Jim Sharman spent much of his young life at the circus, where his father and grandfather ran a travelling boxing sideshow. Taking an interest in theatre, he attended the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney, graduating in 1966. Sharman became interested in directing experimental theatre. While directing the Sydney production of Hair in 1970, he met a young architectural student named Brian Thomson, who would become his longtime set designer. His local production of Jesus Christ Superstar caught the attention of lyricist Tim Rice, who brought him and Thomson to London in 1972 to stage the production, which included Richard O'Brien. Directing the stage production of "The Rocky Horror Show" gave Sharman the opportunity to direct its film version The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and its sequel Shock Treatment (1981). Sharman went on to become one of Australia's most respected theatre directors.
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