Barry Bostwick, American Badass!

From MEGAFORCE to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, Barry Bostwick is a man who knows his way around a cult movie. I’ve been a fan of the veteran actor ever since I saw him as straight-arrow Brad in a midnight showing of ROCKY HORROR back when that was a regular thing in the late ’70s.

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Experiencing that movie in an interactive way (parroting the dialogue, getting up to do the Time Warp, tossing toast and rolls of toilet paper at the screen, etc.) made an indelible mark on my brain. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen the film since then, but I’ve probably listened to the soundtrack LP on vinyl easily 10 times that amount. The opening tune, Science Fiction/Double Feature, helped to fill the gaps of my B-movie knowledge and the music still brings me back to those special days with my friends.

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When the indie comedy FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! was released in 2012 and I was at ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, I got to pick Bostwick’s brain about the movie and ROCKY HORROR. For those who haven’t seen FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! you owe it to yourself to catch this insane, incredibly un-PC comedy in which Bostwick, as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, takes on killer werewolves and the Axis powers.

“I was attracted to it because of the audaciousness of it,” Bostwick told me about the film, written by Ross Patterson and directed by Garrett Brawith. “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.”

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The former SPIN CITY star played a U.S. president before he took on FDR — he portrayed George Washington twice for a pair of miniseries in the ’80s — and he observed, “I seem to be playing a lot of leaders, you know, whether it’s mayors or governors or presidents. … 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.”

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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 the rapid-fire types of jokes featured in AIRPLANE! and Bostwick agreed, “Yeah exactly, except in AIRPLANE! they didn’t crap in a jar.”

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At the time, the film’s conceit had obvious comparisons to ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER and Bostwick noted, “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.”

I asked Bostwick if FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! had the chops to become another midnight movie favorite. He replied, “It’s certainly being embraced by the ROCKY HORROR people. 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 40 years since ROCKY HORROR first hit the 1975 box office with a thud and then transformed into the ultimate cult experience. Bostwick only has praise for the consistent fan adulation he’s received from being part of it.

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“I have never had a bad experience in relationship to that movie,” said 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 continued. “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 quipped, “People didn’t come up to me after SPIN CITY and say, ‘It saved my life.'”

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David Weiner and Barry Bostwick at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights

As for Bostwick’s post-FDR: AMERICAN BADASS! career trajectory, he remarked, “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.”

Perhaps the time is right for Bostwick to step back into Ace Hunter’s skin-tight spandex suit for a sequel to MEGAFORCE? I’d pay to see it.

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