Talking With The Dead: 12 Questions With American Actor, Writer, Director, Musician, and Icon Crispin Hellion Glover (From the Exhumation Series)
Exhumation: (n) the act of digging something out of the ground (especially a corpse) where it has been buried.*
Crispin Hellion Glover (born April 20, 1964) is an American film actor, director, screenwriter, recording artist, publisher, and author. Glover is known for portraying eccentric people on screen such as George McFly in Back to the Future, Layne in River’s Edge, unfriendly recluse Rubin Farr in Rubin and Ed, Andy Warhol in The Doors, the “Thin Man” in the big screen adaptation of Charlie’s Angels and its sequel, Willard Stiles in the Willard remake, The Knave of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Phil in Hot Tub Time Machine, and as a Willy Wonka parody in Epic Movie. He is also the voice of Fifi in the Open Season franchise and most recently has appeared in the screen adaption of the Elmore Leonard novel “Freaky Deaky”. Next he played a World War 1 era German speaking Clairvoyant in the Polish Language film “Hiszpanka” and an unwitting employee in service of Robert De Niro’s Character in “The Bag Man.”
In the late 1980s, Glover started his company, Volcanic Eruptions, which publishes his books and also serves as the production company for Glover’s films, What Is It? and It is Fine. Everything is Fine! Glover tours with his movies and is currently supervising the building of sets for his next productions at a property he owns in the Czech Republic.**
1. Your career encompasses many facets of the entertainment industry. After playing a lead part in a stage production of “The Sound of Music” (that also starred Florence Henderson), you went on to have guest spots on several television shows, including Happy Days, Hill Street Blues and Family Ties. How would you say that your experiences on stage helped to propel you to television, and in turn, how would you say your time on television helped you once you stepped up to working on feature films?
I always drew and wrote as a child. I always liked Bosch and Dali as painters when I was a child. I saw Tod Browning’s Freaks when I was a child and was quite favorably impressed by that. My father is an actor, and my mother retired from her primary profession as a dancer and secondary profession as an actress when I was born. As I was growing up watching my father work in the film industry, I did not necessarily equate the business of acting with art as much as seeing it as a business.
I became a professional actor at age 13 by my own choice. I emphasize that because there is a large difference in that from when a child is forced in to acting by parents who choose that career for a child. I began studying in a professional acting class at age 15. At age 16 I viewed many revival films of the 1920s through the 1970s at the revival theaters that were popular in the early 1980s before the advent of VHS competition that led to most of the revival houses closing. While watching many of the films and being in acting class, I began to understand film and acting as art.
I had gotten two commercials at age 13. Then my first long term experience with professional job as an actor was in 1978 at age 14 for “The Sound of Music” with Florence Henderson at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. I got that through a “Cattle Call/ Open Audition” where literally thousands of people would show up to audition for the cast of the show. My mother had seen the ad for it in Variety for “children who can act, sing and dance.” I was concerned about the dancing and singing in particular.
My parents were both supportive. My mother had been familiar with the singing and dancing sort of “Cattle call” from work in New York and made me feel like it was not that big of a deal. So I went through the experience and it is something I will not forget. As the day went on more and more people getting cut, and I kept getting called back in till there were very few at the end of the day. As I recall, we were then called back for one more day of auditions and then the decision was made that day. Actually that kind of experience was really very much a confidence builder because I was there physically with all the other people progressively getting cut.
I had already started to do good work as an actor in class by age 16 at the point that I went to yet another “Cattle call” audition for “Best of Times” that was advertised in Variety. It was similar sort of cutting out experience as for “The Sound of Music” except the audition was more based on a scene that you were supposed bring in. I had brought in an improvisational scene with someone trying to get their parent to listen to a certain song. The scene was later rewritten by the show writers and changed in to me getting a shop owner played by Jackie Mason to listen to the song.
Being cast in that from yet another cattle call at age 16 was of course a good thing and yet by no mean did I think I had “Made it.” Nicolas Cage was also cast in it from the same “Cattle call” and he and I were the only two actors that were of the age that were still in school. So we had a tutor that we would have to be in a special room or trailer and do a certain amount of hours of school work each day. He and I shared a certain sense of humor of the absurd and became friends while making that show.
