Richard Timothy Smith was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England on 25 March, 1942. A war baby, and the youngest of four children, he wasn't expected to live through his first night, and apparently his doctor was surprised to find him still alive the next morning.
Richard moved to Tauranga, New Zealand, in 1951 when his father decided he wanted to stop being an accountant, and become a sheep farmer instead. While on the farm, he spent a lot of time riding his neighbour's horse, and became a proficient rider. He also developed his love of acting through the cinema in nearby Hamilton. Richard never did very well at school, though. He was teased by his classmates about his small size, and his teachers thought he was 'a relatively intelligent boy doing badly'.
Richard left school at 15, and moved back to England in 1961 (when he was 22). He tried many jobs, from lorry driving to hairdressing, before realising that his horse-riding skills would stand him in good stead as a stuntman. Richard landed stunt roles in Carry on Cowboy and Casino Royale among others, but his heart wasn't in stunting, and he decided to try his hand at proper acting instead. He changed his surname to O'Brien, which was his grandmother's maiden name, as there was another actor called Richard Smith, and got his first break on the touring cast of Hair in 1969. It was here that he met his first wife, Kimi Wong, with whom he had a son called Linus.
Rocky Horror Show
After a few more acting jobs, Richard teamed up with his wife to become Kimi and Ritz, and they released three singles in the UK (Merry Christmas, Baby; Pseud's Corner; and I Was In Love With Danny, But The Crowd Was In Love With Dean). Richard threw himself into song writing, and the end result was the Rocky Horror Show, which started in theatres with a planned run of just a few weeks, but ended up lasting 2 years. It showed obvious B-movie influences, and was almost immediately snapped up as a film.
The film version1, called the Rocky Horror Picture Show wasn't at all successful, and this lack of success contributed to his split, and later divorce, from his wife. Richard tried writing a couple more things, and appearing as an actor in a few more, but it seemed like his career wasn't really getting anywhere.
Slowly, the Rocky Horror Picture Show became more popular, and turned into the cult classic it is today. As Richard's career was on the up, he appeared in more films and TV programmes, including Robin of Sherwood, and also wrote some songs for the film The Return of Captain Invincible.
In 1981, Richard wrote a sequel to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a film called Shock Treatment which received mixed reviews - everything from 'surpasses the Rocky Horror Picture Show' to 'shockingly bad'. It made no-where near the impact that the first film did.
Although he dislikes 'sexual labels' and refuses to describe himself as straight, gay, or bi, Richard married his second wife, Jane Moss, in 1983, and together they have two children - Joshua and Amelia.
The Crystal Maze
At this point, Richard was concentrating on music again, and created his alter ego, Mephistopheles Smith, a devil from 'Club Inferno', otherwise known as Hell. The show Richard created, Disgracefully Yours, was taken on the road.
Soon afterwards, Richard landed the role of presenter on The Crystal Maze, the role (other than the Rocky Horror Show) for which he is most commonly remembered. He played this role for four years, making it his own, and only left because he was worried about getting stuck in a rut.
Since leaving The Crystal Maze, Richard has taken a variety of TV and film roles, including roles in SpiceWorld and Ever After: A Cinderella Story. He also released his first solo album in 1998, Absolute O'Brien, which is a mixture of jazz and swing, with a touch of rock'n'roll.
Richard O'Brien has most recently been seen on stage in London, playing the role of the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and in 2004 the City Council of Hamilton, New Zealand honoured his contribution to the arts with a statue in his likeness.