Watch: Nell Campbell of Rocky Horror talks her life and new show

Nell Campbell Rocky Horror
Images: 20th Century Fox, Super Festivals/Flickr

47 years ago Nell Campbell appeared on screen as Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and little did she know that film would change her life.

After a career that has seen her travel the world, she is still affectionately known for her role in the iconic film.

Now Nell Campbell is launching her one-woman show in Australia, All’s Nell That Ends Nell.

She sat down to talk to Michael James about her life and what we can expect from her upcoming production.

Nell Campbell and life before Rocky Horror

A lesser-known fact about Nell Campbell is that the vivacious actress originally grew up in Australia before she landed her role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“We just have the best quality of life in the world,” she gushed.

“I love being able to swim in our beautiful beaches, I love the outdoors.

“And I lived 14 years in London and 20 years in New York and I’m still in New York a lot of the time, but I adore living here again.”

So how did this energetic young woman from Australia land herself the role of a lifetime?

“I had turned 18 two weeks before I arrived in London,” she recalls.

“I was busking in the streets and I was working in Kensington market with Freddie Mercury across the aisle from me selling his boots.”

“Jim Sharman saw me busking and I was also waitressing.  So he rolled up at the place I was waitressing at with Richard O’Brien and Richard Hartley.”

They said, “We’re doing this little musical would you like to be in it?”

The answer was a no-brainer for Nell Campbell.

“Well darling, you know, right there I threw the apron away and I tap danced right out of there!”

Rocky Horror, before the big screen.

Before audiences were treated to the film on screen, Nell Campbell and the original cast began the production in a tiny theatre in London.

To this day Nell recalls the magic the show created for the audience.

“I just want you to imagine the moment that Frank-N-Furter would make his entrance from the back of the theatre, which no one was expecting.”

“Boom boom boom! Then he would just come out and he had a big cape on and sang How’d you do I….

“It was 1973 and there was Tim in exactly what you see in the film, maybe even more tacky. But that tacky, it just was electrifying really.”

“Imagine in 1973 for that audience to suddenly turn around and see Tim dressed like that!”

“Nowadays that would just be the norm for people. But it was just so thrilling and unexpected for a man to come down the aisle dressed like that in high heels and just being so sexy.”

Making a difference

Something that still resonates for Nell Campbell to this day is how The Rocky Horror Picture Show has managed to make a difference in the lives of the audience in so many ways.

Her role in that process is something she never takes for granted.

“I can’t really know what it means to me. I mean, I can’t there are just no words for how much it means to me that it has helped so many people.”

“Richard (O’Brien) will be the first to tell you this, he had no idea that the show was going to have that effect let alone and of course the film!”

“It’s just been sort of magical how much it’s helped people recognize their sexuality and come to terms with their sexuality, admit it and feel good about themselves.”

The experience for Nell has been wide-ranging from the early days of the film and its success, right up to now.

“I mean I’ve met people that told me they were suicidal till they saw that film,” she says.

Nell currently does video requests via cameo and has all sorts of requests come through.

 “They’ll say things like oh my mother’s a huge fan or I’m a huge fan, which is fabulous too.”

“But I do get people that contact me saying I’m coming out to my wife tomorrow things like that.”

“I’m just so flattered that they choose me to do that because actually, I love to be able to give advice in that way. I’d love to have actually my own advice column one day.”

Rocky Horror connecting the queer community

Part of the magic of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the sense of community that it created.

As the film hit cult status around the world fans would gather in cinemas to act out the film live on stage as it plays in the background.

These “shadow casts” grew their own cult following and created a sense of family for members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

 “I’ve met so many people that have gotten married and had children through meeting at one of those shadow cast groups.”

“Someone told me once that when he came out as gay, this is in America, which is such as conservative country as you know.”

“His family disowned him then he discovered Rocky, then he joined his shadow cast and he said they became his family.”

Later, “he was diagnosed with cancer and he said they completely looked after him like a family.”

“You know it’s just incredible to hear that they’ve got such a strong community and it is remarkable.”

“Every time I hear any of these stories I’m always so touched.”

The Rocky Horror reboot

In 2016 a reboot of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was produced, however, it’s not something Nell Campbell has seen yet.

“I can never quite see the point in remaking anything,” she says.

“Let’s face it at this stage it’s an iconic film, absolutely, it’s a classic, it’s hard to think why you would touch that.”

“I just didn’t really understand it. Some of the fans have told me they liked it but definitely, they’re the in the vast minority.”

It’s just something that Nell believes there really wasn’t a need for.

“I don’t think so because also it’s almost like when we made it it was edgy it was different.”

Nell Campbell on RuPaul’s Drag Race?

After the fateful Patricia Quinn saga on RuPaul’s Drag Race Season Twelve fans have asked if Nell Campbell would ever take a seat on the judging panel.

“I mean that’s just one of the most successful shows ever! And may I just add too that I am so thrilled that RuPaul has become so rich from it!”

“I mean finally a drag queen that is making a ton of money out of it and hopefully the other drag queens on the show can too!

“That’s what’s so fabulous and could a show be more successful? It could not!”

While Nell has a love for the show and watches with deep admiration from afar she struggles with the competitive nature of reality TV.

“I don’t watch reality shows because I get too upset for those that don’t make it through the next episode!”

“But I think RuPaul himself is amazing.”

So would Nell Campbell take a spot as a judge on the show?

“Yes! I want to be a judge on it. I’ve seen people I know be judges on it, a lot of people I know are judges on it!”

“So darlings if word gets to anybody let them know I’d love to be a judge on that show!”

All’s Nell That Ends Nell

Fast forward to 2022, as The Rocky Horror Picture Show edges closer to its 50th anniversary Nell Campbell is preparing to tell the story of her life.

Her one-woman show All’s Nell That Ends Nell will see her bring the stories of her life to the stage for the first time.

So what can audiences expect?

“Who the hell knows Michael?! Who the hell knows! I don’t know! Pray for me! Pray that I pull it together” she laughs.

All jokes aside, Nell is planning a show that will be funny, informative and interactive.

The show will give the audience a chance to get a unique insight into the incredibly interesting life she has led since she first stepped on stage all those years ago.

“What I’m going to do is I’ve been taking photos forever and so I’ve got lots of incredible photos to share.”

“So I’m just going to be telling everyone about those, talking about Rocky Horror and talking about my nightclub Nells in New York with lots of photos and stories.”

“People can ask me questions and we’ll just have a goddamn good time!”

But will we see Nell don her tap shoes once more for the show?

“We’ll see.”

Nell Campbell will be bringing All’s Nell That Ends Nell to Brisbane and the Gold Coast this October.

To purchase tickets at Home Of The Arts on the Gold Coast on Friday, October 14th head online HERE.

For tickets to the performance on Saturday, October 15th at Brisbane Powerhouse head online HERE.

You can watch the full interview with Nell Campbell and Michael James below.

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Michael James
Michael James

QNews, Brisbane Gay, App, Gay App, LGBTI, LGBTI News, Gay Australia

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