I was not technically proficient enough of an actor at the age of 16 to take weak writing and make the intentions work in a strong or differentiated way. I saw the clip you refer to on YouTube, and I still see one moment that I was directed to do that I did not feel good about then or now. I saw it a few months ago and I was concerned about watching it because I had not watched it since it was on the air when I was 16. I did not like my performance in it. I learned a lot and was very careful after that experience to make certain to be very careful about the decisions as an actor to intensify or even change the intentions of the character as written so that it plays. I feel like in that show the lines for the most part are played as written and it makes me uncomfortable still to this day to have public record of a time where I am still learning the craft. In any case I am glad I did the show and learned a lot from doing it.
The sort of training that I had or acting focused on bringing portions of your own psychology to make those characters have an organic quality. Something that is important to understand is that those who appear in corporately funded and distributed films and more importantly the content of are corporately funded and distributed films is not determined by the populace of the culture, but by the corporate interests that are funding and distributing the films. If an actor willingly cheerleads the corporate interests, that actor will be rewarded with money, media backup/publicity and consequently more work that sustains the corporate interests. Around the time I started acting in films in 1982 there was a shift in the kinds of films that were being corporately funded and distributed.
The film industry I had thought I had stepped in to was the spirit of when I was a teenager attending the various revival theaters that were so popular in Los Angeles in the 1980s before home theater business competition forced most 35 mm venues to close. I did not realize at the time that I stepped in to working as an actor that the kinds of films that were being funded and distributed had changed.
As soon as I got my driver’s license when I was 16 in 1980, I attended screenings at revival theaters that were quite popular in LA before VHS competition cleared many of them away. Many of these revival theaters no longer exist such as, one of my favorites, the beautiful Fox Venice with a wide cinemascope screen on Lincoln Blvd.
The films I saw that played in these venues tended to question culturally accepted truths with performances that underscored these concepts. Films played such as: Ken Russel’s The Devils, Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown, Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Cassanova, John Cassavete’s A woman under the influence, Orson Wells’ F is for Fake and Citizen Kane, Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sunset Blvd, John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living, Todd Browning’s Freaks, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove, Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God, Even Dwarves Small and Fata Morgana. I was a regular attendee of David Lynch’s Eraserhead at midnight on Fridays at the Nuart.
I studied actors giving performances like: Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider, Timothy Carey in Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden, Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Brad Dourif in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Wise Blood, Peter Lorre in M, Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh and Klaus Kinski in Aguirre, The Wrath of God.
These films and performances characterized the atmosphere of cinema and acting I believed I was stepping into as a young actor.
By 1982, at age 18, I began to act in feature films. At this time I believed contemporary culture’s film’s main purpose was to question suspect things in our culture. I enthusiastically supported the idea of questioning our culture. To help support the idea, I also questioned the film industry’s and media’s messages. Sometimes I felt scorned and isolated; other times I felt accepted and admired. Then, at one point, in the midst of my career, I realized that the types of films the industry was financing and distributing had changed almost diametrically from the types of films I had watched when I was 18.
2. Your horror genre career started with the role of Jimmy Mortimer in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984). Your character meets his gruesome demise when, after celebrating his sexual encounter with Tina (one of the twins), Jason pins him to the counter with a corkscrew to the hand and a cleaver to the face. What led to your role in the film, how were you able to bring the awkwardness of the character to life so well and looking back at it after all of these years, are you surprised that the film STILL has the cult following that it does?
It was my third feature film. I contacted the agent of the actor that I was going to have the audition with and arranged to rehearse the day before the audition. This was something I realized was important to do if I was going to audition for a film with an actor as opposed to auditioning with a casting person. Actors can get the sense of the energy that will happen before they perform for the audition if they rehearse beforehand. If they come in cold with another actor to audition, the energy can be way off and it will serve neither actor well.
I am glad that I was in the film. I knew while filming it that someday there would be something humorous about appearing in that film. I am not really that much of a follower of horror. That being said, there are certain films considered to be in the horror genre that a truly great films. I think people can be drawn to horror for the concept that it lets one feel they have survived something brought to them from the darker side of life. That can be invigorating.
