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John Cameron Mitchell directed, starred in and co-wrote, with Stephen Trask, the musical film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001), for which he received the Best Director Award at the[…]

The creator and star of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” discusses what the project meant to him personally, and how he feels about returning to it 10 years later.

Question: Was “Hedwig” harder to produce as a play or a film?

John Cameron Mitchell:  Oh, well, you know, it was in allrn kinds of forms, other than those two, I mean, it started out, like rnreally like a band, you know, in rock clubs and was in a more of a rncabaret setting, it was in a sort of pseudo-cabaret theater setting, rnthen it was a theater, then it was a film, and it’s been in concert, yourn know, which is a whole different thing.  We’re preparing to have it on rnBroadway, which will be a different... so to me, I don’t, I don’t rndifferentiate them by, in terms of, you know, one’s more successful thanrn the other.  They all have their challenges, they all have their rnrewards, and to me, they’re complementary.

So I just enjoy being rnable to, to try it in different venues and also enjoyed seeing other rnpeople do it as well.  I’m never micromanaging about other productions. rn Some people get very uptight about protecting their property, and "it rncan only be done this way."  To me, that kind of kills it, makes it a rnmuseum piece.

What was the personal significance of the “Hedwig” story rnfor you?

John Cameron Mitchell:  Well, you know, it was really my rncomposer and I, I mean, from the beginning, I mean, I was playing aroundrn with some ideas and new I wanted to make a rock theater piece with the rnPlato’s story of the origin of love as the central metaphor and met withrn a few composers and then Steven Trask, the songwriter, came on, and we rnreally developed it for many years together. So, bits and pieces of bothrn of our lives came, came through, his struggling music career, my rngrowing up on the army bases, it’s not really an autobiographical story rnin terms of facts, but it’s definitely emotionally auto-biographically. rn Moving around a lot as a kid, and my father being the military rncommander in Berlin before the wall came down and... there was, you rnknow, there was a woman who was our babysitter, a German divorcée livingrn in a trailer park, who was my brother’s babysitter and a prostitute on rnthe side and I didn’t really clock that until later.  But she was the rnoriginal inspiration for Hedwig and then, you know, other characters in rnmy life were grafted on her.  But, you know, probably her, her aestheticrn came from other people, but her emotional core just came from my own, rnyou know, sort of feeling like a citizen of the world kind of seeking rnout inner, you know, interaction and connection in a chaotic kind of, rnyou know, sort of, I don’t know what to call it.  Kind of an rnunderstanding that we’re all very much these hybrids of all the people rnthat we’ve met, you know?  And men, women, lovers, mothers, fathers, andrn reinterpreting the myth of the origin of love as a kind of collage of rnall the people we know, rather than just two halves.

So, you rnknow, it’s still something that, my interpretation of changes, you know,rn when I look at it, as I age, you know.

Now that “Hedwig” is returning to the stage, do you view rnthe show differently?

John Cameron Mitchell:  I don’t know yet, because I rnhaven’t really, you know, entered that realm yet.  It’s interesting to rnthink about it in terms of writing and directing, but I really don’t rnknow till I get there.  But it’s a kind of an ageless character, could rnbe, you know, she really could be telling her story at any given time, rnyou know, in her life and, you know, I could be doing it in a wheelchairrn at some point.  But I don’t, I don’t know.  We’ll see.

Recorded on May 3, 2010
Interviewed by Austin Allen