John Cameron Mitchell (born April 21, 1963) is an American actor, writer and director, best known for his films Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus and Rabbit Hole.
Mitchell was born in El Paso, Texas. His father was a U.S. Army Major General, and Mitchell grew up on army bases in the U.S., Germany, and Scotland, attending Catholic schools, including St. Xavier High School (Junction City, Kansas) and St. Pius X High School (Albuquerque, New Mexico), graduating from the latter in 1981. His mother is a native of Glasgow, Scotland, who emigrated to the United States as a young schoolteacher. His brother Colin is also an actor, writer, and filmmaker.
His first stage role was the Virgin Mary in a Nativity musical staged at a Scottish Benedictine boys boarding school when he was 11 years old. He studied theater at Northwestern University from 1981 to 1985.
Mitchell's first professional stage role was Huckleberry Finn in a 1985 Organic Theater adaptation at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. His first New York acting role was Huck Finn in the Broadway musical Big River (1985). He originated the role of Dickon on Broadway in The Secret Garden, and appeared in the original cast of the Off Broadway musical Hello Again. He received Drama Desk nominations for both roles, and can be heard on the original cast recordings for each.
He appeared in the original cast of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation (both off-Broadway and on Broadway), and starred in Larry Kramer's Off Broadway sequel to The Normal Heart, The Destiny of Me, for which he received an Obie Award and a Drama Desk nomination.
Mitchell's early television work includes guest-starring roles in Daybreak, MacGyver, Head of the Class, Law & Order, The New Twilight Zone, Freddy's Nightmares, The Equalizer, Our House, The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story, The Stepford Children, and the ABC Afterschool Special "A Desperate Exit" (his single line: "He's dead. Don't you get it? He killed himself"). He was a regular cast member on the 1996 Fox sitcom Party Girl, and was the long-running voice for "Sydney", an animated kangaroo that appeared in commercials for Dunk-a-roos cookies.
His first film role was in an improvised drunk-driving educational film, Just Along for the Ride (1983), in which he was killed on Halloween while wearing a tutu. This was followed by the lead role in My Father's Son: The Legacy of Alcoholism (1984) and his first feature film role as Drunk Teen ("Hey, dudes, where's the brewskies?") in One More Saturday Night (1986).
Starring and co-starring film roles include a homicidal new-waver in Band of the Hand (1986), a Polish immigrant violinist in Misplaced (1990), and a teen Lothario poet in Book of Love (1990). Mitchell had a single line ("Delivery!") in Spike Lee's Girl Six (1996) as a man auditioning for a pornographic film. Mitchell is a founding member of the Drama Department Theater Company, for which he adapted and directed Tennessee Williams' Kingdom of Earth starring Cynthia Nixon and Peter Sarsgaard.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
In 1998, Mitchell wrote (along with composer Stephen Trask) and starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, an Obie Award-winning Off Broadway musical about an East German transgender rock musician chasing after an ex-lover who plagiarized her songs.
Three years later, he directed and starred in the feature film version of the play for which he won Best Director at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. His performance was nominated for a Golden Globe as Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Both the play and the film were critical hits and have spawned cult followings around the world.
After the success of Hedwig, Mitchell expressed an interest in writing, directing and producing a film that incorporated explicit sex in a naturalistic and thoughtful way, without using "stars". After three years of talent searches, improv workshops and production, Shortbus premiered in May 2006 at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. The film garnered many awards, at venues such as the Athens, Gijón and Zurich International Film Festivals.
He directed the 2010 film Rabbit Hole, starring Nicole Kidman (in an Oscar-nominated performance) and Aaron Eckhart, adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name. The film debuted at the Toronto Film Festival.
Mitchell was the executive producer of the 2004 film Tarnation, a documentary about the life of Jonathan Caouette whom he met when the latter auditioned for Shortbus. Tarnation won 2004 Best Documentary from the National Society of Film Critics, the Independent Spirit Awards and the Gotham Awards.
He directed videos for Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life" and the Scissor Sisters' "Filthy/Gorgeous"; the latter was banned from MTV Europe for its explicitly sexual content. In 2012, Mitchell wrote and produced a narrative short film for Sigur Ros entitled "Seraph", directed by animator Dash Shaw (link to film: ). In 2013, he directed a fashion video for Agent Provocateur entitled "Insurrection".
Mitchell has appeared as a pundit on Politically Incorrect and various VH1 and Independent Film Channel programs. He introduced films on a show called Escape From Hollywood on IFC for two years. Recently he's written and directed a number of short films and commercials for Dior including Lady Grey London and L.A.dy Dior both starring Marion Cotillard and Dior Homme Sport starring Jude Law. Along with Shortbus producer Howard Gertler, Mitchell is producing an animated feature, Shell Game, written and directed by graphic novelist Dash Shaw, as well as developing for the screen Neil Gaiman's short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties. He appeared as a recurring character, e-book editor David Pressler-Goings, on the 2013 and 2014 seasons of HBO series Girls, and directed a Showtime comedy pilot entitled Happyish starring Philip Seymour Hoffman. He is presently preparing a Spring 2014 production of Hedwig starring Neil Patrick Harris for Broadway's Belasco Theater.
In 1985, Mitchell came out as gay to his family and friends. He came out publicly in a New York Times profile in 1992. His subsequent writing has often explored sexuality and gender. He is a Radical Faerie, which was influential in Mitchell's making of Shortbus. Along with Shortbus stars PJ DeBoy and Paul Dawson and performance artists Amber Martin and Angela Di Carlo, he is a co-founder and DJ of the long-running New York City monthly party "Mattachine".
Mitchell lives in New York City.
- Mitchell Live at Amoeba Music "Origin of Love"
- Mitchell's video for Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life"
- BBC Collective Shortbus feature including John Cameron Mitchell video interview
- John Cameron Mitchell interview at Eros-Zine.com (March 2007)
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