John Waters (filmmaker)

John Waters (filmmaker)

Infobox actor
name = John Waters

imagesize = 200px
caption = John Waters, 2007
birthname = John Samuel Waters, Jr.
birthdate = birth date and age|1946|4|22
birthplace= Baltimore, Maryland, United States
occupation = Film director, producer, actor and screenwriter

John Samuel Waters, Jr. (born April 22, 1946) is an American filmmaker, actor, writer, celebrity, visual artist and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films. Waters' 1970s and early '80s films feature his regular troupe of actors known as Dreamlanders — among them Divine — often committing cinematic crimes. Starting with "Desperate Living" (1977), Waters began casting real-life convicted criminals (Liz Renay, Patricia Hearst) as well as famous (Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, Tab Hunter) and infamous people (Traci Lords, a former underage porn star).

Waters skirted mainstream filmmaking with "Hairspray" (1988), which introduced Ricki Lake and earned a modest gross of $8 million domestically. In 2002, "Hairspray" was adapted to a long-running Broadway musical, which itself was adapted to a hit musical film which earned more than $200 million worldwide. After the crossover success of the original film version of "Hairspray", Waters' films began featuring familiar actors and celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Edward Furlong, Melanie Griffith, Chris Isaak, Johnny Knoxville, Martha Plimpton, Christina Ricci, Lili Taylor, Kathleen Turner and Tracey Ullman.

Although he has apartments in New York City, San Francisco and a summer home in Provincetown, Waters still mainly resides in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, where all his films are set. He is recognizable by his trademark pencil-thin moustache.


Early life

Waters was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Patricia Ann (née Whitaker) and John Samuel Waters, who was a manufacturer of fire-protection equipment. [ [ John Waters Biography (1946-) ] ] Waters grew up in Lutherville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. His boyhood friend and muse Glenn Milstead, later known as Divine, also lived in Baltimore County, Maryland, a short distance away.

The movie "Lili" inspired an interest in puppets in the seven-year-old Waters, who proceeded to stage violent versions of "Punch and Judy" for children's birthday parties. Biographer Robert L. Pela says that Waters' mother believes the puppets in "Lili" had the greatest influence on Waters' subsequent career (though Pela believes tacky films at a local drive-in, which the young Waters watched from a distance through binoculars, had a greater effect). [cite book | last = Pela|first=Robert L |year=2002|title=Filthy: The Weird World of John Waters|publisher=Alyson Publishing|id=ISBN 1-55583-625-9]

Waters attended Calvert Hall College for High School. For his sixteenth birthday, Waters received an 8mm movie camera from his maternal grandmother, Stella Whitaker.

Early career

His first movie was "Hag in a Black Leather Jacket". According to Waters, the film was shown only once in a "beatnik coffee house" in Baltimore.

Waters was a student at New York University (NYU) in New York City. The school, however, was not what Waters had in mind:

Waters has credited his influences among others as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Federico Fellini, and Ingmar Bergman. He has stated that he takes an equal amount of joy and influence from high-brow "art" films and sleazy exploitation films: "I love Bergman and "I Dismember Mama".

In January 1966, Waters and some friends were caught smoking marijuana on the grounds of NYU; they were soon expelled. Waters returned to Baltimore, where he began work on his next film, "Eat Your Makeup", which was filmed that year. Waters' films would become Divine's primary star vehicles. Waters' early films were all shot in the Baltimore area with his company of local actors, the Dreamlanders. In addition to Divine, the group included Mink Stole, Cookie Mueller, Edith Massey, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce, Susan Walsh, and others. These early films were among the first picked up for distribution by the fledgling New Line Cinema. Waters' films premiered at the Baltimore Senator Theatre and sometimes at the Charles Theatre.

Waters' early campy movies present filthily lovable characters in outrageous situations with hyperbolic dialogue. "Pink Flamingos", "Female Trouble", and "Desperate Living", which he labeled the "Trash Trilogy", pushed hard at the boundaries of conventional propriety and movie censorship. A particularly notorious scene from "Pink Flamingos", simply added as a non sequitur to film's end, featured — in one continuous take without special effects — a small dog defecating and Divine eating its feces.

