Jan 21, 2012

Interview with Crispin Glover

It comes as a great honor that we at Soiled Sinema bring you this insightful interview with modern day Renaissance man Crispin Glover.  Although best known as an actor and for playing standout roles in films like Back to the Future (1985), River's Edge (1986), Charlie's Angels (2000) and Willard (2003), Mr. Glover is also a distinguished filmmaker/screenwriter, author, recording artist, and publisher.  In this interview, Crispin discusses his It? Trilogy and his extremely exceptional and fruitful career.

Soiled Sinema: How did the tragic premature passing of It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE writer/actor Steven C. Stewart affect the conclusion of the trilogy you both set out together to complete?

You had also mentioned that Steven C. Stewart was subject to cruel
 abuse which bled over into much of the work you two created. Care to

Crispin Glover: Steve Steward only wrote “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” I incorporated Steve in to What is it? to make his screenplay a sequel and part of the trilogy. Steve did not have any involvement in writing “What is it?” or “IT IS MINE.”

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 1970’s. 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 we 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 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. People who are interested in when I will be back should join up on the e mail 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.

 SS: Do you see yourself -- years from now -- after all of the legendary tours have become history, releasing the films for the public in any sort of home format?

CG: Right now I have no plans to stop touring. The tour is the way people should see the films. People can find out where I will be touring by signing up for my newsletter on CrispinGlover.com

SS: At a past Big Slide Show, you mentioned how you initially happened to make the acquaintance
of Steven C. Stewart. Would you care to reiterate this story for Soiled Sinema
readers? How did this personal relationship develop into the creation of the It? Trilogy?

CG: When I was 19 I was acting in a film made at the AFI called The Orkly Kid. The character I was playing was based on a person the director had made a documentary about when he was working on a television show in Salt Lake Utah. He was friends with another filmmaker from Salt Lake named Larry Roberts who had made a documentary on Steven C Stewart when Steve was still not able to get out of the nursing home. When Steve got out of the nursing home he told Larry that he wanted to make a movie. Larry was an interesting filmmaker, but was older and doing other things and he introduced Steve to another younger Salt Lake filmmaker that was making unusual movies and said maybe they could work on it together. I had also been shown some of David Brother’s films by Larry and the director of the Orkly Kid. It was around this time that I had been wanting to make a movie from one of my books and I had very much liked David Brother’s movies he was making on video. So I met up with David Brothers and we started making a movie of one of my books called The Backward Swing. We started shooting this on video in 1987. Actually this will be the next movie I edit together as the films took over. In any case while we were working on The Backward Swing David showed me the script for Everything is fine! and as soon as I read it I knew it was a movie I had to produce.

Steven C. Stewart’s own true story was fascinating and then the beautiful story and the naïve including 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. A specific marriage proposal scene was the scene I remember reading that made me think “I will have to be the person to produce/finance this film.”

 SS: Would you say there is a connection (whether it be aesthetic, idealistic, or otherwise) between elements of your films and your concept album The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be?

CG: My films, books and album “The Big Problem ≠ The Solution. The Solution = Let It Be?” contain questions or let people come up with their own questions.

  SS: Is it safe to say that most true artists are competent in a variety of mediums?

CG: It is possible and it is also possible that many artists are far better at one medium than another, but I have noticed that many good artists are good in multiple mediums.

 SS: Your father, Bruce Glover,is in the second film of your trilogy It is Fine! Everything is Fine.. How was the experience of directing your own father, who we can assume had much weight in steering you towards your current occupation?

CG: My father was easy to direct in “It is Fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” My mother is also in the film. When I was born she retired as an actress and primarily a dancer. “Steering” would be the wrong word to use about my choice of profession. My mother did want me to become involved in dance when I was a child. I went to one dance class that she taught and she said “Alright girls... and... boy.” and I never went again.