I asked that they play “Back in Black” by AC/DC when my character puts the record on and asks the girl to dance. That song is not what the audience hears in the film of course, but that is the song to which I was dancing. Of course the style of dance I am performing is not the standard style of dance for that song. The dance is more syncopated than it might seem. The original music was AC/DCs Back in Black. I asked them to play that for the actual filming of the scene which they did, but the music they used in the soundtrack was something that was less syncopated to the dance. It was always an unusual way to dance, but probably made even more unusual by the non-fitting music put over it.
3. In Back To The Future (1985), it almost seems that you took the general teenager awkwardness of Jimmy from FT13: TFC and reformed it to parental awkwardness for the character of George McFly. How easy (or difficult) was it to you to go from playing the teenager with shyness and awkwardness to the adult with those issues, was it odd playing the father to an actor that is about the same age as you (Michael J. Fox) and what was it about the role and film that appealed to you the most?
The film was shot mostly in 1984. I was 20 the entire time the film was being shot. Both Eric Stoltz, who was originally cast in the role and shot for more than 5 weeks, and Michael J. Fox were older than myself. The role was well written, and it was a good character to play. I was more concerned about the psychology of the character than the age of the character.
4. The producers brought your character of George McFly back to life in Back To The Future 2 (1989) by splicing together archived footage and new scenes (using an actor in prosthetic makeup). You had not given permission for your likeness to be used and sued the film’s producer, Steven Spielberg and won. The case prompted the Screen Actors Guild to devise new regulations about the use of actors’ images. As much as your acting has left a mark in the industry, how much do you feel your case has helped actor and actresses for all future generations and how important do you feel the decision was that the SAG incorporated new regulations because of it?
The obvious illegal action of the producers of the film was of course an important aspect to the lawsuit. The other was that it was the only way to let people know that I was not the actor in that film. To this day you will find many people that believe that I was the actor in that film. This was and is still the most distressing part of the situation. Of course your main trade as an actor is yourself. If someone else is able to claim that they are you and then deliver a less than excellent performance that people believe is you, that is of course incredibly damaging and frustrating.
What is worse is that the producer writer Bob Gale has not only not apologized for his part in illegal activity, but has made matters worse by trying to justify his illegal work by making up lies about me. He has claimed that I asked for the same pay as Michael J. Fox. Bob Gale’s claims about this are as false as the prosthetics that were placed on the face of another actor to made to look like me. If Bob Gale were to take the creativity he is using for his lies he has made up about me and write a film to be produced, then it would be a better use of energy.
If one studies Bob Gale’s IMDB, it becomes clear that his feature film writing essentially stopped not long after the lawsuit. There used to be some interviews with Bob Gale on the Internet wherein he was bragging about most of his screenplays being bought by Steven Spielberg. None of those screenplays were ever produced by Steven Spielberg.
I wonder if Steven Spielberg noticed that Bob Gale’s screenplay had a lot to do with the illegal concept to use prosthetics on another actor’s face to make them up to look like me. I wonder if Steven Spielberg may have been irritated at Bob Gale for being an architect of illegal activity and then felt it would be better if Bob Gale did not contribute much to the film industry after the lawsuit. I wonder then if Bob Gale decided it was a good idea to try to re-write the truth in order to justify his lies to friends and family. Lying and stealing are bad things, and it seems like Bob Gale does not understand this concept in relationship to me. I am amazed by this.
I am glad to have worked again with Robert Zemeckis on Beowulf playing Grendel. It was a second successful collaboration as actor and director for a good performance in interesting screenplays. It is interesting that the moral of Beowulf was “Lies are bad.” That was probably the most sincere form of apology that could be offered, and it certainly lightens my view about the situation with Robert Zemeckis. I of course wish that they had simply hired another actor to play that role and used that actual actor’s face, as they did with the role of Jennifer that was played by two different actresses in the two films without the use of any prosthetics.
5. 1990 saw you in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart in the role of Dell (a role that most people would say was the start of you playing epically cult characters). With David’s track history of making films that have a way of sticking with you long after viewing them, what was it like to take direction from David, how was it working with fellow costars Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Defoe and Diane Ladd, and what did you take away from this film that you think has furthered your acting?
When I was 16 in 1980 and I had learned how to drive, I would go see Erasherhead playing midnights at the Nuart over and over. I was in acting class at the time, and there is no doubt that the film had an influence on my acting. It was great to work with him on Wild at Heart and understand the true character psychology motivating the sort of behavior I had admired in his film Eraserhead. David Lynch specifically had a business influence on What Is It? because he had agreed to executive produce a different film for me to direct. This film will ultimately be part three of the trilogy, and this film will be titled IT IS MINE.
