Mable's Unique Gifts






Crispin Hellion Glover has a history of playing challenging roles he's able to make uniquely his: the nerdy George McFly in Back to the Future, the retro stylish Thin Man in Charlie's Angels, the misunderstood loner in Willard, or the wigged out Layne in The River's Edge. Recently, retroCRUSH interviewed him on the eve of a multi-city tour with a movie he financed and created himself What is it?

Iíve read that David Lynch agreed to executive produce What is it?

No, thatís not accurate. What he agreed to executive produce was originally there was a screenplay that I had co-written that was going to be a feature film that was going to go to corporate entities to find funding for it. David Lynch got a hold of this script and he agreed to executive produce that screenplay for me to direct. What is it? is a film that started out to be a short film to promote the concept of working with a majority of the actors having Down Syndrome.

To back up when David Lynch agreed to executive produce the screenplay was entitled It is Mine. When he agreed to executive produce I went to one of the larger corporate entities in Los Angeles that funds films. They were interested in the film. I had some actors of name. They ultimately were very concerned about funding a film with the majority of the cast having Downís Syndrome. I set out to make a short film to promote this concept as a viable idea. Once I edited that film together the original short film was shot in 4 days and it came out at about 85 minutes. The finished film of What is it? is 72 minutes. Itís shorter than what that original short film was going to be. When I looked at the original 85 minute cut I knew it wasnít right as a feature film, but I realized with some more work I could turn it into a feature film. Thatís what I set out to do and it took a number of years.

Iíve already shot the sequel to What is it? as well. Iím actually about finished with the editing of the sequel of What is it? Itís a very good cut. I hesitate to say Iím about finished because I do like to take time with it.

Do you find that maybe itís the bigger cities that are more open to it?

No, absolutely not. I tour around. Right now is the first time Iím touring to the bigger cities. Iím in San Francisco right now; next city will be Seattle, New York, Chicago, then Los Angeles. Iíve been touring previously to in what would be called smaller cities: Milwaukee, Salt Lake City, Tucson, and Austin, Texas. Absolutely not, in fact I find that in Los Angeles and New York in particular because theyíre more influenced by the corporate entities at hand actually have more difficulty with some of the concepts that are brought forth in the film. This film is reacting to those media head cities. When I go to other smaller cities in the US I actually find greater acceptance.

Thatís interesting to hear. So the corporations actually have a bigger influence in the studio cities?

I havenít played yet in Los Angeles, but Iím anticipating. Sometimes I do get aggressive kind of questions. I do a Q&A after the film. I do a slide show which is a live dramatic performance of books that I read before the film. Then I show the film and I have a question and answer afterwards because the film has been made to bring up questions and I feel that it would be the cowardly thing to just throw the film out there without any kind of genuine response. Iím really out there to have forums so that there are thoughts and ideas that can come up.

For the most part people are I think very interested and enjoy having these types of things come up. Sometimes I do have aggressive questioning I really will focus on it and not in a negative fashion. I focus on it positively because that is a great part of why the film was made. There are things that are not brought forth in the popular media at this point and time because it can possibly make audiences uncomfortable, but I feel like itís quite possible when I come into Los Angeles I will maybe get the most aggressive questioning Iíve had anywhere. Iím not sure about this and itís not until December that it will happen. I think itís a possibility.

The images serve a purpose as far as the blackface, the pig & elephant masks on naked ladies.

Again, I never advertise when Iím interviewed and people will often ask me to list things within the film that could be considered taboo. I donít really like doing it because it really is not what the film is about. It starts to make it salacious or its trying to be something that rides on that element. The important elements are the questions of "What it means to the culture? What is the meaning within the thought process?"

Do you have plans to put this out on DVD?

I want to tour with the film for many years. To put it out on DVD would spoil that. I have no plans of putting it on DVD. People should come see it in the form Iím doing it. I donít know that I will be putting it out. I feel that DVDís at this point are making it impossible for theatrical projection which is a different thing than watching it on a television at home.

I agree that most films arenít cinematically worthy of even being seen projected, but the pleasure of seeing a cinematically oriented film projected on a large screen from a 35mm print is really something thatís hard to beat. I recommend people come see it that way.

You recently filmed The Wizard of Gore.

Thatís right. I finished that. I was in Beowulf which Robert Zemeckis directed. It was the first time I worked with him since the first Back to the Future movie. I play Grendel in it. Angelina Jolie plays my mother, Anthony Hopkins plays my father, and Ray Winstone plays Beowulf. I play Grendel. Itís a great part and a great working experience.

