14 May 2009 - 11:41 AM  UPDATED 26 Feb 2014 - 4:07 PM


Director/co-writer/star John Cameron Mitchell is the driving force behind Hedwig & The Angry Inch, a musical shot-to-the-heart about a German transsexual telling her troubled life story while on a tour through some of America's backwater dives. FILMINK's Erin Free got the lowdown.

John Cameron Mitchell is a tyro of the New York stage, starring in Broadway productions like Six Degrees Of Separation and Big River, where he played American icon Huck Finn. But with Hedwig & The Angry Inch, he took his vision downtown; with its story of botched sex change operations, teenage lust and the search for self, and hard rocking songs, an off-Broadway sensation. It wasn't long before Hollywood came knocking.

“A lot of people wanted to make it into a film,” Mitchell says down the line from New York City. “And we got the perfect combination, which was New Line Cinema financing it and Killer Films producing it; and their stuff is very in sync with what we wanted. And we really didn't have to do anything that we didn't want to, be it with creative decisions or casting or anything. Creatively, it was perfect. It's such an odd story that there's really no way to soft pedal it. It just would have been something else, and then you may as well just not do it. You know, casting Meg Ryan in it. And I didn't want to do it unless we could do it our way. The willingness to say no was always there.”

Despite being a seasoned theatre vet, Mitchell took moves from some of Hollywood's finest in bringing Hedwig to the screen. “I grew up in the seventies, so the filmmakers I was looking to were Bob Fosse – especially All That Jazz – Hal Ashby, and to a lesser extent, Robert Altman. Also some punk rock documentaries. I just looked back to things that I've always liked.”

Brushing aside the theatre awards on his desk for a while, Mitchell is going to stay in the world of film for the time being. “I'm going to be concentrating on movie making for the next year or two. I've been a little disenchanted with the way the theatre's going in New York, but will certainly return. I just haven't seen that much that I liked, which I guess is why we wrote Hedwig to begin with – to do something different. When you have a film that does well, you have an opportunity to make another one and maybe you won't after that. So I'm going to do that.”