David Lynch was great to work with as a director. I had been very influenced when I was 16 years old and went to see “Eraserhead” projected at the Nuart Theater in Los Angeles many times. It was fascinating working with him when I played Cousin Dell in “Wild at Heart” That performance is probably the most specifically directed performance by a director I have performed, and because it was directed by such an excellent director it is one of my favorite performances of myself. I get a lot of compliments on it.
David Lynch had influence on What Is It? in one way that was very business oriented: I had co-written a screenplay in which I put the concept of the majority of the characters to be played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. This screenplay is called IT IS MINE. David Lynch had agreed to executive produce this film for me to direct, which was very helpful. I went to one of the major film funding corporation in Los Angeles that was interested in funding the film. After a number of meetings and conversations, they let me know that they were concerned about funding a film where in most of the characters were to be played by actors with Down’s Syndrome.
So it was decided that I should write a screenplay to make what was originally going to be a short film to promote that it was a viable idea to have most of the characters in a film be played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. This screenplay eventually become the feature film I have now completed and am showing entitled What Is It?
6. You are great friends with Johnny Depp and have worked with him on What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) and Alice In Wonderland (2010). With both of you being known for playing eccentric characters and working in eclectic films, how much do you enjoy working with him, was there ever a situation where you both had to step back from your roles so that you did not overshadow one another, and is there a film concept that you think that the two of you would excel in well together?
It is true I have worked with Johnny Depp on three different films, which are the most feature films I have worked with the same actor. It is also true I knew him since well before he was working as much. I met him the first day he has received his first job as an actor which was “Nightmare on Elm Street.” He of course has continued to do great ever since. I do not see him now other than work, but he is always very easy to work with and a gentleman to be around.
It is never a worry for an actor to step back from something other than that which could physically harm someone. Otherwise I think all good actors want the person who they are playing the scene with to be the best that their fellow actor can be. You only look better when the person you are in the scene with is good. The ideal is that everyone in the scene is acting at the best possible peak. Johnny Depp has interesting taste in directors and material, so I have always had good experiences on the projects I have been in with him. If I am in the good fortune to act with him again, I assume it will be another interesting project and another good time.
7. The current trend in Hollywood has been to take TV shows from our past and turn them into feature length movies. In 2000, you took up the role of The Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels, and reprised the role again in 2003’s sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. How was it for you to take a role in a feature length version of an iconic TV series from our youth, did you expect it to have the popularity that it did (including a sequel), and how was it working with Bill Murray (another actor known for going his own way)?
The Thin Man had multiple months of training with the great Yuen family and their cinematic understanding of character involved with wire work. Through a series odd coincidences, I ended up having more influence on the character than I have played in any other film. Things like the character having no lines, the way the character dressed and looked, and the hair fetish were all things that emanated from my suggestions.
One of the most important coincidences was that Bill Murray had brought in a writer to help improve the screenplay, which it did. It also improved my character because there was fluidity to the way the filming was going due to the script changes and the abundance of influence I had on the character. It was not something that normally happens on even a smaller budgeted film, much less a large studio film like that.
I was very pleased with the way the character came out in that film. I ran in to Bill Murray at Sundance a few years ago and let him know how much he and the writer he brought in ended up improving my character for the film. He gave me a big hug and was very complimentary and kind. It was a great moment. He is a truly unique and interesting force in the artistic film world.
I was also able to fund the shooting of my second feature film “It is fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE” with the money I made from the first Charlie’s Angels film. Steven C. Stewart wrote and is the main actor in part two of the trilogy. I put Steve in to the cast of What Is It? because he had written this screenplay which I read in 1987. When I turned What Is It? from a short film in to a feature, I realized there were certain thematic elements in the film that related to what Steven C. Stewart’s screenplay dealt with.
Steve had been locked in a nursing home for about ten years when his mother died. He had been born with a severe case of cerebral palsy, and he was very difficult to understand. People that were caring for him in the nursing home would derisively call him an “M.R.” short for “Mental Retard”. This is not a nice thing to say to anyone, but Steve was of normal intelligence. When he did get out, he wrote his screenplay. Although it is written in the genre of a murder detective thriller, truths of his own existence come through much more clearly than if he had written it as a standard autobiography.
