Right from the beginning Crispin set himself apart with the roles he took and the strong presence he brought to them. Proving himself to be one of the Great character actors of modern time. Recently he has gained a whole new fan base with his portrayal of THE THIN MAN in the Charlie’s Angels series, which he in turn has used to help him further his goals in regards to his “IT” series. Horror fans should of course recognize him from his work in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Willard, and The Wizard of Gore ( a personal favorite of mine ). If you haven’t seen these offerings, you are definitely missing out on something special. Crispin’s portrayal in Willard is wrought with emotion, one moment your heart is in agony for Willard’s sad existence and the next your repelled by his depravity showing a depth of character not often found in horror. Wizard of Gore has brought the classic films of Hershel Gordon Lewis’ to a new generation, and Crispin’s portrayal of Montag the Magnificent is well… magnificent.
Crispin recently granted me the opportunity to discuss a multitude of things with him, including his upcoming tour, fascinating views, and some of the passions that inspire him forward…
Mr. Glover, let me start by saying Thank You for sharing your time with me today, it is a distinct honor to have the opportunity to discuss your upcoming tour, thought provoking viewpoints on the film industry, and your distinguished career, as one of the Great modern character actors of our generation. I know your time is short so let me just jump right into my questions....
Touring for the "IT" series begins January 31st, for those unfamiliar with the trilogy can you give them a bit of background regarding the story and development? The time, effort and personal finances you have invested into it show it to be quite the labor of love. What is it about this particular project that has inspired such drive in you to see it through to fruition?
The touring of the "IT" films that will comprise of the trilogy actually began in 2005. I am now on nine years of touring. It has drastically changed my life and even though it is a lot of work and not the kind of money I see when I am working as an actor corporately it is very well worth it. To be passionate about the subject matter of the films and thematic concepts related to them keeps the tour going.
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 it’s 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 contents this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
Any kind of comparison with Fellini, Kubrick or Todd Browning is of the highest compliments whether someone meant it as a compliment or not. All of those filmmakers are heroes of mine. "Freaks" is a film that sits in a pantheon of the greatest artworks of all time, and not just film artworks. I hesitate to compare myself to those great filmmakers at the risk of sounding like a buffoon. There is one thing I would say that "It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE." actually has in common with Todd Browning's "Freaks." That is that both films needed to be made specifically with the people that were in it. "Freaks" would not be proper unless played by all the wonderful unique people that were cast in the film. Similarly with Steven C Stewart's screenplay it was imperative that he played the lead role in the film. If Steve had died and we had not gotten the film made I would not have felt good about myself. Not just because I had said to Steve that we were going to make the films, but I would have just felt like I had done a bad thing if Steven C. Stewart’s particular point of view was never expressed
Steven C. Stewart wrote and is the main actor in part two of the trilogy titled It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. 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. Steven C. Stewart’s own true story was fascinating and then the beautiful story and the naïve 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. A specific marriage proposal scene was the scene I remember reading that made me think “I will have to be the person to produce/finance this film.”
As I have stated, I put Steven C. Stewart in to What is it? When I turned What is it? in to a feature film. Originally What is it? Was going to be a short film to promote the concept to corporate film funding entities that working with a cast wherein most characters are played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. Steve had written his screenplay in in the late 1970’s. 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 and also produce it correctly. I would not have felt right about myself if we 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 it? And this is partly why, What is it?, took a long time to complete. I am very proud of the film as I am of, What is it? 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.
Steve was a genuinely great guy! It is hard to define what my relationship with Steve is/was. During the approximate 15 years I knew Steve from 1986 to his death in 2001 I would communicate with him in spurts. He started writing me short e mails urging to make his film after we shot his portions of “What is it?” in 1996. He would write simple things like “When are we going to make the film before I kick the bucket?”
Steve was definitely gracious and had a genuinely rebellious sense of humor. If he had only had one of those qualities I probably would not have related to him as much, but the fact that he had both a sense of humor and a sense of rebellion made it so I could very much relate to him.
I personally financed the film and had taken out no insurance for if Steve were to die. Steve was a strong person and I knew that he has an inner need to get this story out. He had already stayed alive by getting an operation to get this film made and I knew he would stay alive no matter what to get the film completed.
About a month after we finished shooting I got a telephone call one morning and it became apparent that Steve was in the hospital with a collapsed lung again and that he was basically asking permission to take himself off life support and he wanted to know if we had enough footage to finish the film. I know that if I had said “No S …
There are two completely separate full evening shows.
I perform a one hour dramatic narration of 8 different profusely illustrated books which are projected behind me.
I present the feature film which is about 74 minutes.
I conduct a 1.5 hour Q and A session.
