Actor and writer Crispin Glover is well known to fans of Back to the Future, Willard, Charlie’s Angels and last year’s Hot Tub Time Machine, but his work as a director is relatively less known. Recently his fans received the great news that he would be screening the second film in his “It” trilogy, It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. followed by a Q&A on December 20th right here in Philadelphia, the home of Cinedork, at the International House. Crispin took a bit of time from his hectic schedule to answer a few questions about what attendees can expect and his upcoming projects.
We’re all excited that you’re bringing your Big Slide Show and second part of the trilogy It Is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. to Philly on December 20th.
After the dramatic reading, there will be a screening of the film. Audience reactions to the film can be mixed. For those who are attending the screening for the first time, what would you say to prepare them for the viewing? To help put them in the right mindset for the film they are about to see?
Thank you! The live aspect of the shows is 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 1800s that have been changed in to 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 90s. Some of the books utilize text from the biding 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 book are so heavily illustrated and they 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 visually 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 used to call Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Side Show. People get confused as to what that 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.
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 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 it’s 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.
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 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 in to 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. As I have stated, I put Steven C. Stewart in to What is it? when I turned What is it? in to 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 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 in to 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 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?
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!
You’re actively touring with both the first and second parts of the trilogy now. Do you have any plans to screen part 1, What Is It?, in the Philadelphia area anytime soon? Do you think it’s important for viewers to see both parts of the “IT Trilogy” to appreciate or understand the ideas behind the trio of films?
The films in the trilogy, when they are all done, will have an overall theme and relative consistency throughout. Each will also work entirely separately as its own entity and the other films will not need to be seen in order for the other to be clear. As described above I put Steven C. Stewart in to part one to make his pre-written screenplay work as a sequel, but his screenplay works entirely on its own as a film by itself. Less people have seen this film than What is it? so I am making certain now if I am only in a city for a single evening then I will show only It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. When the whole trilogy is done only It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE. will be the best film of the trilogy, but not only that – I believe it will probably be the best film I will have anything to do with in my entire career.
I have read that the next film you’ll be working on will not be the last part of the trilogy, but is actually something you’ve written to perform in with your father. Is that true? And if so, have you begun work on that project yet?
It is certain that the next film I make as a filmmaker will not be the third part of the “It” trilogy.
I am in the process of writing a screenplay for myself and my father to act in together. He is also an actor and I would like for that be the next film I make as a director/producer. Whatever film I make next in the capacity 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 I may make before the one with my father that I am currently working on the screenplay. This project may be more affordable for me to finance right now.
After the dramatic reading and the screening there is a Question and Answer period, where viewers can ask questions about the film and the readings. I would think that after touring around the world for several years, you would find yourself answering a lot of the same questions. If their was any one question that you feel doesn’t get particularly addressed — a question viewers don’t usually ask, that you wish more would — what would that question be?
It is true that there is probably at least three to five hours of specific spoken material that the answers to questions I get asked usually is culled from that pre-spoke material. Of course there can be nuances to the questions that make me answer them differently from show to show. There also tends towards being new ways that I speak about certain aspects of the films. Particularly there is a new way I have been speaking about What is it? that has something to do with the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future. This is a new way of talking about the film.
I have of course being touring with What is it? for five years now. I would not know questions that I would ask. If there are things that I wish to express I express them no matter what the questions are. That is not to say I do not answer the questions as I do so in extreme detail. Something people think I am rambling when I answer the questions but others realize that I am answering many questions that I normally get asked that are related to the questions asked. There is also a time element for the show. After the forum I also have a book signing and if I do not answer a certain amount of questions I know that during the book sighing portion I will get asked those questions multiple times so it will make the book signing portion of the show take much longer. It is best for me and the audience to take that in to consideration and answer many of the more commonly asked questions in a sort of free association to the questions that happen to get asked.
Every once in a while I will get asked a question that makes me answer something in a new way or it will genuinely be a new question for me any I always enjoy that! The forums are very important after the show as I have described above. Both the audience and I get a lot out of them and I am grateful to the audience that is there interacting in an intelligent and thoughtful manner while also contributing for me to be able to recoup on the investments I have made in the films. It definitely makes me feel like something good is being accomplished.
As of this writing, tickets are still available for Crispin’s performance at the R5 Productions website.