Log In

John Waters Edit Profile

actor , filmmaker , writer

John Samuel Waters Jr. 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.


Waters was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Patricia Ann (née Whitaker) (1924–2014) and John Samuel Waters (1916–2008), who was a manufacturer of fire-protection equipment. His family were upper-middle class Roman Catholics. Waters grew up in Lutherville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore. His boyhood friend and muse Glenn Milstead, later known as Divine, also lived in Lutherville.


Student, New York University, 1966.Waters was privately educated at the Calvert School in Baltimore. After attending Towson Jr. High School in Towson, Maryland, and Calvert Hall College High School in nearby Towson, he ultimately graduated from Boys' Latin School of Maryland.


Turning to feature films, Waters made Mondo Trasho in 1969. Divine starred as a hit-and-run driver who looks after her dead victim. Waters went to create what is considered by many to be one of the grossest movies of all time. Pink Flamingos (1972) features Divine as Babs Johnson. Johnson is a mother who leads her family in a battle against the Marble family to determine which group is the filthiest. One legendarily disgusting scene from the film has Divine eating dog excrement. The film became a cult classic and a popular choice for many midnight showings.

Moving toward the mainstream a bit, Waters made Polyester (1981) with Divine and Tab Hunter, a movie star from the 1950s. As with many Waters films, the storyline is an absurd take on suburbia, exaggerating the usual martial squabbles and family problems. Starring as a discontented housewife, Divine must contend with an unfaithful pornographer husband, a sexually promiscuous daughter and a glue-sniffing son who likes to stomp on people's feet.

Still filled with unusual and offbeat characters, Water's 1988 film Hairspray was a much tamer effort for the legendary filmmaker. Instead of grossing out audiences, the movie centered on the struggle of Tracy Turnblad, an overweight teen, to join the cast of television dance show. Set in the early 1960s in Water's hometown of Baltimore, the film's heroine, played by Ricki Lake, also speaks out about a pressing issue of that era - integration. This story of an underdog overcoming obstacles struck a chord with many audience members and has become Waters' most popular and best-known work. The film was later turned into a successful Broadway musical and a film version of the musical was released in 2007.

His next film, Cry-Baby (1990), took audiences back to the 1950s. Featuring Johnny Depp as the title character, a teen delinquent from the wrong side of the tracks, the movie is a send-up of the teenage exploitation films of the period. Cry-Baby falls for a "good" girl from a respectable home and there's a touch of Romeo and Juliet as the two struggle to be together. Waters went contemporary with his next work, Serial Mom (1994), which starred Kathleen Turner as a suburban mom gone homicidal. As with many of his films, Waters made some interesting casting choices. The legendary kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst appears as a member of the jury in Serial Mom and went to handle roles in Pecker (1998) and Cecil B. Demented (2000).

One of Waters' most recent directorial efforts, 2004's A Dirty Shame, starred Tracy Ullman as a mother who becomes oversexed after suffering a head injury. Although there is more talk than action in the film, it still earned an NC-17 rating for its sexual content. For his next project, Waters stepped in front of the camera for 2006's This Filthy World, in which he shares many stories from his long career. That same year, he hosted a film series on the Here! Channel, a pay-for-view cable network, called John Waters Presents Movies That Will Corrupt You. Known to take on occasional acting gigs, Waters made a guest appearance on the hit sitcom My Name Is Earl in early 2007.

Besides his film and television work, Waters has authored several books, including Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste (1981) and Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters (1983). He also had a traveling exhibit of his photography called Change of Life, which featured still images from some of his early films.



Fund raiser Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome Action Baltimore. Spokesperson Anti-Violence Campaign, New York City, 1991. Member American Federation of television and Radio Artists, Screen Actors Guild, Directors Guild American, Writers Guild American, Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


Filmmaker, director and writer John Waters was born on April 22, 1946, in Baltimore, Maryland. Sometimes called the "King of Bad Taste" or the "Pope of Trash," Waters has built a reputation for shocking his audiences. Many of his films satirize suburban America as well as many social conventions and attitudes. He started out making short experimental films in the 1960s, often using friends as actors and holding small showings in offbeat locales. Roman Candle (1966), one of his early works, marked the first time Waters worked with Divine, an oversized, over-the-top transvestite.


  • Other Interests

    Waters was a great fan of the music of Little Richard when growing up. Ever since having shoplifted a copy of the Little Richard song "Lucille" in 1957, at the age of 11, Waters asserted, "I've wished I could somehow climb into Little Richard's body, hook up his heart and vocal cords to my own, and switch identities." In 1987, Playboy magazine employed Waters, then at the age of 41, to interview his idol, but the interview did not go well, with Waters later remarking: "It turned into kind of a disaster."


An openly gay man, Waters is an avid supporter of gay rights and gay pride.