So my parents were not really able to steer me in an occupational direction.
I am very satisfied with my profession/professions. The one thing I wanted to be before figuring out that it would be a good idea to enter in to acting professionally at age 13, was a geologist. My idea of the profession was that I would find geodes and fascinating geological rocks and formations. I then realized that a geologist at the time I was thinking about it, which was the 1970‘s would probably need to work for a multinational oil corporation finding oil deposits. That did not seem as interesting to me. I am glad I continued on doing what I do. I still have great interest in the tectonic plates and volcanoes and geological formations. My publishing company is called “Volcanic Eruptions”

My father is what I would describe as a blue-collar or working-class actor. I witnessed my father’ struggles as an actor and did not look at the business in a glamorous way.

I made a pragmatic choice to pursue acting as a career when I was quite young around 11 or 12. I got an agent when I was 13 and got my first professional job that year. Having grown up around the business it seemed like something that I would be able to do. My father also teaches acting and has since before I was born. I never formally studied with my father but I am certain that hearing him speak about things had influence. I would say that my personality type is not that of a standard actor’s personality type that would more be someone who enjoys attention for attention’s sake. That in fact makes me rather uncomfortable. For me it is important to have an idea that can be supported with performance or even for media publicity. Because of this I believe that if my parents had not been in the business and I was born with the personality type that I have, I probably would have pursued a very different career path.

> I became a professional actor at age 13 by my own choice. I emphasize that because there is a large difference in that from when a child is forced in to acting by parents who choose that career for a child. I began studying in a professional acting class at age 15. At age 16 I viewed many revival films of the 1920’s through the 1970’s at the revival theaters that were popular in the early 1980’s before the advent of VHS competition that led to most of the revival houses closing. While watching many of the films and being in acting class I began to understand film and acting as art.

 SS: How does your father feel about your ambitious taboo-breaking cinema?

CG: My parents have come to see the films and live shows on multiple occasions and are supportive of both the live shows and films.

 SS: Censorship and context are both reasons for your choice in creating and controlling the screenings and distribution of your films.  How would you imagine a general audience perceiving your film if it was promoted and released like your typical Hollywood Blockbuster?

CG: I love showing at museums, universities, cinematheques and vaudeville theaters. As I tour through the world it is apparent that as much as multiplexes and home theater has become ubiquitous that the single screen cultural center is absolutely vital to a specific audience that is looking to have a thoughtful experience at the theater be it live or by film. Museums can attract particularly thoughtful crowds. The forums are greatly appreciated by audience members. In vaudeville there was an energetic exchange between the performers and audience. The audience is part of the experience as opposed to merely being an audience that has no interaction when alone at home. The Q and A portion of the shows are extremely helpful with the films, particularly “What is it?” which can generate a particular amount of demand from the audience in forms of questions.

All currently corporately funded films by US film ratings must be made for the viewership of children. The reason for this is that when the NC-17 rating came about to replace the X rating multiplexes had become a norm. In the 1960’s and 1970’s films like A Clockwork Orange and Midnight Cowboy were given the X rating in the US. At that time it was easy to control if children were able to get in to a single screen theater or not. When multiplexes came in to being and X was changed to NC-17 the corporations that ran the multiplexes became concerned that a child could walk down the hall and easily enter in to an NC-17 film and they could be sued. So they stated that they would not show films rated NC-17. Being that multiplexes had become the main source of recoupment for the film distributors it was no longer viable to distribute NC-17 films. Without viable distribution of an NC-17 rated film no corporate entities would fund films they cannot recoup on. So at this point in time corporate funding and distribution entities in the US will only fund films that are rated G, PG, PG13, and R. R means under 18 accompanied by an adult. Therefore all corporately funded films in the US must be made with concept that those under the age of 18 are able to view the film. This means all corporately funded films in the US are made for the eyes of children. There is certainly nothing wrong with films that are specifically made for children, but it certainly is questionable when there is not a corporately funded film company that will fund and distribute films that are specifically for the eyes of adults.

Unfortunately I see the corporately funded and distributed films industry currently as having a hugely propagandizing effect on the US population at large. It is an enormous topic. I recently read the book “Propaganda” written in 1925 by Edward Bernays. Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and utilized his uncle’s understanding of the subconscious and became the literal founder of the “Public Relations” industry. Bernays came up with the word combination “Public Relations” to replace the word propaganda. The book is not an expose but an instruction manual for the monied and privileged class through psychological “Public relations”/propaganda techniques to get the lower class masses to serve the privileged class with the disguise of democracy. I feel like this book should be mandatory reading for everyone in high school so people in the US would have a better understanding of how things genuinely work in the media.

