John Cameron Mitchell (born April 21, 1963) is an American writer, actor, and director. He is best known for his motion pictures Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Shortbus. He is currently in production for Rabbit Hole starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest and Sandra Oh adapted from David Lindsay-Abaire's play of the same name.
Mitchell was born in El Paso, Texas. The son of a retired U.S. Army Major General, he grew up on army bases in the U.S., Germany and Scotland, and generally attended Catholic schools. His mother is from Glasgow, Scotland and emigrated to the United States as a young schoolteacher. His brother Colin is also an actor, writer, and filmmaker.
Mitchell's 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 adaption at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Mitchell's 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. (His rendition of the original demo version of "Giants in the Sky" can be heard as a bonus track on the 2007 remastered release of Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.) He appeared in the original cast of John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation (off- and on Broadway) and starred in Larry Kramer's Off Broadway sequel to The Normal Heart, The Destiny of Me, for which he received a Village Voice Obie Award and a Drama Desk nomination.
Mitchell's early television work includes guest-starring roles in MacGyver, Head of the Class, Law & Order, The New Twilight Zone, Freddy's Nightmares, The Equalizer, Our House, Dreamer of Oz, 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 1997 Fox sitcom Party Girl, and was the long-running voice for "Sydney", an animated kangaroo that appeared in commercials for Dunkaroos.
His first film role was in an improvised drunk-driving educational film called 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), written by and starring Al Franken. 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 transgendered 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 Cannes Film Festival. The film garnered many awards, at venues such as the Athens, Gijón and Zurich International Film Festivals.
Mitchell was the executive producer of the 2004 film Tarnation, an award-winning documentary about the life of Jonathan Caouette (whom he met when the latter auditioned for Shortbus). In 2005, Mitchell directed music videos for Bright Eyes' "First Day of My Life" and the Scissor Sisters' "Filthy/Gorgeous," the latter of which was banned from MTV Europe for its explicitly sexual content. 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.
In 1985, Mitchell came out as gay to his family and friends. Though always open about his sexuality in his personal life, he came out publicly in a New York Times profile in 1992. His subsequent writing has often explored sexuality and gender.
Mitchell lives in New York City.
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