INTERVIEW: Crispin Glover!


Everyone has seen a Crispin Glover movie, that’s my declaration right here and now. You might not realize it, but you have. Glover’s ageless appearance combined with his often weird role choices (and portrayals) give him the “that guy from that thing” status that all great and true character actors (think Dick Miller, William Fichtner, Bill Moseley, or a pre-Man of Steel Michael Shannon) will achieve in their lifetime.

Probably most famous for his role as George McFly in Robert Zemeckis’s Back to the Future (or most infamously,not its sequels), Glover has worked for all the greats: David Lynch, Oliver Stone, Gus Van Sant, Milos Forman, Neil LaBute, Tim Burton, and… McG. He’s also done voice-over work for kids movies like Open Season. Like I said, you’ve seen a Crispin Glover movie before.

In addition to acting, Glover has released an album and has, in the last decade, started directing his own films. The first, What Is It? is a surrealist piece composed mainly of actors with Down syndrome that almost defies description. The follow-up to that film, It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine. is yet a more colorful, surrealistic piece, this time led by an actor with cerebral palsy. Defying description is a good thing, however as these movies have to be seen to be fully appreciated and understood for what they are.

And you’re in luck! Crispin hits the road every so often to not only show these films the way they were intended – on vibrant, shadowy 35mm – but to also support his passion of book-writing. To simply say ‘writing’ does not do it justice. Glover finds old texts, and essentially re-purposes them — filling them with his own words and images, scrawls, and drawings — turning them into something new, something completely different.  The images from the books are projected on a screen while he reads from the pages. After that he will show one of his films, followed by a Q&A with the audience.  I have been to these before. I can assure you that not only is the event a wild, good time, but Crispin’s role as host of the evening is just as impressive as the work itself. The man has a penchant for entertainment and theatrics, but he’s also a gracious ringleader, taking the time to answer everyone’s questions thoughtfully and thoroughly.

There is much to say about Mr. Glover’s body of work, so why not say it to him in person? He’ll be at the Music Box Theater Fri., Jan. 31 at 8:00pm, showing It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine., and at the Patio Theater on Fri., Feb 7th at 7:00pm, showing What Is It?  More details to come following the interview!

 There’s no denying that the digital format seems to be taking over the world of celluloid. Recently, Paramount Pictures announced they were no longer distributing film prints and going completely digital. Your films are known for their beautiful, vibrant images (among other things), and part of this is due to the fact that you present them on lush 35mm prints. So what are your thoughts on digital film-making? Is it something you could see yourself making the switch to?

 As long as it is possible to project the films as 35 mm prints, I will continue to do so. I prefer 35 mm film projection. I am certain there will always be 35 mm projection archival houses and there will be a continuing need for film negative for film archival as all archivists know the long term storage of film negative is less expensive than the non-stable digital archival elements that continuously need updates. As long as I can do it, I will prefer to shoot on film. If it comes to digital projection, I will do that as well. I am a realist and will do what is necessary for making movies, but as long as possible I would prefer to shoot film and have my films projected as film. Like I say, I am confident film negative will be manufactured for a long long time in to the future. I will be showing the 35 mm print of It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. at the Music Box Theatre January 31 and the 35 mm print of What Is It? at the Patio Theatre on February 7. 
Going along with modern advancements in the film-making industry, Kickstarter has been incredibly helpful in assisting aspiring directors and producers find the funding for projects that would otherwise never see the light of day. You’ve stated before that the films you direct have been funded through the roles you take on as an actor. Have you ever thought of crowdsourcing or turning to a public forum such as Kickstarter to fund your next film?  

I have thought about crowdsourcing, but have not yet done it. There are positive aspects to it and negative aspects to it. I am in the midst of shooting my next feature on 35 mm film, and if the expenses get too much for me I may explore crowdsourcing, but if I make enough (money) to finish the film with my income as an actor, then I would prefer to do it that way.

With the advent of the internet, piracy became an unforeseen beast that has affected every format of entertainment, from movies to music and even books. What are your thoughts on accessibility and sharing via the internet? Where, to you, is the line drawn? Your films are not available on DVD; is this to encourage people to come and be a part of the live show?

The live aspects of the shows are not to be underestimated. This is a large part of how I bring audiences 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 1800′s that have been changed into 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.  It was an old binding taken from the 1800′s, and someone had put their artwork 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 art. 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 and 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 80′s and very early 90′s. 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 into 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 books are so heavily illustrated, and they way the illustrations are used within the books help to tell the story, so the only way for the books to make sense was to have visual 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 eight 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 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.

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. 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.

Do you think your “mythology” as a unique actor interferes with or makes it hard for people to truly appreciate your art? Your books, especially during your readings, seem to take on a humorous aspect they don’t normally otherwise. Is this the intention, or is the audience merely associating it with what they know of you as an actor?

Humor is definitely a part of many of the books. I prefer when there is stronger audience reaction to the films. Laughter is good for the show. It is possible that people are affected by the my persona as a performer, but that is normal for any performer with a history that an audience will have. I am glad the audience is there and gaining something from the experience. I definitely have been aware of the element of utilizing the fact that I am known from (my) work in the corporate media that 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 (shows).

You own property in the Czech Republic, where you said you’ve built sound stages in order to film the final installment of your “IT Trilogy”. And in other interviews you have referred to this as your second home. I can’t imagine Los Angeles and the Czech Republic are similar in the slightest. Do you prefer one of the other? What are some enjoyable aspects of each?

I did not build sound stages to film the final installment of the “IT Trilogy”.  I will not shoot that film for many years. I am currently shooting a different film. The shooting stages are within about 14,000 square feet of the former horse stables of the chateau. 

I should not go in to too much detail for part 3 of the “It” trilogy yet as IT IS MINE. is not the film I am shooting next. 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 1600‘s. 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 likeWhat 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. I will be showing 10 minutes from the next feature film I have started directing at the Music Box Theater in Chicago on January 31.  (You can view some stills from this film HERE!)

Czech is certain different than the US. It ultimately is a way for me to make my feature films for less money than if I were making them in the US, but there is a lot to deal with there. Czech has quite a lot of remarkable architecture. It is also a country that has dealt with a lot of turmoil in its history. One can feel it deep in the culture. In the long run I have made the right decision to shoot my films there, but it is a lot of work.

You’ve recorded albums, created books, filmed movies, written screenplays — is there any artistic medium you haven’t tried your hand at that you’d like to?

 I am very satisfied to be directing my own films. This is something I am very glad to continue doing. 

You’ve traveled all over the US and internationally in support of your Big Slide Show and film screenings. Are there any places you haven’t stopped by yet that you’d like to? What’s been your favorite city to pass through?

I’d love to play many places. And I do like to travel. If there is a city that someone wants me to come to that has a proper venue for my shows and films they should get the venue to contact me at I am all for continuing to tour in many different places with my shows and films as time continues forward. 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 be underestimated as it is 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.

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