These days, John Cameron Mitchell thinks a lot about acceptance. It's at the heart of the actor-writer's directorial debut, the cathartic musical travelogue Hedwig and the Angry Inch. And, as the movie hits video-store shelves tomorrow, it also will decide the ultimate profitability of his creation. Are Middle American audiences planning a Blockbuster night going to embrace the main character, an East German transsexual rock singer, when even she has trouble doing so?
The Sundance Film Festival prize winner certainly hopes so. "When you see something like The Rocky Horror Picture Show on cable all the time or on Broadway, it makes me think that people will remember that the details of the story are really just that — details," the 37-year-old native of El Paso, Tex., tells TV Guide Online. "The more specific you are, I also find, the more universal your story can be, because you trust that that person really can exist in the world. There's a lot of nuance to it.
"Your Aunt Ida might be off-putting, too," he adds with a chuckle, "but as specific as she is, you trust that she's real."
Certainly, the long run of the Off-Broadway version of Hedwig (as well as the continued success of the show around the globe) bodes well for its legs as a VHS and DVD release. Although Hedwig never drew Producers-size crowds, the theatergoers that it did attract were made to feel welcomed with open arms.
"They were a diverse group, and everyone felt included," recalls Mitchell, who originated the title role (then bequeathed it to, among others, Nancy Boy vocalist Donovan Leitch and, disastrously, Ally Sheedy). "It's never a 'me-vs.-the-world' situation with Hedwig, so people will follow her into unusual places."Even if, in its latest incarnation, Hedwig isn't a mainstream smash, Mitchell still will chalk up his adaptation as a triumph — provided, that is, that those who like it, love it. "Not very many people bought the first Velvet Underground album, but everybody who did started a band — that's the highest standard of success for me," he says, sounding not unlike his resilient, blond counterpart. "You don't have to reach everybody, but those people who you do reach, you really reach."