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Hedwig and the Angry Inch (film)

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Title: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (film)  
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Subject: John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (musical), Deauville American Film Festival, Punk films
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Hedwig and the Angry Inch (film)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Produced by Christine Vachon
Written by John Cameron Mitchell
Stephen Trask
Starring John Cameron Mitchell
Miriam Shor
Stephen Trask
Andrea Martin
Michael Pitt
Music by Stephen Trask
Cinematography Frank G. DeMarco
Edited by Andrew Marcus
Killer Films
Distributed by Fine Line Features
New Line Cinema
Release dates
  • July 20, 2001 (2001-07-20)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[2]
Box office $3,644,200[3]

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a 2001 American musical comedy-drama film based on the stage musical of the same name about a fictional rock band fronted by an East German genderqueer singer who survives a botched vaginoplasty performed to allow her to marry an American man and escape East Germany, only to get dumped a few months later. Hedwig subsequently develops a relationship with a younger man, Tommy, becoming his mentor and musical collaborator, only to have Tommy steal her music and move on without her. The film follows Hedwig and the Angry Inch as they shadow Tommy's tour, while exploring Hedwig's past and complex gender identity. It was adapted and directed by John Cameron Mitchell, who also portrayed the title role. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask.

The musical has developed a devoted cult following.[4]

In 2001, the film won the Best Director and Audience Awards at the Sundance Film Festival as well as Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review, the Gotham Awards, and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Mitchell received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor and the Premiere magazine "Performance of the Year Award."


Hansel Schmidt is an East German "slip of a girly boy" who loves rock music, and is stuck in East Berlin until he meets Luther Robinson, an American soldier. Luther falls in love with Hansel and the two decide to marry. This plan will allow Hansel to leave communist East Germany for the capitalist West. However, in order to be married, the couple must consist of a man and a woman. Hansel's mother, Hedwig, gives her child her name and passport and finds a doctor to perform a sex change. The operation is botched, however, leaving Hansel – now Hedwig – with a dysfunctional one-inch mound of flesh between her legs, the eponymous "Angry Inch".

Hedwig goes to live in Junction City, Kansas as Luther's wife. On their first wedding anniversary, Luther leaves Hedwig for a man. That same day, it is announced that the Berlin Wall has fallen and East Germans are flooding freely into the West, meaning as material gains go, Hedwig's sacrifices have been for nothing. Hedwig recovers from the separation by forming a rock band composed of Korean-born Army wives. Hedwig befriends a shy and misunderstood Christian teenager, Tommy Speck, with whom she writes some songs. Hedwig falls in love with Tommy, and believes he is her "other half". Hedwig gives him the stage name "Tommy Gnosis" (stating that Gnosis is the Greek word for "knowledge"), but he later leaves her and goes on to become a wildly successful rock star with the songs Hedwig wrote alone and with him. "Internationally ignored" Hedwig and her band of Eastern Europeans, the Angry Inch, are forced to support themselves by playing coffee bars and strip mall dives. Throughout the film, these gigs are performed at a chain seafood restaurant called Bilgewater's. Hedwig is following Tommy's tour in order to pursue a copyright lawsuit. She tells unsuspecting diners her life story.

Throughout the film, Hedwig refers to Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium. This myth, retold by Hedwig in the song "The Origin of Love", explains that human beings were once round, two-faced, four-armed, and four-legged beings. Angry gods split these early humans in two, leaving the separated people with a lifelong yearning for their other half. Near the end of the film, Hedwig is down and out, her band and her manager having abandoned her in disgust after she tears up Yitzhak's passport. While working as a streetwalker, she finally reunites with Gnosis and they reconcile. After paparazzi burst onto the scene, Hedwig becomes famous and Gnosis' popularity suffers. Reunited with her band, Hedwig performs at Times Square Bilgewater's culminating in a violent removal of her drag.

Entering the final chapter of the film, it seems to take place in a non-real space, perhaps Hedwig's mind. Now in male form, Hedwig discovers herself alone in front of Tommy on a huge stage. He sings to her, pleading forgiveness and saying goodbye; she realizes that she created her "other half" from within herself. Hedwig then finds him/herself back at Times Square Bilgewater's, but the space seems transformed, with ambient white lighting. The band members, dressed all in white, are already in their places on stage. Hedwig gives Yitzhak her blonde wig and sings a song of triumph and solidarity with "all the misfits and losers" of the world. A brief animated sequence symbolizing the union of the separated Platonic halves leads to the final shot: Hedwig walking naked down a dark alley and into the street.



  1. "Tear Me Down"
  2. "Random Number Generation" (excerpt only)
  3. "Tear Me Down (Tommy Gnosis version)" (excerpt only)
  4. "The Origin of Love"
  5. "Sugar Daddy"
  6. "Angry Inch"
  7. "Wig in a Box"
  8. "The Origin of Love (Tommy Gnosis version)" (excerpt only)
  9. "Wicked Little Town"
  10. "I Will Always Love You" (excerpt only)
  11. "The Long Grift" (excerpt only, full version on soundtrack)
  12. "Freaks" (excerpt only, full version on soundtrack, with Girls Against Boys)
  13. "In Your Arms Tonight"
  14. "Hedwig's Lament"
  15. "Exquisite Corpse"
  16. "Wicked Little Town (Reprise)"
  17. "Midnight Radio"
Songs only on the soundtrack
  1. "Nailed" (on soundtrack only)

For the soundtrack, Hedwig's songs were recorded by John Cameron Mitchell (lead vocals), Stephen Trask, Miriam Shor, Bob Mould (of Hüsker Dü), Ted Liscinski, Perry L. James, Alexis Fleisig, and Eli Janney.