As I have stated, What Is It? was going to be a short film to promote the concept to corporate film funding entities. Steve had written his screenplay in in the late 1970s. I read it in 1987, and as soon as I had read it I knew I had to produce the film. Steven C. Stewart died within a month after we finished shooting the film. Cerebral palsy is not generative, but Steve was 62 when we shot the film. One of Steve’s lungs had collapsed because he had started choking on his own saliva and he got pneumonia. I specifically started funding my own films with the money I make from the films I act in when Steven C. Stewart’s lung collapsed in the year 2000. This was around the same time that the first Charlie’s Angels film was coming to me.
I realized with the money I made from that film I could put straight in to the Steven C. Stewart film. That is exactly what happened. I finished acting in Charlie’s Angels and then went to Salt Lake City where Steven C. Stewart lived. I met with Steve and David Brothers with whom I co-directed the film. I went back to LA and acted in a lower budget film for about five weeks, and David Brothers started building the sets. Then I went straight back to Salt Lake and we completed shooting the film within about six months in three separate smaller productions. Then Steve died within a month after we finished shooting.
I am relieved to have gotten this film finally completed, because ever since I read the screenplay in 1987 I knew I had to produce the film. Steven C. Stewart’s own true story was fascinating, and then the beautiful story, and the naïvety — including his fascination of women with long hair — and the graphic violence and sexuality, and the revealing truth of his psyche from the screenplay were all combined.
There was a specific marriage proposal scene that was the scene I remember reading that made me say, “I have to produce this film.” I also knew I had to produce it correctly. I would not have felt right about myself if I had not gotten Steve’s film made. I would have felt that I had done something wrong and that I had actually done a bad thing if I had not gotten it made. So I am greatly relieved to have completed it, especially since I am very pleased with how well the film has turned out.
We shot It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE while I was still completing What Is It? And this is partly why What Is It? took a long time to complete. I am very proud of the film. I feel It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE will probably be the best film I will have anything to do with in my entire career. People who are interested in when I will be back should join up on the e mail list at CrispinGlover.com, as they will be emailed with information as to where I will be where with whatever film I tour with. It is by far the best way to know how to see the films.
After Charlie’s Angels came out, it did very well financially and was good for my acting career. I started getting better roles that also paid better, and I could continue using that money to finance my films that I am so truly passionate about. I have been able to divorce myself from the content of the films that I act in and look at acting as a craft that I am helping other filmmakers to accomplish what it is that they want to do.
Usually filmmakers have hired me because there is something they have felt would be interesting to accomplish with using me in their film, and usually I can try to do something interesting as an actor. If for some reason the director is not truly interested in doing something that I personally find interesting with the character, then I can console myself that with the money I am making to be in their production I can help to fund my own films that I am so truly passionate about. Usually though, I feel as though I am able to get something across as an actor that I feel good about. It has worked out well!
8. One of my all-time favorite films that you have worked on was the remake of Willard (2003). Once again, you found a way to channel the awkwardness of the character (very similar to your roles in FT13TH:TFC and BTTF) and make the audience really feel for Willard’s emotional state. How were you able to convey those emotions differently once Willard cracks and you feel his anger and madness, were there ever any issues with the rats in the film, and what can you tell us about performing the song “Ben” for the soundtrack and the music video?
I very much enjoyed playing Willard. I worked very hard on the emotional aspects in playing the role of Willard. I did not see the original film till after my deal had been reached for me to appear in the version that I did. I wanted to see if there was anything I could glean from Bruce Davison’s performance. When I viewed the 1971 Willard, I liked it and thought Bruce Davison’s performance was excellent. But the screenplay I had read was a substantially different character from what the character was in the 1971 film, so I had to go in to the screenplay for figuring out the character.
I had an excellent time working on that film. I am proud of the emotional work that I concentrated on very hard while making that film. The rodents that I worked with were exceedingly well trained and never made a mistake on a single take, which was great because a lot of the scenes I had with them were emotional scenes that would have been hard to get to again if cuts had to be because of the rats. But rats were perfect every time and ultimately great acting partners.