Move towards mainstream


Waters' 2004 film, the NC-17-rated "A Dirty Shame", is a return to his earlier, more controversial work of the 1970s. He also had a cameo in "", which starred "Dirty Shame" co-star Johnny Knoxville. Waters has stated that his next movie will be a children's film titled "Fruitcake". It began shooting in January 2008. [ [ San Francisco Bay Guardian : Article : Keeping up with John Waters ] ]

Waters is currently a professor of cinema and subcultural studies at the European Graduate School. [ [ John Waters - Professor of Film and Subculture - Bibliography ] ] In 2007, he also became the host (as "The Groom Reaper") of "'Til Death Do Us Part", a program on America's "Court TV" network featuring dramatizations of real-life marriages that soured and ended in murder. As a gay American, Waters is an avid supporter of gay rights and gay pride. [ [ Dreamland News: Fans ] ]

Waters has been known to create characters with alliterated names for his movies including Bo-Bo Belsinger, Corny Collins, Donald Dasher, Donna Dasher, Dawn Davenport, David Divine, Fat Fuck Frank, Francine Fishpaw, Link Larkin, Mona Malnorowski, Motormouth Maybelle, Mole McHenry, Penny Pingleton, Prudy Pingleton, Ramona Rickettes, Sandy Sandstone, Sylvia Stickles, Sandra Sullivan, Todd Tomorrow, Tony The Tickler, Tracy Turnblad, Ursula Udders, Wade Walker, and Wanda Woodward.

"Fruitcake" is Waters' next film. Production is due to begin in the fall of 2008. [ [] . Perez Hilton. "Jesus Is Magic". May 8 2008]

Other work

Puffing constantly on a cigarette, Waters appeared in a short film shown in movie art houses announcing that "no smoking" is permitted in the theatres. This short spot was filmed by Waters for the Nuart Theatre (a Landmark Theater) in West Los Angeles, California, in appreciation to the theater for showing "Pink Flamingos" for many years. It is shown immediately before one of his movies, and before the Midnight movie showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Waters is an avid fan of "Court TV" and has attended several high-profile court cases as an observer. Waters has been quoted as saying that he saw many of the same people who were court observers at different trials all around the country. Waters eventually stopped going to trials when fans started recognizing him and went to trials to meet him. He didn't feel it was appropriate given the seriousness of the court system.Fact|date=March 2008

He played a minister in "", directed by one of his idols, Herschell Gordon Lewis. Waters owns one of John Wayne Gacy's paintings, which Waters says he hangs in his guest bedroom "so people don't stay too long"fact|date=May 2008.



*"Hag in a Black Leather Jacket" (8 mm) (1964)
*"Roman Candles" (1966)
*"Eat Your Makeup" (16mm) (1968)
*"Mondo Trasho" (16mm) (1969)
*"The Diane Linkletter Story" (16mm) (1969)
*"Multiple Maniacs" (16mm) (1970)
*"Pink Flamingos" (16 & 35 mm) (1972)
*"Female Trouble" (16 & 35 mm) (1974)
*"Desperate Living" (16 & 35 mm) (1977)
*"Polyester" (1981)
*"Hairspray" (1988)
*"Cry-Baby" (1990)
*"Serial Mom" (1994)
*"Pecker" (1998)
*"Cecil B. Demented" (2000)
*"A Dirty Shame" (2004)
*"Fruitcake" (2008) (in production)
*Hairspray 2 (TBA)


*"This Filthy World" (2006)




*"Pink Flamingos" (1972) - Mr. Jay
*"Serial Mom" (1994) - Ted Bundy (uncredited)
*"Pecker" (1998) - Pervert on phone
*"Hairspray (musical)" (2002) - Voice on Maybelle's TV
*"Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea" (2007) - Narrator
*"The Junior Defenders" (2007) - Narrator


