Born in Cheltenham, England, Richard Smith's family moved to Tauranga, New Zealand, in 1951 when their father, an accountant, decided to become a sheep farmer. Watching horror and science-fiction double features in nearby Hamilton, Smith added an interest in acting to their love of rock and roll. They moved back to England in 1964, tried singing, then became a movie stuntman and fringe theater actor. They changed Their name to O'Brien (Their beloved maternal grandmother's name) one day while on the phone to British Actors Equity, to avoid confusion with another Richard Smith. They met director Jim Sharman in 1972, when Sharman cast them in the dual roles of Apostle and Leper for the London stage production (transferred from Sharman's native Australia) of "Jesus Christ Superstar". Working again with Sharman on a production of Sam Shepard's "The Unseen Hand", O'Brien mentioned a new rock musical they'd been writing called "Rock Horroar." The play went into rehearsals as "They Came from Denton High," and at Sharman's suggestion, was retitled "The Rocky Horror Show" before opening in June 1973.
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