A typical evening on his current tour (which visits several Picturehouses in the UK over the next three weeks) consists of Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show, in which he reads from obscure 19th century books which he's altered for his own ends; a screening of one of two films he's directed (which film you get depends on which venue you book) and a post-screening Q&A. It's a fascinatingly odd experience which will delight as many as it will frustrate; personally I loved it, but the gentleman next to me in the Back To The Future t-shirt was left visibly and audibly frustrated by Glover's insistence on yelling non-sequiturs in German rather than discussing fondly-remembered weekends spent skateboarding with Michael J Fox.
Friday's screening was of Glover's second film in his proposed It trilogy, It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE., while some dates on the tour will screen the first film, What Is It?. Part three, IT IS MINE, is some years from completion, although evidently it will continue to employ an avant-garde approach to capitalisation. It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. is a remarkable, surreal and challenging film written by its lead, Steven C Stewart, who was crippled by cerebral palsy (he died a month after filming wrapped). Stewart plays a man who deals with his handicap and his feelings for long-haired, beautiful women in unusual and occasionally troubling ways, and while it's certainly an offbeat film it's much less bonkers than Glover's slide show. A lazy person would probably describe it as almost Lynchian in its wilful weirdness, so I'll simply say that to me it seemed almost Lynchian in its wilful weirdness.
I had to leave the post-screening Q&A early in order to take advantage of outer London's marvellous weekend public transport timings (want to stay out past 11pm on a Friday? Then enjoy getting home via at least four varied and torturous methods, possibly by Sunday if you're lucky), but fortunately Mr Glover kindly agreed to my own personal Q&A via email. So here's a closer look at the musings of a deranged madman, and as a bonus I've included Crispin Glover's responses.
Hello Neil! One usually only says "It is fine!" when something is actually wrong.
How would you prepare someone who's coming to one of your current shows because they loved you in Back To The Future but know nothing else about you? I'm thinking in particular of someone like this chap:
Your Big Slide Show includes some amazing slides: did you make all those annotations and illustrations yourself? How long did the process take?
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 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. The books and films are all narrative. Sometimes people see thematic correlations between the content of my books and the content of the films.
How did you select which books to use as the basis for the Big Slide Show?
Many of the books that are in the show are specifically books that will perform well dramatically or that have a sense of humor. Some of the books that I have not used in the slide shows are books that work more as art objects as opposed to narratives.
Your presentation technique in the Big Slide Show feels like you, as an actor, playing a part. Is that fair? How much of the real Crispin Glover are we watching?
I would assess the slide show performance as a performance and interpretation of books I made not originally meant for performance. That being said I enjoy performing them.
You described It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE as "the best film I'll have anything to do with in my whole career". What is it about the film that you are most proud of?
The cinematic and subconscious emotional catharsis that happens with the protagonist / writer / Steven C Stewart in the film is central to what I am proud of with this film.
You played Andy Warhol in The Doors: as an avant-garde artist do you feel any affinity with him?
I met and spoke with Andy Warhol at the wedding of Madonna and Sean Penn. It was right after Back To The Future had come out which he had apparently seen. I did not speak with him for so long but definitely enough to get an idea about him. He was quite nice to me. After I spoke with him I stood back and looked at him and watched how he held himself and thought he would be an interesting person to play. I had met Oliver Stone previously for Platoon which I was not in, but we had a good meeting and I auditioned for the role and got it.
I would not compare myself to Warhol for a lot of reasons, but I would take any comparison as a compliment. First off, the enormity of influence of Warhol’s art is something that is extremely important to consider. Someone asked me once if I related to Warhol's eccentricities. I feel like Warhol’s "eccentricities" were very different from my own, and frankly I believe that a lot of my own perceived eccentricities are greatly exacerbated by inaccurate media myopia. I do not know what Warhol would say about his perceived eccentricities, although I would say he was much more in control of his media perception during his entire career than I have been of mine for much of mine.
You've also dabbled in music, and I love your song 'Clowny Clown Clown'. How do you really feel about clowns? The lyrics leave one uncertain.
Even as a child I never found clowns particularly amusing. I am a little confused as to why even children find clowns amusing.
'Clowny Clown Clown' by Crispin Glover. Warning: contains clowns
I recently watched Rubin & Ed, the film in which you play Rubin Farr, who also infamously appeared on David Letterman and in your video for 'Clowny Clown Clown'. Is Rubin an alter ego of sorts?
You own a 17th century castle in the Czech Republic where you are planning to shoot your future films. Do you know any Czech swear words?
Like me, you are an only child. Did you ever invent imaginary friends as substitute siblings? I mean, not that I did or anything.
No. I did not invent imaginary friends.
I have not seen all the Bond films or all the actors that have played Bond. I think the first Bond film I saw was Diamonds Are Forever so I do like that one. I also like Dr. No. I love Notorious by Hitchcock with Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. That is the movie that supposedly influenced Ian Fleming to write his first Bond novel Casino Royale. I did see the recent Casino Royale and thought Daniel Craig did an excellent job and liked to see the obvious structural influences on that story from Hitchcock’s and Ben Hecht's great screenplay for Notorious.
Would playing a Bond villain be something that might interest you?
Who is your favourite Charlie's Angel?
I do not have a favorite Angel. All three of the actresses were very nice people to work with. Of note structurally, the character I played in Charlie’s Angels was somewhat similar to the character my father played in Diamonds Are Forever. They were both assassins that kept coming back to at least seem to attempt to assassinate the protagonists.
You starred in Hot Tub Time Machine, a film which examined some of the most basic elements of the human condition, such as what it is to be a man, to be an adult, to lose sight of your hopes and dreams, and to find true happiness and a peaceful soul. If you had a hot tub time machine, would you use it to travel in time or just to feel the bubbles?
Time travel would be of course amazing.
Crispin Glover's one-armed bell boy was tragically absent
from the Hot Tub Time Machine marketing campaign.
Finally, as a man who has long contemplated growing a beard, I am impressed by your very handsome facial hair. How do you decide when to grow a beard and when to shave it off, and how do you maintain it?
I have only in the last several years grown out facial hair because it has been appropriate for a number of period films in which I have played characters that it would be appropriate for. I do not grow facial hair or wear my hair for my own personal preference. My preference is probably shorter hair and clean shaven.
Crispin Glover, thank you very much for your time.
Thank you Neil!
Details of the rest of Crispin Hellion Glover's UK tour can be found at his website, CrispinGlover.com.