Is that a remake?

Beowulf is the oldest existing English language poem. Itís old English. Itís a long form poem.

Was the script challenging that way? Was it written in that unusual format?

The script is of course based on the original work and basically everybody speaks modern English in it except for my character. In the original poem my character Grendel doesnít speak. I do speak in this film. I speak purely in old English which is virtually another language, but you can understand certain aspects.

I imagine that would be pretty challenging.

It was enjoyable. I listened to college courses from a company called, "The Teaching Company". I coincidentally had listened to a history of the English language college course about a year and a half before. The professor read old English with great fidelity of what the tongue sounded like. They can tell because language is written phonetically at the time and so I have the sound in my head already.

Then I worked with a student of that professorís who is a professor at a different university, Loyola University. It was written of course in modern English. We looked to get the words that would sound more understandable to a modern audience. Most of my dialog is with Angelina Jolie, she plays my mother. Her character spoke in a combination that had some old English and had a bit more of modern English. All of the other characters in the film really speak with more modern English.

Do you have a favorite birthday gift that youíve gotten over the years?

A birthday gift? Iím not that big of a celebrator of birthdays. There was something that had been falsely written about me that I celebrated my birthday twice which was not true. For some reason my birthday is written incorrectly on the internet. Itís written as September 20th. I was born April 20th 1964. So somebody wrote on the IMDB that has a lot of misinformation on it because people can go in and put false information. Theyíll put it up on the site. Itís gotten a little better about that, but there are all kinds of false things that are written.

Youíd think with being the actor you could tell them, "Hey, Iím Crispin Glover thatís not true."

Youíd think. Iíve tried to do it and itís very difficult. I have gotten some things corrected, but for whatever reason they will not correct things very readily.

Do you think youtube and things like that have a future in making films and getting it out of corporate hands?

I do think youtube is an interesting thing. I like youtube a lot. Itís particularly good I think for advertisement of, what like Iím doing with What is it? Thereís a lot of stuff if you search around on youtube that is involved with me.

Thereís the one with Loca?

I donít like to confirm or deny anything.

It could be Crispin Glover, but Iím not sure.

Like I said I donít like to confirm or deny anything. It is good that people are able to put things up and widely broadcast them without this kind of jurisdiction. There are interesting things coming across in that. Of course itís a difficult way to make money with it, but at least it does give an element of a voice that is not corporately controlled and I find that very interesting.

One of the things I find most interesting about it is the celebrity cult that is created by the media really can be lambasted on things like youtube. Thereís nobody there putting dollars into something saying, "Well you have to treat this particular celebrity in this way." I mean of course people will say negative things about me as well, but I donít really mind it. What I find that is interesting is that it really levels the playing ground. You see all kinds of people that are never spoken about negatively in the popular media. Theyíre all kind of integrated with each other. Where you can really see how people are seeing through these kinds of images that are being put forth and the falsity of it. I really do find that fascinating.

We talked with Dean Cameron and he mentioned that you wanted to do Willard for a long time.

Dean Cameron said I wanted to do Willard for a long time? Itís not accurate. I do know him from years ago. He was in an acting class I was in years and years ago.

He enjoyed being your friend at that time.

Thatís not accurate information. I had never seen Willard, the original film until after I was offered the role and in fact until after I had confirmed and it was known I would do it. I had read the screenplay that Glen Morgan wrote and I liked the character very much. I wanted to watch the original film to see what would be good to know of course. Somebody else had played the part before and it was a successful film.

I wanted to see if there were things I should utilize or glean or stay away from or what have you. The way that the character was written in the screenplay I had read was really quite different on many levels psychologically from what had been made in the original film. I liked the actor who played the role, Bruce Davison. I thought he did a good job. It was a very different kind of part. I didnít really feel like I could utilize things from that. I was not familiar with it. I knew of the song Ben, the Michael Jackson song, but I had never ever seen the original Willard.

Did you read the book?

No, I never read the book. I mean I was aware of it. I knew there was a movie, but I had not seen it. That isnít accurate that it was something that I wanted to do for a long time, but when I read the script I knew that this would be an interesting part without a doubt. A great role, I am very glad I got to play it.

Is R. Lee Ermey as mean and tough as he portrays in real life?

No, heís a great guy. I really enjoyed working with R. Lee Ermey. In a certain way his process of working on some levels I felt was similar. I really liked working with him and he made certain suggestions that were actually quite helpful. The most difficult thing I concentrated on the most while I was playing that role was the emotional aspect. It was written as a sad character and quite tearful. My nature is not really sad or tearful. I really have to concentrate a lot to get to that kind of emotional state.

