Screen Media Films
'Rocky Horror' Star Becomes 'Badass' FDR
Barry Bostwick is a man who knows his way around a cult movie. The former straight arrow of The Rocky Horror Picture Show takes on killer werewolves and delivers killer laughs with the coolest-ever take on President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the hilarious, way-over-the-top FDR: American Badass, out on DVD this week.
"I was attracted to it because of the audaciousness of it," Bostwick tells me about the project. "The jokes are fast and furious, and it has that street lingo thing that nobody's done before in terms of using it in a historical way. It adds a layer of originality to it."
The former Spin City star has played a U.S. president before – he took on George Washington twice for a pair of miniseries in the '80s -- and he observes, "I seem to be playing a lot of leaders, you know, whether it's mayors or governors or presidents," adding, "The older I get, the wackier I get. … I'm through playing the good, jilted husband in TV movies, and now I'm really able to explore the bizarre side of my personality which I've always kept in the shadows."
A low-budget production with a lot of heart and a huge amount of irreverence, FDR: American Badass! finds the World War II-era FDR grappling with polio after being bitten in the leg by a werewolf. Learning to embrace his new wheelchair challenges -- as long as they don't interfere with his ability to get an erection -- he wheels into the Oval Office and discovers that Hitler, Hirohito and Mussolini are all werewolves themselves, and have hatched an evil plan to turn America into one giant growling hairball population. The laugh-a-minute film contains a lot of Airplane! style humor, and Bostwick agrees, "Yeah exactly, except in Airplane! they didn't crap in a jar."
The film's conceit has obvious comparisons to this past summer's Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Bostwick says, "I didn't see that other movie, but I'm taking it that it's more of a horror film with just a historical context. I would say that we win hands down for filth."
So, does FDR: American Badass! Have the chops to become another midnight movie favorite?
"It's certainly being embraced by the Rocky Horror people," says Bostwick. "It's playing all over the country at the same theaters that Rocky Horror is. Now they're doing a two-fer – they'll be playing this first, then Rocky Horror after that. … Something as bizarre and weird as this, I guess it just has to grow [by word of mouth]."
It's been more than 35 years since The Rocky Horror Picture Show first hit the box office with a thud and then transformed into the ultimate cult experience. "I have never had a bad experience in relationship to that movie," says Bostwick. "It seems to be so universally appreciated and loved, and it's a part of so many people's history that I'm humbled by it. … It just keeps on having a life and I'm totally shocked and love it."
"It's a big coming-of-age moment for so many kids; there's sort of a naughty innocence about it," he continues. "I've had people come up to me and say, 'That movie saved my life. I was in the closet, I was miserable, I had no friends, I couldn’t express who I really was, and that movie allowed me to be who I really am.'" After a moment of reflection, he quips, "People didn't come up to me after Spin City and say, 'It saved my life.'"
Bostwick's outrageous performance in FDR: American Badass! surely will change the way many people perceive the 67-year-old star, who has often played the straight man despite his penchant for comedy, and he declares, "I'm hoping more of these things come along and I can get even more bizarre. … [These days I'm] looking for the obscure and weird and wacky take on something, not going off the straight line. So many of us have played the straight line just to make a living in this business, and it's time for me to mess it up a little bit."