Amazingly, I did an interview with a reporter from Time Magazine and the reporter made something up where I supposedly stated that I did not know there would be rats and got upset. It was non-sensical and was in the midst of so much publicity for the film that I never got to write in to Time Magazine about the inaccuracy of the article. It amazed me that an inaccuracy like that came from a highly regarded news source like Time Magazine of all places. It made me very wary of that magazine as a trusted news source.
The way my singing the song came about was from discussing it with Glenn Morgan, the writer/director of the film. I think he sort of mentioned it in passing, but I still do not know how much he meant it at the time. I had a record out years before called “The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be.” I thought it was something that could work, and I ended up producing the song with one of the producers from that record. I enjoyed co-producing the song, and then I enjoyed working with the rats again when directing the video for it. I also very much enjoyed working with R. Lee Ermey on both the film and having him play some parts in the video as well.
9. 2007’s Wizard of Gore is another genre remake in your cannon of films where you take up the role of Montag the Magnificent. With the original being considered one of the original true gore films, what was it about the project that drew you to it, how do you feel is stays true to the original (and inversely, how do you think it differs), and what are your thoughts on how so many classic films in the genre (Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc.) are being remade these days?
I had not seen either “Willard” or “Wizard of Gore” when I was offered those roles. I watched both of the films to see if there were elements of the performances that would be good for me to utilize. When I watched the original Willard, I could see that Bruce Davison is an excellent actor and that he gave an excellent performance in the film. The screenplay I had read was quite different tonally from the original film, and there was an emotional arc to the character that was dissimilar to the emotional arc of the character that I was to play. Therefore, it did not make sense to take elements of Bruce Davison’s performance.
That being said, I am glad to have played the character, and I am proud of the emotional work that was what most of my concentration for the duration of the shoot was about. With Wizard of Gore, I thought there were interesting structural elements in the original movie that I recommended to be reinstated, but that did not happen. The character was a fun sort of hammy part to play. Being that the character was an illusionist as opposed to a magician.
I had spoken to a professional magician about this, and he let me know that for the most part there are large distinctions between illusionists and magicians. Magicians tend to work with cards, coins, cigarettes and alcohol kind of tricks in closer bar like quarters. Illusionists tend to work on stage with a lot of special effects, special costumes and animals. In any case, I went for something that was a little bit based on Seigfreid and Roy. I had met them backstage once with Werner Herzog and his wife after seeing the show which the tickets Anchor Bay had made available for the celebration of the Herzog DVDs (which I had asked some questions to Herzog in the commentary of Even Dwarves Started Small and Fata Morgana). Both of those films had strong influence on my first film What Is It? in various ways.
I am very careful to make it quite clear that “What Is It?” is not a film about Down’s Syndrome but my psychological reaction to the corporate restraints that have happened in the last 20 to 30 years in film making. Specifically, anything that can possibly make an audience uncomfortable is necessarily excised or the film will not be corporately funded or distributed. This is damaging to the culture because it is the very moment when an audience member sits back in their chair, looks up at the screen and thinks to their self “Is this right what I am watching? Is this wrong what I am watching? Should I be here? Should the filmmaker have made this? What is it?” — and that is the title of the film.
What is it that is taboo in the culture? What does it mean that taboo has been ubiquitously excised in this culture’s media? What does it mean to the culture when it does not properly process taboo in its media? It is a bad thing because when questions are not being asked because these kinds of questions are when people are having a truly educational experience. For the culture to not be able to ask questions leads towards a non-educational experience, and that is what is happening in this culture. This stupefies this culture, and that is of course a bad thing.
So “What Is It?” is a direct reaction to the content dictated by this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
10. Acting is not the only hat you wear in the industry. Besides acting, you have also been producer, director, editor, writer, been in the music department and have had a part in the camera and electrical department. Out of all of those things, which of them to you find to be the most difficult yet rewarding, is there a facet of the industry that you have not done yet that you are itching to try, and how do you juggle all of those responsibilities?
I am now in the midst of shooting my third feature film as a director/producer. Financing/producing/getting the film actually made is the most difficult thing. Finally having the film to show to people is obviously extraordinarily the most rewarding thing. I am now on year 9 of touring with my shows and films.
