An Interview with Crispin Hellion Glover

American Gods Season 2 2019

Crispin Hellion Glover has appeared in a wide variety of projects with Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Back to the Future, Wild at Heart, The Doors, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Charlie’s Angels, Willard(the remake), Beowulf, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Hot Tub Time Machine to name a new. He can currently be seen on both season’s of American Gods as the ever imposing Mr. World.

Not one to be idle long Crispin is also getting ready to kick off the next leg of his tour Monday, April 1, 2019. The tour features showings of his films It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. And the first part of the “It” trilogy, What is it? Which are offered up in different combinations that vary by venue along with Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show which features an hour-long dramatic reading of eight lavishly illustrated books he has made over the course of his days.

Upcoming dates can be found at: http://www.crispinglover.com/

 

You have said that as a child you learned from your schooling that it is good to question things. How has that served you well in your life so far? Why do you think it is important for one to always question things?

It suppose it depends on where one wants to rank in life. If someone wishes to follow group values then it is not necessarily as important to question. But if someone wishes to seek out truth and to innovate then it is important to question things.

What was it like to appear on such shows as Happy Days and Family Ties at such a young age?

I had been studying acting professional starting at age 15 and had been working professionally since age 13 so I thought of it as work, and a challenge to do good work as an actor.

What was it about acting that inspired you to pursue it professionally at such an early age? What do you love about it most?

I was raised in a middle-class income household as opposed to an upper-class household, so I knew I had to make money to support myself and that I would not be supported by my parents after age 18. Because my father was making a living at it and my mother had retired at both a dancer and actress seemed like a plausible vocation.

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Who were some of your influences in the world of acting?

I started viewing films in repertory cinemas when I was 16 that were showing classic films from the ’20s through the ’70s.

Do you think you inherited some of your talent and drive to succeed from your parents? What were they like as individuals? What would you say is the most important thing you learned from each of them?

I’m not certain if inherited is the correct word, but I’m sure the environment I grew up in instilled an appreciation for professionalism in the film world.

My mother was passionate about dance. She was in the San Francisco ballet company and then moved to NYC and danced and acted in Broadway and toured with musicals. She remained going to ballet class til just before she died almost three years ago.

My father was working in theater in NYC. My parents met at a theater audition. I was born in NYC and we moved to LA when my father started getting more work as an actor in LA than in NYC.

The most important thing I learned from them is probably the reality of work in the theater/film as a professional venture.

How have you changed most since your early days?

My energy is different. In certain ways I’m very much the same as a child and in other ways I’m different. I feel like my artistic interests, although more mature, are pretty similar to when I was a child.

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How did it feel to play Andy Warhol in The Doors? Are you a fan of his work yourself?

To my knowledge I was the first person to portray Andy Warhol in a feature film. 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. I stood back and looked at him and watched how he held himself and thought he would be an interesting person to play. I pursued the role when I heard there was an Andy Warhol role in the Doors movie. I had met Oliver Stone previously for Platoon which I was not in, but we had a good meeting.  I auditioned and I got the role. I asked for some of the lines to be removed and Oliver Stone obliged. He was excellent to work with. Oliver Stone also produced Milos Foreman’s People vs. Larry Flynt which I had a great time working on.

Are you enjoying getting to play Mr. World on American Gods? What do you like most about that particular character? What do you find is the most interesting aspect of that series? Do you find the modern Gods pale in comparison to the elder ones when it comes to personality and character?

 I’m glad to play Mr. World. My first film What is it? is my psychological reaction to the corporate constraints that have happened in the last 20 to 35 years in film making. These constraints have led to a certain kind of corporate propaganda and I was fascinated when I found out I was being offered a character that was an embodiment of something along the lines of what my first film was about. Part of what is interesting about Neil Gaiman’s beautiful book is that the masks of the various gods fall off so to speak and the thoughts that create the gods sort of merge into new different versions of similar ideas. It touches on the concept of ideas forming gods.

Mr. World

What led you to form your own publishing company with Volcanic Eruptions? What do enjoy most about creating your own books for the world’s enjoyment?

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 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 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 ’80s 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 books 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 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 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 is 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 be 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.

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What do you love most about the art of creation in whatever form it may come?

 It is hard to distinguish at this point in time because the creative arts are also part of my day to day business, so at a certain point business merges with creation and then sometimes one is doing creation to satisfy business needs as opposed to simply create for the sake of creation itself. But that is OK. It is good to have business that merges with creative aspects.

Can you tell us a little about your tour for those that might not be familiar with what you do there?

 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 35 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 contents this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.

