John Cameron Mitchell
Family & Companions
John Cameron Mitchell was not afraid to knock down walls and break taboos in the name of filmmaking. He began his career as a theater-trained actor before going behind the camera and helming some of the most talked about films in cinematic history. Mitchell wrote, directed and starred in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (2001), a love letter to the drag-punk club scene. The film's central character, an Eastern European transgender rocker pining for a young man who broke her heart, gained a cult following for its larger-than-life characters, stunning imagery, and remarkable soundtrack. Mitchell eschewed his theatrical, glam-punk roots with 2010's "Rabbit Hole," a gripping look at a suburban family torn to emotional shreds after a tragic car accident. No matter what his subject matter was, Mitchell approached his work with a keen eye for authenticity and no inhibitions, both of which served the filmmaker well throughout his illustrious career.
John Cameron Mitchell was born on April 21, 1963 in El Paso, TX to a retired U.S. Army Major General and a schoolteacher. Because of his father's military background, Mitchell's family lived on various army bases in the U.S., Germany and Scotland. He studied theater at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL prior to making his professional stage debut as Huckleberry Finn in a 1985 production at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, only to play the iconic character again in the Broadway musical "Big River" (1985). Mitchell further put his stamp on the theater world after he was cast in the musical "The Secret Garden" (1991), a role that earned him a Drama Desk nomination. He made his onscreen acting debut with a supporting role in the 1984 comedy "The Roommate," followed by appearances on various television series, including "Head of the Class" (ABC, 1986-1990), "MacGyver" (ABC, 1985-1992) and "Law & Order" (NBC, 1990-2010).
Mitchell's stage roots allowed him to write and star in an off-Broadway musical in 1998 titled "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," about a transsexual East German punk rock singer named Hedwig. The philosophic and flamboyant title character - her face caked in theatrical makeup and topped with an over-the-top yellow wig - falls in love with a handsome young man who ends up plagiarizing her songs and becomes a more successful rock star. Mitchell and his writing partner Stephen Trask showcased and developed "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" at various gigs and drag punk clubs to preserve its raw, rock-n-roll feel. Three years later, Mitchell made his directorial debut with a feature film adaptation of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." He also wrote and starred in the film, opposite Michael Pitt. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" earned Mitchell a Best Director award at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, as well as a Best Performance by an Actor (Musical or Comedy) nomination at the 2002 Golden Globe Awards. The film also received a cult-like following similar to "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (1975), screening in independent theaters nationwide. The stage production was also remounted through the years, with a slew of talented actors and musicians, including Ally Sheedy and Donovan Leitch playing the title character.
Mitchell returned to the directing chair in 2006 with "Shortbus," a comedy-drama film that contained sexually explicit and un-simulated scenes. The director cast a group of relatively unknown actors and performance artists, and held improvisation workshops with them prior to filming in order to keep the film's look as realistic as possible. Set in a post-9/11 New York, "Shortbus" followed various couples - gay, straight and bisexual - coming to terms with intimacy, trust, and other relationship issues. The characters congregated weekly in an underground salon dedicated to art, music and free love. "Shortbus" premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival and garnered mostly positive reviews despite some critics labeling the film pornographic. Mitchell responded to the pornographic accusations by explaining that the un-simulated sex scenes were meant to propel the story and not to spark sexual arousal within viewers. Both "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and "Shortbus" elevated Mitchell's filmmaking career, especially in the independent film and arts community. In 2004, Mitchell produced the documentary "Tarnation," about fellow filmmaker Jonathan Caouette, who used hundreds of hours of home videos, photographs and answering machine messages to share his experience as a young man growing up with a mentally ill mother. The following year, Mitchell directed music videos for the bands Bright Eyes and Scissor Sisters, as well as began hosting TV specials presented by the Independent Film Channel.
In 2010, Mitchell directed "Rabbit Hole," starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a couple in mourning after their son dies from a car accident. Adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire's 2005 play, "Rabbit Hole" explored the pair's overwhelming grief after their lives are turned upside-down from tragedy as well as Kidman's character's growing acquaintance with the teenage driver responsible for her son's death. "Rabbit Hole" premiered at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival, where it reportedly received a standing ovation. The film also earned Mitchell a Best Director nomination - along with acting nods for Kidman and Eckhart - at the 2011 Independent Spirit Awards.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made Broadway debut as an understudy to the lead role in the musical "Big River"
Made TV acting debut in "The Roommate," a PBS' "American Playhouse" presentation
First film role, "One More Saturday Night"; filmed first but released after "Band of the Hand"
Co-starred in the Disney Channel movie "A Friendship in Vienna"
Starred as a Polish violinist in "Misplaced"
Had leading role in "Teach 109," a presentation of PBS' "American Playhouse"
Appeared in the off-Broadway and Broadway productions of John Guare's "Six Degrees of Separation"
Cast as Dickon in the Broadway musical adaptation of "The Secret Garden"
Portrayed Ned Weeks in Larry Kramer's autobiographical stage drama, "The Destiny of Me"
Met musician Stephen Trask on an airplane flight; later collaborated on idea that developed into "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"
Had featured role in "Hello Again," Michael John LaChiusa's off-Broadway musical adaptation of "La Ronde"
Cast as the title character's gay best friend in the short-lived FOX sitcom, "Party Girl"
Played a small role as an aspiring actor in Spike Lee's "Girl 6"
Co-wrote (along with composer Stephen Trask) and starred in the off Broadway musical "Hedwig and Angry Inch"
Made his directorial debut with the feature adaptation of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"; also scripted and reprised role as an East German transgender rock musician
Executive produced the documentary "Tarnation"
Directed the Scissor Sisters video for "Filthy/Gorgeous," which was banned from American MTV for its explicitly sexual content
Directed the feature "Shortbus," which incorporates explicit sex in a naturalistic way; presented out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival
Directed the indie drama, "Rabbit Hole," starring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as parents grieving the death of their young son
Nominated for the 2011 Independent Spirit Award for Best Director ("Rabbit Hole")
Nominated for the 2011 Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
Had a recurring guest role on "Girls"
Guested as Andy Warhol on HBO's "Vinyl"
Wrote, produced and directed "How to Talk to Girls at Parties"
Played Egon on the final season of "Mozart in the Jungle"