Susan Sarandon has disclosed how nervous and phobic about singing she was when auditioning for her Janet Weiss role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Susan Sarandon has disclosed she was nervous auditioning for her role as Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Sarandon became famous and her career took off after playing Janet in the 1975 movie, which maintains a massive cult following 46 years after its release. As well as Sarandon, the movie also featured Barry Boswick as Brad, Janet’s fiancé, Meat Loaf as Eddie, Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter, and Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff. O’Brien wrote the original stage play from which the movie was adapted. Sarandon has taken on other iconic roles down the years, including Thelma in Thelma and Louise, now in development to be turned into a Broadway musical.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show began its life in 1973 as a musical play riffing on B-movies, put on in a little studio above London’s Royal Court Theatre. When it was turned into a movie, it was considered a flop at the time of its release in 1975 and critics did not treat it kindly. Despite this, the movie has run continuously in theaters worldwide ever since, grossing in excess of $140 million as the years have gone by. With themes of revolution, defiance, and sexual liberation, as well as many daring outfits on display, the movie became much-loved in particular by the LGBT+ community. The Rocky Horror Picture Show was remade as a TV movie in 2016, to mixed reviews.
In an interview with THR, Sarandon recalls how she hadn’t planned to audition for what would become one of her best-known roles. The actress reveals that she just happened upon the audition and they asked her to read for the part. This impromptu moment, coupled with the other talent present at the audition, prompted Sarandon to be wracked with nerves.
Well, a friend of mine was in the stage show in L.A., so I knew Tim Curry. And one day, I went by, just to say hi, when they happened to be casting. And they asked me to read, because nobody had made Janet very funny, but they were all much better singers. And so, I said, “No, I can’t really sing. Actually, I’m kind of phobic about singing.” And they said, “Well, can you sing ‘Happy Birthday’?” So I actually went against my better judgement, thinking that maybe I would finally get over this phobia that I had about singing out loud, because I realized it was just all ego. And eventually, I did the recording session and I kind of got somewhat over it. But it was just a fluke that I did get cast.
From an unplanned rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ at the audition, Sarandon went on to record four songs for The Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack. These included the one most associated with her character of Janet, ‘Touch-a-Touch-a-Touch Me’, as well as ‘Dammit Janet’, ‘Over at the Frankenstein Place’ and ‘Super Heroes.’ The dialogue and songs, most notably ‘The Time Warp,’ invite energetic and enthusiastic audience participation throughout the movie and many people go to see it dressed up as their favorite characters. A theater in Portland, OR, screened The Rocky Horror Show to an empty room for 54 weeks during the lockdowns that kept audiences at home during the pandemic, ensuring its continuous run was unbroken.
Fans of The Rocky Horror Show generally love Susan Sarandon’s performance, including her singing, as the young woman whose misfortune or liberation comes from knocking at the door of Frank N Furter’s home one stormy night. Sarandon did not go on to sing in any other musicals, although her acting career went from strength to strength. To date, she has received nine Golden Globe Awards, six Primetime Emmy Awards, a BAFTA Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and an Academy Award. Most recently, she joined the voice cast of Marvel and SiriusXM’s Wastelanders: Old Man Star-Lord podcast as Black Widow. Sarandon might not be the world’s most confident singer but she is recognized as a great actor increasingly associated with social, environmental and political activism as well.
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