Stanley Kubrick made some of the most beautiful, thoughtful and questioning cinematic films ever in the corporately funded and distributed studio films system. He is fascinating to study. The culture ebbs and flows and waxes and wanes in terms of how much questioning can happen in media. We are in a particularly restrictive time right now with what will be corporately funded and distributed. Questioning could become even more restricted or less restricted. It sort of depends on how much people become concerned about the restrictions. Most current media that is corporately funded and distributed now is designed to make people not question.

I am not against the basic concept of corporations, but I have come to notice a similarity to the “Occupy Movement” and what “What is is?” is essentially protesting. It seems that the “Occupy Movement” is protesting business interests having an influence in what has basically become a legalized form of bribery by corporate/business/banking interests in politicians/political elements which is of course against the concept of basic democracy.

Relatedly “What is it?” is a protest to the corporate corporate/business/banking interests in the content of film/media which ends up leading to corporate/business/banking interest’s propaganda. 

 SS: For as long as I can remember, River's Edge (1986) directed by Tim Hunter has been one of my favorite films. Naturally, it goes without saying that your performance as Layne is for me (and most other fans of the film), one of the most (if not the most) potent and memorable aspects of the film. How did you prepare for the role of Layne and what are your personal thoughts on the character?

CG: 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 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 was 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.

 SS: You mentioned the mainstream media’s influence on Columbine High school massacre killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold in your article What Is It? Would you consider Layne a "proto-Columbine killer" of sorts?

CG: The repressive culture brings out troublesome actions. The character in River’s Edge and the film itself is not a repressive film but an explorative film and film that brings up questions which is healthy for the culture. I think right now most films are not explorative and unfortunately are more dictatorial in the approach as to how the audience is approached as to how to think about the subject matter. The business interest’s control on how they want the culture to work for their own benefit. I would say that sort of media control can bring out negative repressed actions from people.

 SS: How/when did you get interested in writing/designing books? 

CG: The live aspect of the shows I perform before the films I tour with are 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 1800's 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 80's and very early 90's. 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 now call Crispin Hellion Glover's Big Side Show Part 1. The content of that show has not changed since I first started performing it. But the performance of the show has become more dramatic as opposed to more of a reading.

People sometimes get confused as to what “Crispin Hellion Glover’s Big Slide Show (Parts 1&2)” 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. There is a second slide show now that also has 8 books. Part 2 is performed if I have a show with Part 1 of the “IT” trilogy and then on the subsequent night I will perform the second slide show and Part 2 of the “IT” trilogy. The second slide show has been developed over the last several years and the content has changed as it has been developed, but I am very happy with the content of the second slide show now.

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 definitely have been aware of the element of utilizing the fact that I am known from work in the corporate media I have done in the last 25 years or so. This is something I rely on for when I go on tour with my films. It lets me go to various places and have the local media cover the fact that I will be performing a one hour live dramatic narration of eight different books which are profusely illustrated and projected as I go through them, then show the film either What is it? Being 72 minutes or It is fine! EVERYTHGIN IS FINE being 74 minutes. Then having a Q and A and then a book signing. As I funded the films I knew that this is how I would recoup my investment even if it a slow process.

Volcanic Eruptions was a business I started in Los Angeles in 1988 as Crispin Hellion Glover doing business as Volcanic Eruptions. It was a name to use for my book publishing company. About a year later I had a record/CD come out with a corporation called Restless Records. About when I had sold the same amount of books as CD/records had sold it was very clear to me that because I had published my own books that I had a far greater profit margin. It made me very suspicious of working with corporations as a business model. Financing/Producing my own films is based on the basic business model of my own publishing company. 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

There are other beneficial aspects of touring with the shows other than monetary elements.  There are benefits that 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 digital copy of this film is stolen material and highly prosecutable. 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 under-estimated as a very important part of the show for for the audience. This also makes me much more personally grateful to the individuals who come to my shows as there is no corporate intermediary. The drawbacks are that a significant amount of time and energy to promote and travel and perform the shows. Also the amount of people seeing the films is much smaller than if I were to distribute the films in a more traditional sense.