*"Something Wild" (1986) - Used Car Salesman
*"Hairspray" (1988) - Dr. Fredrikson
*"Divine Trash" (1998) - Himself
*"Sweet and Lowdown" (1999) - Mr. Haynes
*"Cecil B. Demented" (2000) - Reporter
*"Seed of Chucky" (2004) - Pete Peters
*"" (2006) - Himself
*"This Film Is Not Yet Rated" (2006) - Himself
*"Each Time I Kill" (2006/2007)
*"The Junior Defenders" (2007) - Narrator
*"Hairspray" (2007) - Flasher
*"In the Land of Merry Misfits" (2007) - Narrator



*"My Name is Earl", episode "Kept a Guy Locked in a Truck" - Funeral Director
*"'Til Death Do Us Part" - Groom Reaper
*"" - Bartender, R. Vincent Smith
*"21 Jump Street", episode "Awomp-Bomp-Aloobomb, Aloop Bamboom" - Mr. Bean


*"Frasier", episode "The Maris Counselor" - Roger
*"The Simpsons", episode "Homer's Phobia" - John

Other appearances

*"The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"
*"Dinner for Five"
*"The Graham Norton Show"
*"Graham Norton's Bigger Picture"
*"The Graham Norton Effect"
*"The Henry Rollins Show"
*"Last Call with Carson Daly"
*"The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson"
*"Late Night with Conan O'Brien"
*"Late Show with David Letterman"
*"Politically Incorrect"
*"Real Time with Bill Maher"
*"Ricki Lake"
*"The Roseanne Show"
*"So Graham Norton"
*"The Tonight Show with Jay Leno"
*"V Graham Norton"

Documentary appearances

*"American Cinema"
*"E! True Hollywood Story"
*"Le Grand Journal"
*"HBO First Look"
*"The Incredibly Strange Film Show"
*"Intimate Portrait"
*"This Film Is Not Yet Rated
*"VH1 Behind the Music"
*"Guest of Cindy Sherman" [ [] IMDb]


Waters has published collections of his writings including:
*"Shock Value" (1981)
*"Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters" (1987, Revised Edition 2003)
*"Trash Trio: Three Screenplays: Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living, Flamingos Forever" (1988)
*"Art: A Sex Book" (2003) (with Bruce Hainley)
*"Hairspray, Female Trouble, and Multiple Maniacs: Three more screenplays" (2005)

Waters has published collections of his photos including:
*"Director's Cut" (1997)
*"John Waters: Change of Life" (2004)
*"Unwatchable" (2006)

Fine art

Since the early 1990s, Waters has been making photo-based artwork and installations that have been internationally exhibited in galleries and museums. In 2004, the New Museum in NYC presented a retrospective of his artwork curated by Marvin Heiferman and Lisa Phillips.

Other works

*"This Filthy World" - Waters' touring one-man show, recently made into a feature film directed by Jeff Garlin
*"A John Waters Christmas" - A CD of Christmas songs compiled by Waters
*"John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You" - TV show for the here! network
*"Mommie Dearest" (1981) - Audio commentary on film's "Hollywood Royalty Edition" DVD release (2006)
*"The Little Mermaid" Special Edition DVD (2006) - Interview on 'making of' documentary about Howard Ashman, the theatre (i.e. "Little Shop of Horrors"), and the inspiration behind the character Ursula: Divine
*"A Date with John Waters" (2007), a CD collection of songs Waters finds romantic
*"Christmas Evil" DVD release (2006) - Audio commentary
* Narrated the award-winning 2006 documentary film [ "Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea"]
* Featured in the documentary film "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" (2006)
*"Breaking Up with John Waters" - Waters' third CD compilation is currently in the works
*"The Other Hollywood" - Commentary and opinions about pornography throughout the book
*"'Til Death Do Us Part" - A "Court TV" series hosted by Waters surrounding stories of marriage murder


External links

*imdb name|0000691|John Waters
* [ John Waters Faculty Website, European Graduate School]
* [ John Waters page on the Baltimore Collective]
* ['s Date with John Waters] video interview at Amoeba Music
* [ John Waters art retrospective] at the New Museum
* [ Interview with John Waters] on the Feast of Fools (podcast)
* [ Dreamland archive of John Waters related articles]

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