11. You are currently on tour with Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show. The events consist of different combinations of Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show (A one hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated books you have made over the years), screening of the film It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE or What Is It? followed by a question and answer session with you, followed by a book signing. Do you enjoy being on the road promoting your work in such a way, how well has it been received by the fans, and what has been the most surprising thing you have been asked to sign by a fan?
The live aspects of the shows are not to be underestimated. This is a large part of how I bring audiences in to the theater and a majority of how I recoup is by what is charged for the live show and what I make from selling the books after the shows. For “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show” I perform a one hour dramatic narration of eight different books I have made over the years. The books are taken from old books from the 1800s that have been changed in to different books from what they originally were. They are heavily illustrated with original drawings and reworked images and photographs.
I started making my books in 1983 for my own enjoyment without the concept of publishing them. I had always written and drawn and the books came as an accidental outgrowth of that. I was in an acting class in 1982 and down the block was an art gallery that had a book store upstairs. In the book store there was a book for sale that was an old binding taken from the 1800s, and someone had put their art work inside the binding. I thought this was a good idea and set out to do the same thing.
I worked a lot with India ink at the time and was using the India ink on the original pages to make various arts. I had always liked words in art and left some of the words on one of the pages. I did this again a few pages later, and then when I turned the pages I noticed that a story started to naturally form. So I continued with this. When I was finished with the book, I was pleased with the results and kept making more of them.
I made most of the books in the 80s and very early 90s. Some of the books utilize text from the binding it was taken from and some of them are basically completely original text. Sometimes I would find images that I was inspired to create stories for, or sometimes it was the binding ,or sometimes it was portions of the texts that were interesting. Altogether, I made about twenty of them.
When I was editing my first feature film “What Is It?”, there was a reminiscent quality to the way I worked with the books because, as I was expanding the film in to a feature from what was originally going to be a short, I was taking film material that I had shot for a different purpose originally and re-purposed it for a different idea. And I was writing and shooting and ultimately editing at the same time. Somehow I was comfortable with this because of similar experiences with making my books.
When I first started publishing the books in 1988, people said I should have book readings. But the book are so heavily illustrated, and the way the illustrations are used within the books they help to tell the story. So the only way for the books to make sense was to have visually representations of the images. This is why I knew a slide show was necessary. It took a while, but in 1992 I started performing what I now call Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Side Show Part 1. The content of that show has not changed since I first started performing it. But the performance of the show has become more dramatic as opposed to more of a reading. The books do not change, but the performance of the show of course varies slightly from show to show based the audience’s energy and my energy.
People sometimes get confused as to what “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show (Parts 1&2)” is, so now I always let it be known that it is a one hour dramatic narration of eight different profusely illustrated books that I have made over the years. The illustrations from the books are projected behind me as I perform the show. There is a second slide show now that also has 8 books. Part 2 is performed if I have a show with Part 1 of the “IT” trilogy and then on the subsequent night I will perform the second slide show and Part 2 of the “IT” trilogy. The second slide show has been developed over the last several years and the content has changed as it has been developed, but I am very happy with the content of the second slide show now.
The books and films are all narrative. Sometimes people see thematic correlations between the content of my books and the content of the films. The fact that I tour with the film helps the distribution element. I consider what I am doing to be following in the steps of vaudeville performers. Vaudeville was the main form of entertainment for most of the history of the US. It has only relatively recently stopped being the main source of entertainment, but that does not mean this live element mixed with other media is no longer viable. In fact it is apparent that it is sorely missed.
I definitely have been aware of the element of utilizing the fact that I am known from work in the corporate media I have done in the last 25 years or so. This is something I rely on for when I go on tour with my films. It lets me go to various places and have the local media cover the fact that I will be performing a one hour live dramatic narration of eight different books which are profusely illustrated and projected as I go through them, then show the film either What Is It? (being 72 minutes) or It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (being 74 minutes), then having a Q and A and then a book signing. As I funded the films, I knew that this is how I would recoup my investment even if it a slow process.
Volcanic Eruptions was a business I started in Los Angeles in 1988 as Crispin Hellion Glover doing business as Volcanic Eruptions. It was a name to use for my book publishing company. About a year later, I had a record/CD come out with a corporation called Restless Records. About when I had sold the same amount of books as CD/records had sold, it was very clear to me that because I had published my own books that I had a far greater profit margin. It made me very suspicious of working with corporations as a business model.