The film started production as a short film in 1996. It took 9.5 years from the first day of shooting on the short film to having a 35 mm print of the feature film.  I wrote it as a short film originally to promote the viability of having a majority of the characters that do not necessarily have Down’s Syndrome to be played by actors with Down’s Syndrome.

The way this came about was this. In 1996. I was approached by two young writers and aspiring filmmakers who were from Phoenix to act in a film they wanted to produce and direct. They made a monetary offer to my agents which they really should not have done as they did not actually have financing. Nonetheless, it did get me to read the screenplay which I found to be interesting. This screenplay was not What is it? I found interesting things about the screenplay and was interested in the project, but I thought there were things about the screenplay that did not work. I came up with solutions that needed re working of the screenplay and I told them I would be interested in acting in the film if I directed it. They came to LA and met with me and wanted to know my thoughts. There were quite a few things but the main things were that most of the character were to be played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. They were fine with this concept and I set about to rewrite the screenplay. David Lynch then agreed to executive produce the film for me to direct. This was very helpful and I went to one of the larger corporate entities in Los Angeles that finances films and met with them. They were interested in the project but after a number of meetings and conversations, they let me know that they were concerned about financing a project wherein most of the characters were played by actors with Down’s Syndrome. The title of this screenplay at this point had become IT IS MINE. And will become part three of the “IT” trilogy. It wasn’t known yet at this time that there would be a trilogy but it was decided that I should write a short screenplay to promote that the concept of having a majority of the characters played by actors with Down’s Syndrome was a viable things to do for corporate entities to invest in.

This is when I wrote a short screenplay entitled What is it? We shot this short screenplay in four days. I edited that over a period of six months and the first edit came in at 84 minutes. The final feature length film of What is it? is 72 minutes. So the first version of the short film is longer than the final version of the feature film, and it was too long for the material I had at the time, but I could see with more work and more material I could turn it into a feature film. Over approximately the next two years I shot 8 more days and edited this into what is now the final version of the film. I locked the edit of the film about three years after the first day of shooting what was supposed to be a short film. Then there were a number of years of very frustrating technical problems that mainly had to do with SMPTE time code. Originally I was going to make the film the now old fashioned way of a complete photochemical process and not digital intermediate. An optical house in New York that did not give me enough information to let me know that the SMPTE time code had not been properly put on when the film was telecined. During this time I worked patiently on the final sound edit of the film with a number of interns. Finally that sound edit was finished and it became apparent that the film optical house was not telling me the truth and prices had fallen during this time so I was able to make the film using a digital intermediate to ultimately go out to a 35 mm print of the film. So from the first day of shooting what was to be a short film to having a 35 mm print for the film took 9.5 years.

Sometimes people ask me if the length of time it took for me to make the film had to do with working with actors with Down’s Syndrome. This was not the case. Even though the film took many years to make much of the delay were technical issues. What is it was actually shot in a total of twelve days which was spread over several years. Twelve days is actually a very short amount of shooting days for a feature film. The most important thing about working with an actor whether they have Down’s Syndrome or not is if they have enthusiasm. Everyone in I worked with had incredible enthusiasm so they were all great to work with.

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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 into 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 into 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. Steve had written his screenplay 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 into 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 an 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 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. 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 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 email 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 emails 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 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 Steve. We do not have enough footage. You need to get better and we have to finish the film” He would have gotten whatever operation needed to get better and been happy to come back to the set and shoot. As it was we did have enough footage and it was a sad day and heavy responsibility to let him know that we would be able to complete the film.

In retrospect Steven C. Stewart was a great communicator. Steve has had great positive influence on my life and as much as I did like and enjoy Steve when he was alive, I realize even more how much he was important to me. It may sound sappy, but if Steve were here today I would be very happy to tell him how much he ultimately positively has affected my life.

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What is the most challenging issue you face in bring this tour to the masses?

The largest challenge is just getting the shows booked in proper cinemas. It is not as easy to book the shows as one might think since there is a performance aspect along with 35 mm prints. Most cinemas are no longer venues that also accommodate live performances.

Can you tell us more about the film you completed shooting where you and your father Bruce appear onscreen together? What was that like?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel on my next feature film project that I have been shooting different productions segments for the last five years and am currently editing. This film is not part three of the trilogy but a film developed for my father and I to act in together for the first time.

Do you have any dream projects that you’d most like to bring into being?

I already know what film production I want to make next, but I have to complete the current production first.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

To do things one is interested in doing.

How do you hope to be remembered when it is all said and done?

It is more important for me to just do the things I am interested in doing.

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