Ritz) – Epic Records (1974)
  • "I was in love with Danny (but the crowd was in love with Dean)" (Kimi and Ritz) (1974)
  • "Pseud's Corner" (Richard O'Brien) (1975)
  • "Liebesträume" (Franz Liszt/Richard O'Brien) (performed by Kimi and Ritz) (1975)
  • "There's a Light" (Kimi and Ritz) (1975)


Soundtracks and cast recordings[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]




  1. ^ "Rocky Horror's Richard O'Brien on ageing, Mick Jagger and finding love later in life". Stuff. 2 November 2017. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  2. ^ BBC. "Richard O'Brien (born 1942)". Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  3. ^ Wayback Machine. "Richard O'Brien - 1942-". Archived from the original on 9 February 2023. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  4. ^ "Culture Re-View: How did 'Rocky Horror' become such a cult favourite?". euronews. 14 August 2023. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  5. ^ "How Rocky Horror Became a Cinematic Institution". Time. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 24 October 2023.
  6. ^ a b Swainson, Richard (10 January 2012). "A drink with a hometown hero". Waikato Times. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  7. ^ Fidgen, Jo (18 March 2013). "Richard O'Brien: 'I'm 70% man'". BBC News. Retrieved 20 February 2021.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c Gilbey, Ryan (5 November 2020). "Rocky Horror's Richard O'Brien: I should be dead. I've had an excessive lifestyle". The Guardian.
  11. ^ "From Rocky Horror to Katikati - Richard O'Brien speaks". NZ Herald. 14 March 2017. Archived from the original on 17 October 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2023 – via
  12. ^ "Richard O'Brien". Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  13. ^ Shewey, Don (1997), Sam Shepard, Da Capo, p. 87, ISBN 9780306807701, retrieved 10 March 2016
  14. ^ Harding, James (1987). The Rocky Horror Show Book. Sidgwick & Jackson. pp. 22–23.
  15. ^ Dave, Walker (15 March 2018). "A King's Road Classic". The Library Time Machine.
  16. ^ Chalmers, Robert (22 April 2012). "Jonathan King: 'The only apology I have is to say that I was good at seduction'". The Independent on Sunday. London, UK. Archived from the original on 4 December 2017. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  17. ^ O'Bonzo, Andrew (May 2000), A Talk with Richard O'Brien's music publisher, Andy Leighton, Crazed Imaginations, pp. 12–15
  18. ^ "Absolute O'Brien CD by Richard O'Brien (1999)". Archived from the original on 18 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  19. ^ a b Stadlin, Matthew (14 September 2015). "Richard O'Brien interview: 'There's a lot of male in me – and a lot of girl as well'". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  20. ^ a b "News: Mamma Mia Lil!". Lil McClarnon official fansite. 24 October 2006. Archived from the original on 30 November 2006. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  21. ^ "Five Stars – Home". 20 June 2009. Archived from the original on 24 July 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
  22. ^ "Transfandango home page". Archived from the original on 5 April 2009. Retrieved 24 July 2009.
  23. ^ "An Interview with Richard O'Brien". Archived from the original on 29 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  24. ^ "The Embassy - Home - Riff Raff Statue > Victoria Street > Hamilton". Archived from the original on 18 September 2014.
  25. ^ "An Evening With Richard O'Brien". Eventfinda. 16 December 2007. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  26. ^ The Wireless Theatre Company Archived 17 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ Rocky Horror songs Archived 18 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Milroy, Yvonne (10 May 2012). "Richard O'Brien joins 'Oliver!' rehearsals". Archived from the original on 14 November 2012. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  29. ^ Creator Richard O'Brien To Star In The Rocky Horror Show Limited Run At Playhouse Theatre Archived 11 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine,, 25 August 2015.
  30. ^ "Second stage of Hamilton's Embassy Park unveiled tonight". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  31. ^ "Richard O'Brien IS in the new Crystal Maze". Digital Spy. 11 October 2016. Archived from the original on 13 June 2017. Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  32. ^ "Society should not dictate gender". 18 August 2009. Archived from the original on 27 February 2012.
  33. ^ Fidgen, Jo (18 March 2013). "Richard O'Brien: 'I'm 70% man'". BBC News. Archived from the original on 19 March 2013. Retrieved 18 March 2013.
  34. ^ Duffy, Nick (8 March 2016). "Rocky Horror star Richard O'Brien: Trans women can't be women". Pink News. Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  35. ^ a b "Cult icon denied retirement in Bay". Bay of Plenty Times. 5 June 2010. Archived from the original on 16 June 2018. Retrieved 15 June 2018.
  36. ^ Hunt, Tom (2 August 2010). "Rocky Horror creator to be granted NZ residency". The Dominion Post. Archived from the original on 14 June 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  37. ^ Edwards, Natalie (19 January 2013). "Love at the double: Crystal Maze star Richard O'Brien, 70, to marry his girlfriend, 35". Mirror UK. Archived from the original on 10 August 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  38. ^ "Richard O'Brien's white wedding". Bay of Plenty Times. 8 April 2013. Archived from the original on 13 December 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  39. ^ "Rocky Horror star marries". Sunlive. 7 April 2013. Archived from the original on 26 August 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  40. ^ a b "Richard O'Brien Theatre Credits, News, Bio and Photos". Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  41. ^ Aschenneller, Mabel (February 2009). "Queer Film Award at the International Film Festival Berlin" (PDF) (Press release) (Digital ed.). Teddy Award. Berlin International Film Festival. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 March 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  42. ^ "2000 Gaylactic Spectrum Awards". Gaylactic Spectrum Award Foundation. 2008. Archived from the original on 14 July 2015. Retrieved 13 November 2008.
  43. ^ "Richard O'Brien". 19 November 2019. Retrieved 29 May 2020.
  44. ^ 2001 Tony Awards, accessed 28 April 2011 Archived 22 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]