- Moved to New Zealand in 1952 when his father purchased a sheep farm.
- Left school at 15 to enroll in a three-year dairy-farming course.
- Changed his name from Smith to O'Brien (his maternal grandmother's maiden name) because there was already an established actor named Richard Smith.
- Appeared in London stage productions of Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar in the early 1970s.
- Got his start in films as a stuntman.
- Wife Kimi Wong and he recorded pop singles in the mid-1970s under the name Kimi & Ritz.
- Hosted the popular British game show The Crystal Maze from 1990 to 1993. His replacement, Ed Tudor-Pole, had also once played Riff Raff, the character O'Brien had originated in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
- In 2004, his contributions to the arts were honored with the erection of a statue of Riff Raff at a theater in Hamilton, New Zealand.
- Was refused New Zealand citizenship in 2010 for being too old, but the country reconsidered and granted his request in 2011.
- Provides the voice of Ferb's father in the animated kids TV series Phineas and Ferb.
- 2001, Tony — Revival (Musical): Nominee
- Sabrina — Wife
- Sabrina Graf — Wife
- Mary Smith — Mother
- Robert Smith — Brother
- Linus — Son
- Amelia — Daughter
- Robin Smith — Brother
- Gillian — Sister
- Kimi Wong — Ex-wife
- Jane Moss — Ex-wife
- Joshua — Son
- Alec Smith — Father
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