The way I distribute my films is certainly not traditional in the contemporary sense of film distribution but perhaps is very traditional when looking further back at vaudeville era film distribution. If there are any filmmakers that are able to utilize aspects of what I am doing then that is good. It has taken many years to organically develop what I am doing now as far as my distribution goes.

 SS: On top of appearing in What Is It?, Feral House owner Adam Parfrey published your essay What Is It? in his book Apocalypse Culture II. What is your relationship with Parfrey and do you have any plans to once again collaborate with him in the future -- be it in film or otherwise?

CG: I am friends with Adam Parfrey and he has influence on both the article in “Apocalypse Culture II” and content in the film “What is it?” I am always open to collaboration with intelligent people that I have had positive relations with. So I certainly would be up to collaborating with Adam Parfrey again.

 SS: How does your brilliant article What is It? relate to your 2005 film of the same name? Is the film an abstract surrealist portrayal of some of the ideas expressed in your article?

CG: The article in What is it? was written in 1999 after the feature film “What is it?” had been locked as a picture edit. It was conceived as an entertainment essay for Adam Parfrey’s book “Apocalypse Culture II” that would also promote the film “What is it?”

 SS: In your film What is It?, one of the roles you played was that of the "Dueling Demi-God Auteur." What are your thoughts on auteur theory and auteur filmmaking in general? Is it safe to say that the films (and upcoming film) in the It? Trilogy are a rare modern example of pure and personal "auteur" works?

CG: On some level the word “Auteur” was used for entertainment purposes with a sense of humor. Although it is true that Steve is the original “Auteur” of “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.”

 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.

 SS: What are thoughts on the blatant decline of great auteur filmmakers in the modern Occidental world? Undoubtedly, you have helped to fill the void in our mostly auteur-less era. Do you believe that Hollywood has consciously sought out to destroy the auteur filmmaker -- and organic art in general?

CG: Consciousness in corporately funded and distributed filmmaking for the most part is difficult to define as propagandized thought processes end up infusing in to what the sensibility of the corporately funded and distributed film entity decides on what is put forth to the population. Every once in a while a film will come out from the corporately funded and distributed filmmaking business from a filmmaker that is both intelligent and deft at making cinematic decisions that have positive cultural messages. It is rare and difficult for that to happen, but when it does I applaud those film makers.

The way that US propaganda works is difficult to describe.

Unfortunately the corporately funded and distributed films industry currently is having a hugely propagandizing effect on the US population at large. It is an enormous topic.

 I recently read the book “Propaganda” written in 1925 by Edward Bernays. I recommend everyone read it. The first sentence of the book is “THE conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and options of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.”

 Bernays was Sigmund Freud’s nephew and utilized his uncle’s understanding of the subconscious and became the literal founder of the “Public Relations” industry. Bernays came up with the word combination “Public Relations” to replace the word propaganda. He brought his uncle’s ideas and introduced Sigmund Freud to the US to help influence US corporations, Academia and the government. The book is not an expose but an instruction manual for the monied and privileged class through psychological “Public relations”/propaganda techniques to get the lower class masses to serve the privileged class with the disguise of democracy. I feel like this book should be mandatory reading for everyone in high school so people in the US would have a better understanding of how things genuinely work in the media. Once anyone reads this book they will not be able to see the function of US media the same way again.

The difficult part of the US propaganda is the way it is put in to effect is not be committee dictation but by the way corporate/business interests utilize money to essentially legally bribe people/government/academia/media to do that which is in the corporate/business interest.

 SS: What are some of the struggles you have had to dealt with in your ambitious career of simultaneously working within the Hollywood studio system, but also creating uncompromising artistic works independently in various mediums? You seem to be one of the few people that has been able to successfully do that. Why do you think this is?

CG: There is a strange mix of being brought up working within the media business and becoming aware of the amount of control that corporate interests were having on the content of film in general.

