Adrienne Barbeau: 'Swamp Thing' Scream Queen, Then And Now

By | April 25, 2019

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Adrienne Barbeau in 'The Fog' (1980) and 'Swamp Thing' (1982). Source: IMDB

With a string of early-'80s movies like The Fog, Escape From New York, The Cannonball Run, Swamp Thing, and Creepshow, Adrienne Barbeau established herself as a tough, sexy dream girl of young male movie junkies, appearing in exactly the movies young men liked. Horror, suspense, comic books, screwball comedy -- Barbeau's films weren't going to get a Best Picture nod, but these are films fans loved. And in fact, fans still love these movies, and continue to flock to Barbeau, as her packed convention schedule demonstrates. Before she became the first lady of cult classics, Barbeau attracted attention as a supporting character on Maude, the Bea Arthur sitcom, and in the years since her heyday she has appeared on various successful TV shows. But it's those endlessly re-watchable early '80s movies that will forever be her claim to fame.

"It's wonderful at this point in my career to realize there are pieces of work that have sustained themselves all this time," she told TV Guide in 2010. "I'll run into people who say, 'We watch Swamp Thing once a month!'"

Barbeau Was A Broadway Actress In The Early '70s

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Adrienne Barbeau (center right) on stage in the original Broadway production of Grease.' Source;: Houston Public Media

Barbeau's career began when she toured Pacific military bases with the San Jose Civic Light Opera in 1963. She headed to New York, where she briefly worked as a go-go dancer. She landed the role of Hodel in the Broadway musical Fiddler On The Roof. She left the show in 1971 to take the lead role in a nudie off-Broadway musical, Stag Movie. She only performed the role of Cookie Kovac from January to March 1971, when the show closed. Barbeau was cast as a naïve actress hired for an X-rated movie and sang naked in many of the 13 numbers she performed.

Her next role was the character of Rizzo in the original 1971 Broadway production of Grease. For that role, her portrayal of a tough, no-nonsense teenager, she was nominated for a Tony Award in 1972 and won a Theater World Award.