John Waters once said that In America anything is possible, and he should know.
The one-time underground film renegade, now 63 who is famous for his love of camp and kitsch created some of the most grotesque imagery to find its way to a movie screen is riding a wave of mainstream success that once was unimaginable. John Waters is not only an American filmmaker but an actor, standup comedian, writer, journalist and art collector to name a few.
Walters rose to fame in the early 70’s for his transgressive cult films. Already well-known in his native Baltimore for his underground movies, he hit it big in the late 70’s with low budget, bad taste classics such as Pink Flamingoes (if you haven’t seen this movie, put it on your bucket list) and Polyester. His first “Hollywood” movie was Hairspray in 1988, starring Ricki Lake and Debbie Harry. Hairspray has since been turned into a musical with a social conscience and the show Hairspray has since collected eight 2003 Tony Awards.
After the success of the original film version of Hairspray, Waters films began featuring bigger familiar faces and celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Melanie Griffith, Johnny Knoxville, Chris Isaak, Christina Ricci, Kathleen Turner and John Travolta to name but a few, not bad for a man who didn’t give a rats about commercial success.
While the over-the-top camp of Walters films still hold up, the writer-director admits that the “mainstreaming” of gay culture in recent years has made it harder to be shocking. “I had more fun when it was illegal to be gay,” says Waters, who adds that he’s also “anti-separatist.” “I don’t want to get married and I don’t want to go into the army and all that stuff, though I understand people’s right to want that. I am for gay trouble. I like gay troublemakers. I am most gay when I am in a voting booth.”
Waters’ next film will be “a very wonderful children’s Christmas movie entitled Fruitcake,” though he’s cautious about discussing it before it receives the green light from the studio. “I would say it’s for tweens and adults,” Waters says. “It’s not for 6-year-olds. Well, when I was 6 years old, I would have liked it.”
William Burroughs once dubbed Waters, The Pope of Trash…and to that I say…Amen!