Tommy Gnosis' songs were recorded by Trask (lead vocals), Shor, Mould, Liscinski, James, Scott McCloud, Janney, Fleisig, and Johnny Temple.

In 2003, a CD of the film's song covers by such artists as Yoko Ono and Cyndi Lauper was released. It benefited the Hetrick-Martin Institute and was named after one of the musical's most popular songs "Wig in a Box". A cover of "Angry Inch" appeared on 2003's Life Is Killing Me album by goth-metal group Type O Negative.


According to the DVD commentary, most of the lead vocals were recorded "live" as the scenes were shot, to capture the intensity of a live performance.

To look like a transgender person, Mitchell had to shave constantly during the course of the film shoot, often using an electric razor between shots while still in full makeup. In the DVD commentary, Mitchell mentions that Pitt was somewhat uncomfortable with their prolonged kissing scene, complaining about being scratched by Mitchell's stubble. Mitchell complained about Pitt consuming onion and garlic directly before shooting the scene.



Mitchell and Trask performed twice on The Rosie O'Donnell Show (the second time with Dean DeLeo of Stone Temple Pilots). At first, the studio objected to a "drag" performance on the daytime family show, but relented at the insistence of O'Donnell. Mitchell and his band performed "The Origin of Love". A clip from this show was used in the Hedwig film, with O'Donnell's blessing.

Mitchell said that his performance on the Late Show with David Letterman as Hedwig was interesting: "During rehearsal, a disembodied voice emanating from the control booth gently told me that I couldn't rip my wig off during the song ("Tear Me Down"). I asked why, but there was only silence from on high. So when we taped, I ripped it off after the song. They edited it out. I think they wanted people to think I was a woman and not a man in drag."

Critical reception

Hedwig received generally positive reviews; review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 92% 'Fresh' rating; the consensus states: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch may very well be the next Rocky Horror midnight movie. It not only knows how to rock, but Hedwig's story has an emotional poignancy."[5]

Kevin Maynard from Mr. Showbiz wrote “Stomps the summer movie competition with heart and humour.”[6] Ed Epstein from The Wall Street Journal commented “This extraordinary flight from the humdrum is not to be missed.”[6] Chris Kaltenbach from The Baltimore Sun wrote “This is Mitchell’s show, and his performance lives up to his triple billing as writer, director and star.”[6]

Box office

The film earned an initial domestic theatrical total of $3,644,200 from a $6 million budget.[7] The film opened in the U.S. in 9 theaters on July 20, 2001 and made $156,724 in its opening weekend, ranking #28 in the box office. Subsequent DVD and cable revenue along with international profits eventually put the film firmly in the black.

Home media

The film was released on DVD on December 11, 2001, complete with deleted scenes, an audio commentary by Mitchell, and trailers.

The deleted scenes mostly expand on the characters around Hedwig; we learn more about Yitzhak (he was once a drag queen called "Krystal Nacht", a pun on Kristallnacht) and how he met Hedwig in a Croatian drag bar. We also learn that Hedwig's manager, Phyllis, has a cell phone surgically implanted in a tooth. When she gets hit in the head with a dryer door, she is unable to hang up her phone. Krzyzhtoff, whom Hedwig has just yelled at for putting her bra in the dryer, attempts to help Phyllis by pressing on her tooth.

Awards and nominations

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2001 Berlin International Film Festival Best Feature Film (Teddy Award) Won
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Nominated
Audience Award (Dramatic) Won
Directing Award (Dramatic) John Cameron Mitchell Won
National Board of Review, USA Best Debut Director Won
Gotham Awards Open Palm Award (Best Debut Director) Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards New Generation Award Won
Deauville Film Festival CineLive Award Won
Critics Award Won
Grand Special Prize Won
Gijon International Film Festival Best Actor Won
Montreal Comedy Festival Special Jury Prize Won
Provincetown International Film Festival Best Feature Won
San Francisco International Film Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature Won
San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Best First Feature John Cameron Mitchell Won
Seattle International Film Festival Best Actor Won
Stockholm International Film Festival Honorable Mention Won
2002 Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy John Cameron Mitchell Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards Best Feature Nominated
Best Cinematography Frank G. DeMarco Nominated
Best Director John Cameron Mitchell Nominated
Best First Screenplay Nominated
Best Male Lead Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Use of Previously Published or Recorded Music Won
L.A. Outfest Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role John Cameron Mitchell Won
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Miriam Shor Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Awards Best Songs Won
Newcomer of the Year John Cameron Mitchell Won
GLAAD Media Awards Outstanding Film (Limited Release) Won

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ - "The New Cult Canon - Hedwig and the Angry Inch"The A.V. Club
  5. ^ Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Rotten Tomatoes
  6. ^ a b c
  7. ^

External links

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