John Cameron Mitchell

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John Cameron Mitchell
John Cameron Mitchell.jpg
In May 2006
Born (1963-04-21) April 21, 1963 (age 52)
El Paso, Texas, U.S.
Residence New York City, New York
Occupation Actor, screenwriter, film director
Years active 1983–present

John Cameron Mitchell (born April 21, 1963) is an American actor, writer and director, best known for originating the title role in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, as well as for his films, which include Shortbus and Rabbit Hole.

Early years[edit]

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.[1] 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.[citation needed]


Mitchell's first professional stage role was Huckleberry Finn in a 1985 Organic Theater adaptation at Chicago's Goodman Theatre.[2] 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.[1]

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[3] and a Drama Desk nomination.[4]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed] 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).[citation needed]

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.[5]

Hedwig and the Angry Inch[edit]

In 1998, Mitchell wrote (along with composer Stephen Trask) and starred in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, an Obie Award-winning Off Broadway rock musical about a genderqueer East German rock musician chasing after an ex-lover who plagiarized her songs.[1]

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.[6][7]

The 2014 Broadway revival of Hedwig starring Neil Patrick Harris and Lena Hall, directed by Michael Mayer, won four Tony Awards, including Best Actor in a Musical (Harris), Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Hall), and Best Revival of a Musical.

Mitchell reprised his performance in Hedwig on Broadway for a limited run in early 2015. He received a 2015 Special Tony Award for his return to the role.


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".[citation needed] 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,[citation needed] at venues such as the Athens, Gijón and Zurich International Film Festivals.

Rabbit Hole[edit]

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.

Other work[edit]

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" (featuring Secret Garden co-star Alison Fraser) and the Scissor Sisters' "Filthy/Gorgeous";[citation needed] the latter was banned from MTV Europe for its explicitly sexual content.[8] In 2012, Mitchell wrote and produced a narrative short film for Sigur Ros entitled "Seraph", directed by animator Dash Shaw (link to film: [9]).

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. In 2013, he wrote and directed a fashion video for Agent Provocateur entitled "Insurrection".[10] 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 currently filming How to Talk to Girls at Parties, a screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman's punk-era short story How to Talk to Girls at Parties.[11]

In 2016, Mitchell starred in the documentary Danny Says alongside Danny Fields, Alice Cooper & Iggy Pop.

Personal life[edit]

In 1985, Mitchell came out as gay to his family and friends.[1] He came out publicly in a New York Times profile in 1992.[2] His subsequent writing has often explored sexuality and gender. He is a Radical Faerie, which was influential in Mitchell's making of Shortbus.[12] 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".[13]

Mitchell lives in New York City.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d "John Cameron Mitchell profile". May 5, 2005. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b Weber, Bruce (November 4, 1992). "A Minimalist Actor Now Warms to Excess". The New York Times. Retrieved April 6, 2009. 
  3. ^ Berson, Misha (August 3, 2001). "Man behind Hedwig captures her on film". The Seattle Times. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  4. ^ Parks, Louis B. (August 2, 2001). "Give him an 'Inch,' and he'll take it". The Houston Chronicle. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  5. ^ Brantley, Ben (June 26, 1996). "Redeeming A Williams Washout". The New York Times. Retrieved February 18, 2012. 
  6. ^ Blackwelder, Rob (June 21, 2001). "'Hedwig'-ing Out". Spliced Wire. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  7. ^ "John Cameron Mitchell News". Retrieved May 27, 2007. 
  8. ^ Durbin, Jonathan.What Is a Scissor Sister? PAPER Magazine. April 4, 2005.
  9. ^ SERAPH – YouTube
  10. ^ Agent Provocateur Models Rebel, Strip Down to Lingerie in Protest. [1] AdRants. September 16, 2013.
  11. ^ John Cameron Mitchell Talks Animated 'The Ruined Cast' & Upcoming Neil Gaiman Adaptation.[2] indieWIRE. December 10, 2010.
  12. ^ Dubowski, Sandi (Fall 2006), "Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret", Filmmaker, retrieved March 26, 2010 
  13. ^ Murphy, Tim (Fall 2010), "Tinseltown Can Wait; the Village Cannot", New York Times, retrieved January 5, 2012 
  14. ^ Epstein, Warren (February 4, 2001). "Springs has surprisingly strong link to Sundance". The Gazette. Retrieved May 27, 2007. 

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