Financing/Producing my own films is based on the basic business model of my own publishing company. There are benefits and drawbacks about self-distributing my own films. In this economy it seems like a touring with the live show and showing the films with a book signing is a very good basic safety net for recouping the monies I have invested in the films.
There are other beneficial aspects of touring with the shows other than monetary elements. There are benefits that I am in control of the distribution and personally supervise the monetary intake of the films that I am touring with. I also control piracy in this way because digital copy of this film is stolen material and highly prosecutable.
It is enjoyable to travel and visit places, meet people, perform the shows and have interaction with the audiences and discussions about the films afterwards. The forum after the show is also not to under-estimated as a very important part of the show for the audience. This also makes me much more personally grateful to the individuals who come to my shows as there is no corporate intermediary.
The drawbacks are that a significant amount of time and energy to promote and travel and perform the shows. Also the amount of people seeing the films is much smaller than if I were to distribute the films in a more traditional sense.
The way I distribute my films is certainly not traditional in the contemporary sense of film distribution, but perhaps is very traditional when looking further back at vaudeville era film distribution. If there are any filmmakers that are able to utilize aspects of what I am doing then that is good. It has taken many years to organically develop what I am doing now as far as my distribution goes. I am never really surprised by anything people have me sign. I just think of whatever it is that it is something someone wants signed and then sign it. I am of course careful to make sure to stay till the last person in line has been met.
12. You have provided us all of with so much entertainment from several different mediums! What would you say that your favorite form of artistic expression is and what can we look for from you in the coming months and years?
As I continue to tour, I will now be showing ten minutes of edited footage from my next feature film which marks the first time I have acted with my father Bruce Glover who has been seen in such films as Diamonds are Forever, Chinatown and Ghost World. I am excited about this project. This is my first film to have been shot with 35 mm negative. My first two features were shot with standard 16mm film then blown up for a 35 mm negative from a digital intermediate.
There are great things about digital technology. I love the grain pattern of film, and this is also why I enjoy 16mm as well as 35mm. So far my feature film projects have been shot on film. This is my third feature film production. This will not be “IT IS MINE.” Nor will it have anything to do with the “IT” trilogy. It is not part 3 of the “IT” trilogy.
I have owned a chateau in the Czech Republic for many years now, and it has been in a state of work to get both the chateau ready for housing the crew members and cast when I am shooting my own productions and the 14,000 square feet of former horse stables that are now the areas for the shooting stages where the sets have been built. There has been an enormous amount of work here. When people hear I am coming to my chateau, they always say “Have a great time!” as though I am going on vacation. But I actually have way more difficult work here than at my house in LA. In the last two years I have been at my property in Czech more than LA, but also on the road with my shows and films or acting in other people’s films, more than either of my homes.
I should not go in to too much detail for part 3 of the “It” trilogy yet as “IT IS MINE.” will not be the film I shoot. There are other projects outside of the trilogy that I will shoot next. The Czech Republic is where I own a chateau built in the 1600s. I have converted its former horse stables in to film shooting stages. Czech is another culture and another language and I need to build up to complex productions like “What Is It?” and the existing sequel “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” “IT IS MINE” is an even more complex project than the previous two films put together, so it will be a while yet for that production. I will step outside of the trilogy for a number of films that deal with different thematic elements from the “IT” trilogy.
The sets for my next film productions were in construction for over two years now. At the same time the sets were being built, I was in the process of continuing to develop the screenplay for myself and my father to act in together on these sets. My father, Bruce Glover, is also an actor who has appeared in such films as “Chinatown” and “Diamonds Are Forever” and he and I have not yet acted together on film.
The project with my father is the next film I am currently preparing to make as a director/producer. This will be the first role I have written for myself to act that will be written primarily as an acting role, as opposed to a role that was written for the character I play to merely serve the structure. But even still on some level, I am writing the screenplay to be something that I can afford to make. There are two other projects I am currently developing to shoot on sets at my property in the Czech Republic. These films will be relatively affordable by utilizing the basic set structures that can be slightly re-worked for variations, and yet each film will feel separate from one another in look and style — yet still cinematically pleasing so they will be worth to project in various cinemas.
I have now started shooting my next feature at my property in Czech. The crew and cast stayed at my chateau in Czech.