Gay Iconography: Flipping Our Wigs For ‘Hedwig’ Creator John Cameron Mitchell


Hedwig and the Angry Inch first debuted off-Broadway in 1998, with Mitchell in the starring role. Written by Mitchell and composed by Stephen Trask, the story follows the titular character (a German, transgender glam rocker) on a quest to track down the ex-lover that stole her songs. (Mitchell has said he and Trask are currently working on a sequel though the Broadway show may be that sequel – as it contains the same songs but an updated plot that has been moved forward in time from the show's original setting).



The stage show was made into a movie in 2001, also starring Mitchell. He received a Golden Globe nomination for the part.

There was much ado about the unsimulated sex in Mitchell’s 2006 spectacular film, Shortbus. Yes, there’s lots of graphic scenes, but it’s the beautiful spirit the film captures that makes it worth the watch. One favorite scene is when Ceth (musician Jay Brannan) chats with a fictitious former mayor of New York about the AIDS crisis (allusions to Ed Koch are hard to miss). The scene does cutaway to some bare breasts, so you can find the NSFW clip here. The film won awards at film festivals in Athens, Gijón and Zurish, as well as an Independent Spirit Award.



Before NPH slipped into Hedwig’s blonde wig, Mitchell worked with A-list stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart when he directed the 2010 film, Rabbit Hole. The drama follows two parents grieving the loss of their son. “Sometimes with American awards I feel like instead of Best Acting they’re going for Most Acting of the Year. Most Directing. Americans like excess,” he told Next Magazine. “We were trying to get back to the Hollywood dramas that were restrained.”



Recently, Mitchell appeared as Hannah (Lena Dunham)’s manic e-book editor on the HBO series Girls. You can catch a glimpse of his character in the beginning of the clip above.

What’s been your favorite piece of Mitchell’s work?


  1. verbocity eric says

    don’t forget Derrick in the movie Party Girl. (do forget Party Girl the TV series).

    JCM is a prominent artist, respected and even admired, but iconic? Too early to call him that.

  2. woody says

    i saw hedwig on the closing night. my friend marianne and i were very lucky to get tickets. he was terrific. we were sitting right up front. it felt like a cabaret. what a great time.

  3. says


    Oh, How I love him! Hedwig, the film version, was released a year after i Came Out – and it became my family’s new favourite movie and CD to sing along to. Shortbus – had a profound affect on me; walked out of that cinema a changed person. I cried for like two hours. And with Rabbit Hole he continues to show that he’s a director with a razor sharp insight into the human experience


    OH, also – The Secret Garden, original broadway cast recording. WERK.

  4. Lucca says

    I remember walking out of the theater after the first time I saw Hedwig in ’98. I was with 2 others and we were just speechless and smiling. What had we just experienced? It was magnificent. The music, the story and the way it was delivered (almost entirely by JCM himself as Hedwig) and the transformative space of that stage. It was a site-specific performance that utilized its location in the Jane Street Theater (Jane Hotel) next to the Hudson to bring in another level of reality to the stage by making the audience believe there was a concert going on across the water in NJ by Tommy Gnosis. Breaking the 5th wall? A very smart move by JCM and demonstrates his interest in moving past “normalcy” and not letting what’s expected to get in his way.

  5. Neil says

    I remember watching “Band of the Hand” (1986) on cable several times when I was a kid — it was always playing on The Movie Channel during the day — and even though I didn’t know who he was at the time, I remember being struck by his troubled juvenile delinquent character — he brought all this rebel/outsider/queer energy to the role, creating a completely new and unique model for “being a boy,” that I appreciate so much more now that I am older.

  6. kdknyc says

    Loved Hedwig, and Shortbus was mind-blowing. I wanted to be/go there (Shortbus), and ultimately found out where and how, in my mind, to do it.

    Later met the two Jamies at a Shortbus-like event (they were nude)–wow.

  7. Gary says

    There is so much true fun in this. I used to wear girls dresses at age 5. All my friends were girls. Went out on Halloween. Neighbor asked, “Who are you?” My friends replied–witches, pirates and ghosts–I said “I’m Beverly” (named for my father’s secretary) That name was used against me as a weapon during youth. It was shortened to “Bev” as a threat.

Leave A Reply