Waters got two standing ovations for his legacy in battling film censors and going it alone as an independent filmmaker out of Baltimore in the 1970s. Waters reveled in the applause and the appreciation, telling the crowd at the Edison Ballroom that he has always thought of himself, first and foremost, as a writer.
“Every single weekday I get up at 6 a.m. and go into my writing room and think up something f—– up,” Waters said. “In the afternoon I go try and sell it. Isn’t that what all writers do?”
Preaching to the choir, Waters added: “Writing is the only part of filmmaking I really love.”
Waters couldn’t resist the platform to remind the room of some of the memorable lines from his body of work that earned him the guild’s Ian McLellan Hunter career achievement award.
- “I wouldn’t suck your lousy dick if I was suffocating and there was oxygen in your lousy balls.”
- “I’m glad I got an abortion.”
- “Make a list of all the people you f—– and then apologize to their parents.”
Waters admitted that for a long time he was afraid of the guild. He figured one day he would be dragged off of one of his set and “taken off to some writers jail in a place like Burbank.” But now he considers himself a “militant member.” And as such he had some suggestions for the WGA to demand in its upcoming contract negotiations with the major studios.
For one, “Let’s stop these movie stars from ad-libbing. You know who they are. I say, say your f—— lines as written or join the Writers Guild.”
For another, “Let’s attach some of the editor’s salary when they cut out some of the best lines without WGA permission.” And the suggestion that got the biggest rise from the room: financial penalties to marketing executives who insist on voice-over narration being added to a movie after bad test screenings. He also advocated that writers “go to their homes in the middle of the night and shout out these offensive lines over and over so they too can’t sleep.”
Another proud son of Baltimore, “The Wire” creator David Simon, presented the kudo to Waters (he joked that Barry Levinson must’ve turned down the gig). Simon noted that he and Waters have shared many crew members over the years. But their connection goes even deeper, as Waters was the one who performed his marriage ceremony to novelist Laura Lippman.
Simon hailed Waters as a hero who went toe-to-toe with the state censor of Maryland on his early films such as “Pink Flamingos,” “Female Trouble” and “Polyester.” (Mink Stole, legendary actress in those films, was in the crowd at the Edison to honor Waters.)
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a greater and more influential enemy of ‘normal’ than John Waters,” Simon said.