The first time I used discretion about choosing films was not till after “Back to the Future” came out in 1985. After that film came out and had made so much money I felt a certain obligation towards finding films that somehow reflected what my own psychologically interested were. The first film I acted in after that was “River’s Edge.” 

I am not critical of the concept of corporations. I am critical when the result of corporate control causes people to think less or for media in general to come out with less questioning or question causing content. Corporations do not necessarily cause this, but it currently is happening in great quantity. There are times when corporate entities have been behind great questioning films like ”A Clockwork Orange” or ”2001 a Space Odyssey.” I prefer to not be overly political. I concern myself with things that affect me directly.

The film industry I had thought I had stepped in to was the spirit of when I was a teenager attending the various revival theaters that were so popular in Los Angeles in the 1980’s before home theater business competition forced most 35 mm venues to close. I did not realize at the time that I stepped in to working as an actor that the kinds of films that were being funded and distributed had changed.

As soon as I got my driver’s license when I was 16 in 1980 I attended screenings at revival theaters that were quite popular in LA before VHS competition cleared many of them away. Many of these revival theaters no longer exist such as, one of my favorites, the beautiful Fox Venice with a wide cinemascope screen on Lincoln Blvd.

The films I saw that played in these venues tended to question culturally accepted truths with performances that underscored these concepts.

 Films played such as:
Ken Russel’s The Devils,
Roman Polanski’s Repulsion and Chinatown,
Frederico Fellini’s 8 1/2 and Cassanova,
John Cassavete’s A woman under the influence,
Orson Welles’ F is for Fake and Citizen Kane,
Billy Wilder’s The Apartment and Sunset Blvd,
John Waters’ Pink Flamingos and Desperate Living,
Todd Browning’s Freaks,
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and Clockwork Orange and Dr. Strangelove,
Werner Herzog’s Aguire Wrath of God, Even Dwarfs Started Small and Fata Morgana.
I was a regular attendee of David Lynch’s Eraserhead at midnight on Fridays at the Nuart.

I studied actors giving performances like:
Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider,
Timothy Carey in Marlon Brando’s One Eyed Jacks and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden,
Charles Laughton in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Brad Dourif in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Wise Blood,
Peter Lorre in M
Emil Jannings in The Last Laugh
and Klaus Kinski in Aguirre Wrath of God.

These films and performances characterized the atmosphere of cinema and acting I believed I was stepping into as a young actor. By 1982, at age 18, I began to act in feature films. At this time I believed contemporary culture’s film’s main purpose was to question suspect things in our culture. I enthusiastically supported the idea of questioning our culture. To help support the idea, I also questioned the film industry’s and media’s messages. Sometimes I felt scorned and isolated; other times I felt accepted and admired. Then, at one point, in the midst of my career, I realized that the types of films the industry was financing and distributing had changed almost diametrically from the types of films I had watched when I was 18.

Now, I have put my artistic passions and questions in to my own filmmaking with films like “What is it?“ and it’s sequel “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.”

 SS: Can Hollywood filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Michael Bay be considered auteur filmmakers due to their somewhat consistent and ambiguously "personal" themes? Or would your consider them "anti-auteur" filmmakers due to their intrinsic lack of thematic, aesthetic, and artistic complexity? In other words, are Blockbuster filmmakers merely soulless and totally lacking in genuine expression and/or are they merely appealing to the lowest common denominator with the sole goal of obtaining a substantial monetary return?

CG: I specifically do not use the term “Hollywood film” because it is overly generalized and “Hollywood” for me is a place I have lived, so I think of that more as a geographical place. The specific term I use is “Corporately funded and distributed film.” I am not so familiar with Michael Bay’s films. I am far more familiar with the films of Steven Spielberg. Looking both of their credits up on IMDB ,which can be inaccurate, it seems that Michael Bay had not written any of the films that he has directed. Bu the definition I understand of “Auteur” this would mean Michael Bay would not be that. The film that Steven Spielberg solely wrote the screenplay and directed is “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” By and by the definition of “Auteur” it would make him that definition.

