He smashed taboos with his debut film Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) about a transsexual rocker stalking an ex-lover and shocked audiences with Shortbus (2006), which blurred the lines between art house cinema and pornography.
But on his new film, How to Talk to Girls at Parties, he was prepared to face the wrath of one pissed off Nicole Kidman.
The filmmaker revealed that the actress, who recently won an Emmy for her performance in TV drama Big Little Lies, was spat on during scenes for the new movie.
She plays a punk rocker called Queen Boadicea in the sci-fi love story, which was based on a Neil Gaiman short story.
The pair had previously worked together on family drama Rabbit Hole (2010), which earned Kidman an Oscar nomination for her performance.
Cameron Mitchell revealed Kidman took tips from him on how to play the character, which was ‘loosely based on Vivienne Westwood with a bit of Malcolm McLaren thrown in’.
He said: ‘I would just imagine Boadicea, who I imagined was an Australian who had lived in the East End for a while and had a strange accent. Just sort of braying and screaming, looking for originality, smashing the system but also wanting to be famous.
‘She would copy me and I would just plonk that wig on her, threw her in with a bunch of punks, who were a bit rough with her sometimes. We didn’t have time to have stage combat choreography. She did get hit in the head with a guitar and spit on a few times which she didn’t like but because she’s a professional she trusted me.’
The film stars Elle Fanning as a bored alien touring the galaxy, who falls for a human (newcomer Alex Sharp), and gets drawn into his obsession with the punk scene in ’70s Croydon. Yes, Croydon.
Matt Lucas, Ruth Wilson and Joanna Scanlan make up the rest of the talented cast but one person who didn’t make the cut was Marion Cotillard due to scheduling conflicts.
Cameron Mitchell explained: ‘I’d written a role for Marion Cotillard as the original singer of the punk band The Dischords that got sacked by Nicole Kidman and her friends.
‘I think she was doing Assassin’s Creed or something at the time. She’s a really good rock’n’roll singer. We’ve worked together before on Dior films so she was really gutted that she couldn’t do that.’
Cotillard and Kidman reunited on-screen again after 2009’s glorious musical Nine? We’re gutted too.
Watch the rest of our interview with Cameron Mitchell to find out how he went about transforming Gaiman’s 18 page tale into a feature film and shooting in London.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties is screening today at BFI London Film Festival.