23 July 2024

‘It’s Fine’ -Crispin Glover Interview

crispin-glover_portraitOn the 8th of May at the Hyde Park Picture House, Crispin Glover will be presenting a modern-day roadshow that as the interview below should let you know, will be a not-to-be-missed event. You’ll have a multimedia experience, starting with a slide show and talk about his self-published books, a feature film you have no chance of seeing anywhere else, and loads of extras. Including a chance to ask your own questions, if he hasn’t given you enough information in this lengthy interview:

What should the audience expect or not expect with your Big Slideshow tour?

First I will perform Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show Part 2. Then I present the 35 mm feature film It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. Then there is a hour and half questions and answer period. During the Q and A I will show the trailer for What is it? and 10 minutes of contiguous edited footage of my next feature film which is a film I have developed for my father Bruce Glover and I to act in together for the first time. He has been seen in such films as Diamonds are Forever, Chinatown and Ghost World. Then there is a book signing till the last person in line has had their books signing.

What were the main differences and surprises you found with working with a cast mostly of people with Down’s syndrome on What is it?

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.

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 thing was 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 re writing 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 the 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 was not 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 thing 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.

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

Steven C. Stewart wrote and is the main actor in It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. I put Steve in to the cast of What is it? because he had written this screenplay 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. Steven C. Stewart died within a month after we finished shooting the film. Cerebral palsy is not degenerative 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 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.

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 inclusion of 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.

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. 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.

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.  Steve was a strong person and I knew that he had 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.

Fewer people seem to be going to cinema than they used to due to piracy, DVDs, higher ticket prices, and it seems like you have to make it an event for people to come. How do you feel about this?

I count on it actually. The live aspects of the shows are not to be underestimated. This is a large part of how I bring audiences into 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. 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.

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. 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 any digital copy of this film is stolen material and highly prosecutable.

There are other beneficial aspects of touring with the shows other than monetary elements. 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.

crispin-glover

You quite effortlessly go between more mainstream films and more art house films, what are the challenges and differences?

Larger studio films tend to pay more than so-called independent films. No two films are alike so there are always differences no matter what the size of the budget. 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.

Two of my favourite films of yours are Dead Man and River’s Edge, what were the experiences of working on those films?

With Dead Man, Jim Jarmusch liked a certain amount of improvisation. That is not actually usual, I usually do not improvise in films, however Jim understands that improvisation can lead to healthy organic performances. I am glad to have worked with him.

With River’s Edge the way the character was written made me think of a certain regional dialect that I had grown up hearing. I am proud of that film. There was an intention change in the character from the way it had been written. The character could have been played as a person who sincerely wanted the best for the murderer character. But I made the choice to play the character as a person who wanted people to believe that the intentions of the character were sincere in order for positive attention to be put on to himself. That is a different intention than what was written. The dialogue was not changed but the intentions were changed. There was a certain dynamic that this brought about in the character within the film. I like my performance in that film and I like the film as a whole.

What do you think of people coming to your shows that only know your work in Back in the Future?

Normally people that come to the shows are more exploratory types that will have seen a lot of different kinds of films and they will have seen me in a number of films. I actually have had a couple of people come up to me during the book signing and they had never seen me in anything and for some reason decided to come see my show and then liked the live show and film. That is very pleasing.

If money weren’t a concern, what would be your dream film project?

There are many projects that I would like to make more rapidly than I make them, but they are not impossible to make on the lower budgets that I have they just take longer. I am so conditioned to the budget as part of my personal movie making that I do not even conceptualize about a different kind of larger budget filmmaking. I am also not certain a larger budget would make the films better.

What should we expect in the coming year?

I have owned a chateau in the Czech Republic for many years now and it has been in a state of work to get it ready for housing the crewmembers and cast when I am shooting my own productions.

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 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, and I have now started shooting my next feature at my property in the Czech Republic.

Did you ever go to on the Back to The Future ride at Universal Studios before they closed it?

No. I did not. There was never an agreement reached for me to appear in the sequels to Back to the Future. The producers hired another actor and with a false nose, chin and cheekbones made him up to look like me, then inter-spliced a very small amount of footage of me from the original film in order to fool audiences into believing it was me playing the character.

Because of my lawsuit there are laws in the Screen Actors Guild that make it so no producers, directors, or actors are ever able to do this again. I am proud of that.

I have noticed, however, that Bob Gale, who was the co-writer and one of the producers on the films and one of the chief architects of the concepts that led to the lawsuit, has been stating false things about me to attempt to lessen his wrongdoing. I do not like his false statements and would like to remind him that what he did caused rules in the Screen Actors Guild to be changed to protect actors from his kind of wrongdoing.

I ended up having an excellent working relationship with Robert Zemeckis on Beowulf, which was released in 2007. Despite the negative aspects of Bob Gale, I am glad that I played the character in the original film. Because of the lawsuit and the fact that what they did was illegal I am not comfortable in promoting anything to do with the Back to the Future sequels.

Have a look on CrispinGlover.com for more information about what Glover is up to these days. As one of Hollywood’s few actors with both name recognition and a genuinely different sensibility, he will definitely deliver an interesting experience to Leeds film-goers. However if you can’t catch the Leeds show there will be others in the coming weeks.

UK Tour Dates

Liverpool FACT –May 4 2014 –  It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (link)

Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle Upon Tyne on 6 May 2014 – What is it? (link)

Hyde Park Picture House, Leeds on 8 May 2014 – It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (link)

Edinburgh Cameo – Mon May 12 – What is it? Oxford – Wed May 14 –  It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (link)

Light House Cinema, Dublin on 16 May 2014 – It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE (link)

ICA, London on 18 May 2014 – What is it? (link)


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