The Artist Birthday Series

John Waters

Today’s Artist Birthday: John Waters

John Samuel Waters, Jr. (born April 22, 1946) is an American film director, screenwriter, author, actor, stand-up comedian, journalist, visual artist, and art collector, who rose to fame in the early 1970s for his transgressive cult films. His 1970s and early ’80s films feature his regular troupe of actors known as the Dreamlanders. Starting with Desperate Living (1977), he began casting real-life convicted criminals (Liz Renay, Patty Hearst) and controversial people (Traci Lords, a former pornographic actress).

Ladies and gentleman, Mr. John Waters
Ladies and gentleman, Mr. John Waters

Waters dabbled in mainstream filmmaking with Hairspray (1988), which introduced Ricki Lake and earned a modest gross of $8 million in the US. In 2002, Hairspray was adapted to a long-running Broadway musical, which itself was adapted to a hit musical film that earned more than $200 million worldwide. After the crossover success of the original film version of Hairspray, his films began featuring familiar actors and celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Melanie Griffith, Chris Isaak, and Tracey Ullman.

Ricki Lake and John Waters at the 2007
Ricki Lake and John Waters at Film Independent’s 2007 Spirit Award

Although he maintains apartments in New York City and 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 moustache, a look he has retained since the early 1970s.

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