In John Waters' 13th film, "Pecker," Edward Furlong--co-starring with Christina Ricci, Lili Taylor and Martha Plimpton--plays an amateur photographer who photographs residents in his Baltimore neighborhood and innocently turns them into art sensations. Sound like Waters himself? Yup, except Waters, 52, denies any innocence in making the cult faves "Pink Flamingos," "Hairspray" and "Cry Baby."
SENTIMENTAL FOOL: "It does make some people mad that I made a nice movie. It's still very much a John Waters movie, still got an edge to it, but nicer, and very much reflects how I feel in 1998. I'm a happy guy--though not happy-go-lucky like Pecker."
TAKING CREDIT: "I try not to be humble enough to say yes, I've made trash in some ways acceptable, had at least some kind of influence in everything the right wing is complaining about, and I'm proud of it."
RESPECTABILITY: " 'Cry Baby' still plays over the world, thanks to Johnny Depp. And 'Pink Flamingos' was No. 2 on the video chart when it was reissued. No. 1 was 'Jerry Maguire' and No. 3 'The Rock.' So you never know what's going to happen."
WHIPPERSNAPPERS: "There are so many great filmmakers today--Todd Solondz, Todd Haynes, Hal Hartley. The young generation is doing a wonderful job, making cutting-edge movies and scaring my generation and making us nervous, and that's their job."
CASTING CHOICE: "I was a huge fan of [Ricci's] acting and her movie choices, even 'Casper,' the one I haven't seen. On the set of 'Pecker,' a little kid goes, 'Oh my God, she smokes!' They only knew her from 'Casper.' "
UPCOMING: "I have a new movie I'm trying to do now, 'Cecil B. Demented,' about teen terrorism against the movie business. A young movie-maker and his band of cultists kidnap a Hollywood A-list movie star and force her to be in their underground movie. Would love to shoot it in the spring."
LESSONS: "Hollywood's been fair to me. I'm not saying I haven't been through nightmare stories, but I've learned enough that you never tell them until you're retired--not if you ever want to make another movie."
HIGH FINANCE: "Even I, who gets 92 magazines, can't remember what some of these movies were that came and went in two weeks and cost $90 million. . . . My movies are certainly not 'Private Ryan,' but they play."