I have a book signing till the last person in line is met.
The various parts of your presentation are fascinating and I can’t help but wonder how you came up with "Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show" aspect. You've taken a number of antique instructional and medical manuals, rewritten / illustrated them into new works, that have also become performance pieces, each with a life and morality of their own. How did you come upon this idea and do you have any plans to pen additional books in the near future?
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 1800's 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 1800's 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 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 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 they 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 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.
Where can fans go to get more information regarding your tour, including, locations, dates times and ticket prices? And is there anything the fans can do to help expand your tour dates and locations if they find you are not currently scheduled in a city close to them?
The best way is that people can sign up for the newsletter on crispinglover.com which will send them an e mail with each of the venues as I tour.
or they can see the current upcoming schedule on
The etymological definition of education mean to learn from within oneself. Corporate propaganda that currently rules US media is an insidious means of controlling actions of the populace my making the populace feel their actions they believe are going to be good for themselves are actually good for the corporate interests and not good for their own interests. This is the sort of propaganda that people need to be very concerned about. Propaganda is a very complex subject. Many people that are behind corporate propaganda and enjoy corporate propaganda have been raised within the corporate messages for so long that they feel these very elements are their own feeling but are actually carefully constructed elements that serve corporate interest. This is the most effective kind of propaganda. The moral elements within the structure presented in films and television shows seep in to the consciousness of the populace and make people as though certain things that may not be good are somehow positioned in the mind to be good or just. For example films that somehow make people feel that a warlike nature is positive and that certain elements justify war. It might be true, but one needs to examine why the particular moral being presented in a film is being presented. The moral in today's films are often very clearly positing certain backgrounds so that there is a war-like morass that makes the people of the country feel somehow justified for the US as being a world police force. But this is an overall basic there are certainly many more nuanced elements that can be reflected and detected particularly if one analyzes the story structure of a film from a heroes journey or mono myth pattern, as made famous by the great Joseph Campbell.
You have stated previously that Robert Zemeckis was unhappy with you questioning the end of the film "Back to the Future", and that the fallout from that was part of what led you to not being offered fair pay, and eventually not being involved in the sequel. Yet somehow we find you and Zemeckis once again reunited for Beowulf, can you tell us anything about who approached who, and how it was working together again after such a public falling out?
This is a complicated subject. I never stated that anything was so simple as Robert Zemeckis being unhappy with a question. In a certain way Bob Gale the co-writer and co-producer perhaps the most to do with the offers of payment being less than half of Lea Thomson or Tom Wilson. Bob Gale is the person who has been continuously vocal about the subject and started stating blatant untruths on the blue-rays DVDs of the Back to the Future trilogy. This is why I have given more attention to this subject recently. Bob Gale has falsely stated that I asked for the same pay as Michael J. Fox which is untrue and there are certain things that have been publicly stated by multiple people including Steven Spielberg that make it apparent that this is not true. As I say it is a complex subject and I need to write it all out in a more formal way than the space of this interview will allow. Suffice it to say that when I was contacted by my agents about Robert Zemeckis' interest in me for the role of Grendel I thought a lot about what my reasons for acting in the corporate industry were. I knew that I needed have enough funds to continue touring with "What is it?" and "It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE." I also liked the character of Grendel and the script by Roger Avary and Neil Gaiman very much. In fact I am quite pleased with the outcome of "Beowulf." If one analyzes the moral of the story it is that lying is a bad thing. I agree with that moral on a very deep level. I had read a book called "How to be a Gentleman." This book stated to not bring up sore subjects. I never brought up anything about "Back to the Future" while working with Robert Zemeckis on "Beowulf" and we had a very good working relationship. In fact we actually had a good working relationship on "Back to the Future" as well. I actually feel very good about the acting roles I have done under the direction of Robert Zemeckis and part of this is his expert understanding of Hero's Journey story structure. The fact that I was fairly paid on Beowulf did soften some of the ways I feel about Robert Zemeckis' involvement in what happened with being the director of a film wherein they placed a false nose, chin and cheekbones based on the molds of my face from the original film used for the old age makeup prosthetics. The filmmakers edited in a very small amount of footage of me from the original film inter-spliced with another actor in the prosthetics on him in order to fool audiences in to believing that I was in the film. Because of the producers illegal activity and my lawsuit there are rules in the Screen Actors Guild that make it so no actors, or filmmakers are able to do this sort of illegal activity again. Bob Gale has taken particular interest in trying to obfuscate the fact that he was involved in something that was illegal activity by making things up about me in order to justify his illegal actions.
If you look up Bob Gale's IMDB page his work as a screenwriter in the corporate world basically stopped just after the lawsuit that emanated from his illegal activity. He bragged in interviews that most of his screenplays were bought up by Steven Spielberg. It is interesting to note that those screenplays never ended up being produced by Steven Spielberg. Bob Gale never returned to a corporate project as a screenwriter after the lawsuit that named Steven Spielberg as being involved in criminal activity which Bob Gale had been a main instigator in conspiring. It seems apparent that Bob Gale has had time to ruminate enough to give himself plenty of motive to attempt to justify his failings as a person of proper moral standards because he came up with a mean spirited concept of using stolen facial features of an actor that played an integral part in a successful film that as he has put it “helped to pay for his house.” As a screenwriter Bob Gale since 1996 no longer finds employment in his field of choice of corporate screenwriting. I would say Bob Gale’s subsequent unemployability is quite plausibly is because he was a prime architect of criminal activity that made one of his main employers, Steven Spielberg by default be involved in something illegal. I am not certain of this of course, but Bob Gale’s vitriol in lying about me and the ceasing of his corporate screenwriting career seems more than a little bit likely to have a lot to do with each other.
You spoke of the waning of corporate oriented goals in the decision making process for film funding and distribution in the 60s and 70s, is this part of why you chose to take on roles in the re-imagining of "Willard" and " Wizard of Gore", both of which were released originally early 70s?
No. Most of the, for me, 2000’s were spent acting in films that would help to fund the production and post production of “It is fine. EVERYTHING IS FINE.” and the completion of “What is it?” and touring. That being said the role of Willard was a very nicely written role and I was pleased with the emotional demands of character that I worked very hard on achieving organically for the performance in the films.
Montag the Magnificent in “The Wizard of Gore” was a fun role to play.
Can you tell our readers a little something about your method in preparing for such iconic roles as Montag the Magnificent, Bartleby, and the Thin Man, all of whom are very different, yet delivered so convincingly by you?
Yes. All three roles were quite different from one another. For Bartleby I read the original novella by Herman Melville which is an astounding piece of literature. It seems apparent to me that Melville’s use of the refrain “I would prefer not to.” Was a metaphor for his own disdain of artistic repetition when he could have been making more money continuing to write sea faring novels that were making more money than some of his later very personal works including Bartleby itself. What seems to be mental disease for the Bartleby character as a metaphor of artistic integrity in a capitalistic culture is truly brilliant.
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 film 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 a fluidity to the way the filming was going because of script changed it an abundance of influence I had on the character be able to come through. 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.
"Motel" is a project that you are involved with that last I saw was still in post production, can you share anything about this project or when we may expect its release?
I have heard “Motel” now titles “The Bag Man” will come out in February. I am not sure about that date though. I have seen the film and am pleased with both the film and my character in it.
I, personally, am a huge fan of your work. I am comfortable in saying I believe you to be one of the Great character actors of our generation. I read something that as a fan piqued me, and am hoping you will indulge my curiosity... It has been written that at age 11 you decided to follow in your father’s footsteps, my question to you is what was the pivotal moment that prompted that decision?
Thank you. There was not a pivotal moment. It was around the age of 11 that I started to realize it would be a good business to be involved in. I had grown up watching how the business worked. My mother had retired as an actress and primarily a dancer when I was born and of course my father continues to act and teach acting to this day. My thought process was a relatively prudent professional decision I made on my own at a relatively young age and then my parents were supportive. I feel like it was a good decision.
I would be remiss if I didn’t ask... Indie film making has become a much more of a viable option for many film makers in the last ten years, what impact do you see that having on the film industry as a whole, and is there any particular indie film maker that has impressed you?
The word “Indie” is used quite a lot and it is part of the reason I specifically use the word combination “corporately funded and distributed film.” For the most part if something is widely corporately distributed it will have to fit in to the agenda of helping to propagandize people towards a perspective or corporate interests.
That being said there are good films that squeeze through the corporate systems every once in a while. When a filmmaker is able to make a corporate film that is actually in a good non-propagandizing way that then it means they have dedicated their entire lives to making it happen and I stand up and applaud.
I do think Werner Herzog is enormously resilient and it is fantastic that all of his career he has been able to maintain steady output and excellent filmmaking.
Both “Irreversible” and “Enter the Void” by Gaspar Noé are excellent films.
Mr. Glover in closing this interview I would like to give you the opportunity to speak directly to the fans, if there is anything you would like to say that we have not already covered please feel free to do so at this point...
I will be showing 10 minutes from my next feature film, at The Music Box in Chicago, that I have been shooting at my property in the Czech Republic. This film is with myself and my father Bruce Glover.
Please sign up for the newsletter on CrispinGlover.com to receive an e mail as to where I will be touring with my shows and films.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, and memories with me, and our readers.
The Horror Nation