You mentioned you had real tears?

Oh course. Yeah, and to get to that point for me really takes a lot of concentration. Itís easier for me to get to kind of an anxious or an angry state. Other states are usually very easy for me to get to as an actor, but tearfulness and sadness it takes a lot more for me. I really had to concentrate on that a lot.

I had a scene with R. Lee Ermey in his office where he fires me which was not written as a sad seen, but he did suggest that. He had seen me do the funeral scene a few days before. His character is originally in the scene; before there was a lot of genuine tearfulness. He said really you should get to that point. I said to him, "Itís not easy for me to do that." He really thought it would be good for the scene. I was able to get to the point and Iím glad that he suggested it.

Is that the one where youíre hitting yourself against the door?

He didnít suggest that particular way of doing it, but thatís what ended up happening. I like that scene a lot too.

To be able to get in there and do that itís just an amazing thing. You have to be a really good actor.

For me it takes the most concentration to get to that point.

For your role as the Thin Man in Charlieís Angels why was there a lack of dialog?

Originally, the character did have dialog. As I said earlier, it came right around the time I needed to film the sequel to "What is it?" They had wanted me to come in for it and I did not like the screenplay when I originally read it. My character that they were interested in me for did have a lot of dialog and it was very expositional. It was not good dialog and I did not want to come in on the film. That kept calling my agents and saying they wanted to hear my ideas. So, I did go in and I met with them. They asked me what I thought and I said, "I thought it would be better if the character was a silent character that just was a quiet, fighting, antagonistic character.

McG the director, can be very enthusiastic stood up and said, "Oh, thatís great. Thatís exactly what we want to do and thatís how weíll do it." They showed me some footage of the fellows that did the choreography, the Yuen family, Chinese fighting team. I realized I had known some of their work before. I realized this could be a really interesting character.

Strangely, of all of the work Iíve done and all of the parts Iíve played I would say an independent film or a so called independent film, although thatís just a smaller corporation. I had more influence on that character than Iíve really had on any other character that Iíve ever played, the way it looked, the elements of the hair fetish.

Arenít you into retro 30ís fashion and look with the slicked back hair for the Thin Man? That was mostly your idea?

I did definitely have influence on the look of the character in terms of aesthetics. That look is a good look. Of course it depends on what the character is and it somehow made a certain kind of sense for that character to have this remove it quality.

I thought it was cool that you had a retro gun Luger as a pistol.

They did have me pick out a gun, but it was something that was discussed was that there was this retro look. That is my favorite looking gun, the German Luger.

Doesnít the silence of the character also add to the 1930ís or 1920ís silent movie era and the silent person.

I know what youíre talking about. It definitely has that look. Definitely that was something that I thought about.


We wish you had a little more screen time in the second one.

On the second film I had strangely much less control or control is not the right word. I had much less influence on the second film than I did on the first film. I was paid well on both, but I was especially paid well on the second one. It was very helpful for continuing with making my films. So, I was very glad to do it. For various reasons it was not the same kind of situation that the first one was.

Youíre a victim of your own success. It got too successful so they want to grab control and bottle the first movie.

Thereís many complications as to how things worked out. On the first film McG was a first time director. The studio wanted to have a lot of control of things. So they took a certain amount of control away from him and yet he definitely had a lot of control. Bill Murray was also very heavily involved. He brought a writer in and was very interested in story structure. He really did help the structure of the film. He and the writer and they specifically helped to structure of my character. He had a lot of influence and then of course he wasnít in the sequel.

I heard Lucy Liu had problems with him.

He was very demanding and yet he helped that film and not just by his presence as an actor. He helped in terms of the story structure and the writing. Also the Yuen team, the Chinese fighting team, they were utilized a lot more in the first film. In the second film, my character I trained a lot longer in the second film than I did on the first, but thereís not a single frame of footage of any of the fighting techniques or training I had done in the second film. There is in the first film though.

What was that director thinking?

Well, I donít know. Itís not necessarily one thing. It could be things with McG. It can be things dealing with the studio. It is a complex situation. These studio, corporately funded films do ultimately have a committee element. Iím not saying there are never good films ever made in this situation. There have been great films made corporately. It can be many different circumstances.


Do you cry when you watch the movie Diamonds are Forever?

I donít. I definitely donít cry at the film. Of course my father plays Mr. Kidd or Wint. Iím forgetting. Heís Mr. Wint. I was eight years old when he made the film. We went out to London at the sound stage at Pinewood studios. It was a great memory for me. I had been in London working on a film a few years ago. The hotel I was in was just a couple of blocks away from where I went there with my mother and father where we had stayed. It was an interesting thing because I realized I was a little bit older than my father was when we had shot that film. I went and looked at the flats we had stayed in.

It was just a question that as a child if you saw your dad explode it might be shocking.

I was fairly savvy by that time. I was 8. I knew how those things worked. Although, there was something that happened to me when I was much, much younger, when I was 3 years old I believe. I was born in New York. My father was going out to Los Angeles a lot. Thatís why we moved out to Los Angeles because he was getting more work as an actor there. There were times when heíd go away when I was very young out to Los Angeles and my mother and I were in New York. He was on a show called Rat Patrol. I watched it.

I have the specific memory of this. I can remember a lot of things from when I was quite young because it was Manhattan. My earliest memory of life is when I was in Manhattan. We moved to LA when I was 3 1/2, but I remember all kinds of things from before he moved to Los Angeles. I might have even been 2 or 2 1/2. I donít know how old I was exactly, definitely under 3 Ĺ, probably around 3Ömaybe 2 1/2. I knew that he was out shooting a film. At that point and time I didnít know what all of that meant.

I saw him on the back of a Jeep on television and he was shooting a gun. Like a repeated machine gun. Then he was shot and killed and rolled off the back of the jeep and fell onto the ground. I did not understand what that meant. That was a terrifying experience for me. I remember that very specifically. By the time Diamonds are Forever came out I was pretty well aware of these things.

Were there other sets that you were on?

Oh yeah, I was on the set of Gunsmoke. He did a lot of films for Disney in the 1970ís. We went out to Arizona. A thing called Bearcats! I always liked looking at the sets themselves. How the sets were structured. I was actually more fascinated by the sets than watching the actors act. Iím glad I have those memories. It is an interesting thing to reflect on.

Who did you have a retroCRUSH on or a crush on growing up? Besides maybe your dad. Oops, I donít mean crush that way.

I never had a crush on my dad.

I hope not. Iím sorry. I liked The Incredible Hulk, Man from Atlantis, and Charlieís Angels too.

I remember guys having posters up on the walls. I never liked the idea of having something like that up on the wall. I was interested in women, but not putting something up on the wall and having as you put it a crush.

Is there a certain woman youíd like to marry?

Iíve never been somebody who is interested in marrying. Iíve never been close to being married. I donít know if Iíll ever get married. I donít know. I donít know what I think about that.

Is there something about marriage you donít care for?

I think that marriage really is important for having children. At this point in my life the most important thing is making films.

Well, we can have children up until 100 weíre lucky. We donít have the biological clock.

I agree. Itís possible that maybe at a point that Iím feeling that the films that Iíve been wanting to be making, my own films that Iím 100% in the role with that. I can be financing and not worrying about money. At this point and financing it myself itís a struggle. A child for me would be extremely distracting and I would only want to have a child if I was going to be a great parent. I would not want to compromise something in any way, shape, or form with that. I think thatís something you take great responsibility with.

Being an actor you have a busy life.

If it was just being an actor it wouldnít be so bad, but itís this making of my own films that Iím needing to fund. Thatís extremely expensive and time consuming. I need to put my full concentration into that. Iím very careful about that kind of thing. I wouldnít get married just to get married. I would only get married if there was a consideration that I was going to have a child. At this point and time I know that would not be a good thing for me to do. Iím not saying I never would have a kid, but itís not something Iím thinking about right now.

Does it make it challenging on some of your current relationships? With them saying, "Oh God, this guy never wants to get married."

No, I go out with women that donít want to get married, which is fine with me. I have no troubles with that.

Weíre such fan boys of yours. Thank you very much.

If you could please let people know lets people know where I am with the film. Iím going to be touring for many years with these films.

-Steve Graf
-Randy Waage


Check out Crispin's website at:

Come see a screening of the film What is it?
Followed by a question and answer session with Crispin Hellion Glover:
November 3, 4, 5: Northwest, Film Forum, Seattle
November 10, 11,12: Anthology Film Archives, New York
November 17, 18 ,19: Music Box Theater, Chicago
December 1, 2, 3: Clinton Street Theatre, Portland Oregon
December 8, 9, 10: Egyptian Theatre at the American Cinematheque, Hollywood


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