TORONTO – Comical cult legend John Waters says he doesn’t know if he’ll make another film again, and he’s fine with that.
After writing and directing over a dozen features, earning nicknames including the Baron of Bad Taste and the Pope of Trash for his subversive screen stories, he’s found happiness in penning books as it gets harder and harder to secure financing for new big-screen projects.
“I want to make another movie, but if I don’t, I have many ways to tell my stories,” Waters said in a telephone interview to promote his seventh book, “Carsick.”
“They want me to make (films) on the budgets I made ‘Female Trouble’ and ‘Polyester,’ and I can’t be a faux underground filmmaker at 68.
“It’s just like when they wanted me to come to Occupy Baltimore. I’m for it, I’m for all anarchy kids — as a matter of fact, I want a hacker boyfriend, because they stay home, they’re up in their bedrooms shutting down governments,” the openly gay writer-director-actor continued with a laugh from his Baltimore home.
“But at the same time I said, ‘I own three homes and a summer rental. I can’t really be too much of an anarchist.’ Brigid Berlin, the great Warhol star, said to me … ‘How can we be bad at 70?’ What a great line that was. That we even want to be, at 70.”
The baddest thing Waters has done lately? Hitchhiking from his Baltimore house to his apartment in San Francisco for “Carsick,” now on shelves.
The book begins with fictionalized hitchhiking scenarios he imagined might happen to him on the road. It then gives a humorous account of his actual 2012 trip with drivers including a minister’s wife, a young man in a red Corvette and a coal miner.
His cover was eventually blown after he was picked up by the indie band Here We Go Magic and they tweeted about it, leading to a flurry of posts of his adventure on social media.
Holding out his thumb roadside with a cardboard sign and signature pencil-thin moustache gave him a new outlook on Middle America, said the writer-director of 1988’s “Hairspray” and 1994’s “Serial Mom.”
“I always said before, I do great in the high life and the low life — I can do well at the Cannes Film Festival, I do well in prison, I don’t do well in a shopping mall. But I think that changed, because I think Middle America is different now. I think people have changed. I think it’s all because of the Internet and the global community and everything.
“Everybody’s better, everybody’s a little cooler, everybody’s a little less judgmental. Even Republicans, even people that I don’t believe in their politics at all.”
Before Waters embarked on the trip, he didn’t want to push being recognized by his drivers.
“But once I stood there for 10 hours, are you kidding? I prayed somebody would recognize me,” he said. “When I had to walk down in those Holiday Inns at seven in the morning to those breakfast rooms with the truckers, I was prayin’ somebody would recognize, but they usually never did.”
Waters battled rainy weather, stayed in motels and dined at truck stops and fast-food restaurants on his trip, which his assistants tracked via GPS. Some bypassers and patrons at rest stops offered him money, thinking he was homeless.
“It was like being in ‘Pink Flamingos,’ at the end when they say, ‘Let’s sleep in gas station lavatories’ — I WAS in gas station lavatories,” exclaimed Waters, who wrote and directed 1972’s “Pink Flamingos.”
“In the beginning you say, ‘Well, I wouldn’t get in a car like this, I wouldn’t do this.’ But by the time you’re really out there doing it for five days, I said I’d get in Ted Bundy’s car. If he had a Volkswagen and a broken arm and pulled up, I would’ve gotten in with him.”
In fact, the more offbeat the driver the better for Waters, who noted he’s more interested in “people that think they’re normal but are insane.”
“Because that’s all the characters I make movies about,” he said.
Waters has also picked up hitchhikers himself.
“The last time I remember picking up a hitchhiker was in Baltimore and it was in the daytime and it was a young kid and he jumped in the car and started huffing glue and I thought, ‘Well make yourself comfortable,'” he said.
“But then he offered me some and I said, ‘Well not on Tuesday at 11 in the morning. Maybe Friday night.’ … I thought it was sort of shocking and it made me laugh. He wasn’t scary or anything. But then again, the hitchhiker with the birthmark in ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ is my type.”
Waters said he’s reunited with some of his drivers, including Here We Go Magic and the so-called Corvette Kid, who attends his annual Christmas party.
If Waters ever makes a film about his journey, he has a certain Canadian pop star in mind for the role of the Corvette Kid.
“I love Justin Bieber. I want him to play the Corvette Kid,” he said.
Waters isn’t kidding when he says he loves Bieber.
The filmmaker admitted he watched “Justin Bieber’s Believe” biopic alone on Christmas Eve during a matinee, and he feels authorities are “being so mean to him now” for “ridiculous reasons.”
“He got fined $80,000 for throwing an egg? That seems a little excessive to me,” said Waters in his famously impish tone.
“He was busted for driving a Ferrari at 60 miles an hour. I didn’t know they went that slow. I thought you would stall out if you were driving a Ferrari at 60 miles an hour.”
— Follow @VictoriaAhearn on Twitter.