Getting eccentric with Crispin GloverHe played Michael J. Fox’s dad in Back to the Future (despite being three years younger than the Burnaby-born actor), an evil henchman with a fetish for hair ripped from the scalps of women (Charlie’s Angels), and the titular character in cult favourite Willard, about a man who befriends a sinister rat army. One thing’s for sure about Crispin Hellion Glover’s career: it’s never been boring.
The same, it seems, can be said for the man himself. Having established an eccentric persona over the years, Glover solidified this reputation when he premiered his 2005 directorial debut, What Is It?, a surreal piece of cinema featuring a cast of actors with Down’s syndrome. Two years later, he followed it up with It Is Fine. Everything Is Fine!, a psycho-sexual thriller written by and starring Steven C. Stewart, a man born with severe cerebral palsy.
Glover comes to Vancouver this weekend (Jan. 14-16) for a three-day residency at Pacific Cinémathèque, where each of his films will be screened. Each screening also features a one-hour dramatic reading and slide show of his books, followed by a lengthy Q&A.
WE partook of an e-mail interview with Glover because, well, wouldn’t you if you had the chance?
WE: A lot of your characters — Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels; George McFly in Back to the Future — have these amazing details, but I imagine they weren’t necessarily written that way. How much of your own personality do you bring to various roles?
Glover: The sort of training that I had for acting focused on bringing portions of your own psychology to make those characters have an organic quality. It is good to have elements of your psychology come through. That being said, I cannot think of a character that I have played in any film that truly resembles myself.
Your name is often associated with adjectives like “strange” and “weird.” How much have you cultivated that reputation? Is it a benefit or a burden at this point?
I do not view eccentric as a negative term. I view it as a poetic interpretation of a mathematical term meaning something that does not follow a centric course. Many of the characters I have played can be called eccentric. My own films and books can be called eccentric. I find all of this fine. I publish my own books; produce, finance, direct, edit, and distribute my own films. Publishing, producing, financing, directing, editing, and distribution all have extremely centric elements to them that have to be followed in order for results to happen. Because I spend a good amount of time performing those very centric tasks, it means that I have very centric qualities in my day-to-day life even if the art I am interested in can be perceived as eccentric.
What Is It? was very controversial when it came out. What are you attempting to communicate as a director?
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 filmmaking — 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 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 of this culture’s media. I would like people to think for themselves.
What’s next for you as a director?
I am in the process of writing a screenplay for myself and my father to act in together. He is also an actor... 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 [and] that may be even more affordable and yet still cinematically pleasing.
Your books are literal works of art — part collage, part manuscript, using old books as source material. But some people feel that creating new books using those that have fallen into the public domain is akin to plagiarism. How do you respond to those critics?
Most of the books that I have made do not use a significant amount of words from pre-existing books. Most of my books are completely original stories. The books that do utilize pre-existing texts utilize the words in such a different fashion from what the words were originally intended that it would be hard to call it anything other than an original story.
Go to Cinematheque.bc.ca for tickets and more info.