Behind every successful transsexual glam rocker there must be a vision, and in the case of Hedwig, the titular transsexual glam rock heroine of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, that vision belonged to actor, director, and writer John Cameron Mitchell. Mitchell, who, with composer Stephen Trask, first brought Hedwig to life back in the early '90s as an act at the Squeezebox, one of New York's most famed drag bars, spent several years on-stage as the star of the successful off-Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, winning two Obie awards in the process, before adapting the play for the big screen. When the film version of Hedwig premiered at the 2001 Sundance Festival, the story of Hedwig, the East German victim of a botched sex change operation with an unhappy love life and equally disastrous career, won Mitchell both the festival's Directing Award and Audience Award, as well as his greatest recognition to date.
Born in El Paso, TX, on April 21, 1963, Mitchell's early life had certain aspects which provided the inspiration for the character of Hedwig. When his father, a U.S. Army general, moved the family to Berlin, Mitchell's babysitter, a German army wife who was also a prostitute, became the visual model for Mitchell's later creation.
Mitchell broke into the entertainment business in the mid-'80s, appearing on a variety of television shows and little-seen films. During the 1990s, while he was appearing on-stage in Hedwig, he also popped up in films such as Spike Lee's Girl 6 (1996) and the TV spin-off of Party Girl, Daisy von Scherler Mayer's 1995 cult film starring Parker Posey. Mitchell's real screen breakthrough came courtesy of Hedwig and the Angry Inch; following its release, he began to receive attention from both critics and industry figures, many of whom wondered how Mitchell would choose to follow up such a unique and cult-inspiring directing debut.