By Linda O'Dell Ash - firstname.lastname@example.org
Crispin Glover has appeared on screen twice at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema this year. Moviegoers will remember him as the 7-foot 6-inch tall Knave of Hearts in Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland," and as Phil, the one-armed bellhop in "Hot Tub Time Machine."
This Saturday evening, Glover will return to the Winchester theater for a live performance as he brings his "Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Slide Show Part 1" to the Alamo stage.
During his show, Glover performs a one hour dramatic narration of eight illustrated books he has authored while images from those books are shown on the screen behind him. Following that is a screening of "It Is Fine, EVERYTHING IS FINE," a film he directed in 2007. He will then answer questions and be available for book signings.
Glover has been touring with his show since 1992 when he blended dramatic narration of books he authored with a slide show of his illustrations and images from those books. He is on a North American tour now, and Winchester is his second stop in Virginia. I caught up with him via e-mail while he was on a holiday break at his home - a castle actually - in the Czech Republic, and asked him about his books, his show, his castle and his future.
I googled Crispin Glover books, and several Web pages came up, with most mentioning your Big Slide Show. Amazon is selling your "Rat Catching" and "Oak Mot," and you also have them for sale on your Web site along with "Concrete Construction." A Wikipedia page about you says you take old novels that are in the public domain and reconstruct them with your own writings and images. When, how, why did you get the idea to do this? And when did the slideshow narration aspect come to be? "
Crispin Glover: "I started making my books in 1982 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 1800s 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.
"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 1800s that have been changed into different books from what they originally were. Some of the books use some text from older books and some of the books are completely original writing. They are heavily illustrated with original drawings and reworked images and photographs."
You directed the movie that will be shown at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on Dec. 4. What motivated you to make this film, which you describe on your website as Part 2 of the "It" trilogy. What is the "It" trilogy about, and how have your audiences reacted to these films during the Q&A sessions afterward?
"What Is It?"
"What Is It?" is the first film of a trilogy produced by Glover's production company, Volcanic Eruptions. According to the synopsis on Glover's website:
"Featuring a cast largely comprised of actors with Down's Syndrome, the film is not about Down's Syndrome. Glover describes it as "Being the adventures of a young man whose principal interests are snails, salt, a pipe and how to get home as tormented by an hubristic racist inner psyche." (Read Glover's description of how he made the movie)
Crispin Glover: "The first film in the trilogy to be, "What is it?," is 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. 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 ... I would like for people to think for themselves."
"It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE!"
Steven C. Stewart wrote and acts in Part 2 of the trilogy, "It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE," which is the film that will be shown in Winchester. According to the synopsis on Glover's site: "It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE" goes into uncharted cinematic territory with screenwriter Steven C. Stewart starring in this semi-autobiographical, psycho-sexual tale about a man with severe cerebral palsy and a fetish for girls with long hair. "
Crispin Glover: "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 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 10 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.
"As I have stated, I put Steven C. Stewart into "What Is It?" when I turned "What Is It?" into 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 the late 1970s. 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 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 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.
"It Is Mine"
Part 3 of the trilogy will be called "It Is Mine," and Glover says this film will be an "even more complex project than those two films were, so it will be a while yet for that production."
"It Is Mine" is much more pointed than "What Is It?" and Glover says it will have to do with things in his life. "It Is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE" is Steven C. Stewart's story and Glover says "there is a very strong emotional catharsis with his character in the film and will be the best film in the trilogy."
You've been in several movies and have played some eccentric characters, like Willard Stiles in the movie "Willard." More recently you were the Knave of Hearts in "Alice in Wonderland," and Phil in "Hot Tub Time Machine." What's the strangest thing you have had to do in a role?
Crispin Glover: "I have acted to date I believe in 48 feature films. I would not consider anything strange when attempting to figure the psychology of a character.
Who is your favorite actor, actress, director, author? Do you have a favorite film. What is your favorite book? And what about art and music - what do you like, who do you like?
"Some of my favorite filmmakers are:
- Luis Buñuel
- Rainer Werner Fassbinder
- Werner Herzog
- Stanley Kubrick
- Federico Fellini
- Tod Browning
- F.W. Murnau
"Some of my favorite performances are:
Timothy Carey in "The World's Greatest Sinner," Charles Laughton in "Henry VIII" and "Hunchback of Notre Dame," Brad Dourif in "Wise Blood," Peter Lorre in "M," Emil Jannings in "The Last Laugh," Klaus Kinski in "Aguirre Wrath of God," Bridgett Helm in "Metropolis," Gena Rowlands in "Woman Under the Influence," Vanessa Redgrave in "The Devils," Maria Falconetti in "The Passion of Joan of Arc," James Cagney in "The Public Enemy," Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now," and Bette Davis in general.
Dostoyevsky is my favorite writer."
After your Winchester performance, you continue on with your slide show performances across the country. Do you have any upcoming TV appearances or movie roles in the works? What's next?
Crispin Glover: "I am in the process of writing a screenplay for myself and my father to act in together. He is also an actor and that will be the next film I make as a director/producer. This will be the first role I write for myself to act in that will be written 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 is another project that I may make before that; I am currently working on the screenplay that may be even more affordable. "
You wrote me from the Czech republic, and I saw online that you purchased a castle there - why a castle, and why there?
Crispin Glover: "I had visited all the countries that my great-grandparents were from. Germany, Sweden, England and Czech, so I had (visited) Prague previously. I always intended to at some point in my life purchase property in Europe. I was looking to buy property in the U.S. to utilize for building sets and continue making my own films on my own property. I was speaking with a film producer I was working on a screenplay with in Prague who mentioned that he knew a Czech realtor that specialized in Czech chateaus that were going for a very good price. As soon as he mentioned this I knew it was something I would do. I came out and saw three chateaus that were for sale. The one I own fit all the practical needs for setting up my own place to build sets, plus it has fascinating historical and aesthetic qualities. I did not really realize until I was analyzing all the details as I prepared to make an offer on the property that property taxes in the Czech Republic happen to be much lower than in the U.S., which is also a very helpful thing for me."
* Movie poster images courtesy of Crispin Glover
Linda O'Dell Ash is digital media manager for the Northern Virginia Daily.