I would think all films whether one likes the expression held within them or not are forms of expression. It may be that some filmmakers forms of expression are more aligned with business interests. It can be argued whether their personal interests naturally align to business interest or if the business interest had caused what is their personal interest has become.

 SS: You have stated in the past that you're a fan of German New Wave filmmakers like Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Werner Herzog. Historically, what do you think are the main differences between Hollywood and European cinema? Why do you think there has been a decline in great European films and filmmakers?

CG: I admire both Herzog’s and Fassbinder’s work as filmmakers and it has been a great honor and pleasure to know Werner Herzog. Herzog of course is still making great films to this day so he is still a fantastic force. I am sure if Fassbinder were still alive he would also be a great force. The decline you may be feeling is probably a general worldwide waxing of control by business interests and control over the content of film.

 SS: Are there any modern films/filmmakers that your admire/respect?

CG: There certainly are.

SS: What films and filmmakers have inspired your It? Trilogy? Have any writers, philosophers, or otherwise inspired the Trilogy?

 CG: Some of the filmmakers mentioned above certainly have had influence on my thoughts.

“What is it?” 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 things 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 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 things to do for corporate entities to invest in.

This is when I wrote a short screenplay en titled 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 in to a feature film. Over approximately the next two years I shot 8 more days and edited this in to what is now the final version of the film. I locked the edit of the film about three years after the first day of shooting what was supposed to be a short film. Then there were a number of years of very frustrating technical problems that mainly had to do with SMPTE time code. Originally I was going to make the film the now old fashioned way of a complete photochemical process and not digital intermediate. An optical house in New York that did not give me enough information to let me know that the SMPTE time code had not been properly put on when the film was telecined. During this time I worked patiently on the final sound edit of the film with a number of interns. Finally that sound edit was finished and it became apparent that the film optical house was not telling me the truth and prices had fallen during this time so I was able to make the film using a digital intermediate to ultimately go out to a 35 mm print of the film. So from the first day of shooting what was to be a short film to having a 35 mm print for the film took 9.5 years.
> 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 weather they have Down’s Syndrome or not is if they have enthusiasm. Everyone in I worked with had incredible enthusiasm so the were all great to work with

  SS: What can we expect from It Is Mine? Do you have any specific goals you would like to reveal regarding the final chapter of your It? Trilogy? Do you have any plans for directing films after your complete the It? Trilogy that you would like to reveal?

CG: I should not go in to detail for “IT IS MINE.” yet and I will not shoot that next. There are other projects outside of the trilogy that I will shoot next. The Czech Republic is another culture and another language and I need to build up to complex productions like “What is it?” and the existing sequel “It is fine! EVERYTHING IS FINE.” IT IS MINE. Is an even more complex project than those two films were so it will be a while yet for that production. I will step outside of the trilogy for a number of films that deal with different thematic elements.

The sets for my next film productions have started construction. At the same time the sets are being built I am in the process of continuing to develop the screenplay for myself and my father to act in together on these very sets. He is also an actor and that is the next film I am planning to 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 are two other projects I am currently developing to shoot on sets at my property in the Czech Republic. The cost of the set building will determine which one I actually shoot next. They are will all be relatively affordable yet still cinematically pleasing.

SS: Would you ever consider directing a film within the mostly strict confines of the Hollywood studio system? Additionally, are there any characters (be they historical figures or fictional) that you have always wanted to play?

CG: It may come about naturally that corporately funded and distributed film’s interests will naturally come in to alignment with my own interests. There have been waxing and waning periods of corporate control of the content of film and right now we are in a severe waxing of control. We shall see what the future holds.

For more info on Crispin Glover's Big Slide Show, his company Volcanic Eruptions, and the It? Trilogy, please visit: http://www.crispinglover.com/ 


jervaise brooke hamster said...

Why didn`t you ask Crispin for his opinions about me and my obsession with Heather O`Rourke ?, i`m sure he would have had some very interesting things to say about that ! ! !.

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Phantom of Pulp said...

I'm blown away by this interview. Probably the best and most intelligent one I've encountered with intelligence on both sides of the fence.

665+1 said...

the DEFINITIVE CG interview. everyone i've sent it to concurs!