John Waters


John Waters talks extremely fast. This prolific actor, comedian, writer, filmmaker and journalist is still transgressing boundaries and giddily trashing up the pop culture landscape in his mid-sixties. Who doesn’t appreciate the laugh-out-loud moments of Serial Mom and Female Trouble? In the midst of hopping around the globe for his notorious live performances, Waters spoke with me about pride, what city has the cutest guys, what he would have for his final meal and much more.

How are Austin audiences unique in terms of how you are received?

Austin audiences have always been great. You’ve got the Alamo (Drafthouse). It’s always been a good movie town. I guess the only thing that’s changed, and it’s not just Austin: Local color is fading because of the Internet and the global world we’re in. I was just in Australia and the kids in Perth look the same as the kids in Iowa as the kids in London. It’s that no one has to leave where they grew up anymore to be cool because they can get every movie from Netflix, they can get everything. It’s made everybody cooler everywhere. The only sad thing is the local color is a little bit vanishing. Austin was always the Berkeley of Texas. Well, have you been to Berkeley recently? [laughs] It’s not like what you remember.

You maintain a few residences. Is your heart still in Baltimore?

Yes. Even though in my other places my doormen say “welcome home,” which is touching to me. When I need an idea, I go to Baltimore. Baltimore is where the cutest boys are—it’s the only place I ever get good dates.

Are you optimistic about the state of independent film in America?

I’m optimistic about most things. I would say that independent film is probably in the worst shape than it has been since I started in 1964. However, if you are a 16-year-old trying to start making independent films with your cell phone, it is the best time ever. Now the studios are trying to find you. When I was doing it, they were not.

Do you see pride parades as being as useful and relevant as they once were?

It depends on the community. In New York, no. In little towns, certainly. In Uganda, we definitely better have more. I do a bit about this in my Christmas show, but I’ve always been “gayly incorrect”—it’s like, why do we have to be good now? The gay Olympics—what are we, handicapped? I’m against separatism. For people that are having trouble with it, it’s weird to me that now in rich kids’ schools, everyone wants to be gay, but in poor kids’ schools it’s worse than ever to be gay. When did it become a class issue?

What’s coming up for you in terms of new creative projects?

I’m writing another book. I have a few other projects in the works, either another movie or a television show. Who knows? I’ve got many irons in the fire.

What was the inspiration for your mustache?

I’ve written about it in my book. I’ve had it since I was 19 and I’m 65—that’s a long record. I figure if I shaved it off, there would be a white scar there.

Is there anyone with whom you have not collaborated artistically who’s at the top of your list?

Meryl Streep—I love her and I would see anything that she’s in. We’ve met a few times. My next movie’s a children’s movie, so Johnny Knoxville is playing a dad, but it’s mostly child actors. I’ve been lucky: So many of the people I wanted to work with ended up working with me.

If you could have a last meal, what would it be?

I’ve always said if I was in prison and about to get the electric chair, it would be a single leaf of arugula. My last meal would be very slight because when you die, you shit yourself. I try to make it easy for other people. Not a good time to have a big holiday meal.

Do you have any favorite hangouts or restaurants in Austin when you’re visiting?

When I’m on these tours, I rarely have time. You get to town, do the show, do press, do a meet and greet. But the one thing I do is get to see my audience all over the world. I get older and they get younger, which is very heartening.