James David Sharman (born 12 March 1945), as Jim Sharman is an Australian director and writer for film and stage with more than 70 productions to his credit. He is renowned in Australia for his work as a theatre director from the 1960s to the present, and is best known internationally as the director of the 1973 theatrical hit The Rocky Horror Show, its film adaptation The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and the film's follow-up Shock Treatment (1981).
Life and career
Sharman was born in Sydney, the son of boxing tent impresario and rugby league player James Michael "Jimmy" Sharman Jr. (1912–2006) and Christina McAndleish Sharman (1914–2003). He was educated in Sydney, though his upbringing included time spent on Australian showgrounds, where his father ran a travelling sideshow of popular legend, founded by his father Jimmy Sharman Snr.|: Jimmy Sharman's Boxing Troupe. This brought him into contact with the world of circus and travelling vaudeville. Developing an interest in theatre, he graduated from the production course at the National Institute of Dramatic Art in Sydney in 1966.
Sharman created a series of ground-breaking productions of experimental theatre, many for the Old Tote Theatre Company, culminating in a controversial staging of Mozart's Don Giovanni for Opera Australia, when he was 21 years old. Over the following decade, he directed three rock musicals that defined their era: Hair in 1969 (Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo, Boston) (he also designed the original Sydney production); Jesus Christ Superstar in 1972 (Australia and Palace Theatre, London) and created the original production of The Rocky Horror Show with Richard O'Brien in 1973 (Royal Court Theatre, London – subsequently in Sydney, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York City). He cowrote the screenplay and directed the international cult hit film The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) for Twentieth Century Fox, and directed its loosely based sequel Shock Treatment in 1981. In 1985, he directed third year students at NIDA in the production of A Dream Play.
In the following decades, Sharman directed a series of new works and Australian premieres, including a series of productions of plays by Patrick White in the late 1970s: The Season at Sarsaparilla, Big Toys, Netherwood and A Cheery Soul – which are credited with reviving the Nobel Laureate's career as a dramatist. He also directed the film The Night the Prowler, from a screenplay adapted by White from one of his short stories, and notable as White's only produced film screenplay. One of Sharman's most frequent creative collaborators was production designer Brian Thomson, a partnership that began at the Old Tote and continued through their ground-breaking and widely praised stage productions, the rock musicals Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Rocky Horror Show, and the films Shirley Thompson vs. the Aliens, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Shock Treatment.
Sharman was Artistic Director of a transformational Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1982 and, while in South Australia, he created Lighthouse, a theatre company which specialised in radical stagings of classics and premieres of new work by major Australian dramatists, including Louis Nowra, Stephen Sewell and Patrick White. The ensemble included many major Australian artists, including actors Geoffrey Rush, Gillian Jones, John Wood and Kerry Walker and associate director Neil Armfield, who would further develop this adventurous tradition at Sydney's Belvoir Street Theatre.
Continuing as a freelance director, Sharman's most recent work has been Stephen Sewell's Three Furies – scenes from the life of Francis Bacon, for which he won a Helpmann Award for Best Direction of a Play. It played at the 2005 Sydney and Auckland Festivals and the 2006 Perth and Adelaide Festivals. In 2006, he revived his landmark staging of Benjamin Britten's Death in Venice for Opera Australia. In 2009, he will direct a new production of Mozart's Così fan tutte for Opera Australia, a collaboration with the Berlin-based Australian conductor Simon Hewett.
In August 2008, Sharman's memoirs Blood and Tinsel were published by Melbourne University Publishing where he talks about his childhood on the road with Jimmy Sharman's Boxing Troupe and also speaks out for the first time about The Rocky Horror Picture Show and his many productions.