ONE AN­GRY WIG!

Hollywood triple threat, John Cameron Mitchell, zips up his boots and goes back to his roots for his Australian Hed­wig tour. He spoke to Marc An­drews.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT #221 -

John Cameron Mitchell, zips up his boots and goes back to his roots for the Australian Hed­wig And The An­gry Inch tour.

Few en­ter­tain­ers have as in­trigu­ing, crit­i­cally ac­claimed or colour­ful ré­sumé as John Cameron Mitchell. Twenty years ago, he turned his off-Broad­way punk mu­si­cal about an East Ger­man tran­nie with a love for Kraut rock, Hed­wig And The An­gry Inch, into a cult movie in which he starred and also di­rected.

He fol­lowed Hed­wig by writ­ing, pro­duc­ing and di­rect­ing Short­bus in 2006. That film fore­shad­owed the sex­u­ally fluid gen­er­a­tion while gar­ner­ing plenty of con­tro­versy for be­ing “porno­graphic”.

JCM di­rected Ni­cole Kid­man to an Os­car nom­i­na­tion in Rabbit Hole, and the pair teamed up again this year for the sci-fi com­edy, How To Talk To Girls At Par­ties.

On the side he di­rected Scis­sor Sis­ters’ Filthy/ Gor­geous video, which was banned for its “sex­ual con­tent”.

To­day, John Cameron Mitchell, the 56-yearold Texan who calls NYC home, pre­pares to cel­e­brate two decades of Hed­wig with a tour of Australia in June and July – The Ori­gin Of Love: The Songs And Sto­ries Of Hed­wig.

The Tony win­ner (and Golden Globe nom­i­nee) in­tends bring­ing “that Greenwich Vil­lage vibe” of Hed­wig, and pre­view­ing songs from his next project. DNA phoned him in NYC for a chat… DNA: You’ve cer­tainly tra­versed a unique ca­reer path and we’re guess­ing you’re happy about that.

JCM: Yeah. I rarely fol­low the money. I fol­low my heart, some­times to my cha­grin. Now my mom has Alzheimer’s and we don’t have good care in this country so one of the rea­sons for do­ing this tour is to pay for mom. It’s ironic as she found Hed­wig vul­gar. She did give me one of the great lines in it though: “What poor, un­for­tu­nate creature had to die for you to wear that fur coat?” and the punchline was, “My Aunt Trudie.” That was my mom’s joke. She did come around even­tu­ally and even named her dog Hed­wig. Now I’m put­ting the wig back on to pay for mom.

This is your first tour of Australia, but is it also your first visit?

It is, yeah. It’s also my first tour, pe­riod.

Why Australia and why now?

Why not? David M Hawkins, the pro­ducer in Australia has al­ways been try­ing to get me to come. He brings peo­ple like Liza Min­nelli and shows like Cabaret and La Cage Aux Folles. He knows the ter­rain and has lined up the best the­atres in the country. I’ll be try­ing it out; it’s kind of an ex­per­i­ment. These are my first shows where I’ll be do­ing this hy­brid con­cert/cabaret. What can we ex­pect from the show then?

I’ll have a re­ally cool cos­tume that will be mod­u­lar. The rest of it will be like a rock’n’roll show where I’ll tell some sto­ries and do some songs. There will also be some songs from my new project and my new film which will be

open­ing at the same time in Australia.

How To Talk To Girls At Par­ties with Ni­cole Kid­man?

Yes, I’ll sing one of the songs I do in that. I’ll also sing a song or two from my new mu­si­cal, An­them. That will first be heard on pod­cast, which will hope­fully come out by the end of the year. I’m in the middle of that right now. The shows will be very punk and rock and I’m sure my cos­tumes will be fall­ing off!

It’s es­sen­tially two decades since Hed­wig was first con­ceived, right?

It’s been 20 years since the off-Broad­way pro­duc­tion and four years be­fore that the char­ac­ter was born in the clubs. I stepped into the role a few years ago on Broad­way and it was a blast.

You and Ni­cole Kid­man have worked to­gether a cou­ple of times – no­tably on Rabbit Hole

– so there’s ob­vi­ously some real love there be­tween you.

Yes, and I have so many good con­nec­tions [in Australia]. Miao Miao, the cabaret singer is a good friend, as is Paul Cap­sis. I’m go­ing to stay for a good month and maybe DJ at a party.

Is this Aussie tour a test drive of your new show?

I don’t think of it that way. It’s more like a di­la­tion of my cervix. That’s where [the show] is go­ing to be born. I’m not go­ing to leave her there, I’m go­ing to drag her around. I’m also go­ing to do it in Asia – for some rea­son I’m most pop­u­lar in Korea.

You could dou­ble your au­di­ence if North and South re­unify!

I was work­ing on a Hed­wig se­quel at one point, en­vis­ag­ing a North Korean Hed­wig fan who es­capes and tries to find Hed­wig be im­preg­nated by her.

Where did the char­ac­ter of Hed­wig fall into your head orig­i­nally?

My dad was the mil­i­tary com­man­der of Ber­lin in the 1980s. I lived a lot in Ger­many as a kid. He was there be­fore The Wall fell and I would go visit and go East. There was a fe­male army wife in Kansas where I also lived who we found out was a hooker, which be­came the flash­point for the char­ac­ter, even though she wasn’t trans. I was also work­ing in this drag rock’n’roll club called Sleaze­box in New York in the 1990s and it all melted into Hed­wig And The An­gry Inch. The 2001 movie ver­sion of Hed­wig was a ma­jor game-changer.

I grew up in the 1970s so most things were out there. Glam, punk and drag were in,

Rocky Hor­ror Show and mu­si­cals were not un­heard of in film. At the time I made Hed­wig, Baz Luhrmann said to me, “We’re bring­ing mu­si­cals back!” But for me, they never went away. We helped rein­vent it. Baz did art­ful karaoke and we did it in a dif­fer­ent way with orig­i­nal songs and an un­usual story. That’s not so re­mark­able any­more. The film was a flop in the US, even though it won a lot of awards. It was dis­cov­ered on DVD later and be­came a cult hit. I never saw a cent from it, re­ally.

Are we likely to see more of Hed­wig in some form in the fu­ture?

What’s left? There could be a talk show, per­haps.

Your next movie, Short­bus was also con­tro­ver­sial.

Short­bus was in­spired by what was hap­pen­ing in New York at that time. It was a bo­hemian time just after 9/11 and a clus­ter­ing to­gether of like­minded peo­ple. There were places like that sa­lon in the film and in some ways it was a utopia. It wasn’t about sex as much as sex was the medium for how they worked out their prob­lems. The sex was gen­er­ally ter­ri­ble, but bad sex is good for drama and com­edy. You’ve also ap­peared on TV as an ac­tor in Girls, Vinyl and The Good Fight. Lena Dun­ham asked me to play her editor on Girls and I had a good time. I want to do more reg­u­lar TV act­ing.

What is­sues are close to your heart at the mo­ment?

It’s not that peo­ple are less ac­cept­ing of queer peo­ple un­der Trump, but the ho­mo­phobes feel em­pow­ered to be more open now, the same way racists are, too. There’s some weird fake cool­ness about it. Hope­fully it’s just a burp be­fore it dis­in­te­grates. There is a weird hu­man need to find a scape­goat and blame your prob­lems on them – on im­mi­grants, the poor, queer peo­ple – any­one who is “other”. Peo­ple are still dy­ing of AIDS, queer and oth­er­wise, around the world be­cause of ho­mo­pho­bia and sex­pho­bia.

How many wigs are you bring­ing on tour?

Oh, just one.

Is that enough?

A six-part cos­tume, but one wig.

That must be one hard-work­ing wig!

It’s go­ing to re­quire a whole cus­toms team to get it in! They’ll be like, “What’s in that wig?”

John Cameron in full flight as his hero­ine, Hed­wig.

John Cameron with